Lord in Heaven, help me…see, this is what happens when I get writer's block. I vent my energy into writing (dare I say it?) romance. Blegh. The heat must have gotten to my brain. This is a Rob/Star. May continue, may not. So far, this is just a one—shot…

Catch me as I Fall:

"Robin? Robin, please respond! Robin, where are you?"

Her voice echoes in a dim world hidden away from the light; she's calling for him—calling for a lost comrade. She's pleading for his return, believing that if he can just hear her, he will come back. It's as if she already knows the hidden emotions that he feels whenever he is around her: The swoop in his stomach when she laughs, as though he missed a step walking down the stairs, the aching of his heart when he is forced to deceive and lie around her, the smile that threatens to cross his serious face when she is confused by one of the many customs of Earth. What he wouldn't give to cross over to his communicator and speak to her, soothing her and telling her that all is well…

But he can't. Because he's not Robin anymore.

The girl he loves is longing for a stranger that is balancing on a razor thin line between struggle and falling out existence. At the moment, he is nothing but the sad embodiment of failure, slowly being swallowed by the darkness around him as he slips into a uniform that is not his own, a mask that is simply not him. And there has never been a time before where he has not hated a human being more than at this very moment.

"I know it seems bad now. But trust me: You'll learn to like it."

Slade's tone is smooth and coated with mocking comfort as he circles him like a predator that has finally ensnared its long elusive prey; the newly declared apprentice can feel his enemy sizing him up, evaluating every detail with a critical eye. The boy wants to strike out, to release his inner anger in a single punch sent directly at the mask that haunts both his dreams and simple, everyday thoughts.

But he can't. There is too much at stake, too many precious lives at risk to think selfishly. Batman always told him that heroes were self—sacrificing people, putting themselves before others. He never quite understood the full weight of those words…not until now. Not until a true burden is placed on his shoulders, and he is forced to make a decision between freedom and the ones that matter the most.

Is this what he deserves, after so many years of saving the day? Is this his reward?

The questions rebound within his empty thoughts as he stands, cold and alone, below a shallow pool of faint light.

It is what leads him to ask about the duty of a "hero." Is being enslaved against your own will part of what Batman was talking about? Is working for your greatest nightmare to spare your friends one of the noble deeds that he must follow through with to pursue the title of a true hero? …Is it worth it? Being honest, always following the laws of justice, pushing away the personal things in your heart to make way for an person that the public can look up to and think is perfect…is it worth it?

In a word: No.

R-S-R-S

Starfire perched on the edge of her chair nervously, waiting for Robin to awake. Much of the Earth hours had passed since he had collapsed in bed, quiet and brooding…He had been that way ever since they had left behind Slade's lair to slowly destroy itself. And now…what? What would happen when he should finally awake? Would Robin return to his normal self, or would he retreat to the shadows of his room to think and be alone. Starfire hoped not…when he did that, he was transformed into a different person; not her friend, but someone…

Like Slade.

When he became that way, she felt as if there was nothing she could do to reach out to him and pull him out of the dark; it was mostly because of the way he caused her to feel…so hurt and confused…and shallow. Starfire was not exactly quite as naïve as she often appeared to others, including her friends: When Robin shut her out of his life, she got the sense that he thought she couldn't understand what he was going through. It was, of course, a lie.

Starfire did not have to constantly deal with someone like Slade, but she believed that if Robin would open up and talk to her, she might be able to say something that could possibly heal some of the wounds hidden beneath the surface. And yet—

What did she know? No doubt, it was something that she assumed the Titans asked one another. It was true, she could not comprehend the evil within human beings…But that didn't mean she hadn't encountered it before…

Days upon days that stacked on top of one another, as she underwent multiple, torturous experiments, while alien eyes blinked inquisitively at her, taking mental notes of the changes that racked her body and made her scream in pain alongside her sister.

But she had taken something from that murderous experience, aside from memories that she somehow skillfully hid within her: Starbolts, her weapons of defensive power.

Raven had once described a curious sort of bird to her: Something called a "phoenix"? It could be destroyed many times…and yet it would always rise from the ashes, reborn after death. It was like her; she had traveled to Earth, a princess cast away from her home, where she became a hero known throughout the planet.

