A/N: The last chapter. But there are 20 pages of it! Please read the A/N at the end too (after finishing).
Disclaimer: Too tired from writing to come up with anything else than: not mine.
Fear and Loathing
When Robin came back into the cell later that night, Red immediately saw that something was wrong. Fearing the worst he found himself afraid to ask. He had too, though.
Robin looked up at him, taking 'serious expression' to a new level.
"The mission is tomorrow."
Red slumped down on the bed.
"Wow. Well... I guess we knew it was gonna be soon, right?"
"M-hmm." Robin nodded, and to Red's surprise slipped onto his lap. The older boy gave a grin matching the Jokers.
"Pleeeease tell me this is going to be an 'I'm-going-off-to-war-tomorrow'-thing!?" Red asked hopefully.
Robin smiled back and kissed him.
"Could be… but you have a broken arm…"
"Fuck my arm…"
Robin feigned a shocked gasp.
Red looked perplexed for a moment, as he played the conversation back to himself. Then he burst out laughing.
"You got such a dirty mind, sugar-bunny… I love it…"
"You're gonna love this too…" Robin mumbled and started to nibble on his ear.
Red sounded like he liked it very much indeed.
"I… I guess this is a good thing, really?" he managed to ask.
"You guess!?" Robin sounded offended.
"The mission, nutmeg… it being tomorrow… This time tomorrow we might be free, right?"
"Right…" Robin mumbled into his neck.
"But you don't think so, do you…?"
Robin stopped trying to kiss his boyfriend, who for once seemed more interested in talking than making out. Damn him.
"I… I'm not sure… he said… but… I think there's more too it…"
"Me too." Red sighed. "Hey, where did the affection go?"
"Oh, I thought you wanted to have a conversation, honey…" Robin smirked.
"Yeah, right. I promise you a lot of conversations when we get out of here… I could damn well converse you right now, but I wouldn't want Slade to listen in..:"
"Oh, you are all talk…" Robin laughed.
For the first time in days they spent the evening making out. Before, Robin had been too tired and busy with studying the map, but he figured that if he didn't know it by now he was lost anyway. Literately.
They were apparently allowed to sleep in the next day because they both awoke by themselves, feeling rested. It was quite stressful not having access to natural light, as the hours and days melted together. None of them was sure how long they had been kept prisoner but they thought it was around two weeks. Two weeks. Fourteen days… and it felt like forever…
Robin was doing some stretching exercises when Slade finally showed up, flanked by his usual minions. They were given breakfast separately as usual, and Slade had to tell Robin to finish. The boy had knots the size of footballs in his stomach, though, which didn't make it easier.
"You are to leave in an hour." Slade informed him. "Which reminds me…" He took hold of Robin's left wrist and a click was heard as the steel bracelet around it opened. Robin had almost forgotten about it. A questioning look at Slade made the man explain.
"This has a transmitter and a tracker. The circuits would be picked up by security the moment you entered the Vaults."
"Oh. Right. But that means… I can't contact you?"
"No. I told you that you would be alone for this one."
Robin nodded. He guessed he should be happy not to have a tracker on him, but… Slade's voice had been the only thing able to calm him down when he had panicked on the exercises during the week. Sure, it was usually by threatening him, but Robin had come to depend on it. He rubbed the pale, rather clammy ring around his wrist where the bracelet had been.
"This has to go to." Slade slipped a finger inside Robin's plastic collar, almost choking him, and cut it off with something sharp. A pair of scissors from the office-supplies, Robin noted. He had eyed those sharp blades many times, but the robots had been very alert the few times he was allowed to use them.
"How will I get there?" he then asked. The blueprints didn't show the location of the vents, but Robin doubted they where close by.
"Two of the robots will drive you and they will stand by, hidden outside, until the time runs out. If it does without you showing up, I will deem the mission as failed."
"Anything else?" Robin muttered, not wanting to listen to any more threats right now.
"There will be water in the car, and I suggest you try to drink some on the way there. The heat and stress will cause you to be a bit dehydrated."
Robin nodded again. "Can I go back in with Red now?"
"Yes. You have half an hour."
The knots returned with a vengeance.
Red had been unusually quiet during all this, and then Robin walked up to him he discovered that the thief had barely touched his food. Robin forced a smile and felt the boy's forehead.
"Sick, are you? You don't usually turn down a meal…"
Red used his good arm to draw the boy close.
"I love you, Robin…"
"Red…" A lump now joined the knots, but since it couldn't fit in the stomach it placed itself in Robin's throat instead.
"Be safe…" Red whispered. "I wish I could get you just run the hell away, but you are just too stubborn, aren't you…?"
"You made me love you too much… your fault…" Robin grinned and got a sad smile back. It hit him that Red really wanted him to escape. Stupid thief! Choosing this situation to try out 'being unselfish'…
Robin had to start preparing, slipping out of the scrubs and into the tight-fitting uniform he and Slade had designed. He checked the flashlight and adjusted the length of rope that had been fitted into the uniform running up and down the inside of one leg. The 'rope' was more of a flat, woven cord, not taking up much room at all. Because he had to bend and twist through the Vaults, though, he couldn't wear it around his chest or waist. They had tried that. No good. So they had sewn it into the leg instead. He was only going to use it once anyway, so it didn't need to be very handy.
"You ran around Slade a whole week wearing that?!" Red's voice was strained. "I have to give the man credit… he has better control of himself when I could ever have…" with that Red playfully jumped him, and Robin laughed.
"By the way…" Red wondered "won't the flashlight trigger the alarm...? It's electrical…"
"Yeah, but it's a closed circuit, very well isolated and the battery is weak. Just enough power in it for me to do what I need. The robots might pick it up, but only if they are almost on top of me."
"That's my place…" grinned Red and Robin rolled his eyes. Would he have to think about every expression before he opened his mouth from now on…? Yeah… probably…
"Yes, Baby, sure it is…" he sighed.
"Glad to hear it. I'll hold you to it."
"You better. But not before the Starfire-kiss… remember?"
Red paled a bit again, imagining a very strong, very upset, alien redhead tearing him apart. Robin grinned. No way would Red ever have the guts….
Slade's voice was a very unwelcome interruption. Robin walked towards the cell door.
"No, Red first, as usual." Slade ordered.
Robin looked at him.
"Red's arm is broken… you can't tie him to the chair all that time! Please, let him stay in the cell?"
