Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans.
Author's Note: This is something I've had in my head recently. Decided to write it down and my apologies to some certain people for the way I acted. Please note the quotables as they are.
Timeline: five days after Haunted.
Dedication: to desolatorpixie, the one who put the wind back in my sails and I'll be always grateful. Someone who isn't just a fan, but a damn good friend, which I need more in my life.
Special thanks to fairy of irrelevance from being my beta.
'Our time apart may have made you soft, but it's only made me stronger.'
'You have gotten sloppy while I was away.'
'Too slow, Robin. You always were.'
Those were the artificial words that had echoed in Robin's head, five days after Slade Wilson's final trick; the rampage of chemicals running through his system, deceiving him into thinking he was fighting the one-eyed saboteur.
The Boy Wonder kept returning to that one line. 'You have gotten sloppy…'
'Maybe he's right.'
The deception with Terra-he could have caught it if it weren't for Starfire and Beast Boy wanting her so damn much. Cyborg and the H.I.V.E…. if he weren't so overconfident, he wouldn't have fallen for their trap. Johnny Rancid he would have caught if it weren't for his bravado. He was slipping up so much in the field Raven had to keep saving him…time and time again, ending with entering his mind. He didn't care about his precious secrets; only for Raven and her safety. He didn't want someone he cared about to end up as another casualty from one of his…lapses.
'Bruce would have my head if he knew about all these slip-ups.'
Robin went to the mirror in his bathroom, removed his tunic, and tried to softly touch the bruises littered all over his body.
'I suppose it's a reminder of me losing my touch.'
His fingers lingered over the R insignia as he gripped the tunic tightly.
'I don't know why I bother.' He thought grimly as he pulled on the tunic again.
The alarm went off.
'Great. Another opportunity to fail.'
He put on his boots and utility belt and left for the living room. No one was there.
'Must be in the hangar.'
As he went down in the elevator, he wondered about who his opponent would be. 'I wonder if it's Rancid again. I still owe him a fracture.' He thought darkly.
His thoughts took an optimistic turn. 'At least it's not Slade.'
As the doors opened, he saw the Titans pile in the T-Car.
"Guys, what's the emergency?" 'Hopefully this will be a nice distraction.' He walked over to them.
The Titans looked at each other. Cyborg finally spoke.
"Well…Rob…It's Cinderblock again." The public face of Slade. Robin hid his smile. He always enjoyed beating Cinderblock; almost like beating up Slade himself.
"Well, I'll get on my bike and…" Cyborg placed his hand on the Boy Wonder's shoulder.
"It's just after…last time, we're afraid…" He couldn't finish the sentence.
"If you think I can't handle it, say so." Robin loathed pretense.
"It's…It's because of those bruises you inflicted on yourself when you were infected. They're still tender." Raven interrupted in her trademark, melancholic voice as she came between them.
Robin stared through her eyes and she returned the favor. Yet hers were…harsh but soft, a subtle plea not to enter this mission. His mask hid his surprise.
"Alright. Go. Stop him." He backed down; he wasn't up to fighting those eyes.
They all were surprised by his reaction. "You sure?" Cyborg asked in doubt.
"Yeah, I understand, I'd just get in the way again." He walked and entered the elevator.
"I hated to do that to him but he's not ready to go out into the field just yet." Cyborg reflected somberly.
"It is for his own good. We can't risk exacerbating those wounds." Raven said in a warning voice.
"I know but I wonder. Ever since he let Slade go, he seems so…empty." Cyborg said sorrowfully.
'Empty? How…similar.' Raven wondered as she entered the car.
Robin poured all the force he had into his punch and bruised the punching bag.
'How you can save a city Robin, when you can't save yourself?'
'What I remember is that you couldn't defeat me…at least not all alone.'
"Arrgh." Robin's intensity broke the chain and the bag fell unceremoniously to the floor.
"Still not hard enough." Robin said to no one in particular and looked around for another object to pour his abuse on.
'It will never be enough, will it Slade? I'll always be this way. Weak, soft, useless.' Robin turned to a window showing the obstacle course.
'I suppose that will do.' He grumbled as he left the training gym in total disarray, weights strewn all over the floor and several well placed tears on the wall and floor mats.
Robin dodged the projectiles spewed from the turrets on the ground. He flung his Birdarangs at the cannon with all the force he had. He didn't have time to smell the smoke from the ensuing explosions when the ground began to fissure.
