PortofSeas, a.k.a. Shigure-Sensei or Talon.
Disclaimer: Teen Titans is not mine. There.
Aah!The end atlast. Who ever knew I'd have the attention span to actually post this entire thing.Thanks again for the wonderful reviews and sticking with this story. I might take it down for another editing and re-post it, but for now it'll stay. Thank you for not letting me quit posting! I love you all! Or I'm sure I would if I ever met you in person. And may Robin forgive me for writing this last autumn. I seriously can't see a Teen Titans plushie or poster without feeling like he's glaring. Maybe this chapter will make up for it.
P.S. Don't be afraid to review. It makes me happy...
Chapter 9: Conquer
"Robin! It's me," Batman cried, but Robin didn't seem to hear him, attacking almost savagely, as though there was nothing else his mind was capable of knowing. Batman was at a loss, unable to do anything but defend himself. Robin was losing strength quickly.
"Robin, do not do this!" Starfire insisted, flying in and grabbing him by the arms. "Batman is your friend, you must not harm him!"
Robin let out an angry cry and threw Starfire aside.
"He doesn't realize what he's doing," Batman told her. "It won't do us any good to try to talk reason to him."
The doors behind them opened and Cyborg stepped in, soon followed by Raven and Beast Boy.
"Whoa, Robin!" Cyborg exclaimed. "What are you doing?"
"He thinks I'm Slade!" Batman explained, catching Robin's flailing arm.
"Raven-" Beast Boy began but the telepath was way ahead of him. Robin suddenly froze, restrained by a darkness that wrapped itself around him. He struggled against his bonds, his labored breath coming in short, quick gasps. Batman took a few hesitant steps toward him, extending his arm.
"No!" Robin cried. "No, please! Don't!"
Batman faltered and withdrew his outstretched hand. After a few more brief moments of struggling, Robin went limp, his eyes fluttering shut. But no sense of calm enveloped him. Gently, Raven dropped him to the floor.
Starfire rushed to Robin's side, tenderly resting a hand on his heated forehead, gazing in concern.
"He is not well," she told him. "He is still having his nightmare."
"Man, the poor guy's a wreck," Cyborg sighed in dismay.
"I wish there was something we could do," Beast Boy agreed. They were all silent for a few moments until Raven's eyes suddenly took on a peculiar gleam.
"Beast Boy, that's it!"
"What?" he demanded.
Raven turned to Batman hopefully.
"We've been able to help him after he wakes up, when the dream is already gone. It may have looked like he was getting better, but I think it was just building up inside. So we need to go inside to help him.
"You're gonna-" Beast Boy began. "Eew…Well, you're gonna need a shrink ray, body suits, and a laser!"
"She means inside his mind," Batman pointed out, turning his full attention to Raven. "Can you do that?"
"I think it's worth a shot."
"You sure that's a good idea?" Cyborg asked. "His mind's probably sensitive right now."
"This self-destruction has to stop," Raven insisted. "Robin is our leader, but right now he needs us to lead him."
Starfire, who had been silent until this time, glanced up at Raven and nodded.
"Please, we need to bring him back."
Raven settled herself down beside Robin's still form, Batman sitting pensively beside her. A small collection of candles had been set up around them, flickering in the still dark room.
"What're the candles for?" Beast Boy whispered.
"They help her to relax and concentrate," Starfire explained in a hushed voice.
Chanting softly, Raven took Batman's hand with her own hand and laid her other on Robin's head.
"Are you ready?" she asked, not opening her eyes. Batman sighed, nervous. But Starfire's anxious gaze urged him on.
"As ready as I'll probably ever be," he told her.
Raven gave the slightest of nods and went on chanting. Batman's eyes seemed to suddenly cloud over with black, and the room before him disappeared. For a few moments he was trapped in a thick, suffocating darkness, unsure of where he was or how long he would remain. Then, the darkness cleared and he was in a cavernous room, lit by computer monitors that lit evilly upon the twisted rock formations.
"I'm surprised it worked so easily," Raven said coolly behind him. "I've never taken anyone else inside a mind with me."
"Where are we?" Batman inquired, not liking the place at all.
"Slade's old base. It was destroyed after Slade tried to control Terra. It's probably still preserved in his mind."
Batman gazed about the place, a sickening feeling in his stomach. This was the place where Robin had suffered under the hand of some madman.
It was then that they heard his pain-filled cry. Heart pounding, Batman took off, searching for the source. When he found them, his heart nearly stopped. Slade was standing over his collapsed form, beating him mercilessly. It was something Robin had described to the dark hero, but Batman had never really imagined what it must be like. So, this was what his friend -almost his son- endured every night.
