A/N: This is the second fic exchange written for HaleyKim in response to this prompt:
"The team or part of the team is captured during a mission. One of their captors has a creepy fascination for Robin which sets Wally's (and the rest of the team's) teeth on edge. When this fascination starts to get out of hand, it's up to the team to free themselves and get Robin out of there. Can be as dark as you like, but fluff at the end would be good."
Also, Kim wrote the most incredible Dick and Wally friendship piece for me called Entrust, which I highly recommend.
Warning: This story contains attempted non-con.
"And just when you'd think humans were more malignant than ever Hell could be, they occasionally showed more grace than Heaven ever dreamed of." Terry Prachett.
"What part of 'count me out' do you three not understand?"
Roy glared at them, and Wally couldn't help but wonder if this was a bad idea. The archer was getting that weird vein-y thing in his temple that meant he was mad. And angry Roy was not fun.
Aqualad held out his hands in apology. "Speedy, we do not wish to cause offense. We just hoped that you would reconsider joining the team once you heard of our success against Mr. Twister."
Roy snorted. "You took down a Red Tornado wannabe. Congratulations."
"Hey!" cried Wally indignantly. "Let's lose the 'tude, alright, Man? That robot was actually pretty hard to take down."
"Fair enough," Roy conceded. "But why would that make you think that I'd reconsider joining the team? I told you already, I'm done taking orders from Arrow and the League."
"So it's a definite no then?" Robin piped up suddenly. Perched on the edge of the roof with one leg tucked under him and the other dangling down the side of the building, he was the only one who didn't seem even remotely phased by this disagreement.
The archer gave him a withering glare.
Robin shrugged. "Just checking."
"But–" Wally began, and was immediately silenced by a scowl from Roy. Closing his mouth, he crossed his arms and sulked. He didn't see what the problem was; it's not like they would be taking that many orders! And the whole Mr. Twister thing had established that Red Tornado wasn't just some glorified baby-sitter. Plus, they would get to go on covert missions, the cave was filled with all sorts of cool stuff, and Miss Martian was a total babe! Not to mention that she cooked. Well, sort of. Those cookies had been a bit burnt.
"We are sorry to hear that you will not change your mind, but we shall respect your decision," Aqualad told Roy. "And you will always be welcome on the team should you ever decide otherwise."
"Trust me, I won't be changing my mind." Roy folded his arms and glared at them. "Now, can you please leave? I'm busy."
Wally glanced around at the abandoned steelworks factory they were standing atop, and the very bleak, very empty yard that surrounded it, before flicking an irritated glare at Roy. "Oh yeah, you're all kinds of busy."
Roy didn't look like he appreciated the dig: Wally knew he hated sarcasm when he wasn't the one using it.
"KF, chill," Robin interjected. "He's not lying; something really is going down here."
"And just how do you know that something is going down?" Wally demanded, turning to where the younger boy was still perched on the parapet.
In response, Robin pointed at the state-of-the-art security cameras positioned at strategic points around the dilapidated factory and yard, and the brand-new locks securing the windows and doors. Interesting investment for what was essentially a worthless building.
"We're standing in the only security blind spot," Robin added, as Wally made the connection.
"Blind spots for the cameras, but wide open for anyone to see the four of us just standing here," Roy put in irritably. "So can you three please go before you ruin my plans?"
"Plans?" Wally repeated, his interest piqued. "Why don't we help?"
"Because I don't need help," Roy ground out.
Wally rolled his eyes. "No one said you did. Jeez, Dude, chill. We're your friends, not the League."
Roy made an annoyed sound in the back of his throat, but Aqualad spoke up before he could argue. "Maybe we could be of assistance to you, Speedy? It would be a nice opportunity for the four of us to work together."
Something spasmed across Roy's face and Wally could tell that the last thing he wanted was for the four of them to work together. But he'd never tell Aqualad that – it was kind of hard to be rude to the Atlantian when he was always so polite.
"Besides, you may not have a choice," Robin interjected, pointing towards the road where several sets of headlights were winding their way through the darkness towards the factory.
"Dammit!" Roy growled, seizing Wally and Aqualad by the scruff of their necks and forcing them into a crouch behind the parapet. Robin slipped off the wall and blended into the shadows by an old rooftop storage shed.
"I swear, if you guys screw anything up…" Roy muttered furiously, pulling out a small parabolic arc mic and setting it up.
"If you don't think we can handle it then why don't you tell us what to expect?" Wally hissed. Roy's attitude was seriously starting to annoy him. It wasn't like they'd never done this before!
Roy pushed the receiver into his ear before responding. "Alright, fine." He lowered his voice as several vehicles rumbled into the steelworks yard. "I don't know who these guys are, but I've been watching them for the last week and from what I can see, they're into some serious crap. About two nights ago, they posted hired mercenaries at various safe houses in the city, and they started watching the railway and shipping lines. I think something is coming in tonight. Something big."
"Like drugs?" Wally asked, feeling a little insulted. Roy didn't think they could handle a few drug dealers?
"Like guns," Roy corrected him. "Now shut up and let me hear what they're saying."
There was silence while Roy listened to whatever was coming in over his receiver, his frown becoming steadily more pronounced. Wally could tell by his posture that he didn't like what he was hearing, and longed to ask what was going on. But the rumble of voices drifting up from the yard below was a big incentive to stay quiet: Wally didn't want these guys to know there were four teenagers on the roof above them. Aside from not knowing what they would be letting themselves in for if they revealed themselves too soon, Roy would kill him.
Eventually, looking angry and disgusted, Roy pulled the receiver out of his ear. "Well, it's not guns," he said in a low voice.
"What is it?" Aqualad asked, even more quietly.
"People," Robin's soft voice sounded as he appeared beside Wally suddenly, causing the speedster to almost jump into the air. He would have yelled at Robin for giving him a heart attack, but the younger boy, anticipating his reaction, slapped a hand over his mouth.
Wally glared in annoyance. He wasn't that loud!
"Did you get a look?" Roy asked Robin, still keeping his voice low.
Robin nodded. "They just unloaded twenty-three people from two trucks. The men are chained together, but the women only have their hands tied behind them. Some of them look in really bad shape. It's not going to be easy to get them out of here."
"How many guards?" Roy wanted to know.
"Twenty-one. All armed to the hilt."
"Damn." Roy looked frustrated.
"So, what's our plan?" Wally asked eagerly.
"Perhaps a wiser course of action would be to contact the League," Aqualad suggested. "Twenty-three people is–"
"We are not calling the League!" Roy hissed.
"I'm with Roy on this," Wally agreed quickly. They'd taken down Mr. Twister – they could handle a few goons with guns.
Aqualad frowned. "Kid, there are a lot of lives at stake here. I really think we should–"
"Relax, Aqualad, we'll be fine!" Wally gave a dismissive wave of his hand. "We just need a plan and I bet you have one, Rob…" His voice trailed off as he turned to address the younger boy.
Robin was gone.
"Now where'd he go?" Wally complained. "You know, we really need to start putting a bell on him!"
"Shhhh!" Roy hissed, looking over the parapet. "I don't see him. Wherever he's gone, he must have–"
The sound of yells and rapid gunfire drowned out the rest of his words. Roy ducked down quickly as bullets whistled overhead. "Damn! They spotted me."
"Wellllll, if we're not hiding anymore..." Wally was up and speeding down the side of the building before Aqualad or Roy could object.
He revelled in the adrenaline rush as he raced towards the gunmen, disarming three of them in one swoop. Zooming away, he disposed of the guns and was back in seconds. By then, Roy and Aqualad had joined the fray: Roy was firing arrows from the roof, while Aqualad used his water bearers to clear a line through the men herding the innocent captives towards the factory.