'Raven must have reset the course.'
He jumped the right side and ran like a bat from hell as the ground beneath his feet crumbled. He tripped and the ground gave way beneath him, and he fell in the crevice.
He briefly considered not getting the grappling hook out and simply falls to his death.
'At least the circle would be complete.' There was no emotion concerning such a thought.
'No. Too many questions and Bruce would eviscerate them.' He finally decided as he brought out the simple device from his utility belt and fired it onto the solid rock surrounding the fissure.
He didn't even brace himself as he slammed himself into the cavern wall, exacerbating his bruises.
'You can stomp me down all you want Slade but I'll rise from your boot yet.' He gritted his teeth as he climbed the rope and from the pit. He breathed heavily for a few minutes.
'Already out of breath? Don't tell me you've gotten soft.'
Robin's rage spiked as he sprinted through the hurdles. The last one closed down and got him by his cape, choking him.
'Tick tock, Robin.'
"Argh!" He grasped his hands on his throat and tore the cape from it. 'Another weakness.' He tried to pull his cape from the device. 'Damn poly-titanium…' He finally tore the cloth off and fell on the ground.
He firmly grasped it in his fist and ran to the end of the course. A mechanical fists jumped from the ground with rapid speed. 'I don't know what Cyborg was thinking with those.' He zigzagged and ran through before he had a chance to inhale the dust.
'This feels too easy. How can I get hardened…' He never finished the thought as a fist rose beneath him and launched him in the air.
As he crashed into the ground another fist arose and threw him up into the air once again. He tried to land on his feet, but tripped on a pebble and fell face first.
Robin slammed his fist against the earth.
'I can't even beat an obstacle course so how can I beat Slade?'
He got up and surveyed his surroundings. 'More errors, more sloppiness, just more…failure.'
'I'll let them clean up. Probably couldn't even do that right.' Robin trudged away from the site.
Robin walked to the main doors. 'I wonder if they got back. It doesn't matter. They'd be more successful without me anyway. Or worse; be here and pity me.' He sighed as he entered the monolith.
Robin walked into the hall and heard very familiar voices.
'Should I bother? I just…can't talk to them right now. They'd ask more question and wouldn't understand.'
Robin hid within the shadows; at least he wasn't "getting sloppy" on everything. He heard a very familiar, juvenile voice. "Dude, I didn't know Cindy could go down that fast. Must be a world record." He'd know Beast Boy's pitch anywhere.
"I know. He had better luck when he was fused with Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber." Cyborg's raucous voice echoed throughout the hall.
"I think perhaps, we should have let Robin come along in the first place. It would have helped him relieve some of his frustrations against Slade." Raven's melancholy but…melodic monotone echoed next.
"I agree with Friend Raven, we should have let Robin relieve himself." Beast Boy and Cyborg just descended into giggles as Starfire chimed in. Raven gave off a sigh.
"Can't you two pinheads get your minds out of the gutter for once and deal with the fact we have a serious problem with Robin?"
"You're right Raye. We're sorry." Cyborg acquiesced to the dark empath.
"I'm not. I think it's…" Beast Boy stopped his giggling courtesy of glares from the others.
"A crime against nature for Robin to be feeling this way."
"Anyway…now that we have a lull on, we can focus all our energy into helping Robin." Raven suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at the emerald changeling.
"Like how? He's been so depressed lately; all he does is train anymore." Cyborg first observed.
"And he's hardly spoken to us since the incident with the mask of Slade. Doesn't he know we care about him?" Starfire's sugary voice sounded so forlorn.
Robin felt a pang on his heart, but dismissed it.
"The key to get him off this brooding is to distract his thoughts. But with what?" Raven substituted her disdain of the alien princess with concern for the Boy Wonder.
"Well…what does he do for fun?" Beast Boy asked everyone.
The other Titans all had confused looks.
"Star, don't you know?" Cyborg asked the alien princess.
"Well…he likes to participate in…I believe the term is…I can't find the words." Raven felt Starfire's emotions. She was nervous, unsure, lacking; she knew nothing.
"Besides his training, he enjoys a good mystery, ham and eggs for breakfast, doesn't like to dance, and he hates your pudding of sadness, Starfire."
The Titans looked at her like she'd grown another head.
Robin narrowed his eyes beneath the mask. 'That is the least of what she knows.'
"How do you know all that?" Cyborg broke the tension.
