Robin started to turn around, but his mind screamed, 'GO! NOW!' So he did. He slammed himself against the door that was already ajar and sprinted out, stumbling slightly. He didn't listen for Slade, and he certainly wasn't going to stop and see if the man was following him. He just kept running, but to where, he wasn't sure. The tunnel was dark, but cracks in the roof-which was really below the street, gave some light. Some hope. He finally stopped to catch his breath, and his legs were shaking. His eyes darted around wildly, and he relaxed slightly, seeing no sign of Slade. He was too smart to start walking, so he jogged instead, trying to keep a quick pace incase his captor did decide to follow him. Incase he was following him. He heard a noise and whipped around, ready to strike. His gaze fell to a rat, which chewed on its fur. He sighed and kept going, not really walking, but not running either. His lower body still ached terribly, and he knew he was physically bruised.
"You want this, Robin," Slade hissed, moving his hand all over Robin's lower body. "You know you want this."
"Leave me alone," Robin begged, shaking his head, closing his eyes. "Please, Slade, just leave me alone!"
He stopped walking and listened for any signs of Slade. After listening to about five minutes of himself breathing, he sat down, panting heavily. The ground was slightly damp, but he barely noticed.
"Open your eyes, Robin," Slade commanded in a whisper. "I want to see those pretty blues."
Robin only shook his head, his eyes closed tightly. He felt Slade strike him across the face, but he still did not open his eyes. This was a bad dream, this wasn't happening.
He continued his way around the underground tunnel system, marking his path with the tiny scissors by etching a line in the cement walls. He was happy that he never came across one twice. At least he knew he was not going in circles.
Robin bit his bottom lip so hard it bled as he felt a sudden stabbing sensation. It was so painful! His breath caught in his throat, begging to be released in the form of scream. He did not want to give Slade that satisfaction. He kept his arms stiffly at his sides, his head turned, his eyes closed, and his fingers clawing into the red sheets.
"Throw everything away, Robin," Slade whispered in his ear. "You know you belong here with me. I would kill for you."
Traffic. Robin's heart stopped. He heard traffic. Cars. People drove cars. That meant there were people! His heart suddenly sped up and he looked around frantically, wondering how he could get to that noise. He broke into a run, looking at the top of the tunnel the entire time, hoping to see a manhole lid or something similar that would get him out of this catacomb. He suddenly felt a sharp pain in his back and stumbled forward, his face coming painfully in contact with the wet cement. He got to his knees and turned around. He felt like throwing up.
"Did you hide the whip because it was your favorite?" Slade asked, swishing the device around teasingly. He moved closer. "Is that how much you love pain, Robin?"
"No," Robin whispered, shaking his head in disbelief. He turned over and began to crab-walk backwards, scared to take his eyes off the man. Slade continued to advance towards him, slowly, running his hand down the length of the whip. Robin was now against the wall, still slightly trying to move.
"Honestly, Robin," Slade sounded unimpressed. "I take you in, I train you to follow in my footsteps, and you still act ungrateful."
Normally, Robin would have exploded with things the man had forgotten to mention; the abuse, the isolation, the fact that Robin did not want any of it. However, the whip changed the entire situation. He just stared up at Slade, his heart pounding so hard he expected it to fly straight out of his chest.
"What do I have to do to make you learn your place?" Slade used an annoyingly calm tone. "Any ideas?" He glanced at Robin. "No? Well," he raised the whip. "I have a few." Robin closed his eyes as it came down and cried out when he heard it crack down on him, licking him in the soft spot between his shoulder and collarbone.
"Maybe I'll be generous," Slade began circling around him, like a lion. "Maybe if you stand up right now and follow me back, I won't have to use this ever again." He glanced at the boy, who was clutching his bleeding shoulder. "Should I be generous, Robin?"
"Scream, Robin," Slade whispered, his voice thick with lust. "I command it."
"No!" Robin growled through gritted teeth. "No!"
"Scream!" Slade squeezed his arm, hard. "Now!"
Robin slipped his free hand into his pocket and fingered the cold metal within. Slade raised the whip once more, and the gun came out, aimed straight at the man. Robin stared up at him, panting, his hand trembling. The man lowered the whip and squinted his eye slightly. "You don't really think you can kill me with that, do you?" He scoffed softly.
"You said next time they wouldn't be blanks!" Robin slid up the wall, getting to his feet, the gun still aimed.
"Did you honestly believe me?" Slade stared the boy in the eye. "Did you think I would actually trust you to be skilled enough to survive in such a situation?"
