m a p s
f o r
l o s t
l o v e r s

x.

{ g o s a n g o k u }

with special thanks to

{ l i t t l e b l u e s p a r r o w }

x.

Shadows slithered through the dark trees that loomed over the area, concealing the moving figures as they swayed dangerously in the occasional gusts of wind. Thunder echoed in the sky as lightning exploded in a flash of furious white, briefly illuminating the area and highlighting silhouettes within the forest, ghosts lingering within the imaginations of the people presently trapped in the shrouded space. The sky seemed to growl as thick clouds disguised the place, further drowning it in darkness.

A barrage of footsteps flew over the forest floor and through the foliage, droplets from puddles scattering everywhere upon the mad dash through them. More shadows moved in the shrouded trees, but they didn't slow their steps, never ceasing in their furious mission to reach their goal.

Concealed blue eyes flickered towards the sides as he noticed the rustling further away, and he noticed that Superboy seemed to be frowning too. Well, more heavily than he usually was, anyway. Brows drawing together in suspicion, Robin was prepared to ask Superboy what he could hear, only for his headset to buzz before a voice quietly blared through, sounding oddly faint.

"Robin, do you copy? Over."

"Got'cha loud and clear, Aqualad. Over."

"Report your ."

Robin's eyes fluttered as he surveyed the area, raising a brow. "Stuck in a forest where everything looks the same. Totally not whelmed, Aqualad. Really not whelmed," he said, and then paused and grinned slightly when his team mate heaved a sigh of frustration. "Chill, Aqualad. Our coordinates are..." He trailed off, frowning slightly as he typed swiftly on the virtual keyboard that materialised from his arm. "That's weird; it says there's no latitude or longitude..."

"What do you see?" asked Aqualad urgently, sparing the finality of the sentences to swiftly understand what was going on. They couldn't afford complications.

Deciding to quit joking around for the time being, sensing the severity of the situation, Robin turned to Superboy. "Hey, Supey," he called, and icy blue eyes flickered up to bore into his mask. "Can you stop admiring the freaky plants for a second to tell me what you can see besides... plants?"

Superboy's scowl darkened and he looked back at the trees to his left, ire seeming to increase. "I don't know," he muttered. "I can... sense things. But I can't see anything," he groused, sounding angry at himself for his lack of abilities as a little voice in the back of his mind tauntingly whispered, Superman would know...

"I thought there was something out there," confirmed Robin, shooting Superboy a reassuring look, which wasn't reciprocated. "Aqualad, we—"

White noise exploded in his ears, and he could only hear the static from his headset. He cursed under his breath and carefully removed it, frowning at it and scrutinising it, but he couldn't identify the problem. It was torn from his fingers suddenly, and he glanced up to see Superboy staring down at it. For a moment, Robin feared he was attempting to use heat vision to melt it, but then he seemed to garner a perplexed expression. "I hear whispers," he mumbled, gaze lifting to meet Robin's, "but I don't know what they're saying."

I am so not feeling the aster, thought Robin dismally, folding his arms and frowning as thoughts danced through his mind as quickly as Kid Flash ran to flirt with girls. The thought made his mood darken further and something sunk within him, but he shook his head and dismissed it as nerves over the incomprehensible technological failure. Definitely not feeling the aster.

"What should we do?" Superboy enquired quietly, and Robin turned to him with thinly veiled surprise. It wasn't exactly a secret that Superboy loathed being told what to do and adamantly refused to take orders, and now he was asking Robin for guidance? Deciding it would be safer not to call his neurotic team mate out on his uncharacteristic behaviour, Robin shook his head and frowned again.

"We've lost our means of communication, and any technological devices don't seem to be working in this area," he murmured contemplatively.

"I wonder why M'gann isn't trying to contact us telepathically." Superboy glared up at the tempestuous sky, confusion and concern clashing with his palpable irritation over the strange occurrences.

"She isn't supposed to, right? Maybe she's afraid you'd get upset," Robin replied bluntly. Superboy became furious if you tried to break news to him gently, so Robin long ago decided just to be deadpan as he usually was with his mentor. Although the reason for his directness around Batman was primarily because the man had some sixth sense and always knew when Robin was being dishonest. Maybe he just has 'Robin senses', he thought with vague agitation, trying to disregard the grateful fondness he felt for his guardian.

"Yeah," Superboy agreed reluctantly, drawing Robin from his reverie, "but she usually does it anyway if she's worried or if something's happening..." He looked back at the younger hero, and Robin noted that his fists were clenched tightly. He briefly wondered why it was so difficult for him to control his emotions, but decided not to dwell on the subject of feelings. "Something is happening," he muttered brusquely.

