All right. I know I said in "Face to Face," that I didn't write pairings. And I don't! Well…I mean, now I do, because I'm writing this one, but—oh, screw it! This is a Rob/Rae fic. You don't like the pairing, don't read it. If you do like it, read it; I'm pretty sure it'll be good. If you don't care either way, then you have the option of reading it or not. Whatever.

This fic is dedicated to Azarathangel—my friend—, Insanity 101, and all you other Rob/Rae and slight "apprentice" fans out there. Enjoy.

Prologue: Contemplation

It had been…what? A few days? A few weeks? Or had it all passed, and this was in the future that had always seemed so distant, a future where evil did not exist, and peace was harmonious throughout the world?

But this is life. And we are humans. Good cannot live on without its other side—evil—there to counter it. For every action, there is a result, for every choice—no matter how noble it may seem at the time—there will always be a consequence, no matter what you do.

Nobody is perfect.

When did it all begin…? Perhaps it started with the first mention of his name, with the way it rolled off the tongue, the very sound sending a shiver of fear and yet interest up his spine. That was what had led to his obsession, pushing him onward like a slave driver, never resting, always searching for an answer. And that, of course, led into identity crisis, as he played both Red X and Robin, deceiving his friends, impressing the man that he had only been trying to trap. He had been a fool, to think that he was clever enough to outsmart a genius, and yet a psycho.

It seemed that everything he did came together like links in the chain of events and tragedies that he had created. No matter how hard he tried, he was never able to unleash what a certain madman might have referred to as his "full potential," without worrying about protecting his friends…his family. They were all tied together by a bond, all of them understanding what loss and betrayal felt like based off all their dark pasts. He loved them like the siblings he had never had…

And one more than the others.

Silent from the first day she had arrived to join the team, but always there, her presence calming him; she never expressed emotions, never let others know what she thought, barely ever smiled…but just for her to be there, just knowing that she stood beside him, was just a good as any gentle touch or kind word a person might give their lover. He'd been a fool, and worn his heart on his sleeve, as if he were just begging for someone to use them against him.

Someone most certainly had used them.

The feel of that wretched uniform against his skin for the first time had made him shiver, as if Slade were making him cast away his past, his true self—everything that made him who he was—to make way for a new person, one that Slade could sculpt and perfect, and transform into his perfect student, his property, his apprentice.

It's interesting, how someone can hear a word and think nothing of it. But after a memorable experience, in which that certain word means a lot more than a simple definition, it can leave an imprint upon one's brain, a mark that you can never remove.

A scar.

It had pained him, to attack his friends for his "master," and he had inwardly winced every time his fist or foot had made contact with one of their bodies. Especially her…he'd never be able to forgive himself for hurting her. He'd never be able to forget hearing their screams; he still woke from time to time during dark nights, gasping for air as he watched her tortured over and over again, while Slade laughed in the shadows.

Even after he'd been rescued, he'd still felt apart from the other four; once, Beast Boy had let it slip that Raven had been the first one to proclaim that he was a criminal, and that he needed to be taken down. He hadn't been able to sleep that evening, and for once it wasn't because of Slade. He wondered if that was what she had really thought, or if there was the slightest, hopeful possibility that she had been covering for another emotion. Grief, for the loss of a…of a friend…

Just a friend.

In a way, it was probably his fault: He'd never trusted himself to speak out and express what he truly felt about her. And even if he did, she would have only scoffed and turned away, leaving him rejected. He couldn't bear the thought of having to endure that, especially from her. He'd already felt the loss of so many other loved ones when he was younger; to death, to anger, and more. There were just too many scars…

So he kept quiet. Stupid, right? That's what he thought. Love is such a powerful emotion, and being forced to contain it within yourself instead of sharing with the one you care about so deeply is true heartbreak.

Time passed—Slade did not make another appearance, probably still brooding about his lost apprentice, and things returned to normal. Well…normal for the Titans anyway. Then a new kid came to town. She had seemed helpless from the way she ran in terror as she was pursued by a monster. At the last minute, though, just when he and his friends had swooped in, ready to protect her from harm, she had turned and crushed it by lifting a ton of rock into the air.

She said her name was Terra, and from the way she and Beast Boy looked at each other for the first time, he knew what they were thinking; it was the same thing that caused him to be so distracted whenever he was around Raven. Love at first sight? Probably the case…if only he had known how deep their love would go, and how much pain it would cause them both, and those around them.

Sometimes, even though it'd been a long time ago since Terra had been encased in stone, he'd lie back in bed and think about the connection his green friend had had with the girl. In the face of evil and betrayal and deception, they'd fought against it, risen above it, shown pure love even when separated for eternity. Beast Boy still went to her marble grave, spending almost hours in the cave…did he talk to her, tell her what was going on in their lives? Did he stare at her? Or did he just sit there, beside her frozen form and think about what she'd been like; not the dark memories of when she'd stabbed them in the back and attempted to kill them all, but when she had arrived for the very first time, bright and happy, before her mind had been corrupted and poisoned by Slade.