Slade shrugged and actually gave in.
"As you wish. Since this is the last mission, I guess I could make an exception."
Slade opened the cell door and Robin stepped through.
"You won't be able to tell time very well without a timepiece, but after the droids let you off, you have an hour."
"What!? Slade, during the training we timed it to at least an hour and a half! And for opening the vault… I need at least two!"
"Really? Let's discuss it in the hall..." Slade suggested and opened the door. Robin gave Red a despairing look, wishing he kissed him one last time, before following Slade out.
As the door closed Robin immediately grabbed Slade's arm, making him turn towards him.
"It's too little time. You know I won't make it." he said.
"Y-you do? Then why?! Why, Slade?!"
The man didn't answer, only looked at him calmly.
"I'm not leaving." Robin then said, determinedly.
"Then Red is as good as dead."
"He is anyway! Do you think I would leave, just to be stuck 300 meters under ground then the time runs out?! Knowing… knowing what is happening…? No. I would rather be with him." Robin practically screamed at the man.
"No bargaining?" Slade was too close now and Robin swallowed hard before answering.
"What do I have to bargain with, Slade?! What do I have that you could possibly want?!"
"What indeed…?" The man suddenly lifted a hand, tracing a finger along Robin's jaw and down his neck. Robin's eyes were first glued uncomprehending to the hand, then, as the truth dawned on him he slowly looked up at Slade.
"No… you don't mean…?"
"You have this one thing… something Red X hasn't stolen yet… I want it, Robin. That's the prize."
Robin backed away but could only take a step before his back hit the wall, and Slade moved with him.
"Say a really nice goodbye, then. I'll even let you have a few extra minutes…"
"No begging, Robin. It doesn't suit you."
The boy stared up at him. Slade moved his hand to Robin's cheek again, stroking away wetness.
"Tears now, too?" The man shook his head. "What do you have to cry about? I offered you a quite affordable deal. Your beloved's life against an hour or so of yours… doesn't that sound fair?"
Robin closed his eyes.
"It's my first time, Slade"
"Why else would I make the offer?"
"Why at all? Because you like me or because you hate Red?"
"Maybe I hate both of you?"
Robin tried to hold back a sob.
"So my first time will be with someone who hates me? Who only wants to hurt me?" he wasn't shouting now. Instead his voice sounded small and defeated. Just as Slade preferred it.
"Would you rather I liked you?" the hand was still there, caressing the boy's cheek with coarse, steel covered gauntlets.
"I… I… no. I just want you to leave us alone…"
"That is not an option. My patience is dwindling, Robin. Your answer, please."
Robin's eyes turned as hard as cold as Slade's.
"I love Red. I'll do it... for him."
"Excellent. After the mission, then. I might even let you rest a bit first. You will need your strength after all."
"A- after? But you would let us go after the last mission!"
"After you paid for Red's life…"
Robin still stared at him, but then nodded once.
"Ready to go then? I'll be generous with you and give you three hours." Slade said, starting for the door.
"Wait! Don't… don't tell Red." Robin asked. "I… I'll do it when I come back."
Slade hesitated. He had been hoping to torment the kid with this, during Robin's absence, but this might be better… For Red to find out just as he thinks it's all over… well... Slade had another surprise for the boys too, so why not humor Robin for once? "As you wish." he nodded, grinning behind his mask at the thankful look that flashed in Robin's eyes.
"I… I want to tell Red that I… got more time…" Robin requested.
Slade gestured back to the door and nodded.
As Robin reentered the room, Red looked up sharply, trying to read Robin's expression. The boy smiled back at him.
"It's ok, I got more time…"
Red seemed to sigh with relief.
"Good… Hurry back anyway, 'kay?"
"I will" Robin kissed him goodbye, fighting hard to keep his emotions under control.
"Yes, Robin. Hurry back…" Slade purred from the doorway.
Robin was escorted to a rather nondescript car and ushered into the back seat. One of the robots placed itself beside him.
So much for trust… Robin thought ironically.
There were several bottles of cold water in the car and Robin tried hard to drink some. He only managed half a bottle, though, but he hoped it would be enough. They were heading out of the city towards the low mountains at the edge. Robin had guessed the Vaults would be placed here, even if the rumors surrounding them never specified their position. The trip was quiet. Well, the robots probably couldn't speak, and Robin wasn't quite so far gone as to be talking to himself. The good thing about Slade's 'deal' was that it made him almost forget the terror awaiting him in the Vaults, dwarfed by what he was expected to do as he got back. Robin couldn't help to grin cynically at himself… 'the good thing'?! Boy, he really was an optimist…
The car turned off the road and followed something that was barely a track in the dirt. It stopped against a rock side, camouflaged by some thick shrubs. The robots made it clear that he was supposed to get out and as soon as he did, they started walking deeper into the bushes. Robin followed and his eyes widened as the machines lifted something that seemed to be solid rock and reveal a hole underneath. One of them made its way down a ladder, gesturing for the boy to follow. They climbed for several minutes, and Robin was afraid that even if he made it out of the tunnels in time he would never be able to make the climb up. At the bottom Robin saw the vent, the roof of it exposed to the air. The robot was already kneeling down beside it, cutting it open with a pen sized laser. It was a very narrow opening.
As the vent was opened Robin felt a gush of hot, dry air in his face. He swallowed. Well… no time to waste… He got a helping hand from the robot and was able to squeeze into the hole without cutting himself on the rather sharp edges. He hissed as he came to rest outstretched in the vent below. The metal burned, even through his clothes. He remembered metal slides on playgrounds he sometimes visited with his parents, being this hot in the summer. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, collected his thoughts and started on his way.
He had about thirty pushes to go before the first vermin-trap of two he could encounter on his way. He had learned to think in 'pushes', as any normal way of measurements were useless down here. So far he just needed to go straight forward, no problems. Reaching thirty he braced his arms and legs against the side of the shaft, edging himself upwards. The vermin control was simple; a laser beam set only a few millimeters above the floor. If triggered, Slade had told him, it would electrify the area with a charge large enough to kill a rodent. Then, even worse, it would alert the small spidery robots that took care of maintenance and, in a sense, security, in the vents. Robin had no way of seeing the laser ahead, as he was on his back, and he couldn't be completely sure where it was located, so he and Slade had worked out a 'safe distance' that he had to go before lowering himself to the ground again.