Wally zipped over to the captives, managing to get the hands of four women untied. He yelled at them to run, before knocking over two guards who would have shot the escaping women. As the women ran, Wally couldn't help but notice that there were now seventeen civilians left – two more besides those he had freed were gone. Wally knew there was no way Robin had counted wrong, and guessed the younger boy was around here somewhere, working his magic to free the prisoners without revealing himself to the gunmen.
Wally had to hand it to Robin, that ninja stealth thing really did come in handy sometimes.
The gunmen were now firing indiscriminately, bullets flying everywhere, and Wally was forced to pull back from the captives before a stray bullet could hit one of them. He zoomed past Aqualad who had also been forced to retreat for the safety of the hostages, and was now attempting to disarm the men by the trucks. But he wasn't having much luck: the men were pumping rounds at him with high-powered semi-automatics, forcing the Atlantian to put up a shield with his water bearers and crouch behind it.
Roy was still on the roof, attempting to take the men down long distance, but a cadre of gunmen were forcing him to retreat, their bullets spraying chunks of concrete in every direction whenever they hit the roof.
Wally was about to run to Roy's aid when something small and black whizzed out of nowhere and disarmed the men. Robin. He was obviously keeping a close eye on the fight while he worked to free the hostages.
No longer under fire, Roy used his grapple gun thingy like Robin's to swing himself to the ground. He took a vantage point behind one of the trucks while continuing to discharge his bow and arrow as though he hadn't been the target of deadly fire mere seconds ago.
By now, the gunmen had almost forced a large group of the hostages into the factory. Wally headed straight for them because once the men got the captives inside, it would be harder to free them. Crashing into the middle of the group, he bowled over several gunmen, hoping the prisoners would take advantage of the momentary distraction to run for safety. Wally had to admit, the firepower of the gunmen combined with the sheer numbers of the hostages was making their rescue attempt difficult.
As the hostages scattered, one of the fleeing women was jerked back by her hair onto the ground, where two men proceeded to club her with their guns.
Outraged, Kid Flash catapulted himself into the gunmen, knocking them away from the cowering woman. As he helped her to her feet, Wally could hear Roy yell.
"KID FLASH! DUCK!"
A noise sounded behind him a split-second before something collided with his skull. Stars exploded behind his eyes and Wally tumbled into darkness.
Wally awoke to a pounding sensation in his head. His right temple throbbed steadily and he gave a low groan.
Jeez, what hit me?
He cracked open his eyes to find two masked men standing above him. At once, he shot into a sitting position and almost toppled back. Wally blinked. Why was his balance off?
Looking down, he realized that his hands were cuffed securely behind his back and his legs had been bound tightly together with a long coil of rope. Mouth open, he looked up at the men again. How had this happened?
"Nice going, Idiot!" a voice hissed.
Wally looked over to find Roy kneeling on the ground beside him. His hands were also cuffed behind him, while another man held a gun to his head. Roy looked more furious than scared by the situation.
Just a little further away, Wally could see Aqualad lying facedown on the ground, his arms crossed behind him. Two men were tying his wrists to his upper arms, while another hogtied his legs to his neck. His water bearers were gone.
Wally didn't understand why Aqualad was just letting them restrain him…until he noticed the two sets of Very Big Guns trained on him. He only had to take one look at Roy's murderous expression to guess what must have happened. He'd taken a blow to the head, gone down and been captured. The men must have used him as leverage to get the others to surrender. Wally wilted. Roy was going to kill him. And Robin would probably never let him live it down.
Robin. Wally's head snapped around. There was no sign of the younger boy. He looked back at Roy and immediately understood the warning scowl on his face: keep your mouth shut.
Wally schooled his face into what he hoped was a neutral expression. Robin hadn't revealed himself when they'd started fighting. These men had no clue he was here so he should be able to get them out of this mess.
Wally just wished that he hadn't been the one to get them in to it.
A tall, muscular man was barking orders to the other gunmen, who were now herding what was left of the frightened civilians into the steelworks factory. Wally counted carefully. There were still seventeen captives, all guarded carefully by ten heavily armed men. Six men were guarding Wally, Roy and Aqualad. If you included the one in charge, that left four men unaccounted for.
Wally guessed they were in pursuit of the people they'd managed to free and his heart sank. How were they supposed to get this many people to safety when there was an equal number of gunmen?
The three men restraining Aqualad had finished their task and were now pulling the Atlantian across the ground towards his friends. Wally winced on Aqualad's behalf as he heard the scraping of skin on concrete.
"So, the little sidekicks thought they could take us on?" a cold voice asked in amusement, and Wally's head jerked up to see the guy who seemed to be in charge standing in front of them.
"We're not sidekicks!" Roy snapped at once.
"Could have fooled me." The leader looked at the man holding the gun to Roy's head. "Where's the other one?"
Wally spoke up quickly. "What other one? It's just us."
The leader smiled. "Nice try, Baby Flash. Now, where is he?"
"Who?" Roy asked, his expression the most innocent Wally had ever seen. The speedster nearly choked on his surprise; he didn't think Roy's facial muscles allowed for anything other than scowling.
"Who do you think?" the leader replied, pulling one of Robin's batarangs from his back pocket. "I'd be willing to bet this isn't part of your arsenal."
Roy shrugged. "Sure it is."
The man behind Roy used his gun to club him in the back of the head, and the archer fell face-forward onto the concrete.
"HEY!" Wally yelled, as two men pulled Roy back to his knees. "Stop that!"
The leader rounded on Wally. "Perhaps you'd like to tell me where your friend is?"
Wally glared up at him mulishly. "You have my friends here."
"Not all of them. We both know there's a little bird around here somewhere."
"Robin's back in Gotham," Roy spoke up, the edges of his voice tinged with anger. "Bats doesn't really let him out much."
The leader smirked. "So I believe. I've heard he's very protective of his baby bird."
There was a tonal quality to the man's voice that sent chills down Wally's spine, and he decided it was time to move the focus off of Robin. "What are you going to do with us?"
The man's smile made Wally shudder. "Right now, Baby Flash, you are going to be the worm I use to catch a little bird."
Before Wally had time to process that statement, one of the men dragged him to his feet and put a gun to his head. Beside him, he could just make out a second man adding his gun to the one pressed against Roy's skull, while a little further on, two men squatted beside Aqualad and put their guns to his head.
The leader turned his back on them and glanced around the yard. "Robin, I know you're out there," he called loudly. "Show yourself, or your friends die!"
Robin didn't appear. Wally hoped he would call the man's bluff because he didn't think the men were going to shoot them, and if Robin turned himself in, they were all screwed!
The leader shook his head. "Disappointing, Robin. I didn't think I'd have to persuade you."
Without turning, he lifted his arm and crooked a finger. Immediately, the man behind Wally shoved him forwards, causing the speedster to stumble over his bound feet – the man's grip on him the only thing keeping him from face-planting into the concrete. Before Wally could protest, the gun at his head was shoved into his mouth.
The cold metal clanged painfully against his teeth and Wally started to panic. Maybe he'd been wrong about the men not shooting them!
Roy was now swearing loudly, but the leader didn't even react as he called out again, "Robin, I am giving you five seconds to surrender. If you don't, then the last thing Baby Flash eats will be lead. Five, four, three–"
"OKAY!" a cry echoed, and Robin appeared suddenly from behind one of the trucks.
"Very good, Robin." The leader sounded sickeningly satisfied. "Walk towards me with your hands in the air where I can see them."
Robin complied, his eyes going back and forth between his friends as he did so.
