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A broken rib punctured his lung, sharp and painful. Robin could feel it in his labored, raspy breaths, in the warmth that flooded his chest with each passing moment as he became closer and closer to losing his desperate struggle to keep breathing. He coughed, ragged, and the taste of copper filled his mouth, sharp on his tongue.
He wished for death, for any kind of relief, and desperately he reached out, frantically trying to pull himself from the crazed man standing above him.
Steel collided with his ribs once more and he screamed, a spray of blood leaving his mouth to coat the cold concrete below him. The force of it sent him sprawling and he landed hard on his back, pain coursing through his entire body.
Above him, the Joker laughed that rough infamous laugh of his, Robins blood smeared across his face like warpaint, crowbar in his hands.
"Bats isn't coming for you this time," he sing songed and Robin squeezed his eyes closed as yet another swing of the weapon collided hard with his shoulder. He heard the sickening crunch of his collar bone shattering before he felt it and the he spasmed hard from the pain, screaming again.
Maybe if he screamed loud enough someone would hear him
It had been hours and maybe it would go on for hours more, he didn't know. All he knew was the steady dripdrip of a leaky pipe somewhere in the distance, the constant ticktick of what could only be a nearby clock, the distinctive crack of bones breaking, his bones breaking.
Eventually, blissfully, it stopped. The sound of steel colliding with the palm of the Joker's hand between swings vanished, where it had before been a steady, rhythmic noise amongst the chaos, and Robin could hear only the footsteps left in its wake, could feel the sound of them where hiss cheek was pressed against the concrete.
"I'm sorry to end all the fun," the Joker called out from somewhere behind him. There was a loud clunk, the sound of the crowbar hitting the ground. "But I've places to be, little birdy—" Robin's heart pounded suddenly loud and hard in his ears and the his voice warbled and faded beneath it.
There was a loud noise nearby and Robin searched frantically for something, anything, and finally saw that the Joke was gone, finallyfinally, and he took a deep, ragged breath and attempted to push himself upright. He fell hard against the wall beside him, eyes rolling in his head. There was so much blood where he had been lying, so much blood all over him and he stared at it in horror, body sticky with it, mind catching up to the reality of how bad his situation truly was.
His vision swam, spots dancing before his eyes, taunting him with the end. And he wanted it, wanted it hours ago when the pain had peaked and he had lost consciousness from it the first time. He leaned his head back against the cool wall and wondered if he had the strength to end it himself, before the Joker came back. He could bit his tongue off, maybe, and he worked his jaw carefully, felt lightheaded with the sharp pain that it brought him as he did so, and he idly realized that it was broken. Maybe he could still manage it, or maybe he would pass out from the pain before he could succeed, he didn't know.
Or maybe Batman would come for him. Maybe the team?
He wondered if they even knew he was missing, if Batman even bothered to tell them.
His head lolled slightly and in the encroaching darkness of his periphery he caught a glimmer of light and he followed it, slow, feeling every agonizing turn of his head and finally his eyes landed on a clock: digital and full of wires and noises he previously hadn't registered and attached rather crudely to what could only be a very large bomb.
7 seconds, it said, and Robin looked at it, eyes wide. Oh
5 seconds, and he realized Batman wasn't coming for him.
He closed his eyes and waited to die.
As he came to know life again, he first knew rage, buried deep and angry within his chest and clawing, clawing, violent to come forth, the first of many feelings to come to him but the dominant one of them all rage.
This was life as he knew it in the earliest moments, born into ancient green waters that scalded him, pulled at him and threatened to rip from him life no sooner than he had come to know it, to bring him back down into the wispy embrace of death. He surfaced screaming, swallowing down his first breath, desperate breath, which burned his lungs with its coldness. His whole body came alive with the power of it and the thick smell of ozone and fire settled deep within his lungs, which heaved from the effort of bringing them air.
He stood, at last, in the green waters, shaking and trembling and casting his gaze about the room, all at once frightened and confused. He stood surrounded by men, all of them dangerous and dressed head to toe in black, and in their hands were weapons and on their faces looks of horror. A man stepped forward from the others, almost wizened in his age and appearance, so different from the others he looked, and he regarded him carefully.
"Richard," the man said. He stared back at him, meeting those eyes which seemed to pull at something very deep in his soul, and he blinked once at the unfamiliar name and the man, seeing this, spoke again, "Robin," and the name struck a chord in him and, slowly, the rage that had been building within began to unwind itself.
