Teen Titans: Be Gentle With Me
...so... apparently notifications ain't showing up in people's inboxes, neither? GODDAMNIT FANFICTION! I HATE THIS WEBSITE SO FRACKING MUCH! I WOULDN'T EVEN GIVE IT TO SLADE TO DO WITH IT WHAT HE WILL, I WOULD JUST KILL IT OUTRIGHT WITH MY BARE INK-COVERED HANDS! *grumble grumble stupid website grumble*
Well, here's a longer chapter for you guys… here's hoping you guys can actually see it… In any case :) Enjoy the angst!
Chapter 13: ...I Wouldn't Be So Scared of Dying
And now we're grown up orphans
That never knew their names
We don't belong to no one
That's a shame
You could hide beside me
Maybe for awhile
And I wont tell no one your name
I wont tell 'em your name
It was strange. This world he found himself in. It was chaotic place, a juxtaposition of reality and dreams. Often, he couldn't be so sure where one ended and another began, or if either existed at all, or if he existed at all. He felt tangled, trapped… broken.
Every so often he would notice one thing – a fish swimming past his head, a faceless boy asking him to play – that made him stop a moment and wonder if that was what was supposed to be happening. Then he would blink, and find himself in another place, seeing faces he didn't want to see, hearing voices he didn't want to hear. Not yet, anyway. He'd just turn away from them, wrapping himself tighter in his soft, tangled web, and slip back into the cloudy void.
And then there were those times, few and far between, where everything would just stop for a little while. No noises, no images, no thoughts. Those seemed to be the moments he looked forward to the most, because even snarled in this confusing place between lives, he never truly forgot what had happened. Who he was. Why he was there. What he had done. What had happened to him…
But it didn't bother him. Not here. It just couldn't. It felt more like something that happened to someone else than to him…
As some voices garbled past where he sat in this strange place, he wondered how much time was passing. There was no way to tell, no sun or moon, no pull of sleep. He looked around him, at the blurred images that made up his world. It all felt almost familiar, yet not. The patterns of fuzzy shapes, shifting every so often… he felt like he should know all of this…
He shifted a little where he lay, and then winced. Something hurt… no… many things hurt. Sharp, lingering twinges of pain, here and there… his arm, his back, his stomach… his legs… But they hadn't hurt before. Why was he noticing them now…?
He blinked, and looked up. His breath caught in his throat as he noticed that one by one, the blurred images were beginning to come into focus. Panic clutched him, and he turned away from it all, as he had so many times before, but this time, his cheek collided with something soft, and the rest of one side of his body followed suit. Gravity shifted, so he was stretched out on the softness like it was a bed.
…wait… it was a bed, wasn't it…?
He blinked against his pillow, inhaling the familiar pungent scent of the hospital wing. The last vestiges of his dreams were washed away with the bitter realization that he was actually awake…
…and he was alive…
All the emotions he should have felt before began to scrape at him now. He clenched his eyes shut and rolled his head into his pillow. His brain felt like a muddled mess. He didn't know what to think about any of this… being awake, being alive… But he knew, he didn't want to deal with it. He just wanted to sleep again… go back to that place where he didn't feel anything… He just wanted more time.
But it wasn't going to happen. He knew it wasn't going to happen. Tears stung in his eyes and his shoulders tensed. He clenched his fingers, and could feel the familiar tug of IV needles in the back of his hand. A tuneless rhythm rose in tempo with his heart rate, accompanied by the hum of other instruments… monitoring things like his brain waves, he supposed .
Seconds passed at half the speed of his pulse, every other beep another second come and gone. Dick grew slowly aware of the hairs on the back of his arms standing on end. His spinal column tightened, and he knew from instinct that someone was watching him. He kept his eyes closed, ignoring that feeling. He just didn't want to deal with anyone…
Yet he couldn't ignore that intuition. He was hardwired not to. Besides, anyone standing there had to know he was awake now… it was a little pointless to keep pretending… He opened his eyes, blinking out at the room. He frowned, realizing everything seemed brighter than it should. His eyes darted around, and he realized with a rush of panic that his mask was missing. His hands were already moving to hide his eyes – that was something none of his friends needed to see… not now. But movement on the far side of his vision made him freeze halfway. His gaze was drawn to it like a moth to a flame, following the straight contours of a dark cape up to a hidden face.
