Disclaimer: Hold on, I'm buying the copyrights right now on ebay...

A/N: Hey guys! This is just a teaser for the whole story "Dust," which is currently being outlined and written. So if you had to ask me which is my least favorite season of TT, I would have to say that I disliked the Brother Blood story arc. I mean, I love the Titans East and all but disliked the end of "Titans East Pt. 2". AND THE ENDING OF "HAUNTED" WAS NEVER RESOLVED! ARGH! CURSE YOU CARTOON NETWORK! So, I would have rather seen a story arc based off of Haunted, which is what I am going to attempt to do.

"I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals are the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again."

Ecclesiastes 3:18-20

Prologue: Survive

Robin crawled away.

The shadow of the man he hated loomed above him. Robin's shaking hand stretched out towards the bottom of the stairs as he tried to crawl away, desperate to escape the clutches of a madman. He no longer had a desire to fight Slade or to bring him to justice, but still Slade followed him like some fallen angel back from the grave. Youthful defiance could be curbed with the proper amount of pain. The mercenary had reduced Robin to a whimpering, broken boy crawling on the floor like some slithering, deformed creature. Robin could think of nothing else but the pain, the pain that only escalated like a rising musical crescendo.




That was all that mattered now.

"Slade…" he murmured. "Slade….stop…"

Slade's foot swung back and kicked Robin away from the stairs. He rolled to his side and groaned, not even bothering to stand up and fight. His voice was pleading… weak...

He had pleaded to Slade before, back when he had worked for him as his apprentice. He had pleaded Slade to spare the lives of his friends, but back then he had a choice in the matter. Here and now he didn't have a choice. No matter what he did…no matter what he said…Slade was here for no other purpose than to extract violent revenge. But this time Robin wasn't pleading to save his friends.

He was pleading to save himself.

"No, Robin." The overhead basement lights flickered on and off."I won't stop. Not now, not ever."

He grabbed Robin by the front of his uniform and pulled him close to his masked face. "I am the thing that keeps you up at night…the evil that haunts every dark corner of your mind. I will never rest. And neither will you."

Robin's feet dangled as he hung limply in Slade's grip like a discarded child's toy, his head flung back in defeat. His neck was exposed, his Adam's apple bobbing as he gasped for breath. It would be so easy for Slade to cut his throat, to snuff the life from him as he hung defenseless in Slade's powerful fists. He could hear Slade breathing heavily through his metal mask and could feel the warmth of the man's breath against his neck.

He mustered up the strength to lift his head so that he could look at his arch-enemy in the eye. If he was going to die he was going to die like a man. Their faces were so close together that he could see his faint reflection in Slade's metal mask. His own harsh, ragged breath misted the mask. So close.

So uncomfortably close.

"My…friends say…you're not real!"

"Oh…I'm very real." He shoved Robin down into the wall. Stars popped in front of Robin's eyes as the back of his head hit the steel beam. "Could you have gotten those bruises from someone who wasn't there? You can't even touch me."

His tone was mocking. Robin could feel the blood pooling beneath his skin, forming black-and-purple contusions that would take days to heal. That is, if he had any chance to live at all. But Slade had a point. Everything about this seemed so real. How could this not be real?

Brief but vivid memories of his time as Slade's apprentice flashed through his mind.

He thought of his friends. He thought of Alfred and of Gotham City. He thought of Bruce. Raven's brief possession of his mind had resurfaced suppressed memories of his childhood in Gotham, dark and emotional memories he wanted to leave behind in Gotham. But Bruce didn't know what it means to give up or to give in. Bruce confronted his childhood fear of bats when he took up the cowl. He didn't let his fear control him. He had used it and made villains fear the bats. Robin understood.

He would have to confront his personal demons to survive.

"All these…bruises…but you don't have a scratch!"

What would Batman do? He went through the memories of the past few hours, searching for clues he may have missed before. Voices echoed through his mind, harsh accusations reverberating off the walls of his tortured mind in overlapping waves.

"But Robin, there was no one there!"

"There are no generators. There is no Slade!"

"I am the thing that keeps you up at night. The evil that haunts every dark corner of your mind…"

Robin clutched his aching side as he struggled to his feet. He slung an arm over one of the steel support beams and looked right at Slade's face. He looked so real…these bruises were real…but what was Robin missing? If Slade wasn't real and he was doing this to himself, then how could Robin defeat his own fears?

The mercenary towered over him. There was no doubt in Robin's mind that Slade meant to kill him in the basement of Titans Tower. Slade had said so himself. Robin lifted his head. A shadow of doubt crossed his mind.

Would Slade, the real Slade, actually kill him?

"Every dark corner…you're only in my mind. Only in the dark. My friends are right! You aren't real!"

Slade's single eye widened, surprised at his sudden defiance.

"I'm real enough to finish you!"

Slade charged forward like the nightmare monster that he was. Robin's hand groped blindly in the dark until he found the light switch. Gritting his teeth, he slammed the switch down as Slade's hand reached for his throat. Robin blinked at the sudden light, but he saw Slade disappear into thin air. Robin's arm fell limply to his side. The only sounds now were the consistent pitter-patter of the rain hitting the window and the soft rumble of distant thunder.

"Lights out, Slade."

A/N: So...what do you think? I know it's just a rewrite of the ending of "Haunted," but I tried to up the creepy factor and add even more emotion. I actually like how this turned out. Kudos to those who got my subtle Dr. McNinja reference.