With fury filling his heart, he charged forward and knocked Slade aside, angrily serving him the blows he had given Robin. Slade struck back, cutting Batman's lip, but he didn't care. With one final kick, he sent the villain crashing into one of his own rock formations, shattering the earthen structure and crashing the stones upon Robin's tormentor. It seemed that he was more powerful when he was in Robin's mind.
Fear erupted in his heart when he remembered Robin's condition. He dashed to Robin's side, dropping to his knees and lifting the boy tenderly, as though afraid that he might break, off the floor.
"Is it such a good idea to intrude like that?" Raven asked. Batman hesitated.
"It's never happened before, and we're here to change it for him, after all."
Robin stirred, his eyes opening slowly.
"Who's there?" he murmured.
"Just an old friend," Batman answered, relief flooding through him. Robin's eyes widened and he jumped out of Batman's grasp, breathing heavily.
"What are you doing here? Get out, he'll kill you."
"It's all right, he isn't here right now," Batman explained calmly. Raven stepped out of the way, not wanting to intrude.
"No, you have to listen to me!" Robin insisted. "You have to get out, he'll kill you, I swear."
"And stay to fight him yourself?"
"Slade is my enemy. I'm the one who has to defeat him!" Robin cried.
"Not if you don't believe you can."
"I have to stop him, no one else can do it," his words sounded rehearsed, as though he repeated them to himself over and over again.
"Robin, you don't have to devote you life to this."
"Who else will?"
"You don't have to think you're the only one, Robin. You need to let go."
"I can't, I'm the only one, that's who I am now!"
"No, Robin. You're just letting it get to you. You don't have to kill yourself over this."
"You don't get it! I have to, even if it kills me. That's who I am now!"
"You're Dick Grayson!" Batman cried. "You're still a boy, and that's all! Stop doing this to yourself!"
Robin froze, his eyes wide, and Batman immediately knew why. He had crossed the line this time, taken it too far, resurfaced old memories. The scene around him flickered as Robin struggled with another nightmare, one he hadn't experienced in forever. A circus tent, lights bright. The acrobats swinging up on the trapeze, and falling, falling. Body bags being pulled out of an ambulance. Piece by piece, Robin was reliving the death of the Flying Graysons. The night he was orphaned.
The room around them hardened back into the cavern. Robin, breathing heavily to fight off the heresy of tears, sank to his knees. Guiltily, Batman kneeled before him, laying a hand on the boy's shaking shoulder.
"I'm sorry-" he began, but Robin cut him off.
"No, you're right. I'm not acting like myself. I-I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lost my temper."
"I introduced you to this world of heroes and villains, Robin," Batman comforted. "Therefore, I'm responsible for whatever happens to you as long as you do this. I don't want you to drown in your own responsibility."
"It's no good." Hot tears slipped down the Boy Wonder's hot cheeks. "I'm weak, and I know it. I couldn't save them…I can't even save myself. So what am I supposed to do?"
Batman leaned in and pulled Robin into a close embrace. The boy was startled for a few seconds, but leaned into his guardian's shoulder and let the tears flow.
"Stop trying to grow up faster than you need to. You're still a boy, Robin. You don't have to take the weight of the world just yet."
Robin sat still, just letting himself feel like a child. Batman's heart swelled with pity and sympathy. He knew what Robin was going through, if not in the same way. It wasn't a surprise to him how defensive the boy had grown earlier, anger growing out of a need to protect. But there was no doubt in his mind that Robin was meant to do this, even if he ran into a few mishaps along the way.
He patted Robin's back soothingly as the boy's shoulders finally stopped shaking. Robin pulled away, hurriedly wiping his eyes.
"Are you going to be okay?"
Robin nodded numbly.
"Yeah, thanks. I guess I needed that."
"That's what I'm here for," he offered Robin a hand up. Smiling, Robin took it.
Raven leaned against the wall away from the two of them. She hadn't heard anything but as far as she could tell things had gotten bad between them, then gotten better again. Wistfully, she wondered how Beast Boy would react to what they weresaying…he probably couldn't crack a joke about it. That was a nice thought-Beast Boy and Cyborg, quiet. Starfire, on the other hand, was the one who could really be enjoying this.
The pile of rubble shifted, causing Raven to jump and take a few nervous steps back. Leave it to Robin's mind to let this happen when she was most vulnerable. Slade burst out from amidst rocks, his menacing aura, intensified by Robin's hatred of him, washed over her like icy waves.
"Slade!" she cried, preparing to defend herself, hoping they had heard her. But her mental powers seemed to flicker and die shortly after she could summon them. Slade angrily back-handed her, sending the telepath crashing into the wall. Raven clutched her aching head, lying still against the wall. Why hadn't her powers- oh, right. This was Robin's mind. Here, he believed he was the only one who could defeat Slade.
Batman and Robin leapt to their feet.