"I observe." She said in her trademark deadpan. "I believe play is the best method to approach this. Use work and he'll no doubt think about Slade."
"Maybe we can have movie night. Wicked Scary is out dirt cheap now." Beast Boy chimed in.
Raven gave him a lingering glare. "Anyway…he did enjoy that warehouse party we did when Blackfire first arrived. We could try that."
"I like that Raven! I've improved my dance moves. I'll really cut a rug and the chicks will be all over…"
"Might I remind you that this is for Robin, not so you can show off your advanced two-step to the seedier elements of the town's gentry?" Raven glared daggers at the emerald changeling and then stormed off.
Beast Boy just shrugged. "Who knew Raven gave a damn?"
"I'm just surprised she knows so much about Robin." Cyborg began to walk in Raven's direction.
"Perhaps that is another item we are not meant to know about Friend Raven." Starfire's honeyed voice echoed as they walked away. Robin just closed his eyes.
'Perhaps I…underestimated her after all. Not that it matters. She'd get hurt as well.' Robin finally emerged from the shadows.
After a quick shower, Robin resumed to the gym, looking rather pristine.
'Cyborg and his clean up robots do good work.' He thought as he walked to the punching bag.
'You can't even touch me.' Slade's artificial voice echoed through the Boy Wonder's mind.
'We'll see about that when I stomp my boot on your mask.' He ferociously Hurricane Kicked the bag off the chain. He walked over to the fallen, battered bag.
'It's not enough. No amount of training will be enough. I can't beat him by myself.' He bent down and punched the bag with what remaining force he had. The sawdust lingered on his glove.
'Seems everything is slipping from my fingers lately.' He dusted off his hands.
Cyborg and Beast Boy were hiding behind the door.
"Dude, you sure this is a good idea? He looks like he'll foam at the mouth." Beast Boy whispered in the synthetic teen's ear.
"You got a better idea?" Cyborg returned the feeling as they entered the gym.
"Hey, Rob! Catch!" Cyborg flung an emerald ball at Robin at lightning speed.
Robin turned to see the emerald projectile rapidly head towards him. He tightened his fist and punched the ball into a million different…
"Socks?" Robin took a whiff. "And rancid socks at that. What is this?" He was too surprised…and overpowered by the smell to be angry. Cyborg and Beast Boy both donned Cheshire cat grins.
"Glad you asked, my man, we're here tonight with an exclusive offer!" Beast Boy started the promo.
"A once-in-a lifetime chance to get in on America's fastest-growing sports sensation…" Cyborg waved a tiny flag while Beast Boy saluted.
"The hot new game we just made up…" Beast Boy backhanded against Cyborg's chest while the synthetic teen struck a pose; arm raised, hand to heart, and thumbs up.
"Stankball!" They gestured as Cyborg held up a tightly packed ball of seasick green socks discharging a powerful odor. He fainted from a whiff of the odious mass.
"Wanna play Rob? I think it would do you some good." Beast Boy picked up the fetid ball and tried to hand it to him.
Robin tried to burn a hole into the emerald changeling. "Are you kidding me? I have to train; I don't have time for this nonsense!"
"Dude, you've been on edge for the past week, first Slade and his trick dealy and then this. Ya need to loosen up." Beast Boy tried to encourage as Cyborg finally got up.
"I will. When I am satisfied I have trained enough, enough to beat Slade when he returns." He glared at the pair.
"But until that happens, you need to stop being so wound up; you need to have some fun like you used to have." Cyborg said encouragingly.
"And while I have fun, someone else can get hurt, I can't right now. Now I have to resume, so I'll say this as kindly as possible: Get out." Robin was ushering the duo out.
"But, please?" Beast Boy was about to get on his knees.
"It's no fun with just two of us. We need a referee but it's boring just watching, you need to play and have fun." Cyborg tried his best to convince their leader.
Robin sucked in a breath. "No." And pushed them outside before he shut the door.
"Robin!" Beast Boy grumbled as they got up and faced the door. Raven was walking, reading a book in the near corridor when she heard the scuffle.
'What's this?' She didn't want them to think she was eavesdropping so she hid in the shadows. Weren't for hearing Robin's name, she would have walked in the other direction.
"What's your problem man? Why are you always locked in your gym, obsessing about your training and your stupid crush with Slade? Well, you can have each other-you're both psychos!" Robin clenched his fist hearing that, Raven donned a soft, pensive look on her.