All knowledge of how to breathe failed him. His lips parted, eyes widening in a gaping stare at the Dark Knight. For a long moment, he wondered he was even really awake. Truly this was still a dream… cuz he wouldn't be… Bruce would never…
But as the initial shock passed, he found gravity tugging on him, pulling him weakly down into the mattress. His head fell against his pillow, half of his vision obscured as he stared out before him, his fogged mind scrambling to think.
…Bruce… Bruce… here…?
"What are you doing here…?" he rasped numbly, before he even realized he was talking. But as he heard his own voice escaping his lips, he winced noticeably. Hesounded weak… he sounded like a worthless failure… like defeat…
And he waited. He waited for the answer he knew was coming, just as a condemned felon waits for the axe to fall. He kept his eyes focused away from the caped crusader, dully out into the room. He knew he was to be scolded. Told off for letting himself be captured, for letting some stupid villain get away with using him that way. Told off for being so selfish as to give in to impulse… for being so selfish…
But when the Caped Crusader finally spoke, his voice wasn't stern or critical.
"You tried to take away your own life, Dick. You nearly succeeded. …Why wouldn't I be here?"
That was not the answer he'd been expecting, and definitely not the tone. Dick blinked blankly against his pillow, trying his best to hold his ground, to not react the way his body wanted to. He set his jaw, drawing in a hard breath, glancing further away from the Dark Knight.
"Well, clearly I'm fine now," he spoke bluntly, trying to sound strong and bitter – the way he had when he'd first left Gotham. "So why don't you just—"
"…you're not fine."
Robin fell silent. Those three words latched onto him, crushing his chest and digging its talons into his heart. He tried not to let it show on his face, but his shoulders hunched against it unwittingly, hands balling into fists before him so tightly, he was surprised his IV needle didn't snap. He barely blinked at the far wall as he tried to bury his reaction, able to feel Bruce watching him carefully.
…no… he was fine… if he wasn't fine, Bruce would take him away… he would strip him of his costume and mask… he would take his life away, in an entirely different sense…
And somehow, that possibility seemed so much worse than what he'd tried to do… it was almost a shame he didn't succeed…
He could see movement again through his peripheral vision. His eyes flicked to the dark vigilante then away again, as he saw that Batman had reached for a chair, settling awkwardly down on it so they were closer to eye level. Dick's eyes darted around, trying to find something – anything – else to look at than that masked face.
Bruce stayed quiet a long moment. He looked uncomfortable and out of place – the Dark Knight of Gotham sitting down beside his hospital bed, his armored elbows propped against his padded knees. The sight was almost comical.
Bruce looked around the room, as though searching for something to say. He glanced down between his feet, nodding his head just a little as though finally deciding on just the right words.
"I know what he did to you…"
It was stated so bluntly, yet the sentence trailed away, as though part of it was lost between Bruce's thoughts and his voice. The Dark Knight dropped his head again, glancing away as those words circled the room.
And Dick couldn't respond. He blinked a little, watching a spot on the far wall as those words replayed in his head again and again.
…what he did…
…what Slade did…
All the memories he had been holding back leapt to attention, filling his thoughts like photographs scattering across the floor of his mind. Layered, disjointed; each snapshot unrelated to the ones directly beside it, but presented together created a clear and immediate whole. Dick clasped his eyes shut out of reflex, forcing a shuddering breath as he fought to gather all of that and box it away again. But it was too hard, the memories were too vibrant, too strong …the animalistic grunts in his ear… the pain tearing through him… the emptiness in his heart in the aftermath of it all….
That feeling of being watched triggered again. His mind scrambled more fervently to shove those swelling emotions aside, a dry swallow hurting his throat as he forced his eyes open again.
"I know what he did…"
Do you really, Bruce…? How could you possibly know what I've been through…?
He glanced at the Dark Knight, just as the older hero glanced away again. Dick frowned darkly.
"Yeah. And?" was all he said, and he surprised himself at how bitter and resentful his words sounded. But he didn't let his gaze waver, as though challenging his mentor.