"Raven!" Robin exclaimed. Batman laid a hand on his shoulder.
"This is your mind, Robin. Your rules. Are you ready?"
Robin stared at the approaching figure with fear growing in his heart. He swallowed.
"Yeah. This time, it'll be different."
Batman gave his shoulder a squeeze.
"You can do it. Just don't worry."
Robin nodded, taking a deep breath.
"You go stay with Raven. I'll deal with Slade."
Batman reluctantly left Robin's side, dashing over to check on Raven.
"Raven, are you alright?" He helped Raven clamber to her feet.
"Yeah, just a little rattled. He was so powerful." She let go of her head, letting her eyes focus. "Where's Robin?"
Batman turned to look at his old sidekick. Raven gasped.
"We have to help him-"
"No," Batman placed a firm grip on her shoulder. "This is something Robin has to do on his own."
Robin's heart thudded as Slade drew near. This man had haunted him during all hours, waking and sleeping, threatened his friends, and nearly driven him mad. This man, whose motives hadn't a glimmer of light in them, had nearly cost him his life, and nearly turned the people who meant most to him against him, had made him fight them, had set up other friendships that didn't exist- this man had ruined all their lives. And now, it was time to stop.
Robin took a fighting stance, narrowing his eyes, this was it. With an angry yell, Slade charged, swinging at the ex-acrobat's head. Robin ducked and aimed a kick at Slade's stomach. The villain stumbled, but was hardly disoriented enough to lose his bearings. Snapping back up, he threw a blow at Robin's face, then another and another. Robin recoiled and leapt into the air, kicking his opponent in the chest and somersaulting over him in midair, landing with a faint thud on the ground, his cape fluttering behind him.
Slade stumbled, infuriated behind his mask. But the intensity did nothing to disturb Robin, who felt curiously calm, knowing that Batman was there behind him.
Slade charged, aiming a punch at Robin's head, but Robin dodged, elbowing Slade sharply in the side, grimacing as his elbow dug in between ribs. Slade whirled around, knocking Robin's head. Slade exploded before his eyes, and before the boy could respond, Slade had kicked his feet out form under him, and Robin fell to the ground, the air rushing out of him with a gasp.
Robin rolled out of the way as Slade's fist came crashing down, throwing rock and dust into the air where the boy's head had been.
Clambering to his feet, Robin prepared to attack, but he wasn't fast enough. Slade slammed his boot into Robin's chest, and once again the titan found himself with his back on the cold, stone floor of the cave.
Gloved hands closed around his throat, and Robin choked for air as he was lifted into the air. He gagged and gasped for air, Slade's grip growing tighter and tighter. Robin clawed desperately at the hand around his neck, trying his very hardest to free it. But as the seconds ticked by, he began to feel weaker and more sluggish, the death grip magnified by the dreamscape.
"You're more pathetic every time we meet, Robin," Slade's voice dripped into Robin's ears like burning venom. "You used to actually stand a chance of becoming a threat, but now you're worthless. You can't even take care of yourself."
"No," Robin choked, his body growing limp. His energy was leaving him as his mind clouded over from lack of oxygen. All that echoed in his mind was Slade's hate filled words.
"Each and every one of them is going to die. Maybe I'll keep you alive long enough to watch. After all, it isn't as though you have the power to stop me."
Robin struggled weakly again, frustration growing within him. Shut up, he wanted to yell. Shut up, you're wrong! But his inability to protest was weakening his hazy mind. With a great effort, he glanced over at Batman and Raven. Yellow spots danced before his eyes as he focused on his mentor.
Batman had released Raven's shoulder and was clenching his fists so hard that, were his gloves removed, his knuckles would shine a stark white. He started anxiously at Robin, silently willing him to keep on fighting. More than anything the dark hero wanted to intervene, but he knew better. His eyes met Robin's and stiffly, fueled with agitation, he gave the curtest of nods.
"You're strong, Robin," he murmured, encouraging Robin as best he could.
Still choking for air, Robin nodded weakly. Summoning as much strength as was still left in him, he lashed out with his limp, hanging legs; Slade stumbled, and as his grip loosened enough for Robin to pry his fingers apart. He fell to the floor, coughing and gasping for a breath.
Slade kicked him aside in the ribs, but Robin quickly recovered, leaping to his feet and charging. Slade blocked his every attack and Robin, in turn dodged his. Robin took more than a few blows, but this time he traded them equally with Slade.
"This ends now!" Robin cried, catching Slade by the wrist and hurling him into the ground. Slade jumped back to his feet and swung, but Robin sidestepped him and brought his fists down between Slade's shoulder blades.
"You can't hurt me anymore!" Slade spun around, hooking his foot around Robin's ankles in an attempt to trip him, but the acrobat spun in the air, turning into a roundabout and landing on his feet. Slade's fist was suddenly flying toward his face, but Robin caught it, as he had never been able to.