He screamed once more, the fury unfolding all encompassing, his body trembling from it and he stumbled towards the man, consumed only with the thought of that man's death at his hands. His hands curled into fists, nails breaking the tender flesh of his palm and he lunged for the man, screaming out his rage until his throat was raw from it and until he's left hoarse, his scream turning into a quiet rasp as he attacks.
The world blacked out around him.
He came back to himself, as much as is possible, to the heart in throat feeling of freefall and his body slamming hard into frigid waters and pain.
For hours he tread water and eventually he made it to shore, crawling from the waters shaking and trembling with the cold. His skin was ice, his body exposed and nude, and he curled into a ball and waited to die.
He woke sometime later, alive.
Nearby was a city, large and sprawling. Thievery came almost naturally to him and he subsisted there on it for weeks, maybe months. Time was not a luxury he had the ability to keep track of. At some point, he found clothing, rags that did little to fight off the biting grip of cold, and it was always cold there, always.
Hunger quickly became an ever present friend, as well, a constant pain in the pit of his stomach, gnawing at him, sapping from him of all his strength. Street markets were well watched and he got caught and beaten often enough to be a deterrent. He stole, instead, from trashcans and dumpsters, seeking charity where he could, though it came not often enough from the people around him. Instead, they recoiled at the sight of him, pulling away and avoiding him same as they all avoided each other.
He slept in dirty alleys, tucked into crannies, curled into a tight ball for warmth. He used papers and rags to keep from freezing to death and it worked well enough because he woke every time, alive to face the horrors of the world around him once more.
And he blacked out often, lucidity coming and going. In his lucid moments he had an awareness of the world around him, of the suffering he felt, but in the less lucid moments he didn't know what he did or where he went, only that sometimes he came to and he had food or money, but also hands stained with blood, sometimes his, sometimes not. Other times, he came to and didn't know where he was, having found himself suddenly in an unfamiliar part of the city, with hunger worse than it had ever been before. But always he came back to himself feeling more whole, in some sense of the word.
He didn't know what he did in those times but he didn't dwell on it, because it was time spent unaware of how hungry and cold and tired he was and, in some ways, the blackouts got him through, though as time went on more and more of it became lost to the madness, such that at times he would wake and know weeks had passed, lost to the insanity creeping over him.
And always, just beneath the surface, there was a rage he kept barely restrained, only dissipated after his long bouts of lost time. He suspected the rage drew him there, that the anger in him, directionless but consuming, found direction in those times, but he didn't dwell on that, either, so focused as he was on merely surviving.
Sometimes the blackness was triggered by something he saw: a man laughing too loud on a street corner, a teen walking by him, grinning ear to ear so much so that the smile split his face in half and stirred something angry and cold within him. And during those times he'd blink and suddenly he was somewhere else, hours or days later, lost and confused.
Eventually, he came to and thought maybe he was in a different city than before, but he didn't know. He'd never known where he was, only that it was city after city and town after town of people who wouldn't look at him, who spoke a language he didn't understand and drove him away in fear when he approached.
And maybe they had reason to fear him, he didn't know, he didn't remember.
He had no idea who he was or why he was, no memories before the green waters, before drawing his first breath. But he remembered that much, knew that before that moment he had not been alive, and the knowledge frightened him.
Robin echoed in his mind not for the first time since that first moment and he wondered what it meant. It had been spoken to him not quite as a name but as a title, but all the same it felt comfortable on his tongue and he spent hours turning it around in his mouth, repeating it again and again until it became a mantra to keep him sane.
Digging through a dumpster, looking for food, he came across a mirror, a shattered fragment tossed aside for its uselessness, buried with so much other garbage he almost didn't see it. Careful, he picked it up, peering into it, at the fragments of a gaunt face that stared back.
And he was thin, with protruding cheekbones and tired, deepset eyes, all covered in a layer of filth and dirt that came from living on the streets. His face was so dirty he couldn't tell its true shade and he scrubbed idly at his cheek with an even dirtier hand, which only made it worse, leaving a now cloudy smudge down the side of his face.
His eyes were most startling, blue and vibrant and soso bright against the filth of the rest of him. They stared back at him, the only thing familiar on his face, taunting him with what he couldn't remember and all those things about himself he didn't know.