Robin actually laughed, shaking his head. "I can survive worse, apparently." He squinted, his hand still shaking. "I survived living without food, without water, without people." He felt his anger bubbling under his skin, bringing goosebumps to the surface. "I've survived being beaten! I've survived being forced to kill!" He was shaking all over now. "I've survived having everything taken away from me!" He was screaming now, his voice cracking hoarsely. "I think I could survive a damn blindfold and a bullet!" Without waiting for the man to respond, Robin fired the gun, and his breath caught in his throat. Blood splattered on his face. Slade's free hand trailed over his chest, where blood seeped out of a wound. He stared at Robin. "Very good, Apprentice." He knelt down and placed the whip on the ground. He stood back up and moved closer to Robin. The boy panicked and fired his gun again and again until it did nothing but click. Slade lay on the ground, face-down. Robin fell onto his bottom and breathed heavily, his fingers still wrapped around the gun tightly, his knuckles white. Tears burned in his eyes and he began to cry, choking and sobbing at once, both scared and relieved. He curled up on the ground and lay there blubbering until he passed out.
"Robin." A gruff, deep voice. The boy's eyes opened. No, it couldn't be. He killed him. Gloved hands touched him and he began to struggle, kicking and elbowing. The grip tightened on him.
"No!" He cried. "No! Leave me alone! Just let me go!"
"Robin!" The hands shook him slightly. "Robin!" A slight hesitation. "Dick!"
The boy stopped struggling. Slade never called him that. Only…
He jerked his head up to see a black mask staring down at him. A black suit. A bat emblem. The gloved hand wiped sweaty hair away from the boy's forehead. Robin breathed heavily, his eyes stinging with fresh tears. Batman didn't say anything. He just pulled the boy against him, and held him tightly, rocking him slightly. Robin pulled away slightly and looked around. "Where is he?" He asked.
"Who?" Batman asked, glancing at the empty spot where Robin was staring.
"Slade!" Robin pulled away from him completely. "He was here! I shot him!" He looked at Batman. "His body should be right there!" He began to tremble. "Where'd he go?!"
"There was nobody here, Robin," Batman spoke softly. "Just you."
Robin wanted to scream, to punch something, to kill something…again, but he only maneuvered himself back into Batman's arms, which wrapped around him. The pair sat like that for a good while, and then Batman spoke. "I got your message, but when I came to Jump City, your friends informed me that you had gone missing." He sighed angrily. "We've been looking for you for three months now."
Three months? That was all? It felt more like three years. Three lifetimes, even. Robin didn't say anything. He just leaned against his adoptive father, glad that somebody besides Slade was finally here. Batman prodded him slightly. "Come on, let's get out of here."
As they climbed into the Batmobile waiting above, Robin asked hesitantly, "Are you taking me back to Titans Tower?"
Batman shook his head and patted the boy's knee. "Not tonight. We're going to Gotham."
Robin leaned back against the seat, sighing in relief. Not that he didn't want to see his friends. He just didn't want to see them tonight. He didn't want to be anywhere in Jump City. He wanted to be as far away as possible. Gotham wasn't far, but it was far enough. Alfred was waiting when they got to the mansion, and Robin guessed he was instructed not to ask any questions because he didn't. He took Robin to the bathroom and removed the boy's shirt, which had painfully stuck to the open wound on his shoulder. He dabbed gently at it with a cloth soaked in ointment and Robin winced slightly as he did so. Bruce entered the bathroom as well, knocking on the doorframe first. His eyes widened in horror, trailing the marks on the boy's bare back and chest. The bruises, the lash marks, the cuts. He looked at Alfred. "Let me," he said, taking the cloth. Alfred didn't even seem surprised. "Could you fix him something to eat?" Bruce asked. The kind butler nodded and left the bathroom. Bruce then began to apply the medicine himself, just as gently. Robin caught a glance of himself in the mirror and quickly looked away. Bruce seemed to notice because he paused and said softly, "Dick, look at me."
Robin shook his head. He half expected the man to strike him for doing so, but then it dawned on him that this was not Slade. Bruce pushed some of the boy's sweaty hair out of his face. "It's going to be okay, son." He continued to apply the medicine and then left the bathroom. When he came back, he was holding a t-shirt and flannel pants-Robin's pajamas. He also had a pair of boxers. "Wanna go ahead and get your night clothes on?" He asked.
Robin hesitated, and then nodded. Bruce left the bathroom and Robin looked around uneasily, half expecting to see Slade behind him. He dressed quickly and practically flew out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He made his way down the stairs and Alfred smiled at him from the dining room where he had just set down a bowl of soup and some crackers. "Would you like to try and eat, Master Richard?" He asked.
Robin numbly walked over to the table and stared down at the bowl. He took a small sip and that sat down to finish the soup. He ate about half of the food and then Bruce brought him a chocolate pudding cup. Robin ate that too, eating all of it, even scraping the sides. After he was finished, he looked between the two men. Alfred collected his dishes and walked away, patting the boy on his good shoulder. Bruce asked, "Want to go sit on the couch?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Robin said quietly, pleadingly. "Not tonight."
