Teen Titans: Return of the Joker: A Sequel
Rating: M for massive angst of all kinds, character death (that's right), and also because the first story was M, and you're not allowed to read this one until you read that one, and that one is REALLY M. XD
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these characters, or even the basic plotline. I write this for entertainment and personal enjoyment only.
Summary: It has been a year since the events of the story Revenge of the Joker, and Robin is finally able to rejoin the Teen Titans. But how do you pick up the pieces? How do you go back to the way things were? And what happens when your past wont let you forget?
NOTE: This is a SEQUEL to my first story, Teen Titans: Revenge of the Joker, which can be found at .net/s/2047186/1/Revenge_of_the_Joker Please read that before reading this!
And now, a Quick Word From The Author:
Are you guys ready for this? Let's do it. ^_~ See? Quick! Now GET READING!
It has been a year since it happened…
Somehow, time has gone on much like it used to.
Bad guys threaten the city, and we stop them. Beast Boy and Cyborg still fight over the video games. Raven still spends the majority of her time in her room, reading books, or meditating. Silkie still eats things he shouldn't. And I, as far as I can tell, am still as I once was.
But things are not the same without Robin.
When we go after the criminals, it is Cyborg who gives the call to fight. When Cyborg and Beast Boy get out of control, it is Kid Flash who steps in and puts an end to it - if he does not make it worse. We still train, but we train differently. We still save lives, but we might fight differently. We still eat pizza, but not the same toppings. And we still watch movies, but no one suggests kung fu ones.
It has been a year, but I still expect to see his face in the hallways of the Tower, still expect to hear him shout "Titans, go!" before battle. But I never do.
Much is as it once was, but it is not the same without him…
Chapter 1: Time Stands Still
Sleep slowly unfurled its snakelike grasp, slinking off into the corners of the room to lie in wait for the next night. He groaned, and shifted in his bedsheets, rolling over to put his back to the streaks of light cascading down from the breaks in the velvet curtains. The early sun always had a way of burning out his retinas, even through clenched eyelids.
As sleep slunk further and further away from his reach, his first thoughts were as they were for weeks.
…what was I dreaming about?
His eyes blinked open, glancing out past his rolling bedsheets and plush pillows into the mammoth bedroom around him. The morning light shone in ribbons across the old rug and up the elegant wall opposite him, illuminating the golden highlights of the mahogany panels and then sparkling as it wove its way over the contours of picture frames and antique lamps.
To anyone else, the sight would've looked beautiful, tranquil. But to him, the beams of light only simulated what this room was to him – a prison.
He sat up in his plush bed, his sheets falling and curling around him like seafoam as he rubbed the annoying itchy burn of slumber from his blue eyes. His eyebrows knitted, wrinkling his forehead as his hands rubbed down his face. He blinked down at the maroon sheets hiding his legs from view, frowning deeply.
He fought to remember his dream. He knew he had been dreaming, lingers of emotion and feelings clear evidence that his night wasn't spent in peaceful nothingness. But he never remembered his dreams anymore.
Not like I mind, he thought. His eyes lifted up, to stare at the brushstroke gaze of Martha and Thomas Wayne, plastered enormously on the wall across from his bed. They'd probably been nightmares anyway. He was grateful he couldn't remember them anymore…
He turned away from the Waynes' ever watchful gaze, tossing his covers aside and standing on the elegant hardwood floors. He rubbed stiffness from his neck as he walked to the window, lifting the heavy curtain with one hand and passing through it, like crossing the curtain of a stage. Its weight fell on his shoulders as he stared out over the vast grounds of the Wayne estate, and beyond that, the Gotham skyline.
He remembered what it was like to be out there, amongst those buildings, fighting crime and making a difference. But it felt several lifetimes ago. Now, he was just a bird in a cage.
He smirked a little to himself at the irony of that thought.
The door to his bedroom opened, as it did every morning. He heard the familiar sound of fine shoes against the wooden floor, the chink of china, the small "ahem" sound the butler would utter when he entered, as though to warn of his presence so as not to startle anyone. The same thing, every day.
"Good morning, Master Dick. I trust you slept well."
"Same as always," the boy responded from behind the curtain. He shifted his shoulders, rubbing them against the curtains that cascaded down behind him. The weight against his back felt familiar and comforting.
