A/N: Okay, so plot bunnies just bite you when you're not ready…
This story has three parts so far (a divided one-shot) and will EVENTUALLY have more.
It starts off in the canon apprentice arc. It's… a little murky, but should be funny enough so it's not dark.
It's slashy-ISH but these first three parts can be read as non-slash but with… events and innuendoes… so if you're looking for a PWP story, I'd like to point you in the direction of Delightful Drabbles… ;) Still, later, I'm PRETTY sure it will turn full slash, but this is a long-term project with infrequent updates, so I'm not making any promises. The three first chapters are a story on their own, though, so hopefully you'll be content with them for a while.. ;)
The Teen Titans and stuff aren't mine, of course. I so rarely write disclaimers nowadays, because this is a fan fiction site, after all, so they ARE a bit redundant, but there you go. The first line is from the show, as are a few words/expressions/snippets elsewhere in the story.
This is written in first person and I've had trouble with 'tempus' or whatever the hell it's called. I noticed that I kept switching… I have TRIED to edit it so I stick to one, but I didn't find a beta for this, so I'm afraid there will be some problems still. Hopefully it won't bother you TOO much.
I'll post all three chapters at once. Reviews are appreciated!
The Good Boy
"Good boy. And, from now on, I'd like you to call me 'Master'."
"Yes… Master." I added the title reluctantly, but he had just wiped the floor with me and been on the verge of destroying my friends, so I have to back down. He called them 'too great of an distraction', and he's right! Of course they are! Escaping, going back to them, keeping them safe, that's all I am thinking about.
He nodded, accepting my show of respect for what it is; a show. He didn't expect more, not now, I knew that, but he is still insulted. Insulted that I don't find his power and knowledge as alluring as he thinks I should. Personally, I wish I would have found it less alluring, because I've learned things during the last week or so, things I had no clue about before… my training has also improved by leaps and bounds, now that I have someone to train with who is actually better than me, who seems to know exactly what my body is capable of, even when I don't.
Well, at least I cracked the bastard's mask. Small victory. In retrospect, though, the whole fight before that had been a mistake on my part. I had attacked him on his 'throne', unprovoked, but hearing him make a recording about how well I had 'progressed' was just… it was just too much. I snapped. I do that a lot around Slade, he knows how to push my buttons, and every time I put my friends in greater and greater anger. Next time he might actually kill them… and how do I know that? Because I would in his situation. It's scary when you can see the logic behind a deed like that.
The man sent me to my cell –or my 'room' as he puts it– and I went, obediently. I'm not going to put as much of a toe out of line again, at least not tonight.
As I had been dismissed for the night, I showered and changed into my sleepwear; a t-shirt and soft sweat pants. I had been given a comfortable bed, books, a desk, an alarm clock and a lamp to read by, but I don't read tonight. I had to think.
"Master? May I speak with you?" It was the next morning, six-thirty to be exact, and I was very carefully about to execute the first step in my plan. My oh-so-complicated plan which is simply to try to keep my friends safe.
"I would like to ask… a favor."
"What kind?" His voice was… not hostile. It might sound weird, because we're supposed to be enemies, and yes, he does taunt me when we fight, but mostly when it's… ummm… let's say… and 'unscheduled' fight. Fine. When I lose my cool. When we spar, he sometimes chuckles when I get too crazy with my moves, but he gives me constructive criticism. If he hadn't, I wouldn't have learned anything apart from 'it hurts to be slammed into hard surfaces' and I already knew that one… what I'm saying is that he never sounds… hateful… or even angry. Sometimes I can practically see a thought bubble over his head saying 'I'm so tired of your shit', but he never loses it. Last night, though… last night he sounded angry. I hope you forgive me for taking that sign very seriously.
"I was wondering if there was… any way that we could leave Jump?" I asked.
"You want to leave your home city?"
"It's- it's not my home, not really. I didn't grow up here." I knew he already knew this, he knows exactly where I grew up and with whom. I am allowed to wear my mask, but I only do it on missions now. It's not my mask after all; it's a more sinister version. It doesn't make me feel better, far from it. "It's the Titans' city and… I'd rather not stay here, unless… well, unless that's your plan," I continued. "Master," I added, remembering myself. I'm not sure how much he really wants me to use the title, but better safe than sorry at this point.