The man holding Wally laughed loudly. "Well, whaddya know? The baby was the last to be caught! The rest of you must really suck at being heroes."
Wally burned with indignation at that. He could only imagine what Roy's face looked like.
"Stop right there, Robin," the leader ordered, when Robin was just three feet away from him. Robin did so and the leader clucked with approval. "Good boy. Now, I want you to stay very still and keep your hands in the air. No sudden moves, Robin, do you understand me?"
Robin nodded. His expression was carefully neutral, but his eyes kept straying anxiously to Wally. The older teenager barely noticed. He was more preoccupied with the way the leader was talking to Robin, the way he kept using his name. Something about his voice was setting Wally's teeth on edge, but he didn't know why.
The leader strode forward and swiftly removed Robin's utility belt, handing it to the only unoccupied gunman without ever looking away from Robin. "Take off your gloves, Robin," he commanded, his excited tone making something spark uneasily in Wally's stomach.
Again, Robin complied and held them out. The gunman who was clutching his utility belt took the gauntlets from him and stepped back, while the leader moved directly into Robin's personal space. "Keep your hands in the air, Robin," he ordered, circling the boy while his eyes looked him up and down.
Wally could see Robin trying not to shift under the attention, and frowned. Something was off about this, although Wally couldn't exactly put his finger on what. And the silence that had fallen was tense – even Roy was no longer swearing.
After a minute, the leader stopped behind Robin and removed a set of handcuffs from his belt. Snapping one cuff over Robin's right wrist, he pulled it down sharply before grabbing Robin's left and doing the same. Wally could hear the snick of the second cuff closing and saw Robin wince.
Putting one hand on Robin's shoulder, the leader slowly leaned forward and unhooked his cape. As he pulled the cape off and dropped it carelessly to the ground, Wally started to protest, because what the heck?!
But he'd forgotten about the gun shoved into his mouth and all that came out was garbled nonsense.
Roy, however, had no such problem. "What the fuck are you doing?" he shouted.
The leader smiled, showing altogether too much teeth. "I've heard that Robin is quite the little escape artist, so I would much rather his hands didn't have a cape to hide behind."
Wally tried to relax because that sounded like a reasonable explanation, but tensed up again as the leader started to pat Robin down, checking for weapons. The man was doing it way too slowly for it to be practical, and his hands seemed to accidentally slip into areas that should have been off-limits. Robin's body was stiff as he submitted to the search, but Wally saw him flush in confusion and discomfort.
His muffled protests were drowned out by Roy yelling at the leader, "You've already taken all his weapons – stop searching him!"
"You were all searched," the leader reminded him, and Wally blinked because he didn't remember that. Must have been when he was out.
"Not like that!" Roy snapped. "Hands off. Now."
The leader laughed, resting his chin on Robin's head as if to taunt them. "You think you can tell me what to do? That's adorable." His hands moved up Robin's arms slowly, coming to rest on his shoulders. "Bring them inside."
The gun was removed from Wally's mouth and, to his utter mortification, he was hefted over someone's shoulder. This is so not cool! he grumbled, blood rushing to his head.
He could hear noise around him and twisted his head to the side. Aqualad, still in his hogtied position, was being carried by three men. Again, Wally winced for his friend. That did not look comfortable. Roy was on his feet, being walked into the factory by two men on either side of him, their guns digging into his back.
But he couldn't see Robin, and that made him nervous. Tilting his head uncomfortably upwards, Wally spotted Robin behind them. The younger boy was being marched forward by the leader, both of his hands still on Robin's shoulders. The speedster felt his stomach swoop when he saw the leader's smile: something about that smile reminded Wally of a shark.
Inside, head swirling from the blood rush, Wally was unceremoniously dumped on the floor beside Roy. The archer's back was against the wall, and his hands had been cuffed over his head to a steel pipe. The man who had carried Wally quickly restrained the speedster in the same manner. Seconds later, Aqualad was deposited alongside them, although the men did not cuff him to the pipe as they had Wally and Roy. He was left, hogtied, on his stomach.
Wally supposed it was a more secure way to restrain an Atlantian, but his insides twisted in sympathy for how Aqualad's muscles were straining and trembling against the discomfort of the position he was being forced into. "Dude, you okay?"
Aqualad twisted his face to the side as much as the ropes would allow. "Less comfortable than I would like, but I am unhurt. Are either of you injured?"
"Slight headache," Wally replied, "but nothing a good night's sleep won't fix."
"Fine," Roy growled, the anger in his voice suggesting otherwise.
Wally turned towards him, but Roy wasn't looking at either of them. Instead, his gaze was focused on the centre of the room where Robin stood, still with the leader's hands on his shoulders while the man gave orders. Wally's stomach lurched. Why wasn't he bringing Robin over? What was up with his creepy fascination with the younger boy? Wally didn't have a good feeling about this; his gut was squirming out a warning he couldn't identify.
On the other side of him, he could hear Roy's teeth grinding and guessed that he too was bothered by the leader's freaky preoccupation with Robin. Wally wondered briefly if the man was some sort of weird fanboy.
Much to their relief, the leader finally finished giving orders and led Robin over to them. Wordlessly, he shoved Robin to the ground on the other side of Roy, and cuffed the younger boy's hands over his head, before squatting in front of him.
"I wouldn't get too comfortable if I were you," he almost crooned, his voice carrying the same tonal quality from before that made Wally's skin crawl. He patted Robin's leg before getting to his feet and moving back towards the other men.
"Are you guys okay?" Robin asked at once.
"We're okay. You?" Wally returned, a note of anxiety in his voice.
"Fine. Can any of you get free?"
Wally tested his handcuffs and could hear the others doing the same. But the cuffs were sturdy and unbreakable, and there was no give in the steel pipe, part of which ran into the wall, encasing it in concrete. Only Superboy would be able to pull that loose.
"I'm going nowhere," Wally admitted at last, slumping back.
Beside him, Roy did the same. "Me either."
Robin had his head twisted up, studying his cuffs. "I wish they hadn't taken my gloves. I could have picked these things in a second."
Wally sighed. "Is that batspeak for you're stuck too?"
Robin glared at him.
"Aqualad, what about you?" Roy asked.
"I cannot free myself," he wheezed in response, and Wally realized that he'd nearly strangled himself in the effort to get loose.
"Aw, man! Aqualad, are you okay?"
"I am fine," the older teenager said, giving him a small smile. "I know not to try that again."
"Guess we're not getting out of our restraints," Roy muttered.
"Guess not," Wally agreed. "Don't suppose you had time to contact anyone for help, Rob?"
"We don't need help!" Roy snapped at once.
"Uh, yeah actually, we do," Robin countered. "And yes, KF, I tried contacting the League."
"You did? Gr– wait! What do you mean tried?"
"Comm was jammed. I couldn't get a message out."
Wally felt himself deflate. "So we're on our own."
"Yup." Robin didn't exactly look thrilled.
The four teenagers lapsed into silence as they studied their surroundings. This room was clearly the main body of the factory; a massive atrium filled with metal staircases leading up to metal walkways. Several concrete vats were dotted about the place, and the floor beneath them was earth. A smaller room that might have been an office at some point was located just a few feet away.
The gunmen themselves were moving purposefully about the room, keeping a careful watch on their captives while carrying boxes in from the trucks. The civilians were being kept on opposite sides of the room; the men chained to a metal staircase at one end, the women bound and seated on the other.
In the middle of the room was a raised, wooden platform, and Wally frowned. He could tell it didn't belong in here. The wood was new for one thing, and it looked totally out of place. "What do you suppose that is?"
"It looks like…a stage," said Robin uncertainly.
