The crescent moon reflected weakly in the waters around Titans Island, just before a storm front darkened the sky completely. Thunder rumbled, warning of the downpour to come, as the shadows deepened and spread. Lightning blazed across the night, and rain burst forth from the clouds, pelting the T-shaped tower and its surroundings with a vengeance.
There appeared to be no activity inside the building. The reinforced windows were dark. Assured by Cyborg that his systems would detect any intruders, the Titans were fast asleep; some lost in the oblivion of deep slumber, while others traipsed merrily through pleasant dreams. One, however, was not enjoying his rest.
Tossing and turning in his sleep, Richard Grayson was a helpless participant in a familiar nightmare.
Standing alone in a spotlight, the ground impossibly far below him, he waited for the trapeze bar to come back to him so he could join his mother and father for the big finale. He was a bit nervous. It was just a few weeks ago that he began to practice without the net and tonight they were performing a new move in front of an audience for the first time.
He knew he'd be okay once he took the bar and flew out into space. His reflexes would take over and they'd soon be taking a bow together in the center ring.
Only the bar never made it to him.
The ropes on the trapeze would snap and his parents would fall, screaming as they plummet into the depths.
Sometimes the nightmare would be in slow motion and he could easily make out the look of horror on his mother's face, her eyes bulging and mouth wide. Other times he would follow them to the ground, making out every detail of their crushed and mangled forms an instant before his own body hit.
This night, however, the dream ended differently.
Sobbing over the broken remains of the Flying Graysons, he senses a sudden presence behind him. Face wet with tears, he turns and freezes as a huge, dark shape rises out of the blackness. Stumbling backwards away from the shadowy creature, he falls among the bodies of his parents, whose shattered arms and legs twisted grotesquely around him and hold him fast.
As the monster reaches out with its vast, leathery wings and he catches his first glimpse of its crimson eyes and long fangs, he begins to scream.
Still screaming, Robin bolted upright in his bed.
Where the hell did THAT come from?
Heart still beating rapidly, he jumped out of bed and went to his adjoining bathroom. Not bothering to turn on the lights, he filled the sink with cold water and splashed his face several times. He stared at himself in the mirror, barely making out his reflection in the darkness. Despite this, he still thought he looked pale.
A sudden knock on the door made him jump.
Geeze, I'm really freaked out. Get a grip, Dick.
"Robin?" a soft voice said tentatively from behind the door. "Is everything okay?"
He recognized Starfire's voice immediately.
Normally, he would tell her everything was fine through the door and go back to bed. But tonight, for some reason, he found himself walking over to the door and opening it. Seeing her there in the hallway, wearing ridiculous pink pajamas, immediately put a smile on his face.
"Hello, Star," he said quietly, not really wanting to wake the other Titans, "I'm sorry if I woke you."
"Oh, there is no need for apologies," she said enthusiastically. She then looked more carefully at him and blushed.
He realized then that he was hardly dressed for company.
What is wrong with me, tonight?
She smiled shyly and averted her eyes. "Perhaps it is I who should apologize, Robin. I did not mean to pry."
He quickly donned a robe and tied it shut.
"Why don't you come in, Star. We don't want to wake up the others."
"Are you sure, Robin? Normally you want the privacy."
"I'll make an exception this time."
He grinned and her face lit up. She quickly floated across the threshold and he closed the door behind him. The last thing he needed was Cyborg or Beastboy razzing him about having bad dreams.
He reconsidered his nightmare and what it meant. It didn't really make any sense. Not that dreams had to be sensible, but he realized they were useful glimpses into one's subconscious. Only what was his subconscious trying to tell him?
Her parents crumpled corpses flashed in his mind's eye once again.
He turned on a light and then dimmed it. "Yes, Star?"
"May I ask why you are crying?"
"What?" Shocked, he quickly wiped at his eyes. Sure enough, his fingers came away wet. "Uh, there must have been something in my eye."
She walked over to him and put her arms on his shoulders.
"You can tell me, Robin. I am your friend."
"There's nothing to tell, Starfire," he looked up into her large, caring eyes and quickly realized he couldn't lie straight to her face.
"Actually, I just had a very bad dream and it shook me up a bit, that's all."
I hope that didn't sound as lame as I think it did.
She continued to look at him, concern etched on her lovely features. "On Tameran, we discuss our bad dreams with each other until we feel better. Would you like to discuss your bad dream with me? Perhaps you will feel better as well."
Part of him couldn't believe he was having this conversation. If the guys ever found out . . .
But a part of him enjoyed her desire to help him.
He took her by the hand and led her over to his bed. They both sat down on the edge. She looked about the room for a moment, taking in his décor. He realized then that he had never invited her in here before.
He also wondered what the others would think. He and her, alone in his room in the middle of the night . . .
Cyborg would have a field day.
He brought his attention back to her.
"What was the bad dream about?"
He sighed. Finally, he took the plunge.
"It was about my parents."
She nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"They died when I was only ten. . . "
Outside, the rain was pouring intensely.
On the roof of the Tower, a lone figure was hunched over an access hatch. Ignoring the wind and chill of the storm, he worked patiently. Bypassing the security system was turning out to be more difficult than he had expected.
The designer was good, but unfortunately not quite good enough.
Ten more minutes of diligent hacking finally broke the system, and he was able to open the hatch without triggering the alarms. He slipped through carefully and walked down the stairs, alert to any other defenses the Titan's electronics expert might have cooked up.
He was not disappointed. It took him another 15 minutes to successfully avoid, disarm, or otherwise bypass the security in the stairwell.
Finally, he penetrated the interior of the Tower and began to hunt for his quarry.
The figure's eyes narrowed.
It wouldn't be long now.