"You think leaving will make your friends safer," Slade nodded. I shrugged, I can't very well deny it, can I? He's not an idiot. "However, less distractions might be a good idea. I'll think about it. Finish your breakfast. Meet me in the study at seven."
"Yes, Master," I nodded. I knew the routine by heart by now. If there's no mission, wake-up is at six. By seven I should have eaten, brushed my teeth, and... well… have gone to the bathroom, to put it frankly. From seven to twelve there are lessons, mostly languages, also some chemistry and technology. If there's an upcoming mission I might have to practice with a specific lock or electronic lock pick, for example, but languages are actually the major part. It was that fact that gave me the idea for traveling. I know Slade works all over the world; he explains examples from his own missions when we discuss a strategy or a fighting style for instance. I admit that sometimes I find myself wanting to hear more, but can you blame me? After years listening to Cyborg and Beast Boy talking about computer games as if they were real?
Damn, I'd give all I have to hear them talk about them again…
Still, I can't help to be intrigued! I mean, he's very much like Batman –and I'm aware that Bruce would disown me for saying that– but he seldom has any kind of back-up. One man against impossible odds… they should both be long dead, really, so of course you want to hear their stories!
Well, back to the schedule. At noon there's lunch, a hearty meal, and then I have an hour for either free time or homework do digest it a bit before my physical training starts from one to five. The routine is a bit varied and it's not all hard work and bruises, there's also balance and flexibility. He's not trying to break my body, he's trying to make it better, after all, so he's… gentle. Sorry. Weird word. Don't know why that plopped into my mind. So yes, I get bruises, but I'm not abused, it just felt like that for the first few days because, I'm ashamed to admit, I'm not used to training this hard. I've gone a bit soft since leaving Batman's shadow. He was a hard ass when it came to training too.
At five I take a shower –very much needed by now− every two days I also do my own laundry, including sheets once a week, make sure my armor is polished. I have to do his armor and boots too, but thankfully not his clothes. I don't think I could have handled Slade's skid marks.
I know the man used to be in the military, and you can tell, can't you? It would be funny if it wasn't so much work. At six dinner is ready, at seven I'm allowed to watch any news I want until eight and then it's back to my room where I'm locked up. I'm allowed to stay up as long as I want to, but I learned quickly that you can't keep a schedule like this without proper sleep, and I actually sleep like a dead man. First I thought he might be drugging me, because I'm allowed to bring a snack to the bedroom with me, but I can pick it out myself and he eats from the fridge too, so I don't thinks so. Besides, I sleep even if I don't eat; I just wake up hungrier.
Like I said I have to keep my clothes clean, and my room too, of course. The food, however, was a mystery in the beginning, but it turned out he has meals delivered. Not from restaurants, you can tell they are home cooked, but from somewhere. Groceries for breakfast and such are also delivered, but there is not much actual cooking involved there, apart from eggs. Slade likes boiled eggs. At least I assume he does, as he serves them to me; we never eat together. In fact, I never see him without his mask or armor, which annoys me to no end for some reason. I feel like no matter how many clues I can gather about the man, I will never be able to answer the question 'who is Slade?' properly without seeing his face. And I even know his full name! Slade Wilson. It was written in one of the many books he has told me to read… I don't know if he meant for me to see it or if he had forgotten it was there, scribbled on the inside of the cover, proof of ownership.
Speaking about proof of ownership; I dressed in my uniform once I returned to my room. I don't have to wear it during breakfast, so I don't. I brushed my teeth, did my business and then it was time for studies. Routine. He's ensnared me in it, and he knows I like it. Well, not being here and doing these things, of course, but having a routine. It's important to me, and even though I have to be ready to dash out into the city and fight crime –or used to have to, anyway− I still had all kinds of routines and… rituals, even, which helped me relax. I'll stop now, before you start to think I'm crazy.
Why, if I'm left to wander around the compound so freely, haven't I escaped, you might ask? Besides the fact that my friends would be dead before I reached the tower to warn them? Because it's impossible. I've tried, before Slade told me what the consequences would be, anyway. I am to be where he tells me to be when he tells me to be there, or my team suffers. It has already happened twice, and after last night...? Not again.
The study had two desks. His is a big, sprawling metal one, mine is a small MDF one in the corner of the room. Very subtle.
He was on his computer when I entered the room, a few minutes early.
"Finish what you started yesterday, and let me know when you're ready to be quizzed," he said. In German.