It was all a routine. The sound of a platter being set upon the antique wooden table in the corner of the room. The smell of breakfast wafting to him as a cover of a dish opened for Alfred to stir. The old butler's voice, same sentence as always: "You should come eat your breakfast, sir, before it gets cold."
"Yeah, yeah," Dick grumbled, but didn't move from where he stood.
It was a day, just like any other day in that big empty mansion. But something seemed different, as he gazed out at the grass. A rabbit bounded across it with something in its mouth, disappearing into the last vestiges of fog that still clung to the trees that surrounded the grounds, and a bird fluttered by his window.
"What day is it, Alfred?" he murmured quietly.
"It's August 17th, sir," the butler replied simply.
"…I thought so…"
There was no response. The teen swallowed, pulling his eyes away from the lawns and the trees and the sky, looking down at his feet. A breathe leapt from his chest, like a chuckle, giving a little shake of his head as he closed his eyes.
Exactly a year since it all began.
He wavered in his spot a moment, taking one glance out the window before stepping back. He turned, allowing the curtain to roll from his shoulders and sweep back into place as he reentered the enormous room. Alfred hadn't moved from his spot by the table. Ordinarily, he would have, to go take care of something else in the house. But as the teen looked up at the elderly man, it was clear that the old man understood the day's significance.
"Dr. Thompkins will be in today, Master Dick," Alfred said, a little quietly, as though to reassure him.
"Tell her I'm not interested."
Alfred's eyebrows raised a little as Dick moved towards the table, inspecting his meal quietly. "I think it would be a better idea for you to keep to your appointment, sir."
"I have nothing to talk to her about," the teen murmured darkly, prodding at his oatmeal with little interest.
"I'm sure she'll help you find something."
Dick glanced over at Alfred with an impatient look. "It's been a year, Alfred. And I dunno if you noticed but I'm not exactly the nutcase I was when they brought me in."
"I had noticed," Alfred responded, looking upon the dark-haired teenager as a grandfather would.
Dick glanced around the room, almost nervously, then shook his head and returned to absentmindedly rolling his meal over with his spoon. "I'm ready to get on with my life. At this point I feel like if I'm here any longer I'll go crazy just out of sheer boredom."
"It is only another month until the Academy begins session again."
Dick froze, a lump forming in his throat as he stared down at the chunky oatmeal. "The Academy…" he repeated dully. "So… you're taking his side on this one?"
Alfred didn't respond for a moment. "In light of what happened, I do agree with him that it might be best for you to retire from crime-fighting for a little while."
Dick stood abruptly, his chair scraping back nearly colliding with the old butler. Alfred looked stunned but sympathetic as the teen swept angrily by him. "I am not saying that the decision should be absolute."
"Well, the old man made it pretty clear that he thinks it should be," Dick spat darkly, stepping to his bureau and ripping open a drawer.
"He is only acting in your best interest, sir."
"Right." The teen wrenched out a pair of socks and slammed the drawer closed, then pulled another open, looking for a shirt. "I'm gonna go for a run."
He turned to look at Alfred, who stared back with his usual somber, quiet expression. But a twitch of his mustache revealed he was biting back words. Dick gave a small, almost mischievous smirk. "What? I'm not allowed to take a morning jog? I'm not allowed in the gym, either. Is keeping me out of shape also your guys' idea of 'looking out for my best interests?'"
Though his expression barely changed a fraction, the boy was able to detect that the old butler was beginning to grow irritated with his attitude. Dick turned his back to the butler and shrugged out of his sleep shirt, grabbing a tank top and pulling it over his head.
"I'll go put your breakfast in the warmer for when you return, then," Alfred said in a stern voice. Dick glanced over his shoulder as he saw the old butler rearrange the items back into the place on the serving tray. He opened his mouth to say something, but then shut it again, turning away again.
"I'll stay inside the grounds," he murmured quietly, his voice almost apologetic. He didn't like acting this way toward Alfred… it wasn't like he was angry at him. As he closed the dresser drawers (determining his pj pants would work fine as running pants), he felt Alfred's eyes on him. The air seemed to clear, as though understanding had silently been exchanged. Neither of them spoke again, as the teen grabbed his sneakers and walked from the room.
He hurried quickly through the enormous mansion, taking the stairs down two at a time. He turned and headed down another staircase, pausing to plop down and pull on his socks and shoes. As he pulled the laces taught and bowtied them, he glanced around.
