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"Go away, Red, this is dangerous!" Robin growled, edging closer to the crate in the middle of the floor. It was exactly where Slade had said it would be.
"Hah! I laugh in the face of danger!" Red chuckled.
"Are you sure it wasn't a mirror you were looking in at the time…?" Robin smirked at his… boyfriend? Well… they were an item, of sorts anyway, but he had yet to see the thief's whole face.
Red picked up on the theme, it was one often repeated after all.
"Oh, don't be bitter, honey-buns! I'll let you rest your eyes on my divine beauty in time… you just have to earn it first."
Robin winced at the pet name… Red seemed to love to come up with new ones…
"Seriously. This is a bomb, dimwit! God, you must be extremely gorgeous to be this dumb!"
"I am… Hey! Be nice to me!"
"Make yourself useful and try to contact the Titans again", Robin chuckled and tossed Red his communicator.
"And what should I say if they actually answer? They would think I stole it and wouldn't believe a word I'll tell them."
X had a point, but Robin just shrugged.
"Just try! I have been at it for the last ten minutes."
"What? Tired of walking into Slade's traps by yourself?"
"That's why I'll keep you company!" Red sounded happy with his decision. "Besides, I know a thing or two about circuits. I might be of some use."
"That would be a first…" Robin muttered but grinned back at Red who just shook his head sadly.
"Oh, how cruelly I am treated! I feel another 'Dear Amanda'-letter coming on…"
"That was you?!"
'Dear Amanda' was the local newspaper's column for 'matters of the heart', and there had been a very colorful letter published the other week, that had the whole town buzzing.
Red nodded solemnly. "Where else is a heartbroken boy to turn?"
"But… but…. 'my boyfriend is ashamed of me'?! The verbal abuse?! 'He's obsessed with an older man'?! Is that supposed to be Slade?! And 'his high status in society seems to prevent him from admitting he's gay'!?" The last thing was the stuff that got everyone gossiping.
"Well, you are mean, your wall is plastered with Slade-pictures instead of pictures of me and you never take me out anywhere nice! I haven't even met your friends!" Red wailed, but Robin could hear the mocking tone in his voice.
"Shut up, darling." he sighed with a smirk and turned to the crate. They were wasting time here. Red came up right next to him. They edged the lid of the box open, looking for trick wires as they went along. As the boys were able to look into the crate their eyes widened.
"Hey…" Red started "that looks like…"
"Run!" Robin ordered but they had barely taken a few steps when a small charge exploded and a cloud erupted from the box, choking them. They fell to the floor, side by side. Just before Robin blacked out he felt Red's fingers touch his. He wasn't alone.
Robin slowly woke up. He was tied to a chair, aching arms tied behind its back, and his ankles were strapped to the front legs. He raised his head to look around. He spotted Red, who seemed to be in the same situation.
"First to awake. Not surprising."
Robin's head whipped around and he saw Slade, standing by a big table by the other end of the room. Robin swallowed as he saw his and Red's belts on the tabletop, and all the contents spread out for examination. Their belts weren't the only thing missing, though. Boots, gloves and capes had been stripped off the boys too.
Robin was just going to say something in reply when there was a soft moan from X and his attention shifted to the other boy.
"Oh, damn my head hurts…" His eyes lifted and met Robin's "I think it's bad for my health hanging around you, kid."
Robin gave him a warning glare and Red spotted Slade.
Slade chuckled and continued to rifle through the boys belongings. He was right now unfolding a note.
Damn-damn-damn… Robin cursed as he recognized it. Red had left him that one earlier that day. They left messages to each other in a few designated places… it wasn't like they could pick up the phone, and Red refused a communicator as that would make him traceable… he might trust Robin, to a degree, but the other Titans? No way…
"'C U 2-night? W's roof.'…" Slade read. "What's this, Robin? Are you dating? Anyone special?"
"Just tell me what you want, Slade. And what is Red X doing here?"
"I must say I was surprised to find him next to you… What where you doing there, boy?" he stalked over to Red, who tried to pull back a bit.
