Where Angels Lose Their Ways - 4

Warning: I've taken great amount of liberty with Slade's past.

Special thanks to my beta, Fire Tear. (p.s: if you want more Slade/Robin, go check out her fic 'without reprieve'. It's very good, and has a lot of Robin torture. ^^ )

Italic = Slade's thought

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The city at night is a lawless beauty. Free, wild and untamed. Its radiance complimented only by the neolights adorning the buildings, twinkling like fallen stars. And together with the moaning from the entwining streets, they wreathe and chase one another in an endless circle of sin.

In the midst of this urban jungle, men converse with false courtesy, and in secret fight like beasts clothed in human skins. Only when the last hour of twilight slinks away will they break from the confinement imposed by daylight. There, they shed their pretentious refinement. There, they dwell, immersing in all their earthly pleasures. And there, they wait, to hunt and to be hunted.

There is where he waited.

Where he is waiting now, for a prize so precious that it's worth every second he has ever invested in.

The hour is late. The empty stone benches lining the walkway of the park stand lonely against the backdrop of the well-lit city. The silence is shattered only by the rattling of the leaves, matching in pace with the car honking from the distant bridge. The park is on outskirts of the city, close to the coastline and in direct route to the tiny island with the T-shaped tower. It's well shaded by dense vegetation, and when it's not frequented by morning exercisers, it projects an aura of almost utter desolation.

Slade is currently perching lazily on top of a sturdy branch, shielded from view by both the leaves and the moonless night. He has perfected the art of fading into the background. It's a part of his past training and a most useful forté for any successful villain. He learned a long time ago that there are no limits to the amount of information one can gain by simply staying quiet and inconspicuous enough.

For better flexibility, he has also traded his usual heavy armor plates and leather jumpsuit for a lighter attire. He is still clad in black, face half-covered in soft cloth instead of the metal mask. He looks almost like his younger self. Almost, if not for the jagged scars overlaying the right half of his face. It was a price he paid for independence, for breaking away from the old teachings and finding his own destiny. It was also a reward, a war medal of sorts, like something to declare his triumphal. But however he glorifies it, in the end it's still just a fusion of blemished flesh, and it's not something he wears with vanity.

Slade fingers the scars with a gloved hand. The gentle night breeze ruffles his unruly hair and teases his exposed skin playfully. On the outside, his posture is relaxed and his face indifferent, while inside, anticipation is pumping liquid fire into his veins.

He is here overseeing the commencement of his latest plan. After the previous mishaps, Slade has reverted back to the age-old wisdom of 'if you want to do something right, do it yourself.' That, and the fact that he is not one to miss any opportunities to stalk the object of his continuous obsession, close up and personal.

There is movement to the street below. Slade turns his head slightly and feels a shiver run through his spine at the sight of that spiky black hair and the equally dark cape.

Robin tends to take a slow walk through this park after a night patrol, and the red-haired alien girl often accompanies him. It's in those quiet hours when the innocents slumber, oblivious to the true crying of the world surround them, that Robin is his truest nature.

A child.

Strong, intelligent, wise beyond his years. But a child nonetheless.

There are changes, significant yet easily over-looked, like the smallest rearrangement of facial features that suddenly softens the stern set of jaws and smoothes out years from the weary brows. Subtle changes witnessed only by the night and the boy's closest friend, and of course, Slade. There are simply untold amounts of benefits in having spy cameras everywhere.

This is a Robin that Slade likes almost as much as an angry Robin. It's a different face of truth. A face without the tired guise of a proud leader. Sometimes Slade thinks that he's not looking at Robin at all, but at the boy beneath the mask and the costume. The boy, whom Robin is a part of. Because in these hours, there is no need to hide. The darkness hides them all.

Night suits Robin much, much better.

And as per many nights before this, Robin is strolling slowly towards the tree Slade is hiding in -- with the girl floating by his side, Slade observes dryly. The two teenagers are talking. Or more precisely, the redhead is chirping excitedly while the Boy Wonder nods and smiles in all the appropriate places. Robin looks a little... unfocused, and Slade immediately notices the casting on the boy's left wrist. The discovery brings a rush of almost blinding anger.

Someone has hurt the boy.

Someone other than Slade.

Unacceptable. No one else but I can leave marks on him.

The rage dissipates as quickly as it's gathered. Slade feels foolish for the slip. It's not like him to let his emotion gets the better of him, but Robin is a special case. None of his normal logic and behaviors apply when it comes to Robin. They never have and most likely never will.

The two have passed from under the tree. Slade leans forward slightly from his crouching position, eye following the lilt form almost lovingly. Just before they are about to exit the park, he presses the switch on his wrist guard.

A shadowy figure dashes from around the corner of the street. The girl skids to a halt in mid air, while Robin spins his head around a little too late and collides with the newcomer.

The two-wheeled cart tips due to the force of impact. Cans and bottles clatter and water splashes onto the ground. Flowers are thrown off their vases and scattered about. The old lady groans with pain and Robin sprints to his feet, stuttering apologizes before kneeing down beside her and checking for injuries. The redhead has also landed, and is now hovering over both like a mother hen.