His eyes fell on a nearby mirror, large, antique and beautifully framed. As he double-knotted the last shoe, he stood, stepping carefully over to it, looking into the backwards world that existed beyond, and at the boy on the other side.
He hardly recognized him. No matter how many times he looked at himself, he still hadn't grown used to the changes the last year had brought. He was more gaunt than simply thin, with cheekbones and a jawline that didn't match up with his mental image of himself. His skin was pale from lack of sunlight, his hair shaggy, falling down past his ears. When he swallowed, he could see his Adam's apple bob. His eyes trailed down, to his collarbone and shoulders that were exposed in his tank top. What had once been finely tuned muscles had atrophied to mere skin and bones in the months he'd spent recovering and not training. He fidgeted, rolling his shoulders, and wincing at the pain he expected to feel in the joint where his right arm met the rest of him. That shoulder had been injured badly during the incident, and hadn't managed to heal correctly. It was likely to cause him pain the rest of his life…
He glanced back up, meeting his reflected gaze in the mirror. Even his eyes didn't appear as blue as he'd remembered. He ran his fingers through his hair with a sigh, glancing away.
It was really hard to believe an entire year had gone by…
He turned from the mirror, silently taking the last few steps down the stairs and crossing the large parlor towards the front door, pausing only to steal glimpse into one particular room, at a large grandfather clock that seemed to mock him from the far wall.
It was locked. Bruce had seen to that.
He sighed again in bitterness, and hurried on to get himself out of the house before he tried to tear the clock barrier down with his bare hands.
The air was already humid and gross as he broke into a jog beyond the front entrance. Insects were already starting their buzzing tunes of summer, and birds were crying without melody. He made his way skirting around the break between the lawn and the woods, passing flowery gardens and well-trimmed hedges. It wasn't nearly long enough before he was out of breath.
He pushed himself, though. He wasn't going to slow down because he was out of breath. He picked up the pace, darting into the trees. He wound his way around the aspen trunks, panting hard as he picked up speed, ignoring the sweat in his eyes and the stitch in his side. He leapt onto an uprooted tree and towards another, bracing the impact with his foot and using it as leverage to propel himself up into the thicket of branches above him. He reached out and managed to catch hold of one tree branch with both hands. He hung a moment, before pulling himself upwards, with far too much difficulty.
He paused with his underarms hooked over the branch and his feet still dangling, struggling for desperate breath with sweat stinging in his eyes. After a moment, he swung one leg up, and after missing a few times managed to get his ankle around the branch and finally pulled himself on top of it.
Nothing like a traumatic breakdown to ruin a lifetime of health, he thought with some irritation, leaning back against the tree trunk, still fighting for breath as he wiped sweat from his eyes. He'd never been this out of shape before. He didn't know how anyone could live their life this way.
At this rate, it'll be a long time before I can be a hero again… he thought coldly.
Maybe that's what the old man was counting on…
Well… he thought, with a smile to himself, grabbing a knot in the tree trunk and getting to his feet. The branch wavered a little, but he was already on the move, grabbing branches and pulling himself up to the tree's top. It's a good thing I'm the stubborn type…
No sooner had he gone as high as he could go, he leapt from the tree with a rush of adrenaline and glee, flipping into a midair somersault. Time seemed to slow as his weight shifted through the movements fluidly, like a hand was guiding him more than he was remembering. The world spun again and again, ground exchanging places with sky. Twigs scraped against his arms, but he barely noticed, his mind focusing on counting the inversions.
One… two… three… and four…
He almost didn't right himself in time, but felt another rush of triumphant happiness as his feet met the Earth and he threw himself into a gravity-stopping roll. He stopped on one knee, glancing behind him, back up at the tree he'd just leapt from. A warm smile stretched his cheeks.
"Still got it," he murmured breathlessly to himself.
He stood, and brushed himself off, picking a few leaves and twigs from his hair, when he thought he heard something. He glanced over his shoulder, holding his breath to listen better.
It… kind of sounded like someone calling for help…
But no, that was stupid, he thought, brushing dust from his pants leg. He must have been hearing things…
"Help! Help! Somebody please help!"
He turned on instinct, staring through the trees behind him. There was no way he had imagined that. He tore forward without a second thought, leaping over roots and nearly tripping himself up on the rocks and branches that littered the forest, following the voice.