"Hey, innocent bystander here! I just saw Robin go for the case and I figured it might be something valuable in it."
"And I always thought Robin's curiosity would kill him. Ah, well. I'll take care of you in a moment."
"Let him go, Slade, he has nothing to do with this…" he growled.
"I didn't spend all the time messing with the Titan's communication system and building that knock-out bomb to let a witness go. No. Can't have any rumors and, as I heard, this thief has quite the mouth on him. Besides, I'm doing you a favor, ridding the city of a known criminal. You should be thankful."
"Yeah, shut up, kid, I don't need your help…" Red spat haughtily, shaking his head almost invisibly to warn Robin from giving anything away.
Slade turned from them and the two boys exchanged a worried glance. The man finished sorting through the equipment and then made it over to Red again. "Time to say goodbye. Don't worry, I'll make it quick." He raised a hand.
"No!" Robin yelled, unable to stop himself. "Don't you dare!"
"What, Robin?" Slade sounded surprised. "I shouldn't do it in front of you? Aw, well, as a favor…" he grabbed the back of Red's chair and started pulling it from the room.
"Stop! Slade, stop! I'll swear I'll kill you if you… Please!" Robin's voice cracked, and Slade wasn't one to miss the implication this time.
"Robin? You don't mean to tell me this boy" he grabbed Red's chin forcefully "is special to you? How sweet…"
"Let him go, you bastard!" Robin warned.
A sound like a thunderclap echoed through the room and Red gasped, his head tilted to the side. Slade had backhanded him across the face.
"New rules, Robin. Any of you misbehave and the other gets the punishment. Is that clear?"
Robin just stared at him with hatred in his eyes, and Slade raised his hand again.
"That was a question, boy. Is. That. Clear?"
"…Yes." Robin answered between clenched teeth.
He dragged the chair back and positioned it in front of Robin's.
"Let's get to know each other, eh, Richard?" the man grinned.
Red's head snapped up at the mentioning of Robin's real name and he stared at Slade. Robin tried not to show his fear, but his heart pounded against his ribs as he realized that Slade knew who he was.
"Yes, I know. I planned to use it to get you to consent to a little deal, but now…" he patted Red's head. "I have something better, don't you agree?"
Robin bit his lip to keep himself from shouting at Slade.
"How long have you two been dating, then?" Slade wanted to know and turned to Red X. "That was a question too, boy…"
"I… we… just started…" Red answered.
"Does Robin know what you look like?"
Red shook his head.
"What a treat he is in for then…" Slade said and pulled the thief's mask off. The boys both gasped. Red had tousled chestnut colored hair that shifted in copper, and big blue-green eyes. Robin took in all the small details. The high cheekbones, the chin that had a little dent in the middle, the wide mouth with those lips he loved, but had only glimpsed before, the small mole under his right eye… although the face was serious now, Robin could easily picture those eyes lighting up and the dimples deepening as Red would laugh.
Robin couldn't help it. He smiled.
"I stand corrected. You were right… you are prettier than me…"
He got a small grin in reply, warming his heart.
"Told you so…"
Slade chuckled again, enjoying himself immensely.
"And now, to Robin." Slade ripped off the hero's mask too, without hesitation, and, for the first time, Red saw his boyfriend's eyes without the night-vision filter.
"Aw, maaaan!" the boy wailed. "That's just not fair!"
"What?!" Robin sounded slightly peeved. Red was disappointed?!
"You just took the lead again, kid…" The thief grinned and Robin laughed despite himself. Red then turned to Slade. "Your turn?" he asked hopefully.
"I shouldn't think so, boy. I'm glad you are enjoying yourselves, though… better savor the moment…" Slade said dryly. "You futures might not lead to that many laughs."
"What is it you want?" Robin had had enough.
"Duh!" Red said rolling his eyes. "You are a bit daft too, once in a while… he wants you back as his apprentice again, of course…"
"Actually, no." Slade denied smugly. "I need you to get something for me."
"So? You want me to steal for you? How is that any different from being your apprentice?"
"Because when you have completed the mission, you will be free to go. If you want to, that is. And, if you behave, you will still have your little pet here, to take home with you."