Their gazes connected. Dick felt his blood go cold, and he wanted nothing more than to look away, but he couldn't. He clenched his teeth, eyebrows knitting in focused animosity. He couldn't let his guard down. He couldn't show any more weakness before Batman. He had to stay strong, stay focused…
It was Bruce that turned away. He released an almost imperceptible sigh, and bowed his head again. Dick's eyes widened in disbelief as he saw gauntlet-covered hands lift, thumbs hooking under the dark cowl and tugging it back over a head of dark, disheveled hair, revealing the face hidden beneath. Dick could only stare as Bruce looked at him, his face startlingly human compared to the one created by the mask. Dick had almost forgotten what he'd looked like without it. The square jaw, the handsome features, that boyishness that age almost worn away. And then there were those gray eyes, the ones that only hinted at the troubled life the man had endured.
Bruce ran a hand absentmindedly through his matted hair, combing it back with his fingers and revealing his receding hairline. He glanced around with those stormy eyes, looking behind him toward the door, as though suddenly wary of his unmasked identity in the empty hospital ward.
And as Dick watched him, the disbelief and hostility charging through his system dissipated almost instantly. It had been so easy to look at the black mask and only see Batman - the callous vigilante, unyielding, uncaring, unwilling to compromise or cooperate. An impersonal aggravation that he'd left behind on the side of the country, and had been grateful for it. For so long, that was all he'd considered this man to be… all he'd allowed him to be…
But now that mask was gone, and all that was left was Bruce, glancing around with the same gray eyes as the man who took him in when he was a child… gave him a home and a family after his own had been so ruthlessly torn away from him.
Bruce… not Batman… Bruce Wayne… his guardian… practically his father… that's who this was…
It was a role the older man seemed to have lost practice with, but that concern, that kindness, was still there, seeping its way through the wall of sternness he'd built up over the years. Those gray eyes flickered over to the Titan, their gazes meeting once more, and Dick found his eyes widening at the amount of remorse showing in his mentor's face. It sent a chill racing from his sternum through his chest to his spine, freezing it solid.
After what felt like an eternity, Bruce glanced away once again, clearly searching for words to say. Finally, he sighed, and uttered words the Boy Wonder never thought he'd hear.
"I'm sorry, Dick…"
For a long time, nothing happened. Not even the air seemed to move. Dick's eyes stung, he held them open so wide, staring at the Dark Knight with his jaw slackened in shock. Bruce shifted with an uncharacteristic display of uncertainty before continuing in a halting mutter. "Since the first time you put on the mask, I was always afraid that something like this would happen to you." He paused a second, meeting the teen's gaze once again as though to reinforce his words. Dick found himself having to look away, focusing once more on a spot on the far wall, his eyes still stinging as he clamped his jaw shut. "There are sick people in this world and you… you were so young… just a kid. So many times I thought of making you stop, so you would never have to live through something like this…"
Dick didn't speak. He couldn't. His jaw hurt, he was clasping it so hard, and part of him wanted to make Bruce stop talking. This was more than he could handle. Bruce didn't say things like this… he didn't care…
"Well, then you grew up," the Dark Knight went on quietly. "You moved out here, you started your team… You overcame so much, did so many things to prove you could hold your own. You had your friends. And I thought I didn't have worry as much…" He sighed softly, massaging his browbone with his fingers and frowning deeply. "I thought I didn't have to…"
"Please, Bruce. Stop…" Dick breathed weakly, screwing his eyes up tightly. "Just stop."
"It happened," the Titan spat bitterly. "It happened. There's nothing anybody can do about that. But, you're not supposed to feel sorry, for me, Bruce! You're not supposed to!" His voice was rising, his fingers twisting around his sheets as the words leapt from his mouth before he could stop any of them. "It's my own stupid fault I got captured by him. It's my own inability to defend myself that let him do what he did! I was the one who let it get to me, who let myself be victimized to the point that taking a handful of pills seemed the only way to make the pain of it all go away! You shouldn't feel sorry for me! You should be sickened by me! I should be able to handle this!"
Bruce didn't speak, as though not wanting to interrupt Dick's outburst. The boy shook from the remnants of his anger, staring wildly up at his guardian, as though waiting for the man to realize his mistake and walk out him. Bruce swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing beneath the nape of his cowl.
"Everyone has their moments of weakness, Dick."