Holding himself up like this was tiring, but the hours of training for this special move had paid off and Robin was soon passed the first obstacle. He shuffled along, not needing to count now, as the next turn he was to take was down. And he couldn't very well miss that. He passed a couple of openings stretching out in different directions, but he kept going straight ahead. He suddenly stopped, listening. The sounds down here were different from the training sessions, off course, but what he heard now made his heart jump. Metal tapping against metal. Robots. He almost had a panic attack until he realized that the pitter-patter of multiple metal legs where in fact coming from far away. Sounds traveled long and wide in this metal maze and it was quite impossible to know where any sounds where coming from. Slade had reinsured him, though, that there was no maintenance scheduled today for the particular ducts Robin was to pass through. Unless the plans had changed. Unless Robin, or an actual rat, triggered an alarm… unless… he clipped off the dreary thoughts and soon found himself by the entrance of the first vertical shaft. Going down. Using the technique he had learned and perfected during training, he didn't hesitate. He had also learned so slide slowly down, getting a rare chance to almost rest. He counted silently now under his breath but almost slipped anyway, as the walls by his feet disappeared. Here the vent took off in four different directions and Robin carefully chose what he knew to be the right one.
Another forty pushes took him to the next one. Down again. This time though, he knew that the duct went like a 'L' at the bottom. Only one way to go. This was the worst of all the crossings he had trained and he had two choices: head first or feet first. He choose feet. That way he might be able to get up again if he got stuck. It would mean that he had to push along the next tunnel feet first though, but he was soon going to come up to another crossing and would be able to turn the right way then. Sliding down, not thinking about climbing back up, he was soon standing at the bottom. Taking a few big breaths, longing for some cool fresh air, he slid down, getting his feet and knees into the vent. He had to get down on his knees, to end up on his stomach, because the vent was too low for the other way around. Relaxing, he continued to push himself in, bending his back more and more until he finally could rest at the bottom for a moment.
Edging on, feet first now, he felt the sides for the openings that were coming up. He needed to be careful here. The vent opened up in many directions and he both had to remember the correct route and avoid any robots that might be passing through here on their way to their assignments. He had barely had the thought before he heard the pitter-patter of spider legs again. Suddenly there was a flash of light in one of the vents and Robin quickly shuffled out of its reach. Yes, the robot's did operate by optical input, Robin remembered, so they had to use light… well... it meant he wouldn't suddenly run into one without noticing, but it also meant they would spot him from far away. He stayed absolutely still until the light passed, thankfully not coming any closer to him. He then used one of the crossings to turn around the "right" way and set of again, slightly faster. He didn't have any more scares and thankfully remembered and avoided the second rat-trap.
As he closed in on his target he tried not to think about the thousand of tons of stone above him. Or about how thirsty he was. Or the lack of fresh air. Or… this was going well, wasn't it? His head suddenly bumped into something. Something soft. He squirmed backwards and managed to reach up with a hand. It was the body of a rat. Robin bit back on the bile that rose in his throat. The cleaning-robots must not have been through here for a while. Did this mean there was an unknown trap here? No. Robin didn't think so. If that was the case he would probably already have triggered it. The rat hard probably died of dehydration. He had to push the corpse in front of him as he was unable to crawl over it, without crushing it, that is. And he didn't really feel like crawling through rat-mush thank you very much… Thankfully the dry heat seemed to have almost mummified the body and he was able to dispose of it at a near crossing. Shuddering, he moved on.
Some way back he had started to hear the soft humming of engines. These were the dehumidifiers working. Slade had explained that though regular vents were used to transport fresh air, the vents in here where mainly used to keep the air in the vaults dry and at a constant temperature. That still meant there where fans though, big, scary ones, but Robin wouldn't have to try to get passed one. There was one close to the chosen vault, though, and he could feel the air move around him even before he started hearing the sound.
The roar in his ears grew louder and Robin wished someone had thought of earplugs. The noise in itself was bad, but magnified in the metal passageways it became deafening. It meant he was close, though. Finally he reached the opening leading down to the vault. it was covered by a steel grill but that was easy enough to lift up. Robin reached for the rope, ripping the loose stitches it was secured with along his inner leg seem, as he pulled it free. He tied it securely to the grill and started to edge down the short shaft. He slid the grill back above him and as it rested on sturdy steel frames he knew it would support him climbing up. At the bottom there was a grill too, but Robin simply kicked it open before letting himself drop to the floor. There was nothing or no one that could hear him down here anyway. He landed in a low crouch, wishing he could have tucked and rolled instead, but the room, he knew, was too tiny.
He stood up and stretched. Finally! He was here! Just being able to move was a relief, and he flicked on the torch, searching the room. It really was tiny. Of course it didn't need to be big, that would have been a true waste of space, but Robin was lucky to be able to stretch without hitting a wall. The safe containing the items where placed in the middle of the room and Robin took the few steps needed to come up to it. Not wasting any time he grabbed the handle, heard a few beeps and buzzes as something measured his body temperature, pulse and everything else it needed to do to confirm he was human. Robin wondered slightly how come it would be hard to mimic this with a machine when a sharp pain in his hand made him yell out. Something had pricked him! Examining the handle in the weak light he discovered a small needle. Off course. DNA. That was the only way the system could be sure… Slade had known this but decided not to tell him. Blasted creep. Always liked his little surprises…
Robin swore under his breath. He stopped as a click was heard. The safe had opened. Taking a shaky breath he swung the door open, unsure what to find. Yes, Slade had described the items, but maybe that had been one of his little fun tricks too? It wouldn't surprise him in the least if the thing was as big at the safe and weighed a ton. When the light touched a small glass container on top of a thin file Robin sighed with relief. He quickly pocketed the things, the vial in a special pocked next to the flashlight and the file he shoved down his neckline, making sure it rested flat and firmly against his chest and stomach. It was wrapped securely in a sort of plastic folder, which was a good thing, considering Robin was rather… clammy… from his little stroll down the vents. He stretched a couple of more times, loosening the joints and muscles that had tightened, and then grabbed the flatted cord to climb up. The climb was difficult but he had practiced it enough times to manage, and soon he found himself in the vents again. He left the rope behind as Slade told him, he wouldn't need it anyway. He untied it from the grill and dropped it into the room below, though, so the robots wouldn't see it.