"I'm not a pet, dirtbag!" Red snarled and Robin's world erupted in pain.
"God, Robin! I'm sorry!" Red exclaimed.
"That's… ok…" Robin panted.
"Apologize to me." Slade growled.
Red lowered his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Slade."
"There. Is it so hard, being civil? I have a feeling both of you will have much better manners when I'm through with you."
The boy's looked at each other and shuddered.
Slade cut Robin's bonds and forced him to his feet. Robin's instinct was to struggle, but the man stopped him.
"Be good, or I'll accidentally slip with my knife when I release your friend." he warned. He herded Robin towards an inner door and Red shouted after them.
"Hey! Where are you taking him!? Come back!"
"Don't worry. I am merely escorting him to your new home. I'll come back for you." Slade answered while not taking his eye of Robin for a second.
Slade and Robin entered a rather big room with a cell set in one end. It looked like the sheriff's arrest in some old western flick as it didn't have a real wall, only bars, facing the room. The rest of the space looked like a bare office, with desks and shelves. There were some office supplies and a desk lamp but otherwise it was pretty much empty.
Slade opened the gate and pushed Robin inside. As the gate clicked shut the man turned and went to fetch the next boy.
Robin waited nervously and breathed a sigh of relief when they entered only a short while later.
"Back away from the door, Robin." Slade ordered and the boy obeyed. "I did only expect you as my guest, so I'm afraid that you will have to share. I don't think you will mind though, will you? Any misbehavior, however, and I'll take your boyfriend away. Piece by piece." he warned Robin.
"I understand." Robin was just glad that he was soon to be close to Red again. Slade opened the door and Red rushed up to him, drawing him into a hug. Robin, although still uncomfortable with showing any public affection, didn't back away. He had been so afraid he would lose Red. He wound his arms around the taller boy and hugged him back fiercely.
"Ahhh… young love. Isn't that sweet." Slade drawled. "Enjoy yourselves, children. And, by the way: this gate opens only to my touch, and of course, you are being monitored." he added, gesturing to some cameras, mounted in the outer room. "Work starts tomorrow." he said before leaving the room. The boys could hear the outer door locking as well.
"O-kay…" Red whispered. "So are we in trouble, or what…?"
"We are. Deeply." Robin murmured, looking around. "Let's see just how much…"
They searched the cell from floor to ceiling. No windows. The only thing in it was a narrow steel-framed bed that seemed to be bolted to the floor, a partition barely hiding a toilet, and a small sink. At least we won't be thirsty, Robin thought, and tried the taps. No water. His eyes followed the pipes and saw that they lead out into the next room where he could see a main valve. Red followed his eyes.
Robin nodded. He hadn't expected anything else, though. The bars were their last hope. The vertical rods were strengthened by horizontal bars at even intervals. They didn't even give a fraction when carefully pushed and prodded. Set into the concrete floor and ceiling and made of high quality steel, the bars and gate were hopeless. Their movements were deliberately slow, and they conducted their examinations carefully. They knew that they were being watched, and this way, they hoped, Slade wouldn't punish them for trying to break out.
Finally Robin sat down on the bed. If he had been alone, he would have done his best by now to try and break down the bed hoping to use it to pry the bars apart, but Red was with him. Slade had been right. He would do anything to protect Red. Said young man came over and sat down next to him. Wrapping an arm around his shoulders he drew him nearer and they both curled up together. Robin shivered as his back leaned against the cold wall. He tugged the blanket off the bed and wrapped it around the both of them.
"What are we going to do?" Red asked, and Robin heard that there was very little left of the usual gusto in his voice.
"I don't know… But we'll find a way…"
"Sure! It's us! Who can hold the leader of the Teen Titans and the world's greatest thief? No one! Well… not for long, anyway… right, blue eyes?"
"Right…" Robin smiled up at him, glad to hear that swaggering tone again. Red smiled back and leaned in for a kiss. Robin's eyes darted to the cameras.
"What about Slade?"
"Screw Slade. Are you going to let him control us in this too?"