"You don't," Dick murmured, his head dropping heavily back onto his pillow.
"And that's something that took me many years to develop. I mean, when I was your age…" his voice trailed off a moment before returning in a dark murmur. "…well, let's just say it's remarkable I even survived my teenaged years."
The boy's maskless gaze flickered back to his guardian's face, noting the trace of dark recollection stirring beneath its surface. Dick blinked vacantly, not wanting to know or understand what that look could mean… it seemed like something he wasn't permitted to know.
"Richard…" The Titan seized up a little against the weight of that name, rolling his shoulders to his ears while ignoring the consequential pain lacing through his back at the movement. The bed shifted next to him as Bruce leaned his weight against it, his elbows pressing into the soft padded surface while his hands clasped together before his mouth as he searched for the next thing to say. "You've been through hell. Not one person will ever tell you otherwise. Some might try and convince you their hell has been worse, but there's no denying what you've had to endure. But… well, you know what I will say. What anyone will say."
"I can't just give up like that," the teen murmured, his words muffled by his pillow. The bed moved a little as Bruce nodded.
"It lets him win. It lets all of them win. And I know how much you hate to lose…"
Dick curled up tighter on himself, those words rattling through his head from another time. That had been so long ago… such a different world, with Slade representing something totally different in his world… I know how you hate to lose…
"It'd just be easier to let him win…" he grumbled numbly, still picturing that terrible mask.
"Of course it would, just as it would just be easier to let the bad guys do what they do and not try and stop them. This life isn't easy. You've always known that, Dick. It's not easy, and it never will be."
Bruce paused a moment, letting the words settle in the room. Dick shifted on the bed, rolling his head against the pillow as everything churned over in his tired mind. His shoulders slumped a little, as though he was too weak or defeated to be tense anymore. He wrapped his arms around himself, wincing at the tug of the IV tubes and taking a moment to pull the tape off, wincing as he pulled the needle from his skin and let it fall over the side of the bed, to dangle toward the floor.
"So what now?" he managed to croak, his throat becoming tight as he grew wary of the answer.
"I was going to ask you the same thing," Bruce murmured quietly, dropping his elbows to his knees and clasping his hands with a focused look to the teen. "What now, Dick?"
Dick didn't answer. He couldn't. He searched his brain for the answer to that question, but came up dry.
He thought about Slade. His chest tightened and nerves ignited at the mere recollection of him… the horrible things he did…
He thought about Bruce. That concerned face that he'd long forgotten… He still cared… Even if ordinarily he was an overbearing pain… he cared…
He thought of his friends. The Titans. Thought of Starfire. He wondered how they were all dealing with this…
…he thought of Wally… his voice through the darkness, screaming for him, pleading with him to hang on as the drugs took their toll…
"I guess…" he murmured quietly, rolling onto his back and staring up at the ceiling. "…I guess living would be the first step…"
Bruce didn't say anything, but out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw the older man relax a little.
"That's a start."
Dick swallowed hard, and rolled away from him, wincing at the pain lacing through him, from his cuts and his bruises. Slade's mask lingered in his mind's eye, accompanied by memories of the sounds, the sweat, the pain… He closed his eyes and sighed.
It was so easy to say those things… that he wanted to live… but feeling it was an entirely different story…
The next few days came and went in a blur.
He'd had to go through all the motions. The confrontations with the other Titans. The tearful apologies, the worried glances, the anger – well hidden but noticeable - at his selfishness. He had to convince them all that he was okay. That they didn't have to worry that he'd do something when they turned their backs.
…and he wouldn't. It took a few days for him to place some distance between himself and what happened, but he realized his own stupidity. He couldn't believe he'd allowed himself to go that far, and he hated himself for giving into his own impulses.
…though that didn't mean the impulses weren't still there. He was just more focused on ignoring them now…
Bruce stuck around. Dick was wary the whole time, expecting every other moment for the Dark Knight to walk in and tell him it was time to go back to Gotham. In fact, every moment that passed that didn't involve such a conversation only made the Boy Wonder more anxious.
"Am I allowed to stay, then?" he was finally able to ask, catching Bruce as he was coming back from his nighttime patrol of Jump City.