And Robin…?

R-S-R-S

He was delirious, lost in a swirling white fog that enveloped him, cradling him in another reality like a mother gently holding her child as she whispered sweet lullabies in their ear. It was something his mother had done for him long ago…he could still remember the words, actually. The silence had brought back many things he hadn't even known about, lost chapters in the story of his life. He was jerked back into the cruel world in which he lived though, when Slade roughly grabbed his head, fingers digging into his skull. And the pain returned in a white—hot surge, cuts and bruises slashed upon both flesh and mind.

For the first time, as he lay curled there, he began to doubt the fantasies of being rescued. He was afraid of being trapped forever…so very afraid…

"I made you my apprentice," The man growled in his ear, venom dripping from every word like poison.

"All my knowledge, all my power, all for you…"

Oh? Why did that feel like it was a lie?

"But the only thing you care about, are your worthless, little FRIENDS!"

He'd never heard Slade so angry before, never witnessed such an outburst coming from the man; the very effect twisted his usual, bored voice, and it was enough to make him to listen and try to decipher these strange words.

Slade thought he was doing him a favor…how? By crushing his spirit and attempting to destroy the triumphant "hero" that the boy was throwing everything away for, just to transform into? But…it made sense too…he, in all honesty, loathed the thought of losing his personality in order to protect. Slade was offering another course, a different option; villains often applied passion when it came to their schemes, no matter how pathetic or how brilliant they were on a grand scale. It was a way to avoid the fate of plastic perfection that awaited him, should he continue to strive for the goal that most young teen defenders looked forward to.

And once they exceeded the expectations and standards of society and they became adults, they often joined the Justice League, where they served until the end of their days. It was the same path that all those like him tread, over and over again…and he didn't want it. When he was younger, his parents inspired him with speeches empowering individuality. The last thing he wanted was to let them down. He always had a choice…

Well, here it was, standing right before him and blazing in orange and black colors. Yet why wasn't he practically jumping at the chance?

Because it's wrong, and he knows it. It's all wrong.

Somehow, the beaten apprentice managed to push himself to his feet, despite the stabs of agony that were running through his veins and spreading through his entire body. It was a miracle that he was able to suppress the groans of pain that were about to escape from his mouth. Slade's back to him; if only he had a knife, or some sort of weapon that he could wield…he'd drive it right into the very center of the man's back; he'd would probably smile in a maniacal sort of way that would make Slade proud, even as he lay in his own blood.

He won't, though. Becoming a murderer would only finalize his imprisonment, even if Slade died. He had to make do with only his fists.

"If the Titans are so distracting, maybe I should just get rid of them?"

Slade held up his hand suggestively, trigger visible to his student's eyes. It might be posed as a sort of "innocent question," but its true meaning is clearer than the sunlight that the apprentice has grown to miss, even after a day or two—or is it a century? The boy can't be sure anymore…

"Don't…"

He hates lowering himself to the level of pleading with this "human," but he also knows that this is exactly what he is expected to say, in order to rescue innocents…why does this sound so familiar?

"I'll do whatever you say…"

"Good boy."

It's that particular, wretched phrase that makes him want to gag in disgust. When Slade says that, it creates the feeling that the former Boy Wonder is nothing more than a dog, existing to please and obey.

"And—"

A feeling of dread swept into his stomach, as he anticipated the coming words.

"—From now on, I'd like you to call me Master."

It was exactly at that moment when a familiar bolt of green light hurtled through the musty air to smash, head—long into Slade, throwing him into the wall.

"Leave. Him. Alone."

R-S-R-S

Hesitantly, Robin's eyes flickered open, widening with every blink. Starfire could barely contain her joy at seeing him conscious again. It was all she could do, not to captivate him in one of her infamous, bone—crushing hugs.

"Friend Robin, you are awake!"

Her leader winced and touched one of his ears in a joking manner.

"Ow…Star, not so loud…"

"Oh—" The alien girl immediately lowered her voice to a gentle whisper. "—Is this better?"