"No. No I won't." Robin said decisively. Red deserved better than that. He understood that now. Robin drew the boy closer.
Kissing Red like this was fantastic. Finally Robin could run his hands through Red's hair, let his lips explore the long-hidden face and nip softly at his earlobes. Slade and his cameras were blissfully forgotten for a moment, that is, until the man walked back into the room. He was followed by two Slade-bots who carried bundles of what looked like clothes.
"I should tell you to get a room, but that seems rather pointless." Slade said dryly. "I never figured you would hook up with a petty thief, though, Robin. Don't you have standards?"
"I'm not a petty thief!" Red objected. "I'm a marvelous thief!"
"You are." Robin agreed. "You would have to be, since you managed to steel my heart, right?" he grinned.
"Awww… that was more like a trade…" Red quipped back.
"Stop it you two, or I'll separate you." Slade growled. "Now strip." he ordered the startled boys.
"What? Why?" Robin asked alarmed.
"Perv." Red muttered under his breath. Unfortunately Slade heard him.
"Robin. Come here." he called, grey eye digging into Red.
"No!" Red protested, stepping in front of Robin. "No, I'm sorry, all right?"
"You will be if you do not learn some respect." Slade promised. "Robin. Here. Now!"
Robin put a hand on Red's arm, trying to calm him down and stepped towards the gate in front of Slade.
"Put your hands through the bars, palms up."
Robin bit his lip and obeyed. Slade turned away from him and went to the shelves with the office supplies. When he turned back he had a long, wooden ruler in his hands. Robin's eyes widened and he heard a gasp from behind him.
"Slade, you-!" Red shouted.
"'You' what?" Slade snarled. "I haven't decided how many strikes he will receive yet, but I will be glad to double it. Now. What was it you were going to say?"
"That… that… you are not one of my favorite people in the world right now."
Robin tried to hide a chuckle and even Slade seemed slightly amused.
"Very well. Since I will need your hands in the morning I will go easy on you this one time. Ten strikes."
The ruler hissed through the air and Robin cried out as it hit his unprotected fingers and palms. Red rushed up to him, held him from behind and whispered in his ear.
"I'm sorry – I'm sorry – I'm sorry – I'm sorry…" Robin thought he could hear the older boy sob. He turned his head and caught Red's lips, only wincing when a new strike hit.
His hands had red marks across them and burned painfully as the last strike was administered.
"You may withdraw your hands." Slade said, noting with satisfaction that Robin had left them there, waiting for permission. The boy remembered his apprentice days.
They were made to take off everything but their underwear and socks. Instead they were given rough, simple clothes that reminded Robin of hospital scrubs. Red's was slightly too short in the legs and arms as they were meant for Robin. Their clothes were taken away, but before he left, Slade had one more nasty surprise for them.
"I fear that you might not be so well behaved when there are bars between us, as young Mr. X already have proven. So I got you these."
He held up two plastic stripes that looked like cable-ties.
"Who's first?" Slade asked. "Mr. X? Are you going to step up for once?"
Red glared at the man and boldly strode up to the bars.
"Turn around." Slade instructed, and as the boy did, he slipped the cord around his neck and tightened it. The clasp worked like that on a cable-tie too: it was easy to pull the cord through it, but impossible to loosen. The inside was lined with a thin metal wire. He clipped off the end with a pair of scissors and studied his handiwork. "If you try to take it off, I will know. Now. Let's see if it works." He raised a small control and Red backed away from him. As Slade pressed down on the button a low, buzzing sound could be heard. The boy's face contorted in pain as he fell crying to his knees, clutching at his throat.
Robin lost it. Heflew, snarling, at the bars, trying to snatch the control from Slade. The man caught him, instead, and let the two androids hold the boy as he fastened the other cord around Robin's neck. Robin screamed at the man, trying to kick him through the bars. At last he managed to pull one of the robots so violently against a steel pole that its head dented badly and it fell to the floor. Robin pulled himself free and faced Slade, growling.
"Tsk-tsk-tsk Robin. I really thought you would be the better behaved one. And what your boyfriend is experiencing now, is only the low setting. I think I'll demonstrate what these things really can do. On both of you."