Robin suppressed a scoff, instead nodding at his companion in silent agreement. There was no reason for their technology to fail in this area; it wasn't even far from their residence, and this was supposedly a relatively simple mission. Their aim was to retrieve something that had been stolen from someone who claimed to be a prestigious inventor, although Robin had never heard of the man. Nevertheless, the league had accepted the mission and offered it to their protégés, and they weren't often voluntarily given very life threatening missions.

Even though Batman's trained me and he knows I've gotten into some pretty messed up stuff, Robin thought with a sigh of irritation, he still insists on babying me. He tried to ignore the constant voice of reason in the back of his mind which infuriatingly spoke the truth, telling him that he didn't mind it, that in spite of his insufferable pride, he was always grateful for the dark knight's guidance and care. It was with knowledge instilled by his guardian that he realised he wasn't yet ready to lead his team, even if it hurt to admit it.

But it wouldn't do to get distracted. He didn't usually allow his mind to wander, but he had been embarking on thoughtful journeys more often lately, and he couldn't figure out why. He couldn't quite comprehend the situation here either though. The fact that they were currently unable to communicate with the rest of their team was bewildering, perhaps even slightly worrisome. Not to mention, Superboy was right; Miss Martian found herself hard pressed to control her powers when she was concerned. Even under threat of Superboy's wrath, she'd still hasten to enter their minds if it meant being sure they were safe. But she was with Aqualad, and he was the team's leader for a reason; he knew they would be fine as long as they weren't separated.

As for Kid Flash...

Robin's features darkened and his fists clenched slightly, toes curling as he thought of his best friend being paired together with Artemis. He couldn't understand it. They loathed each other, didn't they? They were constantly disagreeing for one reason or another. Hell, they couldn't be in the same room together without striking up an argument. Aqualad had spouted something about missions bringing people together and said that perhaps if they were to work with one another, they would get along.

This is turning out to be less exhilarating than I thought it'd be... More hilarating, he thought ruefully, only to be viciously torn from his thoughts when he was sent flying into Superboy's chest. He felt numb for a moment, a blanket of shock muffling his senses, before pain suddenly exploded in his abdomen. He gasped and lurched forwards, but didn't spare time to recover before he grabbed a birdarang from his belt and flung them at the strange shadows drifting swiftly through the dark forest. They didn't seem to collide, however, and instead seemed to be absorbed by whatever the target was.

He heard Superboy growl lowly in his throat and glanced up at him, but didn't allow his gaze to distract him for long. "What is it? Do you see something?"

"Only shadows," he answered angrily, fists trembling with self-deprecated rage.

"We should find the others," Robin decided, since their foes seemed immune to physical blows. He didn't want Superboy to lose whatever cool he had left and fruitlessly attempt to battle against the darkness. "Can you hear them?"

Superboy closed his eyes to concentrate, only for his features to contort into a deeper glare, and he exhaled noisily, obviously trying hard to control himself. "No," he muttered, "I can't hear anything except for your breathing. It's like it's deserted."

Robin tried his holographic computer once again, but this time it didn't even flicker. I hope the rest of them aren't having this problem, he thought as he appraised the area, trying to formulate a plan. KF could probably get out of here by running, but Artemis's arrows aren't going to do much if my birdarangs don't. Aqualad's attacks are all physical too, just like Superboy's... I think Miss Martian might have properties that would allow her to get something on whatever it is lurking in the forest. But that isn't going to help if we can't find her...

"Superboy," he said suddenly, and icy blue eyes darted down to frown at him. "We've got to find the others. I don't think we've got the mission we thought we had. We're—"

Suddenly there was a loud cracking noise, the sound of bones being put back into place, and then Superboy could hear that same indecipherable whispering that he'd heard earlier. "Who's there?" he demanded furiously, eyes wide and full of fury as the unintelligible noises continued buzzing in his ears. "Show yourself!"

"Superboy, calm—" Robin began, only for the wind to be knocked out of him by an invisible force. His knees gave out and he crumpled to the ground like a paper doll, trying to force air into his lungs. Through glassy eyes, he lifted his gaze to see Superboy standing over him, vainly punching at nothing.

...hear me—?

Superboy froze, not even out of breath, and called out for the familiar voice of Miss Martian echoing in his head. "Where are you?"

...don't know ... dark, and Aqualad can't fight these guys ... Couldn't get through to you until ...