I just nodded and sat down, trying to focus on my work while a million thoughts, mostly wants and regrets, flowed through my mind. I have a hope that my friends will figure out why I fought them last night and maybe burst through the door at any moment… although a slightly sneakier plan might be better. I know them well enough to realize that, if the cavalry arrives, it will do so with a bang, though. I grinned to myself, but then focused on the list of words again.
I took a bit of German in school, though it's not a language I've used much. I'm glad I got some of the basics down, though, because Slade sure piles it up, and it's just not tourist phrases either, oh no. Right now I'm trying to commit a long list of words to memory which deals with architectural terms… like different types of doors, windows, balconies, towers and turrets and roofs and crap. I guess it might be important if someone tells you to enter through the French window and you go in by the front door instead or something.
I've gotten the same kind of work about human anatomy, weapons and city related things like the difference between streets and alleys. Luckily my French, Spanish, and Russian is better, which is probably why we're focusing on German. I had to sit a row of tests on my second day here to find out where I was 'lacking'. You can't say that he hasn't planned this out, anyway. Put Slade in charge of the U.S. school system and grades would go up in a week… although, it might happened after he killed off half the students to scare the other half straight, I don't know.
I sighed and continued reading, noting down the words, trying to come up with little tricks to remember them. Some are easy; almost the same as English. Some are completely alien.
Alien… Starfire. Sweet, sweet, dear Starfire. I'm very fond of her. It's just so nice to be around someone who is herself so completely. Open. Easy to read. Not trying to act tough. Honest.
"Focus on your work."
Shit. My mind had wondered again.
"Sorry, Sir," I say quickly, hoping to get away with a 'sir' instead of a 'master'. It seems to work. Good.
Right. Dachziegel. Great. Dachziegel. Fuck my life.
I finally felt ready after another half hour and he started asking me what this or that was called, until he was satisfied that I had memorized the words. I couldn't relax until he nodded, indicating that I had 'passed', but I don't know why. It wasn't like he would beat me if I got it wrong. What he would do was giving me less free time, more chores and tougher exercises at the gym… now you know what happen on the third day of my apprenticeship. That said, he had used physical punishment –apart from the times that I attacked him and he introduced me to the floor several times, but that might not count− and it had been embarrassing, so I tried to avoid it. It had happened during sparring, the first day. I was not quite in the mood to go along with anything he wanted me to do, and he told me to 'quit sulking'. When I still didn't do my best, he lifted me by my wrist and slapped my ass. Just one, hard slap, then he let me go and told me not to be childish before giving his next order. It's not like I'm used to being punished like that, and that one shocked me. It wasn't the pain –it just stung− but the place; that he had hit my butt with his hand! I can't explain it, but it made me feel… I don't even know! But I did shape up after that one, I did not want it to happen again.
"You seem rather distracted today."
I silently cursed, while I struggled to find the right words in German. At last I had understood what he said.
"I am sorry. I have… many things to think of."
"And you don't. All you have to worry about is doing exactly what I tell you."
I fought an urge to sneer or roll my eyes and instead just nodded.
"Have you decided if we should… travel?" I asked, searching for that particular word.
"Yes, but not where. I've sent out word that I'm available for a mission."
"Yes, what did you think we would be doing? A vacation?"
"No, but… your mission… what kind?" I hated speaking a language I'm not fluent in! I sound like an idiot!
"I don't know, I haven't gotten it yet," he said, and I sensed he thought that my question is stupid.
"I mean… will you be stealing something or…?"
"Firstly, it's 'we', boy, and secondly, like I said, I don't know."
I wanted to tell him that though stealing was something I could accept –under these circumstances, mind you!– there are other things I won't do… but I chose not to press the issue, not right now. I think he knows exactly what I want to say anyway.
"Do you have any more missions planned for me here?" I asked instead, trying to sound cooperative, even though all I want to do is get out and stretch my legs.
"After that little stunt yesterday? No. You're grounded."
"Grounded?" I repeat the word in English, just to make sure I've understood him.
"Fine." I might have said that with a slight pout on my face, I'm not proud to admit.
He made a little noise, a kind of soft snort, which I had learnt meant amusement, but I couldn't blame him. I am sixteen , after all, and maybe I am a little childish for my age. Then again I'm more responsible than many adults, with a tougher schedule, a more dangerous job and many lives depending on me, so…
"Let's move on to military-related vocabulary." Slade said next. "This list contains three hundred words, learn them by tomorrow morning."