So. The only thing now was to get back. This took longer, as he now had to climb up the vertical shafts instead of simply sliding down. He did this by pressing into the steel sides, wishing he had a rope. But there was nothing to tie a rope too, so it would have been useless. Robin's legs and arms started to tremble alarmingly and he knew it wasn't only fatigue… the dehydration was setting in. Later, feeling slightly lightheaded, he almost forgot to count the pushes as he headed for the first of the two rat-traps. He got his head in gear in time, though, and managed to avoid it.
Half an hour later he was on the home stretch. Up the last shaft and then he was as good as out in the open. He managed to pull himself up, almost able to smell the open air and started along the path. The last trap lay ahead of him. It was thirty pushes from the entrance, but only twenty-five from here. He started counting under his breath as he slid along. -5-6-7- The special low-friction material on his back had really helped make him move more easily, but now it was wearing out and Robin, already exhausted, needed to work harder with every push. -16-17- He was coming up on a crossing and, out of nowhere, there was a flash of light. Robin froze. He was right in the middle of the crossroad and he was sure the robots most have spotted him. He dragged himself quickly into the vent he was heading into and listened hard. There were noises of the robots coming closer and Robin pressed on, as fast as he could. The light grew and Robin, raising his head as much as he could and peering down, saw that it came from the shaft to the right. The clinking sound came closer still. Robin almost yelped as a spidery creature passed the crossing. It didn't notice him. The lights had been aimed straight ahead, and luckily it hadn't turned. Robin waited for a while to be sure there wasn't anymore. Sighing, Robin started moving again. -17-18… wait… he had moved away when the light appeared… was it 19? 20? He had lost count! Shoving off from the walls one more time, more or less automatically, the boy found the answer. 26. There was a small beep as the alarm where triggered and Robin had no way of avoiding the chock. The clothes were not thick enough to isolate him, and he doubted the material did any good in that respect. Adding that he was soaked with sweat, he didn't stand a chance. The pain shooting through him made his body jerk and he hit his head on the ceiling quite hard. It was a short shock, though, but as Robin was beginning to detect his surroundings again, he didn't like what he heard. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Getting closer. Swearing fiercely he pushed off. Thirty pushes to go. Only thirty. Knowing the metal spiders didn't use any audible detectors, what was they supposed to listen too down there anyway, Robin started screaming as he pushed on.
"I triggered a trap! Open the hatch! Can you hear me? Open! I need help!" he prayed the robot that had cut the opening had stayed down in the hole and, thankfully, it seemed it had. There was suddenly some light, daylight, only a few pushes ahead of him. Just in time, because now there was light behind him as well. The robot or robots was closing in fast but had yet to turn the corner. Robin felt a hand grab his shoulder and soon he was yanked out of the vent by rough but strong robotic arms. Robin slumped to the side as the slade-bot quickly sealed up the hole again. The boy stared up at the sky above wondering how the heck he was supposed to climb after all this, but once again the robot proved rather helpful and practically carried him up to the waiting car. Nearly falling into the back seat Robin could almost cry. Then it hit him. This wasn't over… Slade was still waiting for him…
He had to make plans. The vial in his pocket was valuable to Slade… maybe valuable enough to make the man forget about the deal and let him and Red go…? Yes, it was worth a try…. Shaking badly from the dehydration he greedily reached for the water bottle a robot handed him. When he noticed the strange aftertaste the water had, it was too late, he had already emptied almost the whole bottle. He dropped it as the world around him started to go dark and he slumped deeper into the seat. The snake! he thought as he slowly lost consciousness. He could almost hear Slade chuckle as he closed his eyes.
Robin awoke slowly, again on a stone floor.
Well, at least I didn't wake up in Slade's bed… he thought to himself as the world started pouring into his conscious mind. The first thing he heard was Red's voice, sounding rather upset. Robin slowly opened his eyes and turned his head.
"Relax, Red, your boyfriend is awake."
"Robin?! Robin, are you okay?"
Did he have to be so loud?!
Robin grunted a bit.
"No screaming…" he hissed.
"You will feel better in minutes; the drug exits the system quickly."
Robin turned his head in the direction of the voice and his blurry vision managed to focus on the man, standing over him.
"I'm sorry about the drugged water, my boy, but I had to make sure I would get this." Slade held up the container and the folder. Robin groaned. So much for that plan. He was starting to feel better, though, and shakily sat up. He was back in the cell room. He and Slade were in the outer room and Red in the cell. Robin was close to the bars, though, and edged closer so he could lean his back against them until he had regained his strength. Red's arm through the bars helped a lot too.
"I must be filthy..." Robin whispered, his eyes half closed.
"Actually… no…" Red sounded troubled by this and Robin looked down on himself. He was clean and in fresh scrubs! He even had shoes on… His eyes snapped up at Slade who chuckled.
"Don't worry, little one, I had my robots clean you up."
Robin also noticed that the bracelet was back. Not good. If Slade was going to let them go, why the tracker? The plastic collar was back too. He swallowed, discovering that his mouth was quite dry. He needed to buy some time. If Slade was to drag him off somewhere in this state he wouldn't be able to either fight or make up a way for them to escape. Robin's eyes landed on some water bottles on the table.
"Are those drugged too?" he asked in a raspy voice.
Slade chuckled again; the twisted piece of crap seemed to be in a fantastic mood. Well. Robin would have to change that when he got the chance.
"No, help yourself." Slade said and threw him a bottle. Robin just about managed to grab it and gulped the content down.
"Are you okay, Are you hurt?" Red whispered in his ear.
"No, I'm… just tired…" Robin mumbled and eyed Slade. He needed more time.
"Are you going to tell us what that thing is?" Robin asked and nodded towards the glass container in Slade's hand.
"Why not?" the man shrugged. He handed the items to a robot. "Secure these in the lab." he told it. Robin had glimpsed a lab once, through a crack in a door on the way to training. That door would be locked by now, though, no doubt. As the robot shuffled out the door and closed it afterwards, Slade turned to the boys on the floor before him.
"So… where were we?" Robin could feel the man's eye running up and down his body.
"You were going to tell us what the heck I went to all this trouble for." he frowned.
"Hmpf. Thought it was for me!" Red muttered in his ear, making Robin smile weakly.
"Gladly" Slade started, ignoring the teens comment. "It's a virus. A super-virus developed by the government, but deemed too great a success."
What have I done?! Robin wondered, fear rising up in him. "What does it do?" he asked, afraid of the answer.