"We can't hear you very well, Miss M," Robin gasped out, clutching his aching side. "We're in the same boat though – we can't fight. These things, whatever they are, don't seem to be affected by physical force. You have to try using your powers, but first we should all get together. Communication is virtually impossible, and most of our abilities are useless right now. We're all in danger."

... Danger? ... not good ... Danger of what?

Her voice was fading in and out, and it was only just loud enough to make out scarce words here and there. "I'm not sure," he answered, forcing himself onto his feet again, "but it doesn't look like it's a living thing..."

a ghost?

"Not sure," he replied again. "But we've gotta find each other before we make any decisions. Superboy and I are facing northwest. We can see the mountains head on from here. There are puddles around, even though it's not rained here in weeks. I can't give you coordinates; my holographic computer isn't working. Do you think you can find us from that information?"

Let me see.

Suddenly his head was invaded by a weak force, and he knew M'gann was trying to see images through his eyes. She glanced around the area swiftly and spared Superboy a brief glance, and Robin felt her relief washing over him, before her presence vanished.

... think I can find you. Stay there until then.

x.

"What the hell is going on?"

Artemis lifted her gaze from the shrouded plants to look at Kid Flash in distaste. "If I knew that," she snapped, "we wouldn't be stuck here."

Acidic green eyes swivelled around to level her with a poisonous glare, but it hastily dissipated. "It feels weird. Like there's someone here, only..."

Artemis found herself smirking at him, a hand on her hip and bow lowered by her side. "Scared, Kid?" she teased, taking pleasure in the anger directed at her. His unease wasn't helping the situation. She'd rather he be riled up than unnerved.

"As if," he snorted, brows furrowed. "You think the others are okay though? Robin..."

"Can handle himself," she finished, waving a hand dismissively. "He's had more experience than any of us have had, hasn't he? How long as he been in the crime fighting business anyway?"

"Since he was nine," Kid answered immediately.

Artemis blinked in surprise. For all they thought of Robin as the baby of the group, there had to be something about him they didn't know if he'd been forced to fight since such a young age. And he was still only thirteen... It was no wonder he was so tactical if he'd grown accustomed to it. "So he has experience," she finally said, shaking off her troubled thoughts and tilting her head with a raised brow. "Not to mention, he has Superboy with him. I'm sure he can protect the kid."

Irritation flashed in Kid's eyes for a moment and he furiously snapped, "Robin doesn't need protection, especially not from Superboy." After the words escaped his lips, he froze, confusion probing at his mind after realising how agitated her remark made him. He shook his head and sighed. The pressure was just unnerving him a bit, obviously. Besides, Artemis always got under his skin. She was like an infuriating sister.

"Ah," she said knowingly after a moment. For a second, she was prepared to argue with him again, about to tell him how childish and idiotic he was being, before realising the reason behind his sudden burst of antagonism.

"What?" he said, scowling at her.

"You and Superboy could bond over your unjustified anger," she said casually, avoiding answering truthfully. Really, boys were such oblivious creatures. It pissed her off.

Kid raised a brow, appearing more bemused than affronted, before shrugging it off. "Could say the same for you," he retorted, and she rolled her eyes, opening her mouth to snap back before she felt something cold snake around her arm. She gasped and lurched backwards, bow arched and arrow pulled back as her eyes darted around. "What are you doing?"

After a long moment of appraisal, she lowered her bow and looked back at Kid. "I felt something," she answered simply, frowning suspiciously at the swaying trees.

"Like the wind, maybe?"

She didn't bother retorting. She lifted her arm, but there was nothing out of the ordinary there. Yet she could still feel that same icy sensation coursing through her very being...

"It feels weird," she murmured suddenly, as close to an admission that Kid Flash was right as she would ever get.

There was a pause before he responded. "Like someone's there?"

She met his eyes, allowing her arm to fall by her side once more. "Like something's there."

x.

Robin wasn't sure how long it had been since M'gann had spoken with him, but it had to have been a while since he could now see the moon looming ominously in the dark sky, the storm clouds from earlier still lurking around it. Superboy had been on edge and, truthfully, so had he; he couldn't understand why M'gann hadn't talked to the entire group at once as she usually did, not to mention her voice drifted in and out sporadically. That never happened.

Damn it, Wally... Where are you?

Footsteps. He could hear footsteps. He stood abruptly, going to grab his birdarangs as Superboy clenched his fists and got into a defensive stance. They watched avidly, eyes wide as they waited for enemies to reveal themselves.