"It is a stage," Roy confirmed darkly. "And these guys are going to showcase their victims on it."
"Auction them, actually," a voice corrected him, and they all looked up to find the leader standing there once more. "But nice guess. You clearly aren't as dumb as you look." He smiled mockingly at Roy, who looked about ready to leverage a fist into those teeth.
"You don't think we're going to let you get away with this, do you?" he spat.
"Doesn't really look like you have much choice in the matter," the leader rejoined, squatting down beside Robin and smiling at him. "Comfortable, Robin?"
Wally squirmed. That smile was really setting his teeth on edge. "What are you planning to do with us?" he asked, trying to draw the man's attention away from the younger boy, because what was this guy's deal with Robin?
The leader glanced over at him. "You're going to make up the deficit in my numbers."
"And what does that mean exactly?" Roy demanded.
The leader's eyes were back on Robin. "You boys lost some of my merchandise–"
"They're people, not merchandise!" Wally snapped, glaring. Why wouldn't he just look away from Robin already?! There was something not right about the way he was leering at him.
The leader laughed at Wally. "You'll notice that I'm the bad guy. They're potential profits to me. And you boys lost some of those profits by letting them go, which means you owe me. So some of you are going to replace the value by being auctioned off, and some of you" his eyes raked up and down Robin's body, "will make it up to me in other ways."
Wally went cold because there was no mistaking that look on the man's face this time. He felt sick with revulsion: Robin was thirteen!
"I will break you in half before I let that happen!" Roy growled.
The leader shrugged. "Like I said already, you don't have much of a choice." He leaned over Robin and stroked one finger down his cheek. "I have a little time before the auction begins, you can start making it up to me then."
Robin's response was to kick out, catching the man hard in the knee and knocking him off-balance into the dirt. He looked angry and scared as he glared at the man.
The leader reacted with fury. He lunged at Robin, seizing him by the throat and sitting down heavily on his legs, preventing the boy from kicking him again. Roy and Wally immediately began to yell.
"QUIET!" he roared at them, his expression dangerous. "I said be quiet or I'll break his neck!"
They stopped shouting at once, because the man was already on the verge of doing just that. His hand was wrapped tightly around Robin's throat, pushing his head back against the wall, while the boy's hands jerked in his handcuffs.
"That's better." The leader returned his attention to Robin. "As for you, you will learn submission, I promise you that." He reached for Robin's boots and tugged them off, leaving the boy barefoot. "Let's see you kick me now, little bird."
Robin recoiled as best he could from the man, pushing himself into the wall in an effort to put some sort of distance between them. He looked so freaked that it made Wally's blood boil, and the speedster jerked hard enough on his cuffs to draw blood. He had to choke down the urge to scream at this guy to get the hell away from Robin, because this man struck him as someone who carried out his threats.
When the leader finally released Robin's throat, the younger boy sucked in a shaking breath and Wally exhaled through clenched teeth. His heart was pounding and he felt sick as he watched the man stand up and dust himself off.
He looked at the captive teenagers coldly. "I may not be one of those super-powered freaks that you're used to dealing with, but I'm still not a man you want to anger. Remember that." Then he turned and walked away, leaving stunned silence behind him.
Aqualad was the first to speak. "Robin, are you alright?"
"Fine," he replied, voice hoarse and shaking. "What…what did that guy mean about making it up to him?"
Oh, God. Wally's insides shrivelled in horror. Robin didn't understand. He wanted them to explain. He shot a pleading look at Roy because he couldn't do this. He couldn't.
But Roy barely saw the glance. The archer's face was red and twisted in fury, and his eyes were narrowed into slits as they glared across the room at the leader. Wally had never seen him look so angry – and considering this was Roy, that was saying something!
He looked to Aqualad for help, but what he could see of the Atlantian's face was twisted in anger and concern, while his lips were pursed tightly. Wally could tell that he was still trying to think of a way to handle this, and that only made his panic worse. Someone needed to come up with a plan to get Robin out of here!
"One of you tell me what's going on!" Robin snapped, when no one answered him.
Wally swallowed. How the hell were they supposed to explain what the leader was planning to do when Robin had no real concept of what that would even involve?
It was Aqualad who finally spoke up. "Robin, about the leader – you are aware that he has a certain…fascination with you?"
"Yes, and it's creepy. I get that."
"Creepy," Aqualad repeated, his voice somewhat strangled. Wally didn't know if it was from the rope around his neck or Robin's naivety. "Robin, the things he has said, they imply something you should have no knowledge of. Given your age, this man's…intentions towards you are not what they should be."
"Intentions?" Robin looked puzzled for a moment before shock drained the colour from his face. "Wait! Intentions?! Are you talking about…you mean he…that guy wants to…with me?"
Wally cringed as Roy nodded.
"But…" Robin's voice was choked, "I don't want to."
"And you're not going to," Roy reassured him quickly, while Wally struggled to maintain his composure. "Robin, listen to me. When that guy comes back and loosens your cuffs from that pipe, you lay into him with everything you've got! Hurt him if you can, but just get yourself outof here. Don't even stop for us. As soon as you're free, go!"
"I can't leave you guys behind," Robin protested.
"You have to!" Wally interjected urgently, because he was so onboard with Roy's plan. Whatever got Robin away from that guy! "Once you're out, you can get help. Just don't hang around, okay, Dude? Run."
"But what if they–"
"They won't kill us," Roy interrupted. "They're human traffickers, we're worth more to them alive than dead. Trust me on that, Robin. The only thing I want you to worry about is getting yourself out of here. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand?"
Robin jerked, blinked, and then nodded. His expression was stunned and slightly scared: he looked like he was having trouble processing what he'd just been told.
Wally couldn't blame him. He himself felt sick at the whole idea. How could that guy even… Robin was thirteen! It was the most disgusting, depraved thing Wally could think of! And what if Robin couldn't fight him off? What if the man actually managed to…
Images of the leader forcing himself on Robin pushed their way into his head, paralyzing his insides with fear and panic. Wally gulped. He couldn't let that happen, he couldn't! A violent, desperate need to get Robin out of there seized hold of him and he tugged frantically on his handcuffs, rubbing his already raw wrists bloody against the hard metal.
Come on, come on! Wally urged, trying to vibrate his molecules out of the cuffs. He could feel blood trickling down his nose from the effort, and ignored Roy's irritated orders for him to "calm the fuck down" because he was too far gone to even try.
His panic reached fever-pitch when he spotted the leader coming back, two men in tow. "Oh crap! He's coming back! Whatdowedo?! He'scomingback!"
Roy shot him a deadly look that threatened unimaginable pain if he didn't calm down now, before turning to Robin. "Remember what I said," he told the younger boy urgently. "You can do this, it'll be okay."
Robin nodded, but Wally could see his hands shaking in their cuffs.
The leader didn't even bother with formalities. He simply nodded at the two men and they moved towards Robin. The boy coiled his legs and lashed out as they reached for him, kicking hard and jerking in his handcuffs.
Roy did his best to help, kicking out at the men trying to pin the younger boy down. He managed to catch one of them in the back, but the man spun around and punched him in the face. The archer appeared not to feel it; he continued to kick and thrash, eventually forcing the man he'd kicked to divert his full attention onto him.
Wally and Aqualad were too far away to do anything but pull at their own restraints. They watched helplessly as Robin struggled against the leader and the other man, kicking viciously for all he was worth. Eventually, the second man managed to pin Robin's legs down, allowing the leader to cuff his ankles together.
Wally's heart stopped. Robin wouldn't be able to run. He wouldn't be able to get himself out of here and– Nononononono! This wasn't supposed to happen, Robin was supposed to get out!