"Forget it BB. Let it go." Cyborg wished Robin could see his concerned look.
"Well…onward and upward Cy?"
"Yeah, maybe his girlfriend can fix this." They began to walk in the opposite direction of the corridor, Raven allowed herself to feel relief.
"Yeah, Raven." Beast Boy snorted as they faded into the shadows, Raven with another pensive look.
Raven walked by the door, she wanted to go in but she was paralyzed; what could she say? She wasn't used to comforting people.
Hearing voices approaching, she morphed into the wall and hid in the shadows.
"Why can't they understand? I'm not psychotic; I'm just acting this way so that someone else won't have to pay for my sloppiness ever again." Robin walked to the punching bag.
'Someone else? Sloppiness?' Raven wondered as she searched her memory.
Robin sighed as he stared at the cuts and marks on the bag. He bent over and rubbed his fingers against the cuts, and sucked in a breath. He got up and pulled out a Birdarang, held it for a minute, stared longingly at it, and bent down and stabbed the punching bag randomly with the sharp wings. Sawdust everywhere, as Robin was screaming, releasing his rage.
Raven's gaze became even softer. 'His rage, I can feel it, similar to mine, except he can unleash it. Lucky.' She used all her control to keep the bitterness from giving her away.
Robin gave one last stab-a long diagonal scar-and left the Birdarang embedded the mutilated bag of sawdust. He sighed heavily and dragged the bag away to another room.
'Don't know why I should bother. They all think I'm crazy anyway.'
Raven emerged and stared at the sawdust coating the scene. 'He always was intense. I just didn't know how intense until this. I wonder if Ms. Sunshine can really help him.' She looked longingly at the imprints in the dust his boots had made.
'I don't think she is…' She never finished the thought as she heard noises from the other room, and a door opening. Raven morphed and melted into the floor.
Robin had a broom and dustpan and surveyed the scene. He narrowed his eyes at a circular pattern in the dust.
Raven slumped against the wall.
"I know what it is like to be misunderstood too." She said as a deluge of Robin's memories flooded her mind.
Robin stared out at the fading sunset at top of the tower, the wind softly blowing his cape.
'I'm the thing that keeps you up at night. The evil that haunts every dark corner of your mind." He closed his eyes as darkness slowly crept upon the city.
'Darkness…used to comfort me, now it's a reminder of…him.'
'They can't see the truth, Robin, even when it's right in front of them.'
'It's mockery. Everything is mocking me these days: my friends, my skills, and my worth as a hero.'
Starfire lingered in the doorway, what would she say to him? She hated Robin whenever he obsessed about Slade but she never understood why. Why did he act this way? Was it because of the similarity? Was it because of the manipulation? Why?
"Robin?" She said hesitantly. The only time she'd been more afraid was during Robin's stint as Slade's apprentice.
'Right on the edge again. If only I had the…' Starfire broke his thoughts.
"Oh, Starfire. Hello."
"You seem to be having the thought lost."
Robin suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. "You mean lost in thought?"
"Right, of course." Starfire joined him; she was two feet from the edge, from where Robin was.
"I see you have been making optimal use of our training facilities." She noticed he didn't have on his trusty utility belt as his cape flowed.
"That I have. I have to…make sure I don't get sloppy again. I can't remain too soft."
"But Robin, you are not…soft. You're…just as you are, I don't understand." She pleaded in that honeyed voice of hers.
"You don't. You don't understand." Robin couldn't even look at her; just kept looking over the edge.
"Then tell me." She was walking ever so closely.
"I can't let him succeed into making any more orphans or grieving parents. I won't let others have my…" He stopped himself. She couldn't understand. No one could.
"My…" The abyss looked so inviting.
"Yes?" She was less than an inch away.
"My…rage." A safe enough answer; the truth would be too dark for her…or anyone for that matter.
"Rage?" She was ready to grab him.
"So that…no one else would feel the same rage that I do when he commits these horrible acts. The rage over the people he's hurt and…the one left behind to pick up the pieces."
'I have to stop him. I'm the only one who can. And I'll take down anyone who gets in my way.' Robin burned the looks on the Titans' faces into his mind when he declared that.
"Your empathy is strong Robin. It's the one of the few emotions that separates you from him." She finally gripped his hand.
"I know. But it's just…the more I try, the more I fail and the more people get hurt. If I stop, he wins and when I play, he wins. I can't win." He knew he felt her hand holding tightly but it didn't matter; it wasn't true support. She was trembling with fear, timid, and not ready to know the dark truths about the life he lead.