"We'll see," the man said in the gruff tone of Batman, sliding off his jet to the concrete floor of the landing bay.
"But why are you still here?" Robin murmured darkly, frowning deeply. "What about Gotham. You can't still just be here to look over me."
Bruce didn't speak a moment, inspecting something on the landing gear of the stealthy aircraft.
"You've been looking for him, haven't you…" Dick murmured quietly. "You're trying to get back at him for what he did to me."
"You could put it that way."
Any other time, Dick would've been annoyed. It was his villain, his team, his mission. Any other time, he wouldn't have wanted Batman sticking his nose in.
But this was different. Robin didn't want to have anything to do with him… not yet…
Bruce suddenly turned from his plane, getting to his feet and looking down on his young partner, face stoic and focused as ever. "You don't have any information, do you, Robin? Any clue or hint as to Slade's whereabouts?"
Robin didn't answer. He looked away, able to see perfectly on the map in his head where he'd found Slade that one night. He was a little amazed that no one else had figured it out... or maybe Slade hadn't wanted them to...
But even as he pictured it, he couldn't say it. For whatever reason, he could not say it. He looked back up at the Dark Knight, frowning a little.
"You mean, you haven't found him yet? With your tracking skills…?"
Bruce didn't answer. He looked even a little annoyed as he brushed by him, his cape fluttering in his wake. "Slade knows I'm looking for him… and he knows how to hide…"
They're evenly matched… Dick thought numbly, as Bruce disappeared into the depths of the Tower. I wonder what will happen if they ever do meet…
He looked around the enormous garage of the Tower, at the various vehicles and parts littering the space. He wondered how much longer this would last. How long until Batman would finally need to head home. …how much longer did Robin have left to be a Teen Titan…?
"Robin," a voice crackled on his communicator, snapping him out of his daze. "You did not ask permission to leave the command center. Please state your whereabouts."
"Calm down, Cy," he grumbled, snapping open his communicator. "I just went downstairs."
"Well, come back up here and stop sneaking off. You know we don't like that. Not after last time."
Last time… of course, when he'd snuck away, sought out Slade, and got himself into trouble again…
"I know…" he murmured quietly. "Sorry… I'll be right there." He snapped the communicator closed and rubbed the back of his neck with a sigh. He turned and headed out the room, only pausing a second to turn off the light.
…being a Titan… house arrest… stupid impulses… Slade…
His brain was all jumbled up, trying to think of a million things at once. His body still ached with the injuries from his encounter with Slade. His breathing and heart beat still hadn't quite normalized after the overdose. He felt like shit, and he still felt like a worthless failure. Only making his friends worried… only caring about himself… they would be better off…
He winced, and forced such thoughts back. He couldn't keep thinking that way. All he knew was, he had to keep living… just keep going until it didn't hurt anymore…
He made his way up the tower to the command center at the very top. His mind felt oddly blank as the elevator lift chimed each floor, until he was stepping through the entry hall into the main command center. Cyborg looked up from his place at the counter, frowning over at him with a focused expression.
"Come on, man. That's not cool."
"Do I really need you guys breathing down my neck every waking moment?" Robin murmured darkly, almost regretting his decision to return as he made his way to the kitchen.
Cyborg didn't answer, but shot him a very determined look. Dick ignored it, kneeling down and wrenching open cabinets under the counter, searching for something to eat.
Something caught his attention from the corner of his eye. He frowned a little, turning his head. It was a speck of color, beneath one of the cabinets. He reached under, his fingers closing around a crumpled piece of paper. He pulled it out and slowly pulled it open, flattening it against his knee before holding it up to read.
He blinked, dully.
"Cyborg?" he asked quietly. "How was Kid Flash doing, before he left…?"
There was no answer. Robin lifted his gaze, looking up at the cybernetic Titan. The bigger teen looked back with a muted sort of expression, frowning as though trying to see through the spiky-haired hero.
"He wasn't doing well…"
"Have you talked to him since he left?"
"No." Cyborg turned a page of his newspaper, smoothing it out on the counter. "He didn't take a communicator. I have no way of contacting him… although I know you do."
Robin didn't answer. He shoved the note into his pocket and stood, leaning against the counter.