"Nothing. The virus itself is absolutely harmless. It was not designed to kill but to spread, and this, it does quicker than any before. Share a bus with someone who is infected and you will be too, within minutes."
"But… it's not dangerous?" Red sounded like he didn't believe his ears.
"It won't even make you sneeze." Slade stated, sounding a bit too smug for Robin's taste.
"Then, and I'm using the term very loosely, what good will it do you?" Robin growled.
"Oh, it's very useful. You see, even if it's not designed to be deadly by itself it was designed to carry disease. You can, quite easily, attach anything to it, from the common cold... to the black death."
"No… Millions will die! Slade, you can't!" Robin used the bars to haul himself to his feet, and managed to stand, though slightly wobbly and supported by Red's arm.
"Not millions. Billions, Robin. This virus will create a true pandemic disease. And I can. But that's not my plan. I want this world to be mine, but why should anyone want to rule a world of corpses? No, I didn't plan to use it to kill. Not at all." getting blank stares from his audience the man continued. "The chemical you first stole for me, Robin, was an experimental mind-control drug. Well, these drugs are always experimental, because the human brain is so complex… in most cases…" he added and eyed Red "that no one has been able to perfect it. Until now. You have helped collect some of the finest works on the subject, my boy, and I have stolen others from around the world. Combining these theories and chemicals with a few of my own I'm fairly certain that I have an ultimate drug at last. The virus will spread it over the globe in a matter of months. And I have two perfectly fine lab rats to test it on, don't I?"
The boys gasped.
"So you lied…" Robin snarled. "I knew it…"
"Oh, I didn't lie… I told you that you would have the opportunity to leave after the last mission… but then you will get the option, I have a feeling you will turn it down…"
"You… you…" Red stuttered. "No, I can't even describe what a lying, deceitful sack of shit you are…"
"I thought you did pretty well…" Robin muttered, still swaying visibly on his feet. He let go of the bars and took a couple of shaky steps towards the table.
"Need…more water…" he gasped. As he reached the plastic bottles, though, he acted quickly. His exhaustion had been partly faked and he picked up a bottle and threw it in Slade's direction, following up with another before launching himself at the man. Robin had the element of surprise on his side again and he hit hard. For once it was Slade hitting the wall. The man immediately pushed off it, though, and Robin ducked a counter attack. The boy actually knew that he was fighting a loosing battle again, the man could push the control to his collar at any second, but maybe, just maybe, he had left the controls somewhere. More possibly, he didn't seem to think he needed them to finish this.
"Now, Robin. Let's not fight. This is such a special day for you after all…" Slade purred.
"Shut up, creep!" Robin growled, eyes shifting to Red for a second. A second was all Slade needed. He attacked. Robin barely had time to get out of the way, and as he kicked out at the man his other foot was swept out from under him. He landed in a heap, crying out as his ankle gave, folding under him. Getting to his feet again he knew it was sprained, and he wasn't fast enough to avoid Slade's next kick, sending him into the cell bars.
"Now, then." Slade said to the boy crumpled on the floor. "I think it's time for you to pay your little debt."
"What is he talking about, Rob?"Red whispered as he helped Robin to his feet.
"I… I'm sorry Red…" the boy mumbled. "He didn't give me enough time to do the mission… I had to… he made me agree too…" Robin couldn't continue, but Red got the picture.
"No… no he didn't!" The boy's hand closed firmly over Robins arm as his eyes shot daggers at Slade who stood leaning against the wall across the room, enjoying the show.
Robin turned towards Red, hugging him through the bars.
"Please forgive me… he'll… he'll kill you… I…"
Red suddenly fell to his knees, dragging Robin down with him.
"You can't do this! Let the son of a bitch kill me already! I'm not worth it!" he begged. "I won't be able to live with it anyway…" he added softly.
Slade laughed coldly.
"Yes, Red, very noble of you… So I will kill you. What then? That won't do Robin any good, I'm afraid….And when I'm done with him, he will only have your cold corpse left to comfort him… is that what you want? Rather cowardly, I think…"
Red made a sound of pure fury, dragging Robin close. Robin felt a feathery touch on his leg.
"In your sock. Hurt him." Red whispered quietly and their eyes locked.
Robin gave a small understanding nod. He probably wasn't going to be able to avoid this, he and Red was more or less doomed. But even if it meant certain death he was going to make sure Slade paid. Dearly. He could throw it now, but as strong as that stuff was, it wouldn't eat through the armor and kevlar suit in time…
A hand on his neck yanked him violently to his feet.
"Time to go… unless you want me to do it in here?"
Robin shook his head, disgusted.
"Don't be sad, Robin…" Slade purred "As soon as I have tried out the mind-drug on Red, I'm sure he will join us… I'll put that mouth of his to some use…"
"No!" Robin tried to break free, but the grip only tightened. "Don't touch him, Slade, don't..."
"Listen very carefully, boy. Mr. X here is seconds from death. Now behave or he will pay!"
Robin immediately went limp and hung his head. Slade dragged him out of the room and Robin didn't even have time to look at Red again before the door slammed shut. Slade released him and started walking away.
"Follow me." he ordered and Robin slowly obeyed. He knew all the doors were locked, no reason to even try the handles. Slade stopped by a door and opened it with the special button in his glove. Robin had time to glimpse a bed in there, before he panicked.
"I… I can't!" he turned on his heel and ran, not able to take many steps before a familiar pain shot through his neck. Robin fell to the ground, screaming.
"Such lovely sounds you make…" Slade deactivated the collar and scooped the limp boy up in his arms. "Let's see if I can get you to make more, shall we?"
Slade took him into the bedroom and put him down on his feet as he closed the door.
"On the bed, Robin. Now."
Robin was pushed towards the king sized bed in the middle of the room and, afraid for Red's sake, obediently sat down, staring up at Slade.
"Please, Slade… please don't hurt me…" he begged. The man walked towards a dresser, more or less ignoring the boy for a while.
"There are different ways of doing this, Robin. I'm not saying that it won't hurt at all, but I can make you enjoy this, if you asked me too."
Robin grabbed the coarse sheets under his fingers tightly. The bed was made up of what looked like rough, washed out, military linen and blankets.
What? Expecting silk and satin? Why not add some candles too? Really romantic...
Robin hung his head. He needed a window of opportunity here… but… was he that great an actor? He doubted it…
"Well, Robin?" Slade purred. "How do you want it?"