He was so fixated on the men trying to wrestle Robin into submission that it took him several seconds to realize that someone was screaming, and several seconds more to realize that the someone was him.
"TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF HIM! STOP! LET HIM GO!" He was screaming so loudly that he was scraping his throat raw, but Wally didn't care. It might even wake him up from this nightmare.
The leader secured another set of cuffs to Robin's wrists before releasing the ones binding him to the pipe, all the while keeping a strong grip on his arms so Robin couldn't lash out. When he was no longer secured to the pipes, the men were able to pick him up. Robin twisted and kicked frantically, and Wally could see real fear on his friend's face.
"DON'T TOUCH HIM!" Wally roared, jerking and making his handcuffs rattle. "Leave him alone, do you hear me?! DON'T TOUCH HIM!"
Beside him, Roy was bellowing ferociously. "You fucking bastards, let him go! LET HIM GO! Jesus Christ, he's only thirteen! What is wrong with you?!"
Even Aqualad was shouting, although Wally couldn't hear exactly what he was saying because the Atlantian seemed to be strangling himself in the effort to get loose. He wondered vaguely if he should be worried about that, but his brain couldn't quite manage to get past the horror of what was currently happening.
Oh God! Oh God! Ohgodohgodohgod!
Trembling, Wally watched the men carry Robin, bucking and writhing, towards the office. At one point, the boy managed to get his legs out of the second gunman's grip and kicked up, catching the man in the face before using his momentum to flip over the leader's head. He landed directly behind the man, and launched into several backflips until the leader tackled him to the ground. Pinning Robin into the dirt, he leveraged a savage blow into his face that Wally could hear echo around the factory.
"Goddammit!" Roy howled furiously, while Wally bucked, yelled and twisted, scraping skin off his hands and wrists as he tried to pull out of his cuffs, a panicked whine of nononononononononono running on a constant loop through his head.
Robin's struggles were somewhat weaker as the leader hauled him off the floor, a bloody gash visible across his left cheekbone. The second gunman joined them, and Wally could see Robin shaking his head and holding his cuffed hands up in a stay away sort of gesture. The man didn't look even remotely bothered by Robin's fear as he scooped his legs up and helped the leader carry him back towards the office.
When they disappeared into the little room and the door slammed shut behind them, something sort of broke inside Wally. On either side of him, Roy and Aqualad were still yelling and struggling to break out of their bonds, but Wally barely heard them. He stared blindly at the closed door, the sounds of a struggle echoing from behind it the most chilling thing he had ever heard.
Utter horror washed over him when he realized that they could hear everything. They would hear that man forcing himself on Robin and be completely unable to stop it.
"No! Don't – Stop it! – GET OFF!" Robin's cries were desperate and terrified. Wally could hear the struggle in his voice as he fought back, the undertone of a sob clinging to it.
And that was all it took. Wally shut down. Breathing, seeing, hearing, thinking – everything stopped.
Until the thrum of something brought him back to the moment and Wally discovered he was vibrating, blood pouring from his nose. He was also, inexplicably, free of his restraints.
"Kid Flash! KID! Wally!" Roy's urgent shouts shocked him into action. He was free and Robin was…
Wally was on his feet and zooming for the office before it even occurred to him that he was mobile.
The door bounced off the wall as Wally burst into the office. His whole body spasmed with rage to find Robin bent over a desk, the gunman holding his wrists tightly in front of him while the leader pinned him bodily in place. The man had his mouth pressed to Robin's neck, had his tights pulled down, and Wally just…
He barrelled into the leader, knocking him off of Robin and onto the floor. Reaching for the other man's head, he slammed it into the edge of the desk with enough force to give him a serious head injury. The man crumpled to the floor without a word.
The leader was grunting and clambering to feet and… his freaking trousers were open! Wally tore around the desk and delivered the most brutal kick he was capable of to the man's groin. With a high-pitched shriek of pain, the leader collapsed, curling in on himself and whimpering piteously.
Behind him, Wally could hear the wheeze of fast, panicked breathing. He spun to find Robin trembling violently and trying to push himself up off the desk, but for some reason he didn't seem quite able to manage it.
Wally zipped over and helped him to stand up. "You okay, Dude?" he asked softly.
Still shaking, Robin shook his head and bent down to pull up his tights. Wally, feeling his friend's shame, averted his eyes.
"Rob?" he ventured uncertainly, as Robin straightened up again but still didn't speak.
Just then, Roy's screaming voice carried in from outside. "Kid Flash! Move the fuck out of there!"
Wally realized there were shouts heading in their direction and stiffened. He'd forgotten about the other gunmen! He glanced at Robin who, still trembling, had his arms wrapped as close around himself as his cuffed wrists would allow. He was staring at the floor, his breathing still heavy and rapid, and Wally realized he was verging on a state of shock.
The speedster swallowed. He didn't have time to take this slow. If the other gunmen cornered them in here…
"Dude, I'm really sorry about this, but…" He picked Robin up and zoomed out of the office, slowing to dodge around several gunmen, and stopping for a second by his captive friends.
"What the hell are you doing?!" Roy barked. "GET HIM OUT OF HERE!"
Wally complied, although it hurt him terribly to leave Roy and Aqualad defenceless against their captors.
Gunfire snickered after him as he raced out of the factory, his arms clamped tight around Robin's small frame. He headed straight for the forest surrounding the building; the trees would provide coverage for them. Within seconds, they were far enough away to be safely out of range and Wally stopped, carefully putting Robin down.
"Rob…Dude? You okay?" he asked, bending down to try and see Robin's face.
The younger boy sucked in a shaky breath and looked up. His mouth was slightly open and his eyes were wide. Wally had to suppress the urge to hug him in an effort to wipe that deer-in-the-headlights expression off his face. Despite the scene he had burst in on, he still wasn't sure how far things had gone.
"You're safe," Wally told him quietly, when he didn't answer. "We're miles away."
Robin cast his head jerkily around, as if only just seeing their surroundings. Then his gaze went back to Wally. "Th-thanks," he managed.
"Dude, I couldn't let him–" Wally broke off, wishing he could smack himself. Smooth, Wally, really smooth! You don't even know if… He shuddered violently at the thought.
Robin caught his distress. "You didn't…didn't let him."
Wally felt relief flood him. Oh, thank God!
The younger boy was still rigid and shaking, but he seemed to be coming back to himself. "Wally, how– how did you…" He stopped, unable to finish the sentence.
"I think…I think I was able to vibrate myself out of there." Saying it aloud did not make it feel anymore real to Wally.
Robin stared at him.
Wally shrugged. "I'm not totally sure 'cause I can't remember, but I know I went from being tied up to not, without any help."
Wally was right there with Robin in the whole non-comprehending phase. He couldn't get his head around this either, and unfortunately, he didn't have time to think about it. "Rob, I've gotta go back for Roy and Kaldur." He saw Robin's eyes widen and rushed to reassure him. "Just me! I'm leaving you here."
Robin's expression morphed from fear into outraged indignation. "You think I can't handle myself just because…because he… KF, I'm every bit as capable as you of kicking butt!"
"You're also cuffed hand and foot, and totally weaponless," Wally pointed out, because there was no way in hell he was letting Robin back there!
"Making me pretty much defenseless. You do know that there are still four armed goons out in these woods somewhere looking for the missing captives?"
Dammit! Wally had forgotten about that. And without Robin's equipment, they had no way to pick the locks on those cuffs. He couldn't leave the younger boy out here when he was totally unable to fight back, but he also couldn't leave Roy, Aqualad and the other hostages back at the factory: the gunmen were probably already in the middle of moving them out before Wally and Robin could return with help.