His hair was black, beneath its own dirtiness, matted and choppy, almost chin length. He reached up to touch a lock and it was coarse as always, made brittle from malnutrition and poor hygiene. A few strands came free with his tugging, but stayed tangled in the dark mop.
He stared back at his reflection for too long, maybe hours, entranced by all things it didn't tell him. Eventually, though, he tossed away the shard and went back to the work at hand.
He didn't turn up any food.
As time went on the weather began to get colder and colder as winter came on fast. He hardly noticed as the months passed, spending less and less time lucid, less time aware of the world around him. Weeks faded into weeks, lost to an unspeakable fury he couldn't quite quench in his saner moments.
He knew though, in the lucid moments, that he was being watched, could feel the eyes on him as he rummaged for food or huddled beneath his rags for warmth. Even as he darted through crowds of people, pickpocketing where he could, he could feel himself being watched in a way that was definitive and purposeful. He was being followed.
He came to after another black out to bodies scattered around him in a secluded alleyway, fresh blood spilled across rapidly falling snow, a sharp crimson against the soft powdered white. He counted three of them from where he stood, an ornate knife that could only have been stolen from them clenched in his hand.
The men were all dressed head to toe in black, the same distinctive outfitting he had seen on the men surrounding him when he'd first crawled from the green waters. Professional warriors, with combat gear and blades and he wondered how he'd gotten the upper hand against them. He looked down at the knife, at the hand holding it, and it was covered in blood, soaked all the way to the elbow and he knew none of it was his.
He moved quickly after that, dragging the bodies with what little strength he had until they were situated in shadow, where the snow would cover them and they would lay forgotten until what counted for spring in this place came and thawed them. He stole their clothes, thankful for the added warmth in the face of the coming blizzard, and he kept the knife, tucking it into a strip of cloth tied around his ankle, beneath the oversized pants he'd taken.
He left the bodies there in the alley and he purposefully didn't dwell on the lives he'd just taken as he set out instead to find shelter as the snowfall got worse.
He didn't remember killing them anyway and something dark inside of him whispered to him that it wasn't the first time he'd killed while blacked out.
He didn't encounter more men until long after the storm had passed and the snows began to melt, though spring, he was certain, was still a distant spot on the horizon. Since he'd killed the others, though, there had been eyes on him, an ever present reminder of his dwindling sanity, the eyes on him noticeably there, but not so much so that he wasn't certain he wasn't just going crazy and imagining it.
But men did come for him again, eventually. He was lucid when they came, huddled against a wall on a busy street, begging. He spotted them in the crowd, heading his way, their movements a sharp contrast to the steady shuffle of those in the crowd heading about their days.
At once he scooped what little money he'd gotten into his pockets and took off down the alley behind him, looking for the best way to lose them. They would surely kill him this time, he thought, though he couldn't say if that thought came from a place of sanity or not.
He knew the city better than them, so long had he lived in the streets there, and so he took to the rooftops, thinking it the best way to outrun them. He was thin and lithe and he moved with a grace they couldn't quite match as he scurried from building to building, making leaps that would make an ordinary man nervous.
But he discovered quickly they were not ordinary men and they persisted after him, though with more hesitation in their jumps than he had. He was weaker, though, hungry and cold, body numb from sitting so long on the curb clutching a small tin can for money. His fingers rebelled against him as he moved and eventually he came to a jump he couldn't quite make, frozen fingers reaching and failing to find purchase on the ledge as he fell.
He landed hard on his back in a melting snowbank, the breath leaving him and he lay there gasping and choking, struggling to make his lungs work again. His attempts were in vain, though, as the men pursuing him landed gently in the snow beside him, blades drawn. Behind them, a woman dressed in similar attire dropped down as well. He hadn't noticed her before.
She stopped to stand above him, looking down at him with sharp features. She was familiar in a way he couldn't place and, as breath finally returned to him, he struggled to scramble away from her. The two men on either side of her raised their weapons in warning but she waved them down, stepping closer.
"Who are you," she asked, though something in her tone told him she knew the answer to that question already.
He coughed, searching for the words to say. "I don't know" he rasped, his throat raw from disuse, his mouth struggling to shape the words after so long. His own voice was foreign to him and he cringed at the sound of it.
The woman gestured and one of the men approached with his blade, pressing it to his throat. His breath shuddered in his chest and he froze where he lay save for the steady tremble running through him.