"I… I would like to…" he swallowed back some bile for the second time that day… well… this vermin was worse then the dead rat in the vent. "I would like to… enjoy it…" he finished, unable to hold back a shudder.
"Very well… just one thing left…" There was a clink and Robin looked up. He startled at seeing a length of chain in Slade's hands.
"No!" He crawled further back on the bed. Being shackled to the bed made any plan he might come up with impossible. He must convince Slade not to do it! "Please Slade, don't… don't chain me down! Please! Not for this! I… I'll be good… I do whatever you say, just…" his back hit the headboard and he couldn't retreat any further.
"Ah, but I would so enjoy seeing you chained to my bed, my bird… it would be such a beautiful sight…"
"Slade… not… not my first time?"
The man hesitated and tilted his head.
"You are right, my boy… maybe it is better for you to be free for this… so you will be able to enjoy it more fully… We will have many opportunities to try out some things I have thought up… besides, if you should doubt it, the door is locked. There is no escaping this."
"I... I know Slade… I… I promised to do this, and I will..." he looked up at Slade, some fire in his eyes now, and the man chuckled behind his mask.
"Good boy. Let's get started then. Come here…" Slade gestured for the edge of the bed and Robin scooted over. Slade slowly removed his gloves and armor, placing them on the dresser behind him. He continued to remove his belt and the metal plates protecting his midriff before moving on to the top of the suit. Robin gasped as the material was removed, and the sound wasn't even faked. Somehow, impossibly, Slade looked even bigger without his armor. His arms looked like they could crush logs, his chest more than matched and… Robin's mind some how blanked out, his abs… Robin's hand reached out, Robin himself watching it with amazement as he sure as hell wasn't doing this, and his fingertips touched that chest, running down the knots of muscle. A soft chuckle was heard from Slade and he backed off half a step, making Robin stand up.
"Take your shirt off, pet…" he man purred and Robin absentmindedly obeyed. As the air in the room hit his unprotected skin he as able to focus again, and mentally shook his head. All right. That had been weird… very unexpected, but he was okay now. He guessed high amounts of stress, teenage hormones peaked by almost nightly make out sessions with his boyfriend without any kind of… payoff… and… maybe there had been something in the water after all… he wouldn't put it passed Slade to slip him an aphrodisiac… on the other hand, the man probably didn't care enough. He let his hands wonder back to Slade's body, this time controlled, though, and part of a slowly forming plan. The man let him explore his body, obviously pleased, although he didn't let his guard down for a moment. Robin let one hand slide around Slade's side and followed, wincing as he put some weight on his bad foot. Shait… this meant trouble… his ankle was worse than he thought… his hands still traveled over Slade's body as he had walked behind the man, now exploring his back. The man turned around then, and Robin looked up at him, afraid that Slade had seen through the little charade.
"Eager, are we?" The man drawled.
"N- no…" Robin tried to deny, not wanting to seem too eager and bust this up. "I… I just…" he blushed. A very real blush as he could not fake that. Thinking about that his hands were stroking over Slade's abs right then did the trick, though. He looked up at the man.
"Are... are you going to take your mask off?" he asked.
"You want me too?" Slade asked, cocking his head in the annoying way.
Robin hesitated. Seeing Slade's face had long been a goal of his, but with the mask gone… that might lead to… kissing? That he didn't want. He shook his head.
"Why not?" Slade sounded curious.
Blast! He had to come up with a really good explanation to this one…
"Be-because I know this face…" he whispered and lifted a hand, letting his fingertips trace the black part of the man's mask. "Without it, it would be a stranger who… who…"
"I understand. I'll leave it on then. For now." the man's hand wandered down to the boy's thigh, slipping under the waistband of his loose scrubs-pants.
"No!" The boy backed away, hitting the dresser. Hearing an annoyed growl from Slade he lifted his hands in a calming gesture. "I'll do it…" he said and leaned back on the dresser while he liftedhis sore foot into his hands and hissed from the pain.
"What are you doing…?" Slade sounded curious again.
"Can't… can't take off my pants with my shoes on, can I? Owww…" Robin muttered rather matter-of-factly.
Slade laughed shortly.
"I guess you are right. Your foot is quite swollen, isn't it?"
"Sprained" Robin confessed between clenched teeth.
"That might teach you not to oppose me. Not that you will, much longer…"
Robin gave him a defeated look, still working on his shoe.
" I know…" he whispered. "Will… will many die?"
"I don't see why any should. There will be groups of opposition, of course, in the beginning, but they will be infected soon enough. There's no way of stopping it.
"No cure? No vaccine? Won't you be affected yourself?"
Not that you could GET any more narcissistic, you sick git… he thought to himself.
"Clever bird. I am immune, and so will you be. You and Red will only be infected with my… special… blend, making you even a little more eager to please me…
"I… I think I want this to be over…" Robin whispered. "Aren't you going to take your boots off?"
"What's the hurry? We got all night… and since you wanted me to make it pleasurable I will take my time with you…" Slade purred but he still sat down on the bed and started to take off the heavy boots.
This was what Robin had been waiting for. All the fidgeting with his shoe had allowed him to palm the vial. As Slade sat down, one foot over the knee to pull his boot off, Robin quickly popped the lid of the container off with his thumb.
The acid hit Slade over his chest and stomach, instantly burning away at his flesh. The man roared, lost in blinding pain, and Robin snatched up his gloves from the dresser he was leaning against, and slipped one on. It took two tries to figure out when to push the button, but Robin was fast enough and was out the door before Slade had stopped roaring. In fact he heard him all through the corridor. He had shut the door behind him, hoping the man was locked in, before running down the pathway towards Red. He didn't allow the pain shooting up his leg to slow him down, not now.
Red jumped to his feet as Robin threw the door open, amazement on his face.
"You did it?! Look out!" A Slade-bot that had been left in the room attacked, but Robin made the process short with the metal man, and yanked the cell door open with the help of the gloves. Robin was quite touched to see streaks of tears drying on Red's face. Now he was beaming, though.
"You are bloody brilliant, kid!" Red admitted, quickly getting out of the hated cell. "He didn't have time to…?"
"Not even a feel…" Robin smirked and headed for the supplies, grabbing the scissors. In a few seconds the boys got rid of the collars and headed out the door again.
"The lab!" Robin panted "We got to…"
There was a crash from down the hall.