The Boy Wonder laughed softly, and Starfire felt one of her kind smiles creeping over her face. He was going to be all right…

Meanwhile, Robin was peering curiously around the barely lit hospital wing, masked eyes squinting carefully at the darker corners. His friend noticed this and felt her joy drop a few notches…after this experience, she doubted he would ever fully heal…

"What happened?" He asked warily. It wasn't much of a casual question rather than a firm command. Starfire obliged, filling in the blanks as she explained how she'd carried him home, how he'd barely been awake and had fallen asleep as soon as he had climbed into bed. She continued to chatter, pretending to be oblivious, while she took in his creased brow and the worried expression plastered on his face that revealed he was barely paying attention to the things she said.

"And Slade?"

Starfire was a bit thrown by this, but she quickly recovered.

"We have failed to capture him…again…" She trailed off as a spasm of disappointment passed over Robin's face before he replaced it with his usual somber look.

"Oh…that's all right…I guess I should have known better than to say something dumb like that, huh?" He grinned sardonically, and Starfire's hopes fell. As soon as he was better, Robin would continue to research the madman, never resting, never stopping until he caught him…or until Slade caught him again.

She couldn't let that happen.

Robin yawned widely and muttered:

"I'm still pretty tired…I'm gonna go back to sleep, if that's okay with you…"

Starfire nodded, trying to swallow the lump building in her throat as her leader collapsed once more, lost in the world of dreams. Then, cautiously, she reached out and gently pushed the hair that had fallen in front of his closed eyes. She didn't bother to worry if he were still awake; he was so exhausted…

"Robin…I swear on the moons of Karthor…you will not be hurt by Slade…"

And she meant it, with all of her heart.

R-S-R-S

Ah, failure.

The word left a bitter taste in his mouth and a twisted feeling in his stomach as he spoke it. All those months of careful planning, as he overlooked details and created the nanoscopic probes, as he designed the perfect trap—

Only to meet a dead end.

It seemed as if, once again, Robin managed to slip through his fingers, and oh, how it vexed him. After all the pathetic men that he had assassinated, after all the human souls that he had broken in half with one swift stroke, it was a foolish little boy that caused him so much trouble.

That made it all the more humiliating.

How dare that brat defy him? It was a rare honor, especially for a child, to be given the chance to join him in his quest for power, and a personal invitation at that. The boy was so unwise…and it would cost him.

Slade had attempted to give Robin a chance to avoid the impending doom that lay in store for virtue and serve evil's forces, to join the side where he truly belonged. The kick that had shattered his mask had been enough of an answer. It was disappointing, knowing that someone with potential like that would reject such an offer. But life was about choices. And Robin had made his.

So be it.

R-S-R-S

A gentle knock rang on his door, signaling another presence lingering outside of his room. Sighing slightly, Robin crossed over the ocean of newspapers and information to reach the handle, sliding it open to reveal none other than Starfire.

"Hello."

Robin bit his lip, resisting the urge to smile with her as her face beamed like a beacon in a world of night.

"Hello, Star. Did you want something?"

The alien girl giggled nervously.

"Well, friends Beast Boy and Cyborg are wondering what we might have to eat, and whether it is to be the meat, or the soy…They are demanding your answer…and…I am wondering if you might wish to join us for the feast of dinner—"

She faltered though, as Robin's face darkened.

"No, Starfire. No thank you; I'm not hungry."

"But I…" The girl stopped herself, before she could say more.

"But what?" Robin asked, interested in spite of his focus on the Slade case. Starfire merely sighed, and murmured listlessly:

"Oh…nothing, friend Robin. I…I will see you in the morning…"

She drifted off without another word, leaving Robin with his thoughts.

'All I wanted to tell her was how much I loved her.'

"I want you to know that I will always be there for you. I will always be there to take care of you. I promise you that… I will always be your friend."

"…Only a friend, Peter Parker?"

"That's all I have to give."

--Spiderman

Fin.

So…good? Pointless? Please: I want to know what you think. Especially if I should continue or not. I don't have an issue with leaving it as it is, but if there are people who are interested, I can continue…if you really want.

Looking forward to your comments—

Rebel-Aquarius