"I don't— I don't know—" he said again, but he searched his mind frantically, trying to think of something, anything, to satisfy her question. "I— Robin," he said at last. "Robin! Please, don't—"
The blade fell from his neck and the woman smiled, eyes suddenly soft where before they had been steely and cold. Breathing out a deep breath, he relaxed ever so slightly, sinking back into the snow, thankful for the cold when faced with looming death.
"Hello, Robin," she said.
His relief lasted only a second. The man closest to him, the one who had threatened him with his blade, stepped forward and with a quick, solid motion, slammed the butt of his sword into his head and the world faded quickly to black.
He came to on a cold, damp floor, arms shackled behind his back. He was groggy and tired and cold as ever, but he was inside, surrounded on almost all sides by tall, stone walls. On one side was a set of bars, running floor to ceiling and he realized with some confusion that he was in a sort of dungeon.
He shuffled awkwardly, pulling himself upright and against the nearest wall and he heaved out a sigh, thumping his head back against it in resignation.
From the front of the cell came movement and he cast his gaze in that direction to see the woman from before stepping in, accompanied by another man dressed head to toe in black. The man knelt down next to him, unshackling him, and he rubbed at his newly free wrists, which he noticed were caked in blood and wounds from having fought the shackles, at some point. When, he couldn't say, as he had no memory of it.
The woman offered a hand to him and, with some trepidation, he took it and allowed her to help him to his feet.
"My name is Talia Al Ghul," she told him, gesturing for him to follow her. He obeyed quietly, wondering if he was being led to his death. Maybe this was better, he would die here and not out on the streets, starving and alone. Maybe that was something.
She led him down long and winding hallways, all built of the same stone as the cell he'd woken in. The place felt ancient more than it did old, the stone mortared together with thick, crude lines that surely predated history.
Eventually she stopped at a door and led him inside to a small but nicely furnished bedroom. It reeked of the same ancientness as the rest of the building but he didn't question the elegance in it.
"This is your room," she told him, sweeping a curtain of brown hair back from her face. "On the bed are clean clothes in your size and through that door over there," she pointed to a door in the corner, "is a bathroom for you to clean up in."
He nodded numbly, looking around in a daze.
"Go. Clean up, rest. I'll return shortly with food. And answers." She met his eyes with her own sharp gaze. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions."
Again, he nodded numbly. He was still nodding when she left, closing the door behind her, and he stood there, staring around the room.
The bed was soft, so soft as to border on uncomfortable to him after so long sleeping on a pile of rags and cardboard. He ran his filthy hands over the delicately embroidered quilt for just a moment before heading to the bathroom. He left the clothes in their neat pile on the end.
It was as ornate as the rest of the room, and modern, with running water and an enclosed shower. A delicately carved mirror hung above the sink and he looked at himself in it, taking in his appearance for the first time as a whole instead of many fragmented pieces from the mirror shard he'd used to look at himself before.
He was gaunter, now, face pale beneath the dirt, enough to border on sickly. And he felt as bad as as he looked, as hungry as he looked, as tired as he looked. He undressed awkwardly, taking in his sharp collar bones and protruding ribs. He let his gaze linger for only a moment before finally stepping into the shower.
The first spray of warm water burned against his cold skin and he grit his teeth and endured. It was different, to feel so much warmth after so long of constant coldness and his body protested, his skin too sensitive to the heat.
He adjusted after a time, though, and he lingered under the spray, scrubbing from his body every bit of filth he'd accumulated, scrubbing until his skin was raw and pink from the heat and the force of it. His hair was a lost cause, even as he scrubbed soap into his scalp. The tangles were untameable and he settled, instead, for letting the water run over his head and face until the it finally ran clear.
He felt like a new person when he stepped out and toweled himself dry. His appearance alarmed him a great deal less and he took the time, finally, to look over himself in the mirror. He ran his hand over his sharp cheekbones and down, over the now noticeable and patchy stubble on his chin.
He was young, in his mid to late teens at least and his skin was pale, offsetting the sharpness of his features, though he could not quite say if they were sharp from how thin he was or if his jaw line naturally fell the way it did.
There was a smattering of bruises across his chest and around the side of his ribcage, blossoming dark and angry across the pale expanse of his chest. He wondered when he got it and the thought drove his eyes down to his wrists, which were encircled in their own colorful bruises and scabbed over sores. He rubbed at them and looked away, unsure how to feel about such vivid proof of the time he was losing to his blackouts.