"We gotta RUN!" Red insisted and Robin could only agree. He let them through to the room they first had woken up in and again closed the door behind him. Judging by the sound, Slade might actually be locked up, or perhaps so crazed with pain that he couldn't think straight. Soon the other slade-bots would be alerted, though, and Robin knew that they has some way to open the doors too. Running for the door he spotted Red at some cabinets.
"What are you doing?! I know you are a thief, but take a break!"
"Our uniforms." Red appeared again with two piles under his arm. "I saw Slade put them in here the first day, after taking you away to the cell…"
"I have more…" Robin said nervously, but he took the piles from Red. He winced as the boy ducked down again.
"Yeah? I don't… besides, you want this, right?" Something yellow flew through the air and Robin grinned, catching his belt. Another crash made them jump and, finally, they rushed through the door. As they ran through the early evening, heading towards the water and Titans Tower, Red again took over the clothes from Robin. Robin kept the shirt, though, wrenching it over his head, and fastened the belt around his waist. There. He felt better already. From the weight of the belt he could feel that Slade seemed to have replaced everything after examining it. Good thing the man definitely had some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
"Your mask…" Red panted, and handed him the piece of black material. Robin took it, but the adhesive had dried up long ago.
"No good, won't stick."
"'Kay. I'll fix something…"
Red disappeared from Robin's side for a few moments and then returned, handing him a pair of sunglasses.
"Where did you get those from?" Robin couldn't help to ask.
"Oh, a nice man gave them to me…" Red answered airily.
"You stole them?"
"You are not to argue about it, so shut up and be grateful!" Red barked. "You don't want someone to get a good look at you, do you?"
"Sorry, Red… hero reflex…" Robin grinned, slipping the glasses on. His hand went to his belt and he swore.
"The communicator is gone…"
"We better leg it, then… Judging from those sounds back there, Slade isn't far behind…"
Robin heard the screams too; Slade had probably sent his whole army of robots after them.
They ran for another minute, but Robin felt himself lagging behind. The pain in his foot was fast becoming unbearable. He pulled Red to a halt.
"I… I can't run as fast… besides…" he showed the bracelet on his wrist. "Slade can track me. Take the clothes and hide them, yours too. Get to the Titans. Get help!"
"I know your foot is hurt, but I have a broken arm… I'm not exactly fast either…" he gestured to his arm that was still tucked inside his shirt. Red had insisted that it actually lessened the pain by helping supporting the arm.
"You don't run with your arm, Red, no stupid excuses!"
"And I guess I'll just ring the doorbell and say 'excuse me, but Robin is in trouble, could you come with me, please?'"
"They know I am in trouble, I think they noticed that I have been missing… and here…" he ripped the "R" off his shirt. "This might persuade them to help. Just go as a civilian, though… don't get Red X mixed up in this."
"I'm not leaving you." Red pouted.
"NOW who is being stubborn!? You have too, it's our only chance. My foot might be hurt but I can manage a few robots… besides, I got weapons now…" a few bird-a-rangs appeared between Robin's fingers as if by magic and the teens grinned at each other.
"But what if Slade…" Red argued.
"I threw Nitric acid all over his chest and stomach… the man isn't going anywhere for a while…" Robin said grimly. "Now go!"
"Love you!" Red kissed him quickly. "I hate to do this…."
"Trust me; you'll hate spending your life with Slade more…" Robin muttered before shooing the thief away. "Love you too… and this time it's your turn to hurry!"
Robin watched Red take off and hobbled down an adjoining street. It took only a few minutes for the first slade-bots to catch up to him. Robin took a few out, but as their numbers increased he grabbed his jump-cord and escaped to the nearest roof. It took some time, but the robots reached it too, now there were at least thirty, and they seemed to form a ring around him rather than attack. Well. Robin didn't mind stalling. Then the ring parted and Slade walked into the circle.
Robin gasped and backed away as far as he could.
"Well, Robin. You don't seem happy to see me… that stings… Worse then this even…" he lifted his shirt slightly, revealing angry red splotches on his skin. But the wounds looked old… almost healed…
Robin looked up at him, shaking his head slightly.
"That's… that's impossible…"
Slade only laughed, chilling Robin's blood.
"Don't mess with an immortal, boy…"
Robin finally understood. The wound from the pen, how unfazed Slade always seemed in their fights… Robin could fight until his heart burst, and Slade would probably just shake it off… he growled.
"I don't care what you are, Slade. I'll deal with any type of monster…" he reached into his belt and whipped out his bo-staff.
Slade calmly looked around.
"I see your little friend has abandoned you? Or maybe he is getting help? Oh, well, this won't take long…" he extended his own staff, swinging it lazily through the air with a hiss.
"Maybe not… considering you have chosen to face me with a small army at your back… chicken…" Robin taunted.
Slade laughed again, and snapped his fingers.
"Dismissed." the droids all left, emptying the roof. "Just you and me, again…" Slade purred. "There will be a lot of that from now on…"
"In your dreams, creep…" Robin snarled and attacked.
Again he was willing himself to forget about the pain in his foot, but Slade noticed it and aimed at the injured ankle every chance he got. They fought like animals, Robin did not gain much ground, but he was able to hold up his own. Then Slade swiped at his feet again and Robin, jumping to avoid the swipe landed painfully in the wrong foot. His knees buckled and suddenly he was on the ground, being held down by Slade.
"You could be groaning for a completely different reason right about now…" the man whispered in his ear, as he bent Robin's arm painfully back. "But I won't give you that option again. It's the chains and my way from now on…" the man dragged the boy to his feet and held him with Robin's back pressed against his chest. Robin had gained something from all of their training, though: more flexibility. He kicked out, letting his foot travel all the way over his head, hitting Slade in the face. Then a sharp elbow to the chest made the man let go completely. Robin heard Slade curse harshly.
So it still hurts, eh? he focused his attacks on Slade's chest and stomach now, driving the man back. Robin lashed out with his good foot. Slade, not expecting any real kicks, and certainly not from that side, was unprepared, and Robin's foot hit him in the chest. Slade took a step back. But there wasn't any more roof to step on. There was a moment, seemingly stretching out into eternity, as Slade started to fall. Robin expected him to somehow stop falling at any second, but the man silently disappeared over the edge. They were at least seven floors up. Still Robin didn't expect to hear the thud.
"Robin!" The cry came from far away and Robin recognized the voice of Starfire. Soon he was being rather crushed against the alien girl who has tears streaming down her face. He spotted Raven next, levitating Cyborg and behind them Beast Boy… where was Red?!