A twig snapped, and Kid Flash emerged from the foliage, a sheepish grin etched onto his features. "Whoa, guys," he said, laughing nervously upon noticing their readiness to attack. "Chill, would you? It's me."

Robin, against his better judgement, lowered his weapons and grinned at his friend. "Dude, it's good to see you," he breathed, stepping towards him.

"Stop!" Superboy yelled, voice echoing and almost blowing Robin over, but Kid remained standing, impassively staring at Superboy.

"Supey, what's up with you? It's just—"

"He isn't Kid Flash!"

Robin frowned at Superboy before turning back to Kid, tilting his head. "KF...?" he murmured reproachfully, remaining still when Kid's green eyes locked onto him. They weren't full of mirth or happiness as they normally were when he was around Robin, but were instead seemingly void of all feeling. Robin grimaced at the dead look in his eyes. It was all too familiar; those were the eyes of his family after they—

"Who are you?" he asked, finding it difficult to look the Kid Flash lookalike in the eyes.

They didn't answer, but instead walked towards him. Robin took a step back and scowled warily.

"Answer me," he demanded. "I won't hold back if you force me to fight."

"Stay away!" Superboy roared furiously, moving to throw a hard punch at the stoic Kid Flash, only to freeze suddenly. His eyes widened as Kid Flash turned to him mechanically, head lolling to the side as if he was a puppet, and then Superboy was thrown backwards, finding himself crashing through dozens of trees. Kid Flash watched him for a moment before his neck cracked and he turned back to Robin, who stared at him, a small glare on his face. He was thankful for his mask, otherwise whoever this impersonator was would be able to see the horror in his eyes.

"Who are you?" Robin asked, voice stronger than he felt at that moment as he continued walking backwards while Kid Flash slowly approached him, giving up the facade and abandoning speaking. Robin gritted his teeth and cursed under his breath, throwing something into the ground. Smoke erupted around them, engulfing the area, and he dashed through it. He ran through the trees, dodging branches and flipping over fallen logs, following the trail of broken trees until it came to an end. There was a small crater in a large rock where Superboy should have landed, but he wasn't there. "Supe—"

He heard a crack, followed by several more. Swallowing thickly, he swiftly turned around, prepared to fight, only to stop still, watching in horror as a skeleton seemed to lift itself from the ground and put itself together, woven with shadows, and took the shape of Superboy. Blue eyes met his, but they weren't those of Superboy's – they were dead, just like Kid Flash's before.

It moved forwards, and Robin briefly spared a moment to wonder what to refer to it as because he knew Superboy hated being called it, but this wasn't him. Sickening cracks and pops emerged from its body as it walked towards him, looking like it would fall apart at the slightest touch, but he didn't want to spend time figuring it out with those soulless eyes enrapturing him.

"Join us, Richard..."

x.

"We have found you."

Kid Flash and Artemis, who were standing back to back as they scanned the forest, lurched in shock before turning to face Aqualad, who smiled congenially at them. How come I didn't hear him? Artemis wondered with a frown as Kid's face lit up with a grin.

"Aqualad!" he cried happily, zipping up to his friend to pat him on the shoulder. "Glad you found us. I was beginning to go crazy with her—" He stopped, feeling something cold on his fingertips, and drew his hand back from Aqualad to stare at it. There was nothing there but a thin veil of dirt, but he couldn't imagine why. He shuddered slightly, wondering why his friend felt so cold...

"You said we," Artemis said suddenly, ignoring Kid's comment and instead addressing Aqualad, who stared back at her evenly. "You're with someone?"

"Miss Martian is with me," he replied easily.

"Ooh, she's here? She probably needs someone to hold her hand. Can't blame her, I guess, since it's pretty creepy here. I volunteer—"

"Shut up, Kid," Artemis snapped impatiently, not removing her eyes from Aqualad. "Where is she?"

Aqualad took a step, pausing as Artemis swiftly held up her bow, eyes glinting dangerously as she pulled back an arrow.

"Hey, what are you—?" Kid began, irritated by Artemis's actions, but whirled around when he heard cracks. He frowned at Aqualad, scrutinising him as he moved and backing away. "Aqualad doesn't move like this. He moves fluidly," he said.

"This isn't Aqualad," Artemis confirmed, eyes narrowing. "Don't come any closer!" she shouted, but her words were ignored. "Kid, go find the others. I'll keep this imposter distracted."

"You aren't the boss—"

"For once, stop fighting and do as I say! I'll keep this guy busy; you can look for the others faster than I can. Besides," she said, shooting him a small smirk, "don't you want to make sure Robin's okay?"