The clothes waiting for him on the bed were black and in the same style as those of the warriors he saw accompanying the woman. Talia, he reminded himself, as he pulled them on. Her name was Talia.
They fit comfortably, better than the ones he'd stolen had fit, but even so the top hung awkwardly where it belted around his waist with so much excess material. When he was done he sat down on the bed and waited, unsure of what to do with himself.
He didn't have to wait long. Talia returned only moments later, bearing a tray of food.
"You look quite refreshed," she told him with a small smile, looking him over. She set the tray down on the table next to his bed and pulled up a chair, taking a seat. She nodded her head towards it. "Eat." She had a way about her that made everything she said become a command just by the nature of her presence and he nodded in obedience, casting his eyes over the tray.
There was a large bowl of broth with steam rising hot above it, and beside it sat a plate of buttered bread. To the side was a cup of what could only be tea with its own trickle of steam wafting off of it. He reached for the bowl first, his stomach growling audibly. He tried not to hide his disappointment at such a simple, small meal but she must have noticed anyway because she said, "This is what your stomach can handle now. As your strength returns you will be given more food," and he looked away from her guiltily as he started shoveling the food into his mouth.
She paid his rudeness no mind, instead reaching out to pick up the teacup and the spoon accompanying it. She waited for him to finish, slowly stirring the tea with the spoon as if it were the only thing interesting in the room. He appreciated the small bit of privacy that act offered him as he slurped down the soup, as embarrassed at his poor manners as he was hungry, but the hunger won out.
After a bit, he set aside the now empty bowl, his stomach protesting at being so filled with its contents that he didn't immediately reach for the bread. Instead he settled onto the bed, hands folded in his lap.
"I apologize for the way you awoke," she began, setting aside the cup. "But you attacked several of my men the first few times you came to. It seemed appropriate given the circumstances."
He nodded and pointedly did not look at his wrists. "Where am I?" he asked instead, his voice cracking with almost every word.
"You're in one of the several headquarters for the League of Shadows. We are currently in the mountains of Southeast Asia. I am in charge here and the warriors you see answer to me." She perhaps sensed his growing trepidation with every word she spoke because, after a pause, she continued. "You are in no danger here and this room is yours should you choose to stay."
He looked around, not for the last time, taking it all in. The ancient stone walls, the comfortable bed, the black garb he'd been given, and Talia, imposing and quietly powerful. "At what cost," he asked at last.
She smiled tight though her eyes seemed to hold a bit of pride at his question. "There is a cost, yes," she told him. "But that will come, should you choose to stay here after our conversation."
He thought of the men of hers he'd killed, of how much trouble they must have gone through to track him down and he thought, as well, of the life he'd been living before it. Everything had a cost.
"You don't remember who you are," Talia said and he nodded though it was not a question. "What is your earliest memory?"
"Green waters," he answered without a moment's hesitation. "And men, like the ones you have here, attacking me."
"The Lazarus Pit," she explained. "It has restorative powers, the ability to heal any wounds, to—"
"To restore the dead to life," he finished, dropping his gaze down to his hands. They were trembling, his whole body was, frightened to admit it aloud, after all he'd gone through. "I was dead."
She nodded. "You remember?"
He shook his head, looking up at her. "I just know. I can feel it, like every fiber of my being is protesting the life I have, like—" She raised her hand to stop him and he stopped, biting his lip.
"You were returned to life by my father, Ra's Al Ghul, head of the League of Shadows," Talia told him. "He played no small part in your death and sought to ease his own guilt by bringing you back. But the Pit is not to be used lightly and it tainted you, pushed life back into a body that had not had life in too long. You are broken, your mind rejecting your very existence." She sought his eyes out with her own.
He shook his head fervently. He didn't care about that so much, he'd grown accustomed to blank spots in his memory, brought about by his fractured mind. But— "Who am I?" he asked. "Who— Who was I before? Before this." He gestured to himself, to his malnourished, thin frame. "My body doesn't want to be here, my mind is, is—" He paused, meeting her eyes. "What is wrong with me, what is—"
"Bloodlust," she said, her eyes still locked with his. "Brought on by the ill effects of the Lazarus Pit. You seek to kill your murderer and so you seek out and attack those who resemble him in your eyes."