He held the papers out to me so I had to get up and walk over to him to fetch it. I couldn't help but glance at his laptop, wishing I could have just a few minutes with it. Thirty seconds. Fifteen! I'd find a way to send the Titans a message, but no. Slade knew it too, so I wasn't allowed to use any tech unsupervised, and everything was password protected anyway.
"Aren't we having any other lessons today?" I asked, hoping for something more interesting than German.
I sighed as I sat down with the new list, hoping time would go quickly and it would be lunch soon.
As I ate, alone as usual, I turned my situation over in my head. It was a very weird one… I was a prisoner here, but I wasn't mistreated or even scared. Sure, I was worried about the outcome, and there were flashes of terror when things seemed to take a bad turn for my friends, like yesterday, but I wasn't scared for myself. Or sad. Angry? Yes. Frustrated? You bet. I was far from crying myself to sleep at night, though. If it hadn't been for my friends, and the fact that I wasn't allowed to leave, it wouldn't be so bad.
"If this had been a summer camp, I might have joined."
"Pardon?" I don't blame the man for not having a clue what I was babbling about, but after finishing lunch I had reported to the gym, and the things I've been thinking about was still on my mind.
"Yeah, how about we forget the whole apprentice and criminal thing and you can become my personal trainer?"
"Did your meal include alcohol?"
"I'd pay you?"
"Go warm up." As I passed him, he cuffed my head lightly. "And show some respect."
"Yes Master," I sighed. "It was just worth a shot."
"Why?" I face him again. "With all due respect, that is… Even if I agreed to this-"
"I thought you did," the bastard says silkily and suddenly holds the controller in his hand again, thumb caressing the button almost lewdly.
"I did! I did!" I hurriedly assure him. "Well, even though I have, then… do you really think I'll just forget who I am? And this isn't about my friends, it's about who I am. I've always fought for justice! When I commit a crime for you, even if I learn to do it well… I will always think that it's wrong… I'll despise myself even more than I hate you!"
"You use the word 'always' very lightly, don't you? You were shaped by the death of your parents, or rather, by Batman and how he shaped you afterwards. That's about half our life. Not 'always'."
"My parent raised me to know right from wrong, though!" I snapped back. "And Batman didn't 'shape' me!"
"Oh, he didn't?" Slade took just one step and he was right in front of me, tilting my chin back with a firm hand. "How did you feel when they died, boy? Sad?"
"Devastated," I admit freely, feeling my eyes beginning to burn a little. I'm not used to talking about them, and much less my feelings.
"Ye-" I practically hear the trap slam shut, but in for a penny… "Yes! Of course I was angry! At him, at myself…"
"So tell me, my boy… if it hadn't been for the bat… if you had faced the man who killed your parents eight years ago… if you had had a gun… Would you have been angry enough?"
I pulled free of his hold and head towards the sand sack hanging from the ceiling. "I'm going to warm up," I said and then slam my fist into the worn leather as hard as I can.
"Look at that," the man chuckled. "Seems like you're angry enough even now."
"Can we spar today, Master? Please? Because yeah, I'm angry enough," I said the last part between clenched teeth, but he stills hears me.
Forty minutes later I picked myself up from the floor for the last time and raised my hands in a defeated gesture. I've had enough.
"Hit the weights."
There was no use complaining that I was too bruised and battered, because he knew exactly what my injuries were and that they were only skin deep. The remaining hours would hurt because of my challenge, and, once more, I felt silly. I decided, then and there, that that was the feeling I hated the most… or, at least, that he made me feel like that.
The rest of the session went perfectly. I beat some personal bests, even. Because that's what I do; he humiliates me, and that makes me try harder… and I can't help it! I just have to prove myself, prove that I'm better than he – and everyone else− thinks… I'm really my own worst enemy here.
"Very good, Robin."
The words made me bristle and preen at the same time. My muscles were screaming in pain, and I tried to ignore him, walking stiffly towards the door and the hot shower my body sorely needed.
"Wash up quickly and then come back here and get on the table," I'm told.
"I don't need−"
"Yes you do. Don't argue."
"Yes, Master." I'm too tired to argue anyway. Besides, I know he's right: I do need a massage badly.