"Hey!" he shouted. "I hear you! Where are you!"
"Down here! Please, help me!"
He reached the end of the forest, and skidded to a sudden halt with a gasp as rocks kicked forward by his feet suddenly went tumbling over a cliff to the crashing ocean below. He approached the edge carefully, eyes wide as he stared down.
Far below, clinging desperately onto some rocks, was a woman in a lifejacket. A fiberglass kayak buoyed violently in the sea below her, beaten up and half-submerged in the waves.
He swallowed hard, watching her a moment. This wasn't the first time he'd seen a kayak like that up against this cliff… it was a common story, paddlers getting caught in a storm, or losing their oars, the sea forcing them into the cliff face, and more often than not, taking their lives.
But not this time…
He realized, though, the cliff face was too sheer for him to climb down… and he knew at this point, he was far too weak to carry even his own weight back up the cliff, let alone both of theirs.
If only I had my utility belt…
"I… just-just hold on, I'll be right back!" he shouted, turning on his heel.
He bounded back through the trees as fast as he could, not caring when a root sent him face-first into the ground, not minding the burn in his muscles or the fire in his chest. He retraced his steps, pushing against the trees to propel himself further. It seemed to take forever, but soon he was racing across the well trimmed grass of the gardens, racing around the greenhouse to the old well.
"Master Dick?" Alfred asked with curiosity from one of the flower patches, looking over with a gardening hat on.
"I got it, Alfred!" he panted, snatching the rope that hung down the old well, and yanking hard on it. The crank was rusted, but the rope slowly began to unravel with a terrible creak. The pail attached to the other end clattered its way up the well before launching over the pulley and skipping across the floor. Dick wound the rope quickly and tore back towards the cliff. "It would be helpful though if you called 911, Alfred! Alright, thanks!"
He didn't give the butler a chance to respond before he was back around the greenhouse, leaping back through the trees.
And he knew it was wrong… but he couldn't stop smiling, couldn't help but enjoy that familiar adrenaline rush surging in his veins like a drug.
He reached the cliff, and hurled the pail over the edge toward the woman still clutching to the rocks. The bucket clamored against the sheer rock face, and he let the rope out til he was barely able to hold onto the end.
"Can you reach it?" he hollered down to her.
"Almost…! Just… a little farther!"
He sprawled out so his arms were dangling over the edge, but it still wasn't quite enough…
Come on, Boy Wonder… think…
He racked his brain, when an idea hit him. He pulled the bucket up a little, and quickly tied it tightly around his ankle. He crawled to the edge, and then slowly lowered himself over, gripping the edge with both arms.
"Grab it!" he shouted.
He felt her weight suddenly pulling him down, and he cried out – she was heavier than he'd expected. He struggled to lift himself up, his shoulder screaming with pain.
Come on, come on, come on…
With a final grunt, he managed to heave himself upward, hooking one elbow over the rim, then the other. He got leverage with his hands, and then hauled the rest of himself over. He scrambled across the dusty ground, then turned to grab the taught rope with both hands. After what seemed like hours, and with his weakened muscles quickly losing steam, he saw the scared, but relieved face of a thirty-year-old woman appear on the cliff's edge.
"Are you okay?" he gasped with his lungs screaming, reaching for her hand and helping her over the last foot of cliff. She collapsed on the ground beside him, fighting to breathe herself.
"I… got lost… I was stuck out there all night and… couldn't paddle myself out…"
She was still panicking, her eyes the familiar wide appearance of a person who'd just cheated death. Dick sat himself back on the ground, quietly watching her as he fought to get his own breathing back in check.
"It'll be okay. You're safe now…" he choked through his heaving breaths, managing a reassuring smile.
She nodded, tears trickling down her cheeks as the corners of her mouth turned upwards, relief and gratitude sweeping through her face and eyes. Her bonde hair clung to her neck, and her blue eyes sparkled with tears. "Thank you…" she whispered.
Dick glanced out at the sea, fighting to hide the triumphant glee he felt in his chest. He could feel his heart fluttering at the top of his chest, like a bird rejoicing.
For the first time in a year, he felt… right.
He felt like Robin again.
Was that a satisfactory first chapter? Did you notice the parallels with the first chapter of the first story? What are you feeling? You excited? Do you already want to kill me? XD Let me know! REVIEW! :D (By the way - I've missed you all so much! :3 We are going to have so much fun...)