He squeezed his eyes closed, more to block her steady gaze than anything, pushing down the rising memory of a man laughing loud on the corner while he prowled around behind him. "I've been killing people," he murmured quietly. "When I've been blacking out, I've been—"
"Yes," she confirmed.
He looked back to her. "How many people, how many times—"
"Often enough," she told him. "If you don't kill your body betrays you and your mind breaks, the bloodlust taking over. You'll die if you don't keep killing, eventually. You will lose all that is left of your sanity."
He curled his legs to his chest, eyes wide. "I should be dead," he said aloud. "I should be dead." The words seemed to take hold of him and he repeated it over and over again as if in a trance, growing louder with every word until he was screaming it. "I should be dead!"
Talia moved before he could react, catching him by his collar. She turned him to face her and slapped him hard across the face, enough that the words died on his tongue and he sat there, stunned.
"And yet you're alive," she snapped, returning to her own seat. "Death is easy enough to come by but you've been on the edge of death since your escape from my father and yet you've survived. You're a fighter and you're not without salvation. I've brought you here to help you, not condemn you as my father would have done."
He looked at her, still stunned, his cheek stinging. "Why?" he asked, his voice little more than a croak, now, his body still a shaking mess, his entire being on edge.
"Because like my father, I too played too big a role in your death and I wish to make amends for it," she told him, her tone suddenly soft. "You were in the care of someone I care dearly for and I wish to correct the wrongs I've committed against him."
"But not for my sake," he said softy.
She ignored him. "You were Richard Grayson before your death," she began, "Ward to billionaire Bruce Wayne of Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is a vigilante known as Batman, by night, and you were his sidekick."
"Robin," he echoed aloud and she nodded.
"You were Robin and you were a hero, though young and reckless. Your death came at the hands of one of Batman's greatest foes, a monster by the name of the Joker. My father set him upon you both to distract you from a campaign of terrorism he was bringing about. It worked. He captured you and beat you near to death before leaving you to die in the explosions my father had planted." She looked him over, watching his reaction, but he had none. He stared blankly at her, numb to and overwhelmed by the information she was giving him. "Your death at his hands was not part of the plan."
He sat there, his shaking beyond his control, words escaping him. "Calm yourself," she commanded, and he swallowed the ball of rage rising to the surface, taking slow, deep breaths.
"What will you do with me here?" he asked after a long while had passed and he had finally calmed himself. "Can you fix me?"
She nodded and reached for the tea she had abandoned before. "This tea is brewed with an ancient flower that blooms only once every hundred years. It has the power to undo what the Lazarus Pit has done." She held it out to him and he took it, staring down at the light green liquid. "If you drink it, it will ease your mind and bring back some of who you were. The bloodlust will subside, but it comes at a cost." Everything comes at a cost. "It will undo the work of the Lazarus Pit on your body, as well. It will not kill you but it will return to you the pain of your death. I can not say if that pain will linger. And you will remember."
He didn't dare ask her what he would remember and instead looked down at the liquid, tilting the cup slowly so that the tea moved about and rippled. "And what if I don't want it?" he asked.
She laughed and it was a startling sound from her, light and delicate. It set him on edge, forcing the rage closer to the surface but he held it back, continuing his slow pattern of breathing, his slow movement of the cup in his hands. "Then I will have killed a lot of people to get that flower for nothing," she informed him and he felt a lump form in his throat. "But do not let it dissuade you," she continued. "This choice is yours and yours alone to make."
"And after?" he asked, looking back up at her. "Will you let me leave?"
"After— Afterwards, you are free to go if you so choose. My men will take you to where we found you and you can continue on your own."
She smiled wide. "Or you can stay here and work in service to me. I will train you in the ways of the League and work you in the ways of the League and, when you're ready, I will help you to return back to Gotham."
"Is there anyone waiting for me there?" he asked, gripping the cup tighter in both hands.
She shook her head. "Everyone you knew believes you dead."
He brought the cup to his lips but stopped at the last moment, taking in the sickly sweet smell. "What do you want for me?" he asked.
"I want for you to do what you want to do," she told him, standing. "I will return later to check on you. Drink that slowly. I can not undo what it will do to you."
She left, letting the door click closed behind her and he watched it close, wishing the choice were made for him, wishing she had told him nothing and more at the same time and, in some small part of him, he wished she'd left him where he was to eventually die, cold and hungry on the streets.
In the end, he drank the tea.