"Alright, what's your plan?" Wally finally asked in resignation, because he knew Robin wasn't stupid enough to go back to where some guy was trying to… He shuddered again at the thought.
"We should be far enough away from whatever they were using to block the signal," Robin replied, reaching for the comm-link in his ear. "Maybe we can– Robin calling Justice League, HOJ slash Watchtower. B01, priority red."
Wally felt his heart lift. Robin's communicator was working! It hadn't occurred to him until now that the men hadn't confiscated it back at the factory. The communicator was small and they may not have spotted it in Robin's ear, but Wally also suspected they hadn't been worried about Robin calling for help. Not when they were jamming all communications.
"Batman," said Robin suddenly, the relief in his voice unmistakable. "We have a situation. Twenty-three civilians are being trafficked by a gang of armed men in Star City. We were captured, but Kid Flash and I escaped. Speedy and Aqualad are still prisoners. I'm weaponless and we need to rescue them before the men move out again."
Anyone else would have marveled at Robin's cool recounting of the situation just minutes after the leader had assaulted him, but Wally knew Robin well enough to recognize the higher than usual pitch to his tone, and the well-hidden quiver in his voice. He guessed Batman was on the other end of the line, narrowing his eyes as he listened to the same thing.
Wally started when he realized that Batman would know what had happened the instant he laid eyes on Robin. Aside from his pale face and trembling frame, the younger boy was capeless, gloveless, beltless and bootless. A large gash stretched across his left cheekbone and fingerprint-shaped bruises stood out starkly on his wrists. Bruises were also blossoming across his neck and, Wally saw with a jolt of horror, a massive hickey was visible beneath the torn neck of his uniform. In fact, now that Wally was looking, he could see that Robin's uniform had been ripped in a few places.
Batman was going to go all kinds of section eight.
For once, Wally kind of liked the idea of being rescued by the League because he wanted to see a rage-filled Batman being unleashed on the leader. He couldn't think of anyone who deserved it more.
"It's an old steelworks factory outside the city," Robin was now saying. "You can track my communicator, but they're jamming the signal, so I'll have to leave it here." He nodded. "Got it. Robin out." The younger boy removed his communicator and handed it to Wally. "KF, can you secure this in one of those tree branches so it's safe?"
Wally quickly complied and was back at the younger boy's side in less than a second. "What now?"
Robin's face was set in a scared but determined expression. "We stop them."
The first part of Robin's plan was simple; stop the gunmen from leaving until the League arrived. He had deployed Wally to let the air out of their tires, and Wally had to admit; the plan was brilliant in its simplicity.
Except for the part where he had to hide Robin beneath the body of one of the trucks. It was a risky move, but it was even more dangerous to leave him back in the woods while he was still cuffed hand and foot, with four gunmen unaccounted for. Besides, this was something the gunmen would never suspect – kind of like a Trojan horse.
But every time one of the men walked past the truck that Robin was curled under, Wally's heart would hammer in fear and his breathing would catch in his throat. He hated leaving his best friend while he was defenseless, but he didn't exactly have a choice. The men had obviously cancelled their auction and were getting ready to leave again: ever since they had snuck back here to the factory, Wally had been watching them hurriedly putting boxes back on the trucks. But they hadn't yet started to move the hostages out yet for which Wally was grateful. It would get trickier once they started doing that.
The rest of Robin's plan had involved Wally locating his boots, gloves and utility belt – something Wally had absolutely no intention of doing. As soon as Robin got those items back and freed himself from his restraints, he would put himself back in the game.
But Wally didn't want him in a situation where the leader could potentially put hands on him again. No, Robin was better off out here until the League arrived. He could be as mad as he wanted at Wally for this later, just so long as…that didn't happen.
So Wally was making his own adjustments to the plan. Adjustments that involved freeing Roy and Aqualad. He knew he wasn't quite Robin on the ninja-stealth level, but if he could make it into the factory without being seen, there were plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in.
He got his chance five minutes later. Two men were carrying out a particularly large box when they dropped it in their haste to get packed up. The crate cracked, spilling some of its contents and forcing the two guards at the factory entrance to move forwards and help.
While they were preoccupied, Wally zoomed in past them, hoping they wouldn't notice the light breeze he made. Once inside, he took cover behind one of the concrete vats and tried to assess the situation without being seen.
Miss Martian's powers would come in seriously handy right about now.
Roy and Aqualad were still restrained in the same positions. Roy was stiff, his eyes narrowed as they scanned the factory, while Aqualad was shifting uncomfortably on the floor. Wally decided to free Aqualad first. Aside from wanting to relieve his extreme discomfort, Wally knew it would be much faster to cut a few ropes than to pick the lock on Roy's handcuffs.
Casting his gaze further around, Wally could see that the gunmen were too busy and too agitated with packing up to spot him. The leader, much to his grim satisfaction, was walking bow-legged and slightly hunched over, barking orders at the scurrying gunmen. Just outside the office lay the man that Wally had knocked out, still unconscious. He couldn't bring himself to care about what damage he might have done – not when that guy had been restraining Robin so the leader could… Wally shook his head violently to get rid of the image.
He carefully tallied the number of men. Five men outside – who would rush back the instant they heard a ruckus – and eleven in here. Unless the other four men returned, that put the total number of men he would be up against sixteen. Fifteen and a half if you considered the fact that the leader could barely stand up straight. Wally smirked.
Looking back at his friends, Wally froze when he discovered that Roy had spotted him. The archer was staring intently at him and the instant Wally's eyes met his, he jerked his chin towards the wooden platform in the center of the room.
Wally could see most of their stuff sitting there: Roy's bow and quiver, Aqualad's water bearers, and Robin's belt and gloves. His eyes lit up.
Zooming over to them, Wally barely stopped as he gathered up Roy and Aqualad's equipment, as well was one of Robin's gauntlets. He dashed over to his friends and shoved Robin's gauntlet into Roy's hand, then grabbed one of the arrows out of the quiver before dropping the archer's weapons right beside him.
"Use Rob's lock-picking thing!" he yelled at Roy, as he tore over to Aqualad. Wally had the Atlantian's ropes cut with the arrowhead before the gunmen had time to do more than yell. The older teenager sighed in relief at the release of his limbs.
"STOP THEM!" Wally heard the leader scream, while he shoved Aqualad's water bearers into his hands.
Gun safeties were clicking off all around them, forcing Wally to his feet in order to buy his friends some time. He sped over to the nearest gunmen and crashed into them, knocking them to the ground. A clever side-attack enabled him to disarm another. It wasn't perfect but it was enough. Aqualad was back on his feet, crouched in front of Roy and using his water bearers to put up a shield to protect them, while Roy picked the lock on his handcuffs. The Atlantian was returning the gunmen's fire with some type of water-solidified projectiles, forcing the encroaching gunmen to retreat.
A flash of triumph burned through Wally. They had these guys, they could totally do this. Maybe even take them down before the League arrived.
With that thought in his head, Wally ran at the nearest group of men, disarming three of them before zooming up the side of one of the massive concrete vats where he threw their guns in. They would have no hope of retrieving them from there. Sliding back to the ground, he launched himself at the now disarmed men, taking them out with some well-placed attacks.
Roy was now free and had strapped his quiver onto his back. Still crouched behind Aqualad's shield, he was shooting arrows almost as quickly as the men were firing guns. Two men had gone down beneath a mass of polyurethane foam, while another man was trapped in a net several feet away from Wally. The speedster couldn't help but notice that the arrows Roy was firing at the leader weren't any of his trick ones: they all had distinctly pointy ends.
Wally shrugged. Wasn't his business if Roy wanted to take a pot shot at that guy.
