Alright, I have no idea where this came from, and I should really be working on other things, but it was screaming to be written. would still be nice, though. :)


Batman slipped through the building, blending effortlessly with the shadows that littered the nooks and crannies of Slade's hideout. He'd exhausted his connections with certain criminals to pinpoint this place, and he wasn't even sure if he would find the answers he sought here.

But Batman needed answers. He had to know why Robin had suddenly shown up out of the blue, after months without speaking to him, dressed in a new costume and robbing Wayne Enterprises. Batman had taken careful note of the black and orange spandex suit along with the 'S' pin from the footage of security cameras, which had led him to this ominous building.

Even more disturbing than Robin's choice of clothing had been the scene on the rooftop, recorded on a small camera mounted near the stairs. Yes, something was up, and Batman was going to get to the bottom of it.

The sounds of a fight came from the room ahead. Batman slipped through the doorway, still concealed by shadows, as Slade came hurtling down onto the floor, skidding against the hard surface. Behind him was a curious image - four zoomed-in images of blood vessels, which, on closer inspection, were accompanied by miniscule probes.

Robin landed in front of Slade, deftly absorbing the impact of his drop with bent knees as he landed. Despite the strength and defiance in his straightened back, Batman knew instantly that he was running on pure adrenaline. It was clear to Batman from the nearly hidden slump of his shoulders and the barely noticeable drag in his step that Robin was exhausted.

"You're going to wish you hadn't done that," Slade said venomously as he got to his feet – he didn't seem all that winded.

Batman could hear the anger in Robin's voice as the teen shot back heatedly, "I only wish I'd done it sooner!" He punctuated his words by ripping off the 'S' badge and throwing it back at Slade.

The man's fist clenched and he let out a low yell as he hurled himself at Robin, swinging his fist. Robin ducked, and the two sparred briefly, the Boy Wonder flipping backwards with his characteristic gymnastics. But as Robin landed a handspring, foot flying towards Slade's face, the man caught his ankle, holding the teen easily despite Robin's struggles.

Batman's eyes narrowed.

Slade whipped the teen's body back and forth viciously, sending him sprawling. Robin got to his knees shakily, breathing hard as he stood with the reluctance of someone who has taken too many punches. "I have much to teach you," Slade said in a low, dangerously smooth voice. "But the first thing you need to learn is gratitude."

Robin swiped a forearm across his mouth, and Batman knew he was mentally bracing himself – he wasn't going to go down without a fight. The teen suddenly glanced at the display, and for some reason the sight of the probes mingling in with the blood cells seemed to strengthen his resolve. With a yell, he charged Slade, swinging a punch.

Slade caught the fist in his much-larger hand and twisted Robin's arm painfully behind him, slamming the teen against the ground before releasing him. Robin pulled his arm in carefully, wincing as he rolled back to his knees, trying to rise.

"I made you my apprentice," the man said in the same dangerous tone. "All my knowledge, all my power, all for you." One of Slade's heavy, gloved hands snapped out, grabbing Robin's hair and shoving the teen's face into the floor. Slade's face was inches from Robin's as he ground out, "But all you care about is your worthless little friends!"

Batman had been planning to use the element of surprise wisely, maybe attack Slade from behind, hit a nerve point, and knock him out…the usual. But seeing Robin pinned to the ground made something inside Batman snap. The next thing Slade knew, a black-gloved fist slammed into his chest, the powerful blow sending him crashing into the wall behind him. A controller with a red button on top fell from his belt, hitting the floor and rolling a little ways away.

Batman felt the barely contained fury rising in him, and he punched Slade across the face again before the man could get a defense out. His mouth was a thin line. He wanted to tell the man how disgusted he was by his tactics – for the master detective had figured out the gist of the probes on the display – but was confident that his actions spoke louder than his words anyways. He threw another punch at the man, who ducked away from it, the blow missing him by inches, before kicking out at Batman. The two began to fight in earnest.

Suddenly, the door slammed open. "Let Robin go, Sla –" Starfire began to shout, the rest of the Titans behind her, raring for battle, but they stopped short at the sight of Batman. Both men were momentarily distracted, and Robin, swaying but finally on his feet, took advantage of the moment to lunge for the remote near Slade's feet.

Batman watched Slade's lip curl in contempt as the man turned, and tried to stop him, but he knew he wasn't moving fast enough. Slade's fist slammed into the side of Robin's head, and the teen was sent hurtling into the wall, where he lay still.

A growl escaped Batman, and the next thing Slade knew blow after blow rained down on him until a foot landed decisively on his skull and everything went black.

The Titans started to move forward, questions forming on their lips, but Batman ignored them, going instantly to where Robin lay. He gently pulled the boy up and put his hands on the teen's slim shoulders, leaning close. "Robin," he said, quietly and urgently, in a voice so low that the Titans could barely hear it. "Robin," he repeated, the barest hint of something – desperation? Worry? – in his tone.

Batman lowered his voice even more, so that only Robin could possibly hear him. "Dick!"

Robin's eyes fluttered open, and Batman knew what panicked thought must be running through Robin's head – how does anyone here know that name? "Bruce?" Robin whispered, blinking and clearly not able to see straight, his voiced laced with heavy disbelief.

Behind the cowl, relief washed over Batman's face, but it couldn't be heard as he said coolly, "I'd better not catch you stealing from Wayne Enterprises again." There was a hint of a smile in his voice.

Robin's lips twitched. "Bruce," he said again, nearly inaudible. It wasn't a question anymore. Robin tried to sit up from his slouched position against the wall, and winced, biting his lip. The Titans shifted awkwardly, wanting to go to their friend but not wanting to interrupt the reunion.

Batman put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?" He was all business again, using the same voice he'd used when he'd asked the same question to countless civilians.

"Yeah. Thank you," Robin said quietly. Batman nodded and slipped into the shadows. Robin's eyes followed him as Cyborg helped him to his feet, and as the Titans began to exit, Robin leaning on Beast Boy, Robin called out, "Batman!"

He saw the shadows shift slightly as Batman stopped, and Robin knew that his mentor was listening. A thousand things to say ran through his mind, chief among them 'I've missed you', but the only thing he could bear to say out loud, rather lamely, was: "Tell Alfred I say hi."