"I guess I should call him… apologize for what happened…"
"That'd be the most not-an-asshole thing to do, yeah." Cyborg lifted his gaze again, growing a little more subdued. "…he was really worried, Robin… you… you clearly mean a lot to him."
Robin glanced at the yellow counter. "I know."
"What does he mean to you? And Starfire, for that matter…?"
Dick swallowed dry. No one had brought that up since he'd woken up. He looked around restlessly, blankly.
"I… don't know yet…"
"…you can't keep avoiding it."
Cyborg didn't say anything else, turning another page of his newspaper, a noticeable leap of excitement to his face as he noticed he'd come across the funny pages. Robin wavered a little while longer before standing up straight. "With your permission, Cy…" there was an air of bitterness to his voice as he spoke those words, "I'd like to go down to my room and see if I can get a hold of him… I really do owe him an apology, at the very least, for pulling that one on him…"
Cyborg looked up, squinting a little as though trying to make out any sign of deception in Robin's features. The younger boy stood his ground, determined, anxious. Cyborg finally gave a nod. "Go ahead…"
There were a million other bitter things Dick wanted to add to the end of that sentence – about how Cyborg should enjoy bossing him around while he could, specifically – but he bit his tongue, not wanting to lose permission as he hurried down the stairs, wincing at the pain in each movement.
He made it to his room, the door slamming shut behind him, leaving him to the silence and solitude of his own personal space. Morning sunlight filtered in from the small window – he'd opted for one of the few bedrooms without floor-to-ceiling windows, to allow more privacy - casting a square of light on the bamboo floor of his dojo-themed room. He paused a moment, reaching into his pocket again, pulling out the note.
It was Wally's handwriting… he knew it… the others had said he'd left, leaving only a note behind. Post-it notes… so typical of him…
But this one little note… he looked over it again.
Tell Robin that I…
There were a few more words, but they had been scribbled out, and no matter how hard he squinted, he couldn't make out a single letter. But that didn't matter… the intent was there…
Of everyone he'd hurt with his actions, Wally filled him with the most guilt. His voice screaming his name… the desperation… the pure loss… that was one of the few things he was unable to forget in the aftermath of everything.
He could remember – jumbled, hazy, but true – their moment on the rooftop. How at peace he felt with him… how concerned the speedster was when he was standing on the edge of the roof… how hurt he looked when he realized the truth behind Robin's words… how scared he was when the drugs began to take over…
And what Robin did to him… It was the most selfish thing he'd ever done to anyone. And he did it to Wally…
…who was in love with him…
It still didn't make sense. They had been best friends. Then, they had been fuck buddies. But… lovers…?
…it was just so confusing… would it ever stop being so confusing…?
Robin swallowed hard as he reached for the phone in his nightstand. He didn't know what he would say. He didn't really even know exactly how he felt. But he knew he had to talk to him… sooner or later, he had to talk to him… It'd been four days since he'd woken up, and almost a full week since Kid Flash had left… he might as well do it now…
It was just like that night. It filled him with a dreadful sense of déjà vu as he dialed information, as he spoke with a similar monotonous operator. Mobile phone… Keystone City… Wallace West…
He listened to the buzz of the ringtone as the operator patched him through. He sat upon his bed with a sigh, crossing his legs, smoothing out the note on the comforter before him with anxiety scratching at his nerves. He waited, wondering first what he would say when Wally answered, before then wondering, as more rings passed, what he'd say if he got the answering machine.
Four rings moved into five. He closed his eyes as he heard a click, expecting the voicemail message to start up.
But it didn't. There was dead silence on the line. He frowned, pulling the phone away. The time was ticking. The line was still connected. He furrowed his eyebrows, holding the phone back to his ear.
"Hello…?" he asked carefully.
Everything went still. His eyes widened, his body stiffened, his mind went blank. Pure dread flooded him, freezing him to his very core.
"Slade…" he breathed weakly.
"You were expecting someone else…?"
Dread immediately mixed with anger, proving a very dangerous combination. He was on his feet, the note clasped tightly in his fist as he clutched the phone painfully to his ear. "Where is he?"
"WHERE IS HE?"
"You mean Kid Flash? Oh, don't worry, Robin. He's right here. Say hello, Kid Flash."
A strangled yelp filtered over the line. Dick's masked eyes widened out at his empty room, his body shaking a little as he gripped the receiver even tighter.