Slade watches the following scene impartially. There is nothing new with the Titan's typical do-gooder antics. Robin is still apologizing, even after he and the girl overturn the cart, place all the unbroken items back and gather up the flowers. Dimly, Slade wonders whether or not Robin apologizes to chairs when he knocks them over. It's almost... cute. And it makes him hungry, very hungry.

The boy has a serious guilt complex. It's something Slade vows to use to his full advantage, but as soon as his goal is archived, he will drive it out of Robin. It has no future in Robin's mind, a place where Slade will occupy, completely.

The old woman appears to be unharmed and chuckles good naturally at the two teens' anxiety. Robin breathes out a sign of relief and relaxes visibly.

Far too trusting.

In the next second, the woman has whipped out a gun and points it straight at the alien girl. She fires and a red beam of light hits the girl square in the chest. Robin shouts and rushes forward, but is only quick enough to catch the redhead's stumbling form.

The casting-engulfed hand encircles the fainted red-head and pulls her close to him; Robin draws out his staff with the other and swings it at the woman. The staff catches the woman's knuckle, and the gun flies out of her hand and into the bushes nearby. The woman is unfazed and answers that retaliation with a lunge. Robin jumps back with alacrity; the limp body in his arm falters slightly and he takes a horizontal swing. This time, the end of the staff connects with the side of her face and her head is snapped aside with a loud crack. She falls down backward, neck twisted and arms spread lifelessly.

Robin stares, body low in readiness for another strike. But the threat is gone and her body lays motionless. Then his eyes widen, the realization of what he has just done dawning from below the harsh panting and drumming of adrenaline rush. The staff is released from nerveless fingers, and slowly, Robin sinks onto the ground.

Slade licks his lips, resisting the urge to applaud in praising acknowledgment. He has guessed the right amount of force for Robin's strike when calculating and designing the neck section. Despite it all, Robin's aim was precise and accurate, and his action ruthless and vicious. Perfect.

Robin begins to shake and his grip loosens. The girl, still unconscious, rolls out of his embrace until she comes to a rest on her side on the ground, long hair obscuring her face that's turning away from Robin. The boy sucks in a mouthful of air, breathing hiccups slightly before he bites down on his bottom lip.

Slade decides now is a good time as any to intervene. He flips from the tree soundlessly. A few large strides brings him right behind the kneeling boy.

"Are you not suppose to be saving lives?"

Robin stiffens, then in a flash, darts toward the weapon on the ground. However, Slade is faster and he has both of the boy's arms twisted back before Robin can fully stand up. His knees are pressing the back of Robin's legs onto the ground, one hand encloses both struggling arms in its grip. The other reaches out, grasping Robin's jaw from behind and tilting it back. Robin is bent backward uncomfortably, his body tensed like a bow stretching to its maximum flexibility.

"Well," he drones, "aren't you?"

"Slade..." Robin's hiss soon turns into a pained gasp as the force on his jaw increases.

"Robin," he purrs in greeting.

"L-Let me go!" Robin's voice sounds small and unsure.

The boy's face is brushed to an almost alabaster shade of white by the newly resurfacing moonlight. The paleness travels all the way down to Robin's neck, creating an unexpected illusion of vulnerability and helplessness. Not an illusion so much as an exaggeration of fact. Robin is afraid.

Slade is very, very hungry now.

"You killed her," he stated as a matter of fact.

"I... I... I didn't... mean to... I..." Robin's voice grows smaller with each word.

"Oh, but you did. Your first kill, am I correct? How does it feel?"

"..."

"You did it to protect your friend, didn't you?"

"I-I..."

Slade continues mercilessly, "But does that make it... all right?"

"...no."

There is the heralding of defeat in that soft admittance. It's not the kind of defeat Slade craves from the boy, but it will be a start. Robin slacks against him, physically drained and emotionally wounded. The boy's red-head companion lays forgotten and the world narrows down to just the two of them.

Having all that attention focuses solely on him is making him feel almost... intoxicated. Slade leans closer so that his body cups the other's from behind and he buries his face into the junction between neck and shoulder. The coarse material of his face mask rasps the sensitive flesh behind the boy's ear.

He blows softly before presses a small, butterfly kiss there. An indirect kiss, through the fabric of his mask, barely scratching the surface of his desires. But its lightness insinuates a much more incandescent burn, and in the hollowness it drilled stems another type of enticement, one whose luring will seep so much more profoundly.

Robin has long since frozen, and the obscene nature of Slade's gestures seems to finally snap him out of his stupor. His struggling renews and in response, Slade tightens his hold.

"W-what... what are you... doing... W-wait... why are you... here..." Then something seems to click, "You... You set me up!"

Sharp. Very sharp.

Even under crisis, Robin maintains a clear, level head and people wonder why Slade chose him. Robin's head cranes toward the body on the ground. Her eyes are open; there is a dull and glass-like quality to them. And her expression is too neutral; no pain, no shock or much of anything, almost... like a doll. Slade can see the gears in Robin's head turning, putting all the pieces together.

Until finally Robin concludes in an incredulous tone, "She... she isn't real."