Kid blanched for a moment, befuddled by the amusement sparkling in Artemis's eyes, before nodding seriously in response. "Yeah," he said softly, "I guess so."

"Then what're you waiting for?" she asked, turning back to stare down the blasé Aqualad. "Go and find the Boy Wonder."

That was all the urging he needed before he accelerated from the area, hoping his friend was safe.

x.

in ... hear me?

"Barely," he breathed, hands trembling after familiar voices echoed in his head before M'gann's did.

Aqualad says ... report your condition ...

"I don't know where Superboy is," he said robotically, eyes locking with the dead ones of the replica of his missing friend. "I saw Kid Flash, only... it wasn't him. And now I have a fake Supey in front of me. A clone of a clone, who'd have thought?"

... Superboy is lost? Is he—?

Her voice was cut off suddenly as a calm voice interrupted. "How irritating," it murmured silkily, "interfering with our conversation..."

"Who's there?" Robin demanded, trying not to show he was caught off guard. He fingered the smoke bombs on his belt and heard a mocking chuckle. It held no humour. It was empty. Dead.

"You cannot hide, Richard," it said softly, sounding almost soothing save for the undertone that promised pain, as if it knew something bad would come. "Not from your past."

"What are you talking about?" he bit out impatiently, unnerved by the invisible enemy, but not taking his eyes off of the fake Superboy. His eyes widened and he flipped out of the way when he felt a hand on his back, whirling around to see that the fake Kid Flash had also arrived. "Who are you?" he hissed.

"You know, I'm not quite sure myself," the voice answered, sounding thoughtful but uncaring. "Do not fear, I am not trying to hurt anyone..."

"Then what do you want? Whatever it is, we won't be giving it to you."

"Shooting people down before giving them a chance? That isn't very nice, Richard..." it said quietly, voice less smooth and more sly now. The fake Kid Flash and Superboy stared back at him emptily and he grimaced. "I can offer you something too..."

"Don't want anything, unless your offer is to let my friends and me out of here," he replied levelly.

"Don't interrupt me, boy," it hissed warningly, and suddenly Robin found himself being pinned to the floor by Kid Flash, the replica's nails digging into his wrists. "If you join us, then you can see your family again..."

Robin shut his eyes for a moment. "Dude, don't even try that," he said. "I may be thirteen, but I'm not stupid enough to believe that crap."

"Your friends were," it replied. Robin scoffed. "How else to you think I managed to extract their souls?" Robin's eyes behind the mask narrowed as he considered the words, but he shook his head. This person was trying to trick him. "They gave in... to me, and to their temptations... They gave themselves up to me for what I offered... and I can do the same for you."

"They would never do that," Robin said calmly, cackling quietly. "What they have means too much to them to give up for anything some freaky spirit could offer."

"What of family, Richard?" it retorted, but it sounded less composed. "Don't you want to see them? Or have you replaced your father with Batman?"

He took a deep breath before exhaling. "No," he murmured. "I feel no need to justify myself to you. You won't even show your face. And I'm calling bull," he said bluntly. "My team is too determined and strong to sell themselves and forsake their friends for things an unreliable source promises them."

The voice was silent, and for a moment Robin wondered if he had talked them into backing off a bit. He should have known otherwise, thanks to his bad luck, but took a swift punch to the gut by the Kid Flash clone pinning him down. Raising his legs to kick him, Robin rolled away and glared threateningly, appraising the two clones before them.

"You'd fight your friends?"

"They aren't my friends," he retorted calmly, "they're holograms."

x.

Kid Flash skidded to a halt, a cloud of dirt erupting behind him as he stopped abruptly, glancing around quickly and then zipping into an opening in the forest. He frowned at the crater and approached it carefully, silently dashing behind a stray rock and leaning over.

"Supey!" he called upon noticing the symbol on his friend's torn shirt. Once again, his clothes are ripped. What is he, a DragonBall character? "What happened?" he asked, running into the hole and leaning over Superboy, who lifted his head to scowl at Kid. He recoiled upon noticing the blood sluggishly sliding down Superboy's face and frowned deeper. "Well?"

"You happened," he grunted, pushing himself to his feet.

"Whoaaa, wait, hold up," Kid said, raising his hands defensively. "I've been stuck with Artemis the whole time. I—"

"It was a fake you," Superboy interrupted, glaring at him. "It attacked us when we realised it wasn't you. I just woke up... I don't know where Robin is." His fists shook as he bristled with barely restrained fury, and for a moment KF felt his own ire increase, wondering why Superboy seemed so angry.