He zipped around one of the concrete vats – which were awesome for hiding behind – to escape a hail of gunfire that whizzed around him, coming out the other side just as a massive bang shook the factory, and half the wall on one side of the building fell away to reveal an imposing figure in blue and red.
Well, darn. Wally wilted. It would have been nice to have this whole mess cleaned up before the Justice League arrived.
Wonder Woman and Hal Jordan flew into the factory behind Superman, the men who had been loading the trucks and standing guard outside hanging limp in their grasp. All three Leaguers had hard, wrathful expressions on their faces that surprised Wally. The adult superheroes were normally more composed.
The sound of crashing from the front door drew his attention and he turned to see Black Canary, Aquaman and Green Arrow burst into the factory. Their expressions were also uncharacteristically furious, and they launched into a vicious attack on the remaining gunmen without even pausing to assess the situation. Black Canary took out one of the men with such force that it shocked Wally.
The Flash appeared beside him suddenly, making him jump. "Kidareyouokay? Oh my God, look at you! You're covered in blood! Did you really vibrate your molecules out of your restraints? Kid, I'm so proud of you!"
"Uh…" Wally's mind liquefied slightly under the barrage of words and he looked down at his uniform, surprised to find that it was indeed smeared with blood. He hadn't realized his nosebleed had been that bad.
His head shot up. "How did you know–"
But Flash was gone. Wally could see him helping Wonder Woman to untie the female hostages. Superman was at the other end of the room, breaking the chains binding the men.
As the rest of the League took down the last of the gunmen, Wally looked over to where Roy and Aqualad were watching the proceedings. They seemed slightly stunned by the sudden appearance of the League, and the ferocity of their attack.
Wally zipped over to them. "You guys okay?"
"Fine. Where's Robin?" Roy demanded.
"Outside. No way was I letting him back in here!"
"What about the League?" Aqualad wanted to know. "How did they come to be here?"
Wally opened his mouth to answer, but was distracted by the imposing figure of Batman stalking into the factory. Cold fury rolled off him in waves, and Wally couldn't help but recoil slightly as the man stopped beside them.
"Where. Is he?" Batman growled through gritted teeth.
And okay, now Wally understood the ferocity of the League's attack; they'd spoken to Robin.
He looked around the room to where the League were corralling the gunmen into two separate groups and restraining them with their own handcuffs. The leader was in the group closest to Wally, and the teenager saw his jaw clench as their eyes met.
Without saying a word, Wally raised his right hand and pointed straight at him.
The room had fallen quiet when Batman entered, but the silence was now deadly as he stalked over to the leader and caught him by the throat, slamming him against one of the concrete vats. The man's arms were cuffed behind him and he was helpless as, still holding him by the throat, Batman slowly pushed him up along the concrete until his legs were off the ground and kicking frantically.
Wally could see Superman and Wonder Woman tense, ready to intervene should Batman go too far.
"What," Batman's voice was quiet, but so dangerous that it carried over the leader's strangled gasps, "kind of monster thinks it's acceptable to rape a child?"
"I – gack! – don't…" the leader's voice was choked as he tried to respond.
Wally could see Batman's gloved hand squeeze tighter around the man's throat. "I wasn't. Asking you."
The room was thick with tension. Even the hostages seemed frozen at the spectacle. Wally had to admit, there was something monstrous about Batman when he exhibited that kind of icy rage, like he was literally just one step from going over the edge and taking everyone with him.
"Only the most depraved of individuals would use a child that way," Batman continued in the same quiet, dangerous voice. "The kind that are so far beyond what's acceptable, it would be a service to humanity to wipe them out."
"No! I– gurk!" The leader spluttered as Batman squeezed tighter, his legs swinging desperately while his face scrunched up and slowly turned red.
"Batman…" Superman cautioned in a low voice.
Batman ignored him, lowering the leader and leaning in until they were practically nose-to-nose. "Put your hands on a child again, and I will relieve you of part of your anatomy. Do you understand?"
The leader nodded frantically, and Wally could see him trying to scream behind the lack of oxygen.
"Good." Batman opened his hand and the man dropped like a stone to the floor, gasping and wheezing as he sucked in air. Batman remained where he was for several seconds, just staring down at the man, before slowing walking away.
Superman and Wonder Woman relaxed visibly, but tensed up again when the leader suddenly began to scream.
"No! Keep away from me! STOP!"
Wonder Woman moved to see what was wrong, but the man howled and cowered into the dirt when she bent over him.
"What did you do?" Superman hissed at Batman.
The Dark Knight looked supremely unconcerned as he turned to face the Man of Steel. "What makes you think I did something?"
Superman gestured in exasperation at the now whimpering leader.
"They have drugs on their trucks," Batman answered flatly. "Maybe he inhaled some sort of neurotoxin."
Neurotoxin. The word tugged at something in Wally's brain. Something Robin had mentioned…didn't Scarecrow use some kind of neurotoxin as fear gas?
He looked over to where Batman was now instructing Flash and Hal Jordan to track down the four missing men and the escaped captives they were tracking. Robin had once told him that Batman carried the antidote to Scarecrow's fear gas, maybe he carried the toxin as well?
He glanced back at where the leader was still sobbing into the dirt. As far as Wally knew, only Gotham hospitals carried the antidote to Scarecrow's fear gas, meaning it could be hours before the man received treatment. And Robin had said that the gas could drive people insane. If their heart didn't stop from fear first.
Wally knew it should bother him that Batman had inflicted his own punishment on the leader. But as his mind flashed back to Robin pinned beneath the leader with his tights down around his ankles, the only thing the speedster felt was a grim satisfaction.
And then it struck him. Where was Robin?
He looked around and spotted the younger boy standing in the doorway to the factory, arms crossed tightly across his chest as he surveyed the scene. Wally zipped over to him.
"You okay, Dude?" he asked anxiously, studying his friend. Robin still looked rattled.
Robin nodded, his eyes following Batman. "I'll be fine." He looked back at Wally. "Thanks to you. KF, what you did…that was amazing."
"It was pretty badass," a gruff voice conceded from behind Wally. He turned to find Roy and Aqualad, concerned expressions on their faces as they focused on Robin.
"Are you alright?" Roy asked quietly.
Robin nodded. "Thanks to Kid Flash," he reiterated, voice hitching slightly.
They all looked at Wally, who squirmed a little under their gazes because he'd done what any of them would have done. Except for the vibrating molecules part. He tilted his head up at Roy. "Did I really vibrate out of the cuffs?"
Roy nodded, respect evident on his face. "One minute you were just sitting beside me and the next you were shaking so fast I couldn't see you. When you stopped, you were free." He patted Wally's shoulder. "Congrats, Kid, you did it."
"But I can't remember how I did it!" Wally complained. How was he supposed to do it again when he couldn't remember what it was he'd actually done?
Roy raised an eyebrow. "You don't remember any of it?"
Wally shook his head. "All I remember was freaking out, and then – poof! I was free."
"Maybe you could try vibrating again?" Aqualad suggested.
"I suppose..." he said doubtfully, putting his hand on the door frame and trying to vibrate it through the wood, but all he succeeded in doing was making his nose bleed again. He drooped in disappointment and swiped at the blood. "Nothing."
"Perhaps you just need to practice?" Aqualad consoled him. "You did it once. There is no reason for you not to do it again."
"But how can I practice when I have no idea what I did?" Wally shook his head and sighed. "I don't think I'll be able to do it again."
"Well, if you were only going to do it once, then you couldn't have picked a better time," Roy pointed out quietly.
Wally glanced at Robin and nodded in agreement.