I'm back ten minutes later, almost completely dry with a towel around my hips. There's an actual massage table standing to the side in the gym, with a hole for my face and everything. I got on it and forced my body to relax. The first time Slade did this I freaked out. I don't know what I imagined would happen, but I didn't trust him and− A realization hits me then and there. I trust him. Well… you know; to do what he says he's going to do and not randomly cut one of my kidneys out or something… and it's only been a week! He has made me trust him in a week! The fucker!
I jumped when I suddenly felt his hands on me.
"A bit high strung, are we?" he snorted.
"Your gloves are cold," I lied.
"Poor you. I'm going to carefully help you stretch and relax your muscles, no deep tissue massage this time."
"Good. I might cry from the pain." I muttered, and let him get to work. His hands slowly traveled from my neck out to the fingertips of each hand, then down my back. He removed the towel –the part which made me kick him in the neck the first time− and calmly continues down my glutes and thighs.
"You still tense up in this area," he told me, one of his gloved hands resting on my behind like it belonged there.
"There's a evil bast- master mind touching my ass, I think I'm entitled to being a little tense," I snorted.
"Well, thank you for the 'master mind' comment, but I'm hardly evil."
I lift myself up on my elbows and turn my head to stare at the man over my shoulder. "What? You're 'not evil'? Am I missing something?"
"Apparently. Lie back down, I'm not finished."
"I just…" I'm rather speechless, but I obeyed as I'm trying to find the right words. "I mean, I know that some people has a warped self image, but this is… wow."
"Define 'evil'," he ordered.
"Very funny. Now do it properly."
"Someone who does evil deeds."
"Killing comes to mind."
"Ah, so soldiers are evil?"
"Of course not! It's about the reasons too." Why is he being difficult? He's clearly evil! Why would he even− "Mmmm…" I can't help but hum in appreciation as he works on my thighs. I did a lot of squats today, and his hands feel amazing.
"So it's all about the motive? So if Batman would start killing criminals, truly making the streets of Gotham safer-"
"It would be wrong, because it's against the law!"
"Yes, but would you consider him 'evil'?"
"If he would start killing criminals…" I said, trying to imagine the situation. Frighteningly it's not that difficult. "Then it would be because of a mental breakdown of some kind. I'd have him committed. Get him help."
"You didn't answer my question."
"No, I wouldn't call him evil, but I know him. It's different."
"No, it's not. What you are saying is that someone killing criminals aren't as bad as someone killing 'innocent' people."
I almost said 'duh!' but stopped myself. "It's a crime either way."
"Yes, but apparently merely committing a crime doesn't make you evil."
"Can we stop? I've had this discussion before," I beg. My head is beginning to hurt.
"With Batman, I presume?"
"And how did he defend himself?"
"What do you mean?"
"Our dear bat has broken the law quite often to reach his goal. He has to justify that to himself somehow."
"The end justifies the means?"
"And when it ends badly? What is his defense then?"
"It doesn't matter, he's not evil!"
"If you say so. You know I've been a soldier, I killed people on the government's orders then, getting paid to do so as well… but I wasn't evil then according to your logic?"
"Well… did you enjoy it?"
"Really. I've killed some people in my line of work which I truly did enjoy taking out, though," he told me, but it doesn't seem like he's about to continue.
"A world war two veteran, a Nazi. The asshole had hidden away in South America with the fortune he had collected while in power. He was the manager of a concentration camp, and he enjoyed it. So much so that he bought people to continue his old life style at his ranch. A few every month it seemed like. He tortured and killed them. Mostly children and teens. Do you blame me from enjoying blasting his head off?"
"No," I had to admit. "But if he had been brought to justice-"
"Nothing would have happened. You see, the German government knew who this man was, but there was no proof. He had went through plastic surgery, erased every trace of his old life… they couldn't bring him to justice. So they sent me."
"The German government did?"
"Indeed. And I barely charged them for it. Turn over."
He snorted but handed it to me, as it had fallen on the floor. I covered my front as I rolled over, bunching the cloth up a little to hide the fact that the massage had had a little bit of an effect on me. I'm not sure it fooled anyone, but, embarrassing as it was, it didn't mean anything. He had been a teen once, he should know. He probably did too, because he never commented, even when he woke me up the other day and I rolled over with a full morning erection. He just told me to go pee before reporting to the kitchen.