"We don't have to," Bruce replied gently. "Why don't we just go sit? See what's on TV?"
Like a shy child, Robin allowed himself to be led to the living room hand in hand by his adoptive father and together they sat on the sofa. The sofa they had sat on many of times to watch television or discuss Robin's homework or just to bear hug and wrestle. Now they just sat quietly, the grandfather clock ticking loudly in the background. Bruce clicked the TV on with the remote, and though they both stared at the screen, it was obvious neither of them knew what was on.
"Can I go take a shower?" Robin suddenly asked. Bruce seemed surprised that he would ask, but nodded and said, "Sure you can."
"Let me let you in on a little secret, Robin," Slade bent his arm back, making Robin cry out even more. "I've been very patient with you. Extremely patient." He held his firm grasp on the boy's arm, which was now starting to turn a faint purple. "But even my patience wears thin, and I've just about had with your defiance."
Robin allowed the hot water to sting his back as he stood under the showerhead. None of it seemed real. Was he really free of Slade? Was this all a dream? How was he supposed to feel? Surely not empty like this. Surely he shouldn't still feel miserable and scared…should he?
Robin growled painfully as the needle came into contact with his flesh, tracing the S. After it was done, Slade released the boy's hand and Robin immediately brought the aching wound to his lips. Slade chuckled. "It's not something that washes off, Robin."
He felt tears slide down his cheeks and go down the drain with the rest of the water. What had become of Slade's body? Did he really kill him? Did Slade kill him? Was he the one that was dead and that's why everything still felt so strange?
He stopped squirming abruptly when he felt how close the man was to him. Slade's single exposed eye glittered. "Let's find out just how sick I am." He trailed a finger from Robin's bruised cheek down to his neck, down his chest, resting at the waist of the boy's pants. He tugged them slightly. Robin's heart stopped and he tried to kick Slade. "NO!"
He turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, wiping his wet eyes with the back of his equally wet hand, both wet with shower water and tears. He dried his hair and then wrapped the towel around his waist. He caught a glance of himself in the mirror and allowed himself to stare. He felt nauseous with each mark and cut he visually came across. The one on his shoulder was the freshest, the worst.
Robin didn't know which sounded worse-the cry of the dog, or the cry of the child. He stood there, blood on his bare hands and legs, an equally bloody knife in his hand. The dog lay on the floor, whimpering, and through clouded eyes, Robin did it again and again, hoping the animal would just hurry up and die. The little boy sobbed as he watched, and when it was all over, Slade set the child down and the two robots returned.
He dressed back into his pajamas and sat on the floor, holding his damp towel in his lap. Was this all a dream? Would he wake up and still be on the floor of his tomb of a room? Would he wake up and have Slade staring down at him?
"I'm all you have now, Robin." Slade approached him. "All your nightmares, all your fears, all your worries, all your rage…" he grabbed a fistful of the boy's hair. "You only have me to run to."
He made his way back downstairs and Bruce looked up at him from the sofa. "Water hot enough?" He asked, unsure of what to say. They both were unsure. Robin nodded and stood there, unsure of what to do. Bruce stood up too and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Ready to go to bed maybe? Or you want me to get you a book?"
"I'll go to bed," Robin said quietly. He allowed Bruce to lead him to his old room, which was cluttered, but clean. Robin looked around the walls which held posters of famous skateboarders and motor-cross bikers. He glanced at his bed, which had soft blue blankets and sheets.
"Right now, dear boy," Slade oozed. "I only want one thing from you." His finger circled around Robin's belly button. "And I have it."
He gingerly sat on the edge of the bed and Bruce asked, "Need a glass of water? Milk?" Robin only shook his head. He climbed under the covers and his adoptive father patted his arm. "If you need anything, I'm right downstairs, okay?"
Again, Robin only nodded his head. Bruce leaned down and kissed his forehead. "Right downstairs, son." With that, he walked over and turned the light off, leaving the door open halfway.
Robin glanced around, afraid he might see Slade leaning against one of the walls, his mask glinting in the darkness. There was nothing, however, and the boy relaxed slightly. He rolled over on his side and closed his eyes. The scent of Wayne Manor on his pillows suddenly seemed to flow through him, loosening the lava lamp globs inside of him, suddenly making him seem lighter. He drifted off to sleep thinking of his friends back in Jump City, Batman, and his freedom. The freedom he was a little scared of because he had not had it in so long. When his parents had died, he had been told that time was an excellent healer. In Slade's lair, there had been no sense of time, but Robin was out, and time exhibited once again. He decided, that in time, he would be healed.