The pain was blinding, making Robin fall to the floor. It only seemed to get worse, though, and Robin couldn't hold back the screams. They mixed with Red's cries and at the end, his body lay convulsing on the floor, fighting to survive. The darkness was very welcome.
When Robin awoke it was night. Well, as there wasn't any natural light, he was unsure what time it was. Someone had flicked of the lights, though. He groaned as he felt himself being dragged along the floor.
"Rob? Are you awake?"
"Come on, I'm not Superman, muffin… help a bit, 'kay?"
Robin managed a chuckle and tried to stand up. His whole body ached, like he had been stuck in some crazy automatic work-out machine for hours. The pair finally stumbled onto the bed and Red pulled the blanket over them. Robin was very aware of Red's body against his back. They had never been this close before… If it wasn't for Slade he would have enjoyed it more.
"You should come with a warning label… 'could be hazardous to you health'" Red muttered in Robin's ear. He nibbled a bit on it. "You are, unfortunately, addictive too…"
"First you say you are hungry, and now you are chewing on my earlobe…should I be concerned?"
"I would love to eat you all up, sugarplum, but I'm too tired…"
They lay there, close together for a while, in silence.
"Can I ask you something personal?" Robin suddenly mumbled.
"Anything, chocolate bunny."
"What's… what's your name?"
Red chuckled in his ear.
"Well, here's the thing… It's Richard."
"Yeah… Rick for short… I bloody near had a heart attack when Slade said it… I though he knew who I was…"
"What's your last name, then?"
Robin laughed. "You're kidding? Knight?!"
"What? I'm a gentleman, after all…"
"How do you figure that?" Robin smirked.
"Well… I have a very hot little virgin in my arms, and he is perfectly safe… isn't that chivalrous?"
Robin almost suffocated.
"Awww… come on, cookie-crumb, I'm only kidding… of course you're not safe…" He growled playfully and nibbled a gasping Robin on the neck.
"Where do you find the energy?" Robin complained. "I'm tired and sore all over, and you are being flirty? How do you do it?"
"Years of practice, apple-pie."
"Stop with the food-names… I'm hungry too…"
"Salmon-rolls are food."
"Yeah, but I don't like fish..."
When Robin finished chuckling, Red had a question of his own.
"What's your last name, then…?"
Robin felt ashamed as he hesitated a moment. But, yes. He could trust Red. He knew he could.
"Hello Richard Grayson…" Red murmured and hugged him closer. Then Robin heard him draw a breath.
Oh, god… here we go…
"R-richard GRAYSON?! As in Bruce Wayne's ward?!"
Robin waited for his boyfriend's brain to catch up… another intake of breath confirmed it had. Eventually.
"Bruce Wayne is…?"
"Holy family dinner, Robin…" Red was quiet for a bit longer and then Robin heard him laugh softly.
"Guess I made a really lucky catch, eh? Getting myself a rich boyfriend! I'm sooo going places!"
"You are not going to go to any places if you don't drop that line of thought."
Reds chuckle grew louder. "Yes, sir!"
Robin laughed. He wanted to kiss him but was too tired to turn around. Besides, Red's warm body against his back felt really good.
"Dimwit. Go to sleep…" he snorted instead.
"As thee command, my liege… pumpkin…" Red murmured. Robin almost thought he had fallen asleep when the boy spoke sleepily again.
"Yeah… you are dangerous to hang around, kid… If Slade don't kill me I swear Bats will… but I love you…"
Robin's heart did a freaking flip…. Which should be biological impossible, but that was what it felt like…
"I love you too…" he whispered back, and smiled as Red's arms tightened around him.
A few minutes later both boys were asleep.
To be continued…
A/N: First chapter DOWN. I must warn you, though, that I don't have everything planned out for this one, and winging it might mean it takes some time between updates… Yeah, and you won't listen because I usually update quite quickly, right… I have a few more pages ready, but I'm doing this the usual way and will work ahead for at least a chapter to have time to edit. Any plot-ideas are welcome.
Oh, and please review!