"You're not in control anymore, Slade," he said bitterly. A small smile crept onto his lips, more enlightened than he'd had in a long time. Slade's eyes grew wide. Robin was no longer going to succumb to his own fear, and in that strength lay Slade's bane.
Robin released Slade's fist and attacked with all his might. This time, Slade couldn't hurt him. He swung again and again, his knuckles striking the black and orange mask until it cracked under the repeated impacts.
Slade stumbled back, falling to his knees, unable to fight back. Robin stood still before him, the smile gone from his lips.
"It's over, Slade."
Slade's eye rolled back in its socket, disappearing form view as he slumped forward, defeated at last.
Robin breathed heavily, his shoulder's heaving. Batman was at his side, half supporting him.
"Good job, Robin," he said, smiling down. Robin returned it.
"Just needed a little help to remember who I was." Concern seemed suddenly etched on his face. "That doesn't have to leave…here, does it?"
"I don't think I know what you're talking about. Are you going to be alright now?"
Robin glanced down at Slade and nodded.
"This time, I think I really won."
Something hard seemed to be pressing into his back, and his face felt hot. Raven glanced around.
"Batman, we'd better go." She turned to Robin. "You're starting to wake up."
"Just when being asleep isn't so bad. Well, I guess I'll see you on the other side."
Batman stepped back and before Robin's eyes, they dissolved into thin air.
Robin smiled as the scene around him shifted and darkened.
"Shh, he's waking up."
"Robin? Are you well?" a voice that reminded Robin of sweet honey questioned.
Robin's eyes fluttered open and he tried to sit up, but it sent the room a spin and he favored lying down.
"Hey man, are you cool now?" Cyborg asked. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Three," Robin muttered, placing a hand on his sweating forehead.
"You are feeling better, Robin?" Starfire pressed. Robin grinned and pushed himself up on his elbows.
"Yeah, a lot better," he glanced momentarily at Batman, who smiled down at him in a way that seemed to say Welcome back, Dick Grayson.
Robin suddenly found himself immersed in a storm of hands hugging him, patting his back, and some even feeling his head. Somehow, he didn't think it could get a whole lot better.
Robin fastened his cape, smiling at his reflection in the mirror. His face was no longer gaunt and shadowed, his body no longer skeletal. His skin, no longer pale and pasty, held a healthy glow. He was finally beginning to feel like his old self again.
There was a knock on his door and Robin turned to see Starfire walk in.
"Robin, we are preparing to volley the ball on the roof. Are you well enough to join us?"
"Yeah, I'd love to."
"Are you certain you are not too sick?" she asked in concern. Robin grinned in amusement at her almost motherly care.
"Don't worry. Ever since the nightmares went away, I've finally gotten better."
"Now I can dream about other things."
Starfire smiled and Robin's heart fluttered just a bit.
"Then that is good," she told him. "Come; let us go to play the game."
Shortly thereafter, the two of them emerged on the roof where Beast Boy and Cyborg waited impatiently as sun down shone upon the tower.
"Come on, dude!" Beast Boy complained. Raven, who sat meditating not far off, cracked open one eye.
"Would you like some cheese with that whine?" she said sarcastically. Beast Boy glared.
"Hey, man, you sure you don't wanna play?"
Batman stared blankly.
"I'd rather watch, thank you."
Robin and Starfire took their places on one side of the net. Cyborg, grinning, served the ball. In mere moments, time was lost in a flurry of hitting, dodging, and arguments as to whether or not the ball was in or out. Robin was only slightly more sluggish than usual, but that was alright, considering how quickly his recent recovery had been.
Starfire was about to hit the ball back to Beast Boy, but froze as their devices began flashing and beeping, not seeming to notice as the volleyball bounced off her head.
Cyborg flipped open his arm.
"Looks like somebody found a bank they like. We'd better go. Robin, you feel up to it?"
"Yeah. Let's go."
The titans leapt to immediate attention, dashing back into the tower. Robin came in the rear, going in with Batman at his side.
"You've done a very good job with this team. I'm glad I'm finally going to have a chance to see you fighting crime."
"Thanks. It's good that you finally came to see us."
"It's not going to be easy, going back to Gotham."
For a few moments, Robin looked crestfallen, but he got over it.
"That's okay. After all, Gotham needs you like Jump City needs us."
They stopped at the lower garage, where Robin kept his bike.
"Ready for one last adventure together?" the boy asked.
The titans tore down the streets, which seemed to have life now in the darkening hours, due to the robbery taking place. Cyborg rode in his car, and Robin on his bike, speeding to catch their criminal.
Robin glanced up through his helmet, his smile widening when he saw a dark figure following them.