His team surrounded him, showering him with questions and concern, but Robin knew that they had no time to waste.
"Listen up everybody!" he ordered, unceremoniously slapping a hand over Starfire's mouth. "We are short on time, You need to save the world!" That got their attention. Robin described the way to Slade's lair.
"There is a lab in there, you need to destroy everything!" he described the glass vial, ordering them not to break that. "Everything else, though! Every paper, every chemical! Rae, Star, I want you to fly ahead and start, GO! he shouted at the girls who flew away faster then ever. "Cy, I need to get this off." he then said and shoved the bracelet under the young man's nose.
"No prob…" one of Cy's fingers turned into a laser cutter and he got to work.
"And where is Re- Rick?!" Robin added.
"Who?" BB asked. "That annoying dude?! You actually do know him…? Err… we kind of left him behind outside the tower…"
"What?! BB, get me back there NOW!" Robin ordered as the tracker finally gave up and fell to the ground. "Cy, go help Ray and Star!"
Beast Boy turned into a giant pterodactyl and lifted his leader into the air. As they got closer to the tower they could see a shape running towards them.
"There! Grab him too!" Robin ordered.
Red found himself being swiped off into the air, but was able to not have an heart attack when he recognized BB and saw Robin in his other claw he relaxed and smiled happily.
"I knew you would make it… what happened?!" he had to yell for Robin to hear him through the rushing wind.
"Slade showed up…!" Robin yelled back
"What?! How did you..?!"
"Slade decided to take up BASE-jumping… he just forgot a few details… like a parachute…"
They didn't have time to talk anymore, as BB dropped them off on the roof of the Tower.
The green boy changed and landed next to them.
"Thanks BB, We'll be fine now, you go help the others, okay? And could you fly by the building where you found me? Slade had just fallen off it, and I want to make sure he made an dent in the asphalt… be careful, though!"
The boy nodded at the command and took off immediately.
"Come on… let's go inside…" Robin sighed and hobbled along, supported by Red.
"Is there anything to eat, you think?" Red asked hopefully, making his beloved laugh.
An hour later the team returned, finding the two boys sprawled on each side of the sofa. The unknown kid had a trace of tomato sauce on his cheek, and Cy cursed at finding his leftover pizza gone…
"Bloody thief…" he muttered, not knowing how right he was.
The boys quickly woke up, though, and Robin demanded a report.
"It was all there, and now its ashes…" Cy stated, handing Robin the virus container.
"How about Slade?" Robin asked Best Boy.
"There was a imprint on the asphalt all right, but… I didn't believe my nose, but it smelled like he walked away…"
Robin nodded grimly.
"Slade is an immortal… at least he has an amazing healing capability…"
This was news to everybody, including Red, creating more questions.
"Hey, I knew the guy was tough, especially after that pencil-thing, but this?!" Red groaned.
"Hey, dude, who are you anyway?!" BB finally said, not being able to contain his curiosity any longer, and all eyes turned on Red.
Red stood up uncertainly and Robin limped over to him.
"I'm sorry…" Robin told his team. "Rick, this is everybody… Everybody, this is Rick… my boyfriend."
"You can call me Red…" the teen grinned and gestured at his hair. Robin choked slightly, but he knew that he would slip up eventually with the name, and Red's hair was perhaps red enough to earn him the nickname…
Robin glanced at his team, who all looked rather like astonished goldfish, opening and closing their mouths at random intervals. Then Red turned to him and winced slightly.
"Well, a promise is a promise…" Robin heard him mutter before he found himself being thoroughly kissed in front of his friends.
The goldfishes went "eeep!"
The next morning found the boys sleeping close together, but still fully clothed, on Robin's bed. Red's arm had gotten a real cast, fortunately it didn't need to be reset, Robin's ankle had been bandaged and all their other cuts and bruises had been tended too as well. The team had recovered from the first shock rather well, probably because they were so glad to have their leader back. Starfire had already assaulted them with embarrassing questions. But that was last night… or, rather, early this morning…
Robin slowly awoke, finding himself back in his own room and in the arms, or arm, of Red. Could this get any better? He smiled happily and started kissing Red awake.
"Hrm? Wha… mmmm…" Red soon smiled too, but he was still sleepy. "Morning already?" he mumbled.
"Yes… and I want to keep my promise…" Robin smiled.
"What?" Red asked, more interested in sleep than promises.
"Breakfast at the Tower… remember?" Robin grinned.
Red immediately perked up.
"Yes, REALLY, you will get fed!" Robin rolled his eyes. "What about porridge?"
"Rather have toenails." Red stated cheerily, making Robin laugh.
"Only kidding… pancakes?"
"Sound good to me…" a gleam entered the teen eyes. "Is there any syrup? Because I seem to remember a breakfast-suggestion of my own…"
Robin grinned and grabbed the boy's hand.
"Let's go find out…"
A/N: There it is. It turned out longer than I thought and I KNOW some of you will still complain that it's over… but… there's always drabbles… you wanna find out about Red's and Robin's first time? Really? Not anyone? Well, I won't write it then! You are right, no one here wants smut… -grins- 'cept me…
I got you a happy ending anyway! A REAL one! Now, those of you not liking the ending of "Terms.." will be happy and you others… well… I hope you don't MIND…?
Sooo… what did you think? Be honest! I liked Slade's plan (feel pretty sorry for the guy since I had to bust it…) ;o), but what did you think? The big question I put to you at the beginning of this story was the Slade/Robin thing… did I handle that way or screw it up? I WANTED it to bee that danger there, but I couldn't let it actually happen… this is a Red/Rob love-story after all, and I couldn't do that to them and still make it a happy ending… I hope I got close enough for it to be interesting, though… but you tell me! Come on! I won't break!
I am working on two 'long-ish' Slade/Robin drabbles now, just so you know what to expect in the future… One is a request from The Darkest Half, who is getting a hurt/comfort and kinda extreme slave/master-story… I'm on page 12 on that and it's going to be longer by quite a bit… the other one is a future-fic of 'Terms' I have been working on for quite a while, which actually has a PLOT… and you will find out more about Slade and Robin's life in their new city… which is still nameless… I might keep it that way, but if anyone has a cool name for a huge city (that hasn't been used) you are welcome to share… I hope I'm not boring you with these future-fics… I always tell you in the beginning, though, so you can easily avoid them if you want…
All my love…