"I swear to God, Slade," he rasped, angry tears pricking at his eyes as he bared his teeth. "If you laid one finger on him—"
"Oh, I've laid much more than a finger on him, Robin…"
Dick's eyes fell closed, his stomach twisting violently. This wasn't happening. It just wasn't happening…
Another cry broke through the connection. He grasped the phone with both hands, as though he would drop it otherwise. He felt the floor plummeting beneath him, his knees threatening to give out as he pictured Wally looking much like he imagined himself to look after it all…
…the panting grunts… the rhythmic pain… that piercing gray eye on his naked form…
He staggered, clutching the wall beside his bed to prevent himself from falling over.
"Let him go…" he managed to gasp.
"Okay. I'll just release him, right now, because you told me to."
"…you son of a bitch…"
"Language, Robin. Language. Do you kiss Batman with that mouth? It would explain so much."
A furious sound leapt from Robin's lips as he clutched the phone and the wall with nails digging in. His shoulder shook with rage, tears burning in his eyes. "You sick… piece of…"
"How about I offer you a deal, Robin…? Of course… I think you already know what I'm going to request…."
Robin froze in silence. His whole body went numb with dread.
"That's right, Robin. If you show up here – you know where "here" is, I trust – by noon, I won't kill him. Take too long, though, and you'll find his dead, naked body on your doorstep by nightfall."
"No!" a weak, strained voice wavered through the earpiece. "Don't do it, Robin! It's a tra—AUGH!"
There was a very clear sound of something snapping, followed by a long, broken cry. Dick pressed himself against the wall, shaking. "Stop," he gasped. "Slade, don't hurt him!"
"Hm… Pretty sure I just broke his scapula. And thanks to his little outburst, you only have until 11:30."
Dick's eyes snapped frantically to his clock. It was already 10:22.
"Oh, and Robin… you are to show up alone. You are to not tell anyone where you are headed. I watch this city… if there is one hint of anyone following you… if there is any indication you've brought along help… I will kill him…"
Dick swallowed dully, unable to speak, dread robbing him of the ability to. Slade just chuckled a little, clearly taking the silence as a proper answer. "I hope to see you soon, my little bird…"
The line went dead. The phone tumbled from his hand. He slid down the wall, hitting the floor, his whole body trembling uncontrollably.
…this wasn't happening…
A hand leapt to his face as he struggled to breathe, struggled to think. His ears rang, as though still hearing those pain-filled cries he'd heard through the phone. In his mind eye, he saw the owner of that voice… that redheaded, freckled-face, smarmy little…
He blinked at the floor between his feet. He could see that devilish smile. Could see the tinge of pink to his cheeks when they…
He saw the fear in his eyes when Dick collapsed on the rooftop…
But he could not see him in pain… he couldn't see him… like that…
His stomach twisted violently, and he bent double with an odd sound. He thought of everything that had happened to him, thought of the feeling of being so helpless against Slade's advanced. But, his own encounters with Slade had only lasted hours, but Wally had been through days…
…he couldn't even imagine…
A strange sound startled him - a digitalized tune. His head snapped up, eyes falling on the phone on the floor beside him. It's screen was alight, indicating a message had come through. He hesitated before stretching out a hand, gripping it, pulling it toward him while unlocking the screen.
If he hadn't been fully afraid before, he was now, as a picture appeared on the glass surface of the cell phone. He clasped a hand to his mouth, unable to blink.
…a thin, naked form, outstretched on the ground… bruises… deep incisions in his back, spelling out a clear, bloodied letter "S"…
…I've laid much more than a finger on him…
…come alone… if there's any indication you've brought help, I will kill him…
"What do I do…" he gasped, curling up his shoulders against the onslaught of flashbacks and panic, pressing the cold surface of the phone to his forehead as tears threatened again. "Oh god, Wally, what do I do…?"
A/N Oh, hey, remember how at the end of the last chapter, Wally looked out into the room and said "…I'm an idiot…"? Yeeeeah, it's cuz Slade was right. there. :D I'm such an evil little bitch! (don't kill me, you know you love it!)
Let me know what you thought! Not sure when the next update will be... laptop suckage and all that... *grumble grumble*