'It's empty. I know she cares but as long as she doesn't understand…it's all hollow.'
"Robin, are you going to quit and let him win?" He could taste her fear.
"I don't know. He always has the upper hand on me, like when I was…Red X or the Apprentice. He controlled me every step of the way." Depression and futility were entering Robin's mind. Why should he continue? Slade will always have the upper hand.
'So this is what Raven feels like.'
"But you resisted! With my…our help." She was positioned just right.
"I did. With your help and that's the problem." Robin had an epiphany.
"I couldn't get out of the quicksand without all your help and that bothers me; that I can't take him on or do anything anymore without being dependant on someone. My life before…wasn't like that at all. Then I had to rely on only myself. Now…I'm weaker." Robin lowered his head in shame.
"But you're not weaker! With us, you're stronger now. You don't have to rely on only yourself anymore." She gripped his shoulder and turned him to face her.
Robin tried to turn away; he couldn't withstand the intensity of those emerald eyes.
"It's not the same. Even now it's not the same because you don't know what it means to rely on only yourself. You don't understand me at all." He squirmed out of her shoulders and began to walk to the door.
Starfire was relieved and crestfallen.
'At least he didn't plummet to his doom.' She heard the door slam.
But that one consolation wasn't enough to counter the lingering thoughts in her head.
'Even now it's not the same because you don't know what it means to rely on only yourself. You don't understand me at all.' Robin's final words echoed in her mind.
'I have to admit I always had…support in some manner; Galfore and my family back home and here on Earth with my friends. And I thought Robin had finally taken some measure of…the joy of camaraderie after being Slade's Apprentice, but I was wrong. He's hiding behind his…rage and sadness once again and I do not know how to…' She turned to the moon.
'I can not assist him; I have never known such…frustration and rage in a being before. And I have never known someone who had to rely solely on themselves with the possible exception of…' She had an epiphany.
'Yes. She might help.' She ran to the door.
"Azarath Metrion Zynthos." Raven's mantra echoed throughout her room, But her thoughts kept bleeding through the meditation.
Or she should say…his thoughts. His memories kept spilling into her, seeping through her. His words echoed throughout her mind.
'Why can't they understand? I'm not psychotic; I'm just acting this way so that someone else won't have to pay for my sloppiness ever again.'
She kept scanning as to what he was referring to. There were several possible instances: his parents' death, a showdown with the former Gotham D.A. now known as Two-Face, she wasn't sure what he was thinking.
'Not that I'm an expert with emotions.'
A rapid knock on the door broke her from her reflection. 'It better not be that "Ding Door Ditch" game of Beast Boy's again.'
She opened the door and found Starfire standing there, with a pensive look on her face.
"Friend Raven, may I please come in and speak to you?" Raven felt her desperation.
"Yes, come in." She gestured the alien princess to enter her room.
"Friend Raven, I need to speak to you about a pressing concern we both have: about Robin."
Raven's attention was now piqued. "What about him?"
"I am afraid for him. He's acting so angry and withdrawn again. We have already lived through this once. I do not wish to endure it again." Starfire sounded she was on the verge of tears.
"We all don't want to go through with that again." Raven decided to release her sympathy.
"But how? Friend Cyborg and Beast Boy have failed. I have failed. Nothing is effective." Raven felt a tinge of self pity in the alien princess.
"Then we'll keep trying." Raven felt a brief flash of optimism.
"You…did not try. Perhaps you can do the deception and help him." Starfire flashed those emerald eyes at her.
"That's trick and I don't think I'll be…effective. Emotional support really isn't my thing." She hid behind her deadpan.
"If you care about the team, please try." Starfire's honeyed voice irritated Raven.
"What difference could I make? If you and Cyborg failed, what chance do I have?" Raven wasn't sure if she was talking to Starfire or herself.
"Because despite all that gloominess and sadness, I know you care. I think…you have the best chance of getting through to him."
Raven was stunned. She and Robin hardly spoke to each other; what magic words could she offer up to help him?
"Yes, you do. You do understand…more than you realize. You understand him. From what I know about both of you…you are both similar." Starfire looked away from her.
Raven's mind once again flooded with Robin's memories-he had experienced more pain and misery than anyone else she'd ever encountered.