"So, you're trying to say that you're not evil because you kill people who deserve it?" I ask, trying to ignore the fact that he has bent my left leg up against my chest and the towel didn't do much to hide anything. He wasn't looking at my crotch, though, so…
"I don't care much about who pays me, but I do my fair amount of government work… but I'm not trying to sugarcoat my job; I've also taken out witnesses before trails, businessmen who won't sell out… they aren't all criminals, but chances are that if you got a price on your head, especially a high enough one to interest me, you most likely left a trail of bodies or ruined lives behind you as well. I choose my missions. I don't kill children, and rarely women-"
"What about the Titans?"
"Ordinary children, then. Superheroes are different."
"That's what you have to tell yourself?"
He stops what he's doing and looks at me for a moment. I think I'm in trouble until he tilts his head. "Touché. I wouldn't do it if they were younger, though. The green one is a borderline case… but if you push me enough, Robin, I will. As you said, 'the end justifies the means', and you're more important to me than they are."
"Geeze, thank you."
"Sarcasm, look it up. Ow!" He stretched my leg a bit too much there. On purpose, of course. Fucktard.
"Respect. Look it up."
"You're so funny."
"Maybe you should look that word up too."
I can feel the corners of my mouth twitching, even though I don't want to. Dammit!
"So you are claiming, with a straight face, that you're not evil?" I ask.
"I have the same capacity to do evil as everyone else. Well... maybe a bit more. And yes, my morals are my own. I do have them, though."
"So a truly evil person is a person with no morals?"
"Perhaps. Or at least very few."
"I think he or she also has to enjoy it."
"Anyone comes to mind?" he asks, sounding a bit curious.
"I thought insanity was an excuse?"
"I think the Joker is only as insane as he wants to be."
"Good observation. So am I evil, then? Compared to the Joker?"
"Compared to the Joker no one's evil."
"That might be true."
"It doesn't mean that you're not a bastard, though. Master," I add just in case.
"Oh no, I'm definitely a bastard," the man claims and twists my leg just so.
"AAARGH!" I kick him away and clutches at my poor limb, but the pain is already gone. He knows what he's doing.
"Go take a proper shower now, apprentice," he says, dismissing me. I'm happy to leave and jumps off the table. I'm half way across the room before I realize that I don't have my towel. I stop dead, turn half around, but he's watching, so I turn back and continue on, back stiff. I think I hear him chuckling.
After dinner I grabbed my list of words and sit down in the monitor room –or the 'throne room'– half watching the news, half studying. I cross off the words I already know and focus on the other ones. I copy them to another piece of paper; the German words in one column and their English counterparts in another, fold the paper so I only see one side, and try to get the German one's right. It's a technique that works for me, because it's a bit like a quiz, a game. A very, very boring game, but still.
I raise my head to listen more closely as the news turns to the situation in Syria. Slade is in the room too, in his chair, and I see that he is paying attention as well. Maybe he's hoping for a job. I really, really hope I won't be forced to go into a warzone. I'm not sure I could handle not being allowed to help. On the plus side, maybe Slade steps on a mine.
The news turns to the economy, something I know is important, but it's not like it will have any impact on me right now. It's not like he can't afford to keep me… although maybe people can't afford to hire him. I wonder if he'll send me out on the streets with a mug and a sign. 'Will kill for cash.'
I snorted at my own mind and went back to the list of words. If I can get this done before lock up I can read for an hour or two before going to sleep, and the book I'm into right now is rather fitting; "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky… the discussion of guilt and the 'higher purpose', for example… Not that it's a great read, really. It feels a bit too stuffy to me, or maybe a bit too foreign. I can't really get into the main character's head to truly understand him, it's like he's an alien –sorry Starfire−. But all in all, it's interesting, so…
I put some effort into it and feel fairly confident about the work when eight o'clock comes around.
"Goodnight, Robin." It means 'go to your room' but it's a nicer way to say it I suppose.
I had something on my mind, though, something I've been wondering about Slade for a long time. As this has been a "good" day, so to speak, maybe I dare to…?
"Master, may I ask you something personal?"
"Trying to stay up past your bedtime?"
"No, sorry," I said, getting up to head to the door.
"What was the question?"
I grin a little. Seems I got him curious. I school my features back into a blank mask before I turn around, though.
He has stood up as well and is walking up to me. I swallow. Suddenly I'm not so sure I want to know the answer.
"Well… I… you've told me some things about your past, but I wondered… um… are you human? I mean… fully?"
