Author: Eyes of Glass
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It was winter in Jump city and therefore, very, very cold.
It was for this reason, that Robin, the leader of the Teen Titans, was watching the city ice over from his bedroom window rather than is usual seat on the rooftops. Not that he'd been there alone for a while anyway. He still had the bruises from the last time he'd been up there.
It had been almost a year since Bruce, his mentor, had pulled him aside after a training session and had warned him about the tenuous and nearly always dangerous relationships heroes and villains shared. Batman didn't think of himself as a hero but that was aside the point. He had told him how some villains would rise above others in the atrocity of their crimes and how the more attention he paid to these villains, the more he would receive from them. An uncomfortable prospect to say the least.
Then Bruce had shifted and his voice had gone lower, his demeanour changed slightly and Robin knew that it was Batman, not Bruce who was speaking to him now. He told him how one day, if he gained a reputation for fighting crime (which he inevitably would) then he would one day meet an adversary beyond all others. An arch-nemesis. Someone who would test his limits and even make him question his own morality, his own code.
Someone who the media would like to label, the arch enemy.
When it came to fighting normal criminals (if any of the criminals in Gotham could be considered "normal") it was easy to beat them. Easy to find a flaw and exploit it. Easy to move on and forget whatever petty attempt the criminal had made to damage them. With an arch-enemy, it was a different matter entirely.
They would understand you. They would calculate, pinpoint and predict every move they made and even anticipate the words you would speak. The attempts they would make to damage you would work on occasion and only the two of you would ever know. It was a difficult and dangerous relationship. One that would define everything that made you a crime fighter.
He didn't mention the Joker. He didn't need to.
Nevertheless, the message had stuck. Perhaps because somewhere in his still childish mind, he had wanted an arch-enemy. To prove he was no longer a sidekick but a crime fighter in his own right. Ironic that only a year later he would laugh bitterly at such thoughts.
Of course, fate had worked her miserly course and now his childish wish had been fulfilled. Interesting almost how his adversary had at first seemed so little a threat. Originally he had been a shot in the dark, an unseen influence on the Titan's enemies. Not anymore.
He had an enemy now. An enemy to outmatch all others in physical skill, tactical ability and above each an every one of them with a searing intelligence that had time and time again outwitted the Titans. His enemy and his "ex-master" Slade.
Even his name was enough to make him shudder.
His hand was resting on the pane of his window and the cool touch went through his gloves while his breath caused small white clouds to form on the glass. His eyes darted restlessly over Jump city, for once conscious of how obvious his location was. When he trained with Bruce he had lived covertly and his real name lived in the open while his other self hid behind masks.
Now it was the other way round.
The city lights flared across the city and once again he glared at each section, his mind absently wondering which part Slade was hiding him, perhaps even watching him. The thought was a truly discomforting one.
In all his experience of villains, Slade was a separate case altogether. An anomaly in the system, something to clever to be caught and to interesting to kill. Robin had even begun to question whether or not the man was insane. His way of operating on the criminal underworld certainly suggested a mind that wasn't quite sane.
The fact that he had been at the mercy of such a man and could be again was an even more discomforting notion.
At his mercy. His hand pressed harder on the window pane and his breath was hotter against the glass. That was why Slade was different, why he was the anomaly, the jigsaw piece that didn't fit but instead defined the picture as a whole. Any other criminal would shoot him in the back of the head the first chance they got. Any other villain would gloat for a few hours but would still tie a bomb to his neck in the end. Slade wouldn't do that.
In many ways, Slade was far crueller.
He wouldn't shoot you in the back of the head, he'd convince your best friend to shoot himself while you watched helpless behind a one way mirror. Slade wouldn't gloat and tie a bomb to you; he'd set fire to an orphanage and make the world think you set the blaze.
He was either criminally insane or an insane criminal. He'd learned to tell the difference.
Slade was different. Was he even human? Perhaps he was a demon who had always been in darkness, perhaps he was darkness taken in human form. Considering the things he had seen the villain do the thought was almost plausible.
Slade was the enigma, the mystery, the final piece of the mystery that would never be solved. Despite the length of time they had known one another, Robin knew almost nothing about the criminal. As he stood against the glass, still cooling as the night progressed, he realized he only knew one thing about the enigmatic individual.
Slade would never kill him. The though was so honest it was almost terrifying.
Slade had proved consistently and disturbingly that although he was interested in Robin; he was not interest in his demise. A sentiment Robin was both thankful for and repulsed by.
Once again, why?
In some bizarre ways, Slade was almost his mentor, or liked to think he was. Chiding him when he made mistakes and lightly praising him when he did something right. That particular habit of Slade's was not an appreciated one.
Slowly, piece by piece, another image was dragged into Robin's mind. He imagined Slade being at his mercy, if perhaps he had the choice over the life and death of a man who was a infuriating as he was compelling, as dangerous as he was enticing. He imagined being in control of the man or the monster, perhaps they were the same thing with Slade.
Even if he was in control, Robin knew he couldn't do it.
Perhaps it was a warped form of Batman's "one rule" but it only applied to one man.
Slade was his enemy, but he knew him better than his friends. Slade was a psychopath, but he seemed to understand and unravel every detail of Robin's mind. Slade was an enigma, but in Robin's strange and dangerous life, he was also a constant.
Love and hatred cannot live together, but admiration and anger could serve just as well.
"Robin, is that the best you can do?"
This was a story that I've been dwelling on for a long time but couldn't quite put into words. Many thanks to the works of George Orwell which served as an inspiration for the style of the story.
I've always been fascinated by the relationship between Robin and Slade and the dynamics between the two rally provoke wonder at what the two are thinking. I've tried to define this the best way I can but I know there are many other interpretations on the two.
I'm reluctant to do a point-of-view story for Slade because he's such a mysterious figure and it may ruin the way he is seen. However it's still up for consideration.
Ratings and reviews would be deeply appreciated,