Afraid of the Dark

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: Don't own these characters. I just saw 'Haunted' and loved every minute of it. Robin makes for such good angst. R/R if you agree.

It's still raining outside. I stare at the glass and see it come down in heavy sheets. I should be getting some rest but I wouldn't feel right. That's partially why I'm looking out the window instead of lying in bed. I know the others wouldn't approve of it but if I spend all day in bed like I have been I'd probably go crazy. I smile a little at that. That phrase seems funny to me now, now that I know what it's like to be if not insane then at least mentally unhealthy.

Seeing is believing they say. It's an old phrase, an idiom that speaks to the cynicism and skepticism of human nature. So many people trust their senses. So many people believe in only what they can externally perceive as real and concrete. They don't get it. It's the things you can't see that are important. Your senses can be fooled. Hallucinations, optical illusions, simply hearing something different than what was said. Your mind can play tricks on you, swallow you whole if you let it. Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it's non-existent. By the same token, just because you can see something doesn't mean it's real.

I stare at the window and blink. For a few brief seconds I catch a flicker of a shadow moving through the room. I shake my head. It's been a day or so since my hallucinatory episode. I still get little flashbacks, like having a bad acid trip. Sometimes I think I see Slade but the image vanishes because I know it's not real. Sometimes I hear his voice but I turn a deaf ear to its whispers and it soon fades. It's just my brain fixing itself. It's just a bunch of faulty chemical reactions trying to correct themselves so I can go back to being sane again. Now that's something to think about. Was I ever truly sane in the first place? Are any of us, really?

It makes me wonder sometimes, question myself. Is it all real? I was so sure Slade had come back. He looked real, sounded real, and fought like he was real. The bottom line though was that he wasn't real. If I can't trust what I can see and hear and feel then how can I be sure any of this is real? What if my whole life is someone else's dream? What if I never really escaped from Slade and this is all just a fantasy? I squash those thoughts. You can hurt people a lot of different ways. You can hurt them with physical blows, psychological torture, or emotional stabs. There's one thing you can do to them though that will hurt them the most. When you do something that causes someone to question who and what they are, you have hurt them far worse than anything else could. Doubt is your own greatest weakness. When you're robbed of your very identity as a person you are truly broken. Slade almost broke me twice. The first time, he tried to force me into his way of life. The second time, he simply made me question my own way of life. Fighting against an enemy is easy. You can hit an adversary or outwit him to gain the upper hand and win. It's much harder to fight yourself, to try to undo strands of faulty thinking and not get caught up in snares of psychological maladaptivity. Eventually when you straighten out all those knots you sometimes are left with nothing. That's worse than being insane.

I turn from the window. I automatically dismiss the sounds of movement. They're not real. It's just my mind playing games again. I stare at the darkness around me. I'm used to darkness. Sometimes I think I was born in it. I was taught to walk in the darkness, to use it as an ally in the war against evil. There are times though when you have to wonder whether or not walking in the darkness has somehow affected you. Sometimes the darkness can consume you, eat away at whatever light is still inside you. How many monsters must a man slay before he too becomes what he hunts? I used to think the lines were clear but now nothing is so clear to me anymore.

I ignore the sounds of movement and return to the window. I see the reflection of a figure in the glass but pretend it's not there. I feel the hand on my shoulder and simply hope the sensation will fade. It's not real. It's just more head games.

"Robin?" The voice is a welcomed surprise. I turn and see Starfire standing next to me. Her face is concerned. A small notion that she is also an illusion forms in my head and is beaten into submission. If she is a dream then I pray I will never awaken from it.

"You should be resting," Starfire tells me.

"Couldn't sleep," I explain, "Didn't like laying around all day." I feel regret over what I did while I was out of it. Maybe I wasn't myself but I still had no right to treat her the way I did. She wanted to believe in me too. I feel bad for that.

"How are you feeling?" she asks me.

"Lost," I reply honestly, "Like I can't be sure of what's real anymore, like I don't know what to trust." I feel the doubts creep out of the corners of my mind. I feel her hand clasp around mine as I turn to look at her.

"You can always trust me," says Starfire, "and you can always trust that our friendship is real." I don't know how to react to that. I feel so much for this girl, so much more than I'm willing to even admit. I don't know anymore whether or not it's love and right now I don't care. It is what it is. Based on this fact, I give her a small kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you, Star," I tell her, "and I'm extremely sorry for how I treated you."

"It wasn't your fault," she replies as she blushes a little, "You should rest now. Your body needs to recover from all the stress."

"I know," I tell her, "I just needed to move around some." There's a flicker of an image behind Starfire. I stare past her and see Slade, see him so clearly that I believe he is real. My face must tell Starfire something is wrong because she suddenly turns my face towards her to I can look into her eyes.

"He is not real, Robin," she states, "He is gone." I feel the haziness in my head subside. I stare into Starfire's eyes. She has the prettiest eyes I've ever seen. They're so bright and deep and colorful.

"He is not real," repeats Starfire, "He is gone."

"I know," I reply, "This'll get outta my system soon, Star. I promise you it will. I'll get better."

"I know you will," replies Starfire, "but I still worry about you. Go to bed now, Robin."

"Okay," I tell her. I let my hand close around hers as we walk back down the hallway. We stop at her door first.

"Thanks, Star," I tell her, "for caring about me."

"I have always cared, Robin," she replies with a smile, "and I always will." She turns to leave and I watch her go. I head towards my own room and lay down on my bed. I take a second to listen and peer around the room. The room is empty and the only noise to be heard is falling rain. I sigh with relief as I settle into bed. The darkness cannot hurt me anymore. I've stared it in the face and laughed at it. It may be all around me but now I have something, someone, to save me from being consumed by it.