'We are similar. He knows what it is to be misunderstood, just as I have. He hides behind his mask and his training trying to prove himself, as I do. I can't turn my back on him.'
"I'll do it." Starfire jumped up for joy.
"Just don't hug me." She said quickly as Starfire began to lunge.
"Oh. All right." The alien princess said dejectedly.
Raven took one look at the saddened alien and sighed.
"Alright, just one. You're really quite path…" She never finished her sentence.
Raven was right at his door, hand poised to knock but her hand kept hovering.
'Never realized how difficult this is. Damn concern.'
"You need something Raven?"
Raven turned to see the Boy Wonder. "Robin? I was…" She was scrambling for an excuse while various items around the Tower exploded.
"Our Gamestation, noooooo!" Beast Boy screamed in the background.
"I wanted to start a filing system for the evidence room since we have a lull on and thought I would need your help." She was surprised she came up with the ruse.
"Alright." Robin decided the distraction could do him some good.
"Good." They both walked down the corridor.
Raven was thinking what words she could start the conversation with.
'How about them Gotham Knights? No.'
'How many times you've wrecked the Gym? No.'
'Why did we design this Tower to look like a big T? No.'
They reached their destination in silence. The doors opening made an ominous reverb. The lights made the shadows of the Slade mask dance.
"I forgot to add the reagent mask. Be fitting as a monument for his constant machinations." Robin began to walk out, Raven softly grabbed his arm.
"You said you were going to let him go. Was that another lie created from your cat and mouse game with him?"
"It's not a lie. I am letting go. He's dead; I understand that, nothing more I can do. I just want to get the mask and closure." Raven suddenly felt guilty.
"If that were true, why didn't you get it already?"
"I…I've been busy." Robin wanted this to end.
"With what? What's so pressing?"
"I…had other things on my mind."
"Such as beating the stuffing out of the training gym?" Raven tried to stare through his masked eyes.
"I…Yes. I could say you got that from Cyborg and Beast Boy but you've been in one of my sessions. You left a trail in the dust."
"That I did." She couldn't deny it.
"You're the only one who didn't add your two cents so go ahead, tell me I'm psychotic, tell me I'm a lunatic." Robin folded his arms, waited for her seething sarcasm.
"I wasn't going to say that at all." She said pensively.
"No?" Robin was surprised; she seemed to take pleasure in pointing out everyone's shortcomings.
"No, but I understand why you think that, my…image and all."
"Yes." Robin's muscles became less tense.
"It's nothing personal."
"I know. Nothing personal about us huh? No, I can't say that now, can I?" Robin's hidden eyes bore straight Raven's amethyst ones.
"I know. I did what I did so…" Raven was trying to rationalize.
"I know. I'm not angry, I should be for reasons you now know about but I'm not. So don't worry; you're off the hook. Now if you excuse me." Robin was about to depart when an indigo energy covered him, immobilizing him.
"You may be not angry at me, but you're angry at something. I can feel it. You know I'm an empath."
"I'm not mad. I'm fine." Robin's rage was starting to spike.
"I wouldn't call what you did in the gym as someone being stable."
"Let me go."
"Not until you tell me. Why are you angry? I'll probe your mind again."
"What difference would it make you knowing how I feel? You don't care, nor do I expect you to." Raven released her aura.
"If I didn't care…then why would I save your life so many times?"
"Easy. You were being a teammate."
"Then why I would risk showing my mind, my secrets, and my…life to someone I don't care about?"
Robin had no answer.
"Believe it or not, I do care or I wouldn't risk losing the precious control of my powers. You know this." She stared him down steadily.
Robin remembered the memories flashing, between the reagent and Raven's entrance; he forgot he experienced her life too.
"I'm…sorry. It's just your image and putting people down; I thought you'd give me condescension for acting…"psycho." " Robin suddenly felt tired.
"Not with you, I wouldn't. I respect you until you do stupid things and not let us in."
"I only…I did that so I wouldn't have any of you misunderstand me or thought less of me. I've been getting that a lot, mostly since I joined you."
"Why do you feel that way?"
Robin looked at her: she read him like one of her novels; it's futile to hide anything from her now.
"Well, I feel…that no one understands why I do what I do. But…I can't tell them, they would just give me pity or think I have "issues." And I do, being Robin is my way of working through them…for now. That's why I hide behind my mask and putting on airs, like you do." Raven felt relief start to wash over him.
"That's just part of it. No, what I'm really feeling is my…rage over my ineffectiveness."