"Why would you doubt that?"
"You're too fast, too strong… something isn't right, but it's not an obvious power, like the Flash's or Superman's… And the black side of your mask, your full body armor… have you been… enhanced?"
"Like your friend Cyborg, you mean? Interesting hypothesis."
"But not true, then? You use the bots, sometimes, and the nano probes… it fits."
Instead of answering the man does something he hasn't done before; he removes one of his gauntlets. I stare at the revealed skin. Caucasian. Nails clean and neatly trimmed. The hair on the top of the hand is… fair? Not black, at least but it's hard to see in the flickering lights from the screens. The palm has calluses, some not unlike my own, from fighting with my bo-staff. I'm almost transfixed.
"See? Very real." He makes that half-chuckle noise as his hand comes up to cup my chin, like to prove that the skin is indeed real. It feels like it. Warm, and a little rough. Slightly moist from being encased in those heavy looking gloves. I feel the hand lift my chin and close my mouth with a click. I had been gaping. Terrific. That's not embarrassing!
"I… I… okay, so not a machine, but you're still not fully human, are you?"
"I'll tell you in due time," he says, and removes his hand. He sounds amused as he adds, "now go to bed, little bird."
"Stop trying to sound like a father," I huffed, blushing, and turned around.
"You know what?" I heard him say as I was leaving. "I think I've changed my mind about that…"
I didn't stop to ask what he meant. It felt… strange. Like I wouldn't like the answer, but I wasn't sure. I hope he meant that he just wanted to be my Master… that's what it had to mean, right?
"Get up, we're leaving."
"What… huh? Whe-?" I have a very good internal clock, so I knew it couldn't be six already. I was about to glance at the alarm clock when my eyes land on the man in the doorway.
Who isn't Slade.
"I…I… who… what…?" I stutter.
It is Slade! Slade without his mask! He turns around and leaves, confident that I will follow orders, and I do. It's four in the morning, I notice, as I practically jump into my uniform to hurry after him.
He's caucasian, as his hands had already told me. His hair is white, and he wears it short, brushed back at the sides. It looks like it's is usually short enough to be a crew cut on top, but he has left it to grow out a little bit, so while most of it stays in place, a few strands falls down and curls a bit over his forehead. The strands aren't nearly long enough to reach his thick, angled eyebrows, though. Those are white as well, and below them there are two cold blue eyes. This is something I don't understand, though. Why cover up one of his eyes? It seems very irrational and would impair is depth perception and-
"Would you stop staring at me and eat your breakfast?"
"Yes, you've said that. Eat. It might be a while before we get a chance to again."
"You have two eyes?" I know the sentence is random, it might even sound a bit crazy, but my brain is just trying to come to grips with one thing at a time here.
"Fake," he says and taps the right one with his fork.
"Oh. Okay." I can finally function enough to shove some boiled egg in my mouth.
"I normally wear an eye patch, but people tend to remember seeing someone with those, and I'd like to leave the city quietly. I hope I've made myself clear?"
"Yes. Why? I mean, why don't you just wear a fake eye all the time?"
He gives me a look, like he can't decide whether to tell me or not. "It chafes."
I snort into my coffee, burning myself in the process. "Poor you."
"Your attitude reminds me that I have to give you an injection before we leave."
"What? Why? Against what? I'm really sorry about your eye!"
"Nice try. We're not leaving without it, though."
"Why? Are we going somewhere dangerous?"
"Very." He smirks now. Actually smirks. Like a smile. SLADE! I didn't think any expression like that could survive on his face. Okay, so maybe he's been smirking this whole time, but I haven't been able to see it, and I damn well didn't imagine it.
I blink. "You're joking."
"Yes. Well, about the dangerous part. We're still going and you're still getting an injection." he walked over to the counter and there's a small medical kit there. He's holding a needle when he turns around.
"But… what is it?"
"Your leash." He doesn't explain more than that before wiping a spot on the back of my neck with disinfectant and jabs it in.
"OW! You're a horrible nurse!" I groaned. It pinched, but when he pushed the liquid into my body it started to burn too. Badly. My hands gripped the edge of the table, and I grind my teeth together as I'm determined not to cry out in any real pain. "Just tell me what it is!"
"It's probes, very similar to the ones your friends are carrying around."
"So you can fry me if I misbehave? Nice to know."