Robin gave him a small grin. "We could just put me in danger again and see if that motivates you?"
The older boys all glared at him and Robin cringed. "Jeez, guys, it was just a joke."
"Dude, never joke about that," Wally told him seriously. He knew Robin's sense of humour bordered on morbid sometimes, but this was pushing it.
"Well, what else am I supposed to do?" Robin muttered.
Wally was about to tell him anything but that, when the reason for Robin's ill-timed joke hit him: the younger boy used humour as a coping mechanism. Poking fun at something made it a lot less frightening.
"You could take a few pot shots at him," Roy suggested suddenly, jerking his thumb at where the leader was still whimpering and cringing away from members of the League. "I bet he'd make a hell of a good target to practice on – I'll even lend you my bow."
His face was serious, but Wally could see the hint of a smirk tugging at his lips. He realized that Roy also understood the reason for Robin's bad joke, and was trying in his own way to make the younger boy feel better.
And whatever made Robin feel better worked for Wally. "Oh, oh! I like that plan! Speedy, can I have a try?"
"You put even so much as a finger on my bow and I will break it," Roy told him flatly.
"Spoilsport," Wally grumbled.
Robin gave them both a small grin, as if he knew exactly what they were doing. "I'd rather do target practice on him when he's lucid enough to be scared of me and not some hallucination. But thanks anyway, Speedy."
The archer gave him a rare smile. "Anytime."
"Getting back to your problem, KF," Robin nudged him. "How're we gonna help you vibrate your molecules through something again?"
Roy snorted. "Just lock him in a room and tell him the only way he's getting out is if he vibrates himself out. Give him an hour and he'll be so hungry it'll motivate him right through that wall."
"Hey!" cried Wally indignantly, as Robin chortled with laughter.
Roy shrugged. "You know it's true."
"If we are going to test that theory," Aqualad put in thoughtfully, "then perhaps it might be wise to start small?"
"What do you mean start small?" Robin asked curiously.
"Well, it might be dangerous for Kid Flash to attempt vibrating through a wall when he is unsure of what he is doing," said Aqualad seriously. "But Roy's plan may work if Kid is merely in restraints like he was tonight. Once he has mastered vibrating out of restraints, he may stand a better chance at walls."
Wally gawped at Aqualad, unable to believe he had just proposed such a thing. Roy looked mildly impressed, while Robin seemed positively delighted and gave an evil little cackle.
"That's a great idea! We could eat in front of him too; it always drives him nuts when someone is eating and he can't. Talk about extra motivation."
"You know I'm standing right here," Wally objected. "Don't I get any say in this?"
"No," three voices came back at him, and he crossed his arms, pretending to sulk. But he knew there was no malice in their friendly teasing, and the lighthearted banter was helping to inject some normalcy back into their mood, helping them to forget the nightmarish events of the evening. Already, the panic and fear seemed further away.
Wally glanced at Robin. The younger boy had a wide, genuine smile on his face that made Wally only too happy to be the target of their teasing. "Alright, fine. When do we carry out this little experiment?"
"Tomorrow," said Robin at once. He grinned at Wally. "I'll even make sure there's some of Agent A's chocolate cake."
"Duuuuuuude, you are so awesome!" Wally was practically salivating at the thought of Alfred's cake.
Robin patted Wally on the back. "See? He's motivated already."
"Where shall we conduct our experiment?" asked Aqualad, with a quick glance at Roy. "The cave would be the most convenient, but…"
Roy shook his head. "We're not doing it at the cave. We can…" he hesitated for a moment. "We can do it at my place." It looked like it hurt him to get those words out.
"Wait! Your place?" Wally stared at him. Roy hadn't let any of them in the door of his apartment since Wally…
The speedster coughed and averted his gaze.
"My place," Roy repeated. He fixed Wally with a glare. "But if you try to feng shui so much as a lampshade, I will bury you. Got it?"
"Crystal," Wally muttered.
"Speedy, are you really okay with that?" asked Robin, delight at the prospect clearly evident in his voice.
Roy nodded. "It'll be good for the four of us to just…hang out together." He made it sound as though they were proposing mass murder.
"Awesome," Robin breathed. "Thanks, Roy."
A shadow fell over them and they all looked up to find Batman standing there, his eyes focused on Robin. "I told you to wait outside." There was no anger in his voice, only concern.
"I have your things," said Batman quietly, holding out the items that the leader had taken from him.
Robin took them and quickly put his cape on. Almost immediately he stood taller, as if he felt less exposed. When he started to pull on his boots, Wally instinctively looked away. Roy and Aqualad did the same. It was their way of giving Robin back some of what the leader had taken from him.
Batman fixed the three older teenagers with a hard stare. "I want a full report on what happened this evening, from all of you." His eyes slid to Roy briefly. "Mistakes were made that could have had terrible consequences. The League are not your enemy and we should have been contacted sooner." He let the unsaid before things got out of hand hang in the air for a moment before continuing. "However, your actions when placed in a difficult situation were…satisfactory."
Wait. What? Wally blinked. Did Batman just…compliment them?
He could see Roy and Aqualad glance at each other, looking equally uncertain.
"Robin." There was no question in Batman's voice, but as Wally glanced at his friend, he saw Robin nod.
"I'm ready." His uniform intact once more, Robin sounded surer and looked a lot less vulnerable. He smiled at his friends. "I'll see you guys tomorrow."
"Don't forget the cake!" said Wally quickly.
"I won't." Robin squeezed his arm. "Thanks, Walls," he added softly, so that only Wally could hear. "I'll never forget what you did."
The sheer gratitude in his voice tugged at something inside Wally, and the speedster gave him a quick, one-armed hug that he hoped didn't look too unmanly in front of Roy. "S'cool, Bro. That's what best pals do."
Robin flashed him one last smile, before waving at Roy and Aqualad. Batman merely nodded at the two older teenagers as he moved to leave with Robin, stopping for a brief moment beside Wally and looking down at him. "Thank you."
It was spoken so quietly that Wally didn't even realize what Batman had said until after the Dynamic Duo were gone. He jerked and whipped around to stare after them.
"Did Batman just thank you?" asked Roy, eyebrows raised in disbelief.
Somewhat dazed, Wally turned back to him and nodded.
Aqualad smiled and put a hand on Wally's shoulder. "It was well-earned. I am proud of what you achieved this evening, Kid."
Wally blushed a little. "It wasn't that big a deal."
Roy shook his head. "Credit where it's due, Kid. You did good. And I'm not just talking about what you did for Robin. We'd all have been pretty screwed if you hadn't managed to vibrate out of those restraints. So, nice job."
Wally goggled at him. Okay, first Batman and now Roy? They were the two least likely people on the planet to recognize someone else's achievements! Wally felt like this moment should be commemorated in some way.
He smirked and opened his mouth, but the archer cut him off with a scowl. "Say even one remotely stupid thing and I will personally make sure that there's no cake left for you tomorrow night."
Wally quickly snapped his mouth shut. Roy rarely made idle threats, and he was less than fond of Wally's sugar highs – he'd be only too happy to have an excuse to prevent one. And Wally was so not planning on missing out on Alfred's cake!
He smiled to himself. It was hard to believe that an evening which had taken such a horrifying turn could have ended so well. He had finally managed to vibrate his molecules just like his uncle, and saved his best friend in the process. He'd been praised (sort of) by both Batman and Roy – an honour he was willing to bet had never been bestowed on another person. And he now had Alfred's chocolate cake and an evening with his closest friends to look forward to. It was all really kind of epic when he thought about it.
And who knows? When Alfred heard what he'd done, maybe he'd even make two cakes! Now, that was really something worth a nosebleed or two.