"Back home, everyone thought I was just Batman's sidekick. That I couldn't do…anything without him helping me and I had to train that much harder to be taken seriously and leaving Gotham for Jump City, I thought I could get away from that, and then came Slade. And everything I was taught…flew into the wind and brought all that back. Nothing I did was good enough; I feel like I failed myself and…I failed them." Robin lowered his head in shame.
"After the Apprentice mess, you were fine, you were…I can't say happier but you didn't have rage or…inadequacy, as it seems to be. Which means…it was the reagent that stirred that up again."
"Yeah. It brought back all those feelings I had and…I don't know but it made them more…intense, that nothing I did, my training, and my fighting, would be enough." Raven closed her eyes and focused on Robin's emotions and the emotions and thoughts he had when she…bonded with him.
"Perhaps, that was the real trick of the reagent: not to torture you that Slade returned but…to make you realize your shortcomings as of late. That it was a way for your subconscious to tell you this; Slade's image was merely a symbol of frustration and…motivation." Raven exhausted her mind thinking this theory.
"Back home, did you have anyone motivate you and push you to your limits and surpass them? Beyond Batman?"
"Getting Batman's approval was enough at the time, my…oath to my parents compensated for the rest. But here…I didn't have that. I had to make myself and once again prove myself and…Slade came along and pushed me to my limits."
"You became stronger for it. I suppose in his own sick way, he was trying to help you." Raven noted in her trademark deadpan.
"That's true but even with the surpassing of my limits, I felt alone…because no one else understood that I had to do that, calling me a loon among other things…until…now." Robin began to soften.
"That's because I know what it means to be misunderstood too. And you…you're lucky; you can indulge in your rage with Slade but I with my father…can't. You saw that."
"I did. Between the two of us, you're the stronger one." He gripped the gothic empath's shoulders.
"No, I'm not. If I were stronger, I wouldn't hide behind this." She gestured to her cloak.
"Yes, you are. Your powers protect you and the innocent people. I only have my body and when I face someone like Cinderblock or Plasmus, I'm…afraid that what I do won't matter because I don't have what it takes to beat them. And now I feel…that if I try, I'll end up creating more damage, like with Red X or my games with Slade. But if I don't try, then I don't fail and no one else will be hurt by my sloppiness." Robin tightened his grip on her, as though she were an anchor, grounding him and keeping him from falling back into the pattern of rage and self pity.
"At least when you screw up, you're allowed to try again. I can't with these powers, I can't. So you're the stronger one." Raven suppressed her urge to feel pity; his emotional state came first. "Now look, I can't tell whether you lost your touch. Everyone does eventually, but you mustn't let the fear dictate your decisions for you. You do good work Rob…Richard." He blinked when he heard that. "And you give those people a chance for life. Don't lose sight of that-get over your fear."
"I…don't know how anymore. I've tried everything I know, nothing works." He finally let her go.
"Then let someone who understands your point of view and your fears help. I can't promise to take the fears away but I will be there for you as you rise or…sink into the despair. But more than that, I will make sure you don't lose sight of why you wear the mask." He barely heard her, she was whispering.
"You mean that?" His fear was still lingering.
"I do. And what I said was truth: you give help and comfort to people who need it. Your parents would be very proud of you for showing that gift. And…no one can compare you to Slade by acting like that, so you are the stronger." Raven left her hand on his shoulder to return the feeling.
"I…believe you; you wouldn't…placate me like the others." The relief was getting stronger.
"You know I wouldn't do platitudes unless I had a damn good reason." She said in a stern tone.
"I know and…I'll never know how to thank you." Robin almost felt like smiling.
"I'm not in this for gratification."
"Then can I ask why are you doing this?"
Raven never finished her sentence; the alarm rang its klaxon.
"Oh, God. Go. I'll be…" Robin began to tense up.
"No, you're coming with us." She grabbed his arm and began to drag him with her.
"What if I screw up again?" Robin began to resist.
"Then keep trying and rise up. That's the only direction left to go. And I'll be here to make sure you keep going. The doors opened.
"Coming from you, I know you'll be good on those words." Robin felt comfort wash over him.
"Incidentally, you never answered my question." They both ran to the elevator.
"Just get going and save the day again, hero."
Just discovering an aspect to Robin's personality. Although those who truly know me, no doubt know the subtext. Either way, leave a review on your way out and see you in the funny papers.