"It's more than that. I can also track you, knock you unconscious, or just cause you pain. Even disable parts of your body."
"Gee, thanks. Anything more I should know?"
"I can do it even if you're on the other side of the planet, and the tech will be almost impossible to remove. Even I would struggle to do it."
"You sound so damn proud of yourself."
"I am. This is the second generation to the crude ones the Titans were infected with. Yours are far more advanced," he says and rounds the table again, sitting down and picking up his cup of coffee like he just don't jam a needle in my neck and told me I'm his new remote controlled toy.
"And when did you have time to do that?"
He raises an eyebrow and gives me a rather haughty look. "I've had a week."
"They are just going to randomly explode in my brain, aren't they?" I growled.
"Yes." He took a sip of coffee. "But only if I tell them to."
Sitting in a car next to Slade was another surreal thing I had never expected would happen. He was driving and the car was a rented Hyundai which smelled a bit much of cleaning liquids, making me suspect that the last people who drove it had had carsick children in the back.
"We're going to the airport?" I was in civilian clothes – faded blue jeans, a long sleeved button down gray shirt and a light jacket of some sporty water-and-wind-resistant type of fabric. I had never seen the clothes before in my life, and they all fit perfectly. Including the underwear and shoes. I would be impressed if it wasn't so freaky. Slade had on a dark gray, almost black suit, a simple cut, no tie, white shirt. Dress shoes. Looked like he was going to the office.
"Yes. I had a feeling swimming to Europe would only make you whiny."
"You should do stand up."
He ignored me and began a lecture instead. "I don't want any trouble during our trip, Robin. I know you'll be tempted, but I warn you; any attempt to draw attention to yourself, to contact the Titans or warn anyone, will end… very badly."
"I'm just going to sit back and let airport security take care of you. I saw the weapons and the uniforms in one of the suitcases, do you really think you'll get away with that?"
"What? Some kind of lining of the suitcase? Won't it just seem empty then? What if you're picked for a random search?"
"I have people on the inside."
"Oh. That simple, huh?"
"Simple? To get the right people to work at the right gates at all the airports we're going to start and land at?"
"What do you want? A round of applause?"
"Right now I'd like to test out those nano probes."
"Sorry, Master." It was clear I went a bit too far there, but I just couldn't help myself.
"You'll learn. Now, the top envelope on the dashboard is for you. Your ID, passport and such. Make sure you remember your name and birth date."
When I open the envelope, however, the first thing I see is a cell phone. I can't help but to stare at Slade like he has lost his mind. He can't trust me with a phone!
"You can only call one number with that. Mine. It also works as a communicator with a range of about five kilometers."
"Oh. Does it at least have some games?"
I shrugged, pocketed the phone and reached for the passport instead. It said Robin Wilson.
"You gave me your name?" That statement actually gets an reaction, as Slade looks away from the road for a moment.
"How do you know my last name?"
Ah, so the scribble in the book wasn't intended, then. He had merely forgotten that he wrote his name in it – probably when he was young as it was an old and worn edition. I'm not going to tell him that he messed up, though, because he might do it again.
"Oh, you know…" I say flippantly. "I've had a week."
The ordinary city airport and ordinary commercial flight, among ordinary people… it's surreal. It's surreal that this man is blackmailing me to follow him out of the country to do who knows what once we get there. Remember when I said I wasn't scared? I was now. My stomach had clenched painfully at the thought. I was helpless before, but now? Soon I'll be half way across the planet and coursing through me were those probes, and here, back home… he has already told me –offhandedly like it didn't really matter− that he can kill the Titans from anywhere on the planet. So I'm stuck. I really see no way out of this, he even hinted that if I would get intentionally hurt in some way, my friends would suffer. I think he meant if I killed myself. Not that I'm anywhere near even considering that! Suicide, I feel, is never, ever the answer, but what if he tries to force me to kill someone? I have no idea what to do! Can I really just put all my morals aside to save my friends? Is there any math I can use to solve this? How many human lives equals the lives of four heroes? How much do I have to hate myself before nothing matters anymore?
"Are you always this dreadful at paying attention in a crowd? Our plane is boarding."
"Oh. Yeah." I stood up and followed him, wondering if I'll ever see Jump City again, and what to expect on the other side of the ocean.
To Be Continued…
A/N: on to chapter 2… well… if you liked chapter one. If not, why the hell are you still reading?