"No, she is not," Slade agrees, somewhat impressed by the speed of Robin's deduction.

"She's... an android?"

"A very well made one. I spent a great deal of time on the details. I really should... repay you for breaking my toy."

"Y-you are the one wh-who... and she--"

He interrupts, "And it makes it acceptable? To kill a human would be a sin, but a little metal parody of a human would be pardoned in a moral sense? In the end, what difference does it make? Could the lack of flesh and bones really justify your action? After all, you thought she was real. Or do you... really just like to destroy things, Robin?"

"That's not true! I-I didn't... know..."

He whispers beside Robin's ear, "Ahhh... but it feels good, doesn't it? Hearing that satisfying... crunch. Feeling that false life slipping out of her. Doesn't it make you feel... good? Empowered? ...Almost... like a god?"

"No one, absolutely no one," the conviction in Robin's voice is unwavering, "has the right to decide who lives and who dies."

"That is where you are wrong, child. The strong will always prey on the weak."

Robin shouts back, "What do you know?! Strength is not measured by the number of people you murder!"

He sighs softly. This discussion is going nowhere. As Slade suspects, Robin's ideals are burrowed too deep and can not be easily uprooted. But they are small inconveniences, he has included all the deciding factors into his plan. Besides, he never deluded himself into thinking he could convert Robin overnight. After all, that would take the fun out of the hunt.

It's not that he enjoys Robin's suffering, not too much anyway. The boy will be his apprentice and the last thing Slade wants is to damage him beyond repair. And no matter how careful he is, there is always the possibility of a backlash. Robin, as unlike as his outward appearance suggests, has a rather delicate balance on his psyche. Still, Slade can not resist marring something so beautiful and pure, to ruin the innocent and to drag the righteous down to the same level as himself. As if just by proximity, he himself can be lifted somehow. There is also a sense of satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment there.

A point, proven.

And a long buried wish fulfilled... that he is not alone.

He will not be alone.

Slade lessens his hold on the base of Robin's neck and says wistfully, "Your problem, my dear boy, is that you care for too much."

Robin draws in a few sharp breathes before spits out, "And your problem, you bastard, is that you care for too little."

"Language, young man." He pulls hard and Robin's shoulder joints creak in protest. "You will show the proper respect." Another tug elicits a barely suppressed groan from Robin.

In his ear piece, an almost inaudible buzz signals the beginning of a series of ringing tones. It's his preferred method of transmitting information, efficient and allows little room for miscommunication. The message is short and to the point. His androids have completed their mission in the Teen Titan's tower, and are waiting for his next order. He smirks to himself, pleased. In some situations, machines are a lot more reliable than people.

He lets go of the boy's jaw and runs his now-freed hand through the back of Robin's scalp, imagining the silky texture of the boy's hair as if he's gloveless. Robin tenses further, writhing and thrashing his body around in a desperate attempt to escape.

"Shhhhhh..." he coos. "As much as I relish our time together, there is some other business I must take care of. But let this be a warning: I am coming back for you."

In less than a second, his weight is gone. Robin springs up, body coiled into a defensive position and glaring openly at his general direction. Slade has retreated to the sheltering of the shadows, his face concealed by darkness and only the rigid lines of his silhouette remain palpable.

Robin hisses, fist raising and legs slightly apart in a challenging stance. Slade chuckles and waves his hand towards where the red-head girl is.

"Choices, Robin. You can stay here and help her. Or... you can abandon your friend in order to chase after me... again."

Robin twitches.

Slade's smirk widens, "And I am sure you know that this part of the town is not best known for its reputable residences. So what will it be? Your personal vendetta against me or the duty of a responsible leader?"

"Shut up! Don't you ever lecture me!"

Regardless of his outburst, Robin moves protectively towards his fallen comrade, putting himself neatly between her and Slade.

"And what have you done to Starfire?!"

Slade grins underneath the black cloth, "That is for me to know, and for you to find out."

Robin opens his mouth for a snappy retort, but by then Slade has already disappeared, sleekly blending into the trees until Robin's furious yelling can no longer be heard.

Slade keeps his pace fast and steady until he returns to the security of his own base. The screen covering the wall is already switched on. Four rectangular windows are opened, monitoring and displaying the vital information of four individuals. The silver micro machines multiply with each passing second, and attach themselves to blood cells like parasites. Slade stands calmly before the digital counter which shows their rapidly increasing number, and thinks back to Robin's outraged face.

Slade doesn't normally go for melodramatic, although he does appreciate theatrics. It adds a certain... flavor to things and intensifies the thrill. Some additional flourish and drama often confuses his enemies. Appearance can and will always be deceiving. Not to mention some of the so called 'heroes' can be laughably gullible in that aspect.

And whether Robin qualifies as one of the susceptible ones awaits to be seen.

The old woman might have been a fake, but his nanoprobes are very real. This is not over, not by a long shot.

He has set the bait and now, he will wait.

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Thanks for reading it.

I want to thank everyone who have reviewed and sent their supports. *bow* Your encouragements meant a lot to me and I'll continue to do my best!

^__^ And as always, review will be adored. Constructive criticism will be worshipped.