He'd never been quite able to comprehend the meaning of "true love," until Beast Boy and Terra had first come together. He'd thought it just a fantasy, something that existed in fairy tales, but not in real life. Real happiness rarely existed in reality. There was always a catch somewhere. He knew from painful experience…

Did Raven think love like that was possible?

He would understand if she didn't. Raven had spent her entire life in misery, haunted by the shadow of a manipulating father, the death of her mother, the prophecy that proclaimed she would release her father upon Earth, which he would consume with evil. He couldn't even begin to imagine how distracted she was, so focused on concentrating and remaining indifferent to everything. She wouldn't have time for something as frivolous as love, not to mention have time to just think about it. He was such an idiot…who would honestly think about love often, unless they were someone like him?

He pitied anybody was like him.

Though it seemed like it had happened yesterday, and yet many decades behind him, the precise date—according to Starfire, who remembered the day well—was only a week ago.

He'd been obsessing again, like he did about everything. He'd never truly been convinced that Slade was dead, even though he'd witnessed fiery lava swallow him. It'd been late at night, and he'd spent it shifting through boxes of information, till he'd found Slade's mask, covered in dust.

Though he hadn't known it, the moment he'd inhaled a part of that cloud, the dust particles had tricked him into seeing Slade's figure everywhere. He hadn't had any trouble believing it; he was able to see him, hear him, fight him, though he'd never had the chance to even touch him. "Slade" had moved so quickly, he could barely get a good shot, and for his efforts, he'd been beaten within an inch of his life.

There had never been a time in his entire life where he'd felt as frustrated and confused as he had at that time, standing before his friends and insisting that Slade was there. They couldn't see him. He should have taken the hint, but he'd plowed right past it. He'd even gone far enough to threaten them…that was no better than anything Slade would have done, and he was ashamed of it.

It was when they'd strapped him to the hospital bed that he'd realized he could be insane. He had been so afraid, so helpless, and yet so unwilling to give into the fact that he was just seeing things…And did he think that he would be safe from Slade in his own home? No. Of course not. You can never run away from the thing you fear the most. Anyone knows this, from the child that lies in his bed, terrified by the monsters that live beneath it, to the father who fears the death of his wife and children, to…to even a man like Slade…he wears a mask…they both do. His mask might only cover his eyes, whereas Slade's his entire face, but masks symbolize something: The one who wears them is hiding from whatever nightmare they believe is out there to get them.

He couldn't help but wonder what Slade was so fearful of, but personally, he was too full of hatred towards the man to even bother understanding him.

One of the first lessons he'd ever been taught by Batman was that "to defeat an enemy, you have to understand him first." And he'd just blown that off, too busy trying to defeat the masked man and put him away once and for all.

There had been one time, when Slade had dragged him into the air vent, seemingly bent on breaking every bone in his body, before he moved on to his spirit. As he had been kneeling there, bleeding—and what felt like dying—he'd felt her inside his head, whispering to him that there was nothing there, that there was no Slade. Her voice had been monotone yet firm as always, but…though she said nothing like it, the connection between the two of them at that time had drawn them together, and he'd gotten a glimpse inside her mind. Within the words that she spoke to him, he'd heard other ones, echoing as if they were trapped. They were of concern, and caring, and though she told him that he was seeing things, she was actually speaking of how he'd survive this, with his usual strength and honor, and how he'd be all right…she promised.

A heavy blow from Slade had driven her out of his mind, but with those words reverberating in his mind, he struggled to keep fighting, until the final moment where he'd switched the lights on, just in time.

In a strange sort of way, a simple action like that was like a war had been resolved. As he collapsed into Starfire's arms, he felt as if he had traveled a thousand miles, out of the darkness and into the light. He was with his friends—he was with Raven—once again…it was all over. Exhaustion overtook him, but he managed to stay awake long enough to listen to Cyborg's explanation of what had caused his hallucinations. After that, he'd been too tired to even thank Raven for giving him the strength to go on. He'd been battling all day and all night, and the only thing he really felt like doing was going to his bedroom and crashing. There was nothing left to worry about; Slade was still dead, he was still alive, and the dust was gone. It was over…

Little did Robin know that dust had triggered much, much more. Seeing Slade everywhere? That was merely the beginning…

To be Continued…

That's it, for now. I'll post soon, but I have to also keep up with my other stories, so I won't let down other readers. I don't know if you guys liked this or not (Hopefully you did,) and I'm sorry if the pacing is slow, or anything like that. This prologue was just kind of a review over everything that's happened in the series with Slade. You have to remember these things, because a lot of the stuff I brought up will be relevant in the upcoming chapters. I think I've a got a good plot here, and I hope I get a bunch of reviews so I can write more!