"It's not your job to protect him," he said, but at the same time he wished Superboy could have. Robin didn't have powers like they did. Neither did Artemis, he supposed, but...

"We're a team," Superboy said. "We all help each other. Isn't that right?"

Kid blinked in surprise, staring at his team mate in astonishment before managing a slow nod. "Yeah..." he said. "Yeah, that's right."

"So we've gotta go find him."

His shoulders hunched and he frowned again. "That's my line."

Superboy regarded him for a moment, looking slightly confused. KF hated how the guy could look like a lost puppy after going into hulk mode.

"Whatever, you're right," he said quickly to avoid any questions about how defensive he was being. "Let's go find Rob."

x.

"I can't seem to get through to anyone now."

Aqualad turned to look at the forlorn Miss Martian, and offered a reassuring smile as he touched her shoulder. "It's all right," he said. "It isn't only your powers that have been interfered with here." He frowned again, looking troubled. "It appears physical force alone is not enough to take down our new foes. Robin was correct when he said it is you who is the most capable right now, even if your telepathic connection is not working as it normally is."

Miss Martian looked worried, and Aqualad knew she was probably anxious about Superboy's condition. She didn't voice her concern over individuals, however, and kept her mind on task. "But it seems they – whoever they are – are targeting Robin. We've not been approached apart from those distant shadows, but Robin said he and Superboy were attacked..."

"We cannot analyse the enemies' tactics if we are separated," he said, "so let's not jump to conclusions. For now, we should continue to search for the others." She didn't appear comforted by that fact, so he squeezed her shoulder and smiled again. "It will do you no good to worry. I'm sure they are fine."

She returned his smile. It was weak, but it was there, and she understood that she couldn't forsake the mission by distracting herself.

Still, she thought, gazing up at the rumbling sky, I hope they're okay...

x.

"Do you not understand, boy?"

"You're back, huh?" Robin drawled, still staring down the clones as his hands remained on his belt, ready for action.

"I'm offering you something you've dreamt of for years," it said, voice almost a growl now, as thunder echoed and lightning brightened the place, and rain suddenly began to fall heavily. Robin's eyes narrowed as he looked up at the sky. He'd researched this place – it hasn't rained in years, and it wasn't scheduled to do so any time soon...

"I'm telling you I'm not interested. You really think my family would've wanted me to give everything up because some creepy voice in my head is telling me I can? I don't think so, pal."

"Then I will allow you to join them," it declared.

Robin felt hands weave themselves around his throat and clamp down. He gasped and tried to escape the grasp, but he found himself immobilised by some sort of unseen force. The Superboy hologram walked towards him, fist clenched as he drew it back, and Robin writhed furiously in the hold he was trapped in. He wouldn't survive a hit from Superboy, even if it was a fake.

Before he knew it, he was torn free from the force he was bound under, and he barely had time to see as the fake Superboy was thrown a punch of his own, sending him plummeting to the ground. Robin's head swam and he squirmed again.

"Hey, dude, chill," a familiar voice said, and he stopped moving, trying not to let himself hope as he lifted his gaze and met the concerned green eyes of his best friend. He relaxed slightly, noticing the life in them, and sighed shakily.

"KF..." he murmured, suddenly feeling exhausted.

"What's going on, Rob?" Kid asked, brows drawn together as he frowned at his friend worriedly. It was no wonder he was tired, really. If he and Superboy hadn't arrived when they did...

"Holograms," Robin said, forcing himself out of his tiredness. "It took me a while to realise," he added, and KF shot him a look as he silently cursed his friend for being such a genius. "We aren't conscious," he explained as Superboy bounded up to them, permanent glare on his face.

"What are you talking about?" Kid Flash piped up, raising his brows.

"It hasn't rained here in a while," Robin explained, "and it isn't supposed to for several more days. This weather is fake. This place isn't real."

"It sure as hell feels real," Superboy muttered darkly, rubbing his sore shoulder where he'd fallen earlier.

"It's in our minds. This place is made with technology, which is why our communication has failed. Everything is a hologram."

M'gann's smiling face appeared in Superboy's mind and he frowned. "How could she...?" he began, but Robin beat him to it.

"Miss Martian couldn't keep up the telepathy since we aren't conscious," he said, "but she managed a weak connection since we're actually trapped in our minds. Sorta."

"Wait," KF said, shaking his head in confusion. "If this is all in our heads, then how come we can feel stuff? Besides, you said it's a hologram."

"Why do you think that inventor never told us what was stolen from him?" Robin rose. "This place... It's not right. Whatever he's made... It does something to your head. It messes with you."

"What're we gonna do?" Superboy asked, looking positively wrathful at the thought of his head being messed with. Get out! He thought furiously, even if he couldn't feel anyone inside his mind. He was sick of being controlled. He might be a clone, but his... friends... freed him. He was a real person, even if Superman thought otherwise.

"We've got to wake up," Robin answered. "Miss Martian's the only one who can do that. We've got to find her..." He trailed off as if only just noticing something, and he felt heat rise up in his cheeks when he realised he had been encased in KF's arms throughout his entire explanation. "Uh... KF?"

"Yeah?" he replied, snapping out of whatever trance he was under, having felt strangely dazed as he listened to Robin's explanation.

"You can put me down now," he mumbled.

Kid blinked before his eyes widened and his own cheeks reddened slightly. "Nah, I don't think so," he said awkwardly, clearing his throat and subtly tightening his hold on his friend. "Supey can go pretty fast, so he can just about keep up with me, but you can't, Boy Wonder. If we're gonna find the others, we're sticking together."

I don't like how my heart stopped when I saw you in danger.

Whoa, where did that thought come from? He swallowed nervously, feeling his heart speed up now, and for once feeling like he should run into a wall to knock some sense into him. It was normal to worry about your best friend, right? Of course it was, but…

"Kid Flash, if we're going to look for them, then we should get going," Superboy murmured, and Kid Flash was thankful for his panicked thoughts being interrupted.

"You accuse me of being slow and then freeze for half an hour," Robin groused, obviously sulking slightly over the fact that he couldn't keep up with KF and Superboy in terms of speed despite his vigorous training.

"Exaggeration, Rob," Kid said with a grin, chuckling at Robin's unintentional pout. "Don't worry," he murmured reassuringly, smiling, "I won't let you fall."

x.

Kid Flash and Superboy dashed madly through the forest, Robin trying not to be obvious about clinging to his friend's shoulders as they passed the speed limit in Robin's head. It made sense though, he had to admit, for them to run as they scrutinised the area. They'd cover more ground that way. He only wished he was more competent, so KF wouldn't have to carry him. He didn't want to be a burden. He hated feeling useless, like when his family had—

They skidded to a stop suddenly, staring across the way as they spotted Artemis, her chest heaving as she glared back furiously, as if prepared for a fight. She lifted her bow.

"Artemis, wait!" Robin called, cursing himself for getting lost in the depths of his mind again. "It's us. We aren't the fakes."

She lowered her weapon after a moment of deliberation, and then quickly raised it and fired an arrow at Kid Flash, who yelped and jumped back, clinging onto Robin tighter. "What's wrong with you?" he shouted angrily. "Can't you see I'm holding Robin? You could've hurt—"

He cut himself off before he could finish, not wanting to seem sentimental, but also because he was surprised that he instinctively wanted Robin out of harm's way as opposed to himself. Hero's instinct, he thought, but he wasn't convinced.

"Just confirming it's really you," she retorted with faux sweetness, a smirk on her lips as she approached them.

KF snorted and scowled at her. "What about the fake Aqualad?"

Her teasing mood evaporated at that and she put a hand on her hip, looking irritated and bewildered at once. "He just disappeared," she said.

"He's a hologram," Robin told her, and then explained everything to her once again, thankful for the lack of interruptions.

"So we have to find Martian Girl, huh," she mused, sighing and rubbing her temples in agitation.

"Miss Martian," Kid corrected, and Robin scowled again.

"You don't have to intentionally start fights with Artemis all the time, KF," he said brusquely, and the others glanced at him in surprise. He had been one of the first people to accept Artemis into their group and often defended her when Kid Flash let his anger out on her, but this time he sounded less defensive and mostly just irritated. Realisation dawned on Artemis and that same knowing look from earlier forced her to smirk.

"Thanks," she said. Robin nodded absently at her whilst KF shot her a glare.

"Whatever. Let's keep looking," he said, perceptibly pulling Robin closer to him again, and then took off in a quick flash.

Superboy and Artemis exchanged and look before he frowned and shrugged. "Get on," he said, and she reluctantly climbed onto his back. He took off swiftly, practically flying through the trees.

Boys, Artemis thought, are impossible.

x.

"Worried about your boyfriend?"

Miss Martian tensed, barely suppressing a yelp of shock, and looked warily around the room. "Who's there?" she whispered nervously.

"Silly girl, I'm in your head."

She frowned and shivered, feeling cold. Whenever she'd communicated telepathically, it had been a connection with friends. It had felt warm and comforting. This felt intrusive and cold, as if corpse-like fingers were probing at her mind.

"Ah, you don't like it," the voice observed, sounding amused and blank all at once. "Perhaps this is how your boyfriend felt when you first did it."

Despite herself, she felt her cheeks heat up. "He is not my boyfriend..." She frowned again, steeling herself. "What is it you want from us?" she demanded, her voice now capturing Aqualad's attention.

"M'gann, you hear something—?" he began, stopping when she raised a hand to silence him.

"Would you like him to be?" The voice breathed silkily, sounding close to hear ear. She shuddered and turned around, only to be faced with nothing.

"If so, then it will happen if we both choose it," she said, abandoning her embarrassment to stand firmly against the voice. "Please leave us alone."

"Ungrateful child," the voice hissed, and she went flying into a wall. She choked on a gasp and fell to her knees. Aqualad watched on, wishing he could help, but knowing he couldn't help her fight a battle in her head. "I can grant you your innermost desires if you only join me..."

"I will never help somebody who has tried to hurt my friends!" she shouted, eyes flying open and shimmering with fury, as she pushed the voice away. It cried out in pain and screams of others joined it as it was forced from her mind. She gasped for breath and felt someone touch her arm. "Aqua—" she began, but stopped when she found herself gazing into Superboy's eyes. "Superboy!" she cried, jumping up without his assistance and throwing her arms around him. "I'm so happy you're safe," she whispered.

Superboy's eyes widened as he was embraced, and he glanced helplessly at the others. Artemis just scoffed and rolled her eyes whilst KF and Robin demonstrated by hugging each other. He blinked before carefully winding his own arms around her shoulders, warmth spreading inside of him as he embraced her.

Artemis raised a brow at the two teens holding each other beside her, and Aqualad just buried his face in his hand, shaking his head. The blonde cleared her throat and the boys separated, cheeks flaring brightly as they glanced away from each other, but she noticed that they had hesitated before pulling apart. Ugh, they were so obvious to everyone but each other.

"Miss Martian," Aqualad said, interrupting her and Superboy's meaningful moment, but they didn't seem to mind too much. "How did you rid yourself of the voice?"

She tilted her head and frowned slightly. "I'm not sure," she admitted quietly. "I just forced him to stop. I didn't want to listen to him and I didn't believe he was being truthful. I pushed him out," she said, looking frustrated with herself for being unable to explain it.

"Strength of will?" Robin pondered. "Since this is in our heads thanks to technology, your abilities lessen the effects of his invention, whatever it is." He levelled her with a determined look. "You have to wake up. Then you can wake us up and we can kick this guy's butt and get out of here," he said.

"Question is," Artemis murmured, "how do we do that?"

"You know how when you fall in your dreams, you lurch awake?" Kid Flash asked, snapping his fingers.

"We are not dropping her from a cliff," Superboy growled.

Miss Martian touched his arm gently and smiled softly. "It's all right, Superboy," she murmured, "I know I'll be safe if you're around."

He seemed to unwind slightly at her words and eventually gave a reluctant nod. "Whatever," he grunted, and she beamed at him.

Robin watched the exchange with a strange sense of loneliness resonating in his chest. He missed the unreadable look Kid Flash threw at him.

x.

They walked through the forest at a swift pace, although it felt like eons to Kid Flash, who was at the back of the group despite his need for speed, since Robin was lagging behind. He glanced at his friend in concern, wondering why he was going so slow. Everything seemed slow to Kid Flash—except for maybe the speed at which Robin hacked and figured things out—but Robin was normally a lot speedier than this.

"You okay, Rob?" he asked quietly, trying to sound casual about it, but the worry was evident in his voice.

Robin was startled out of his thoughts once more and glanced up to see the object of his distraction staring at him. He forced the insufferable blush from his face and nodded jerkily. "I'm good," he replied. "We're way behind, aren't we? C'mon, let's get moving, huh?"

Before Kid Flash could react, Robin had leapt onto a higher branch and began twirling and jumping from one to the next, using his agility to escape the awkward moment. KF frowned, knowing he could easily catch up, but he didn't really know what to say. Robin had been acting weird lately...weirder than usual, anyway. And he had no idea what to do about it. He thought Robin would go to him eventually, but then he realised that Robin hardly ever revealed what bothered him, and that troubled KF. They were close, really close, yet he hardly knew about his best friend...

"I'm ready," Miss Martian said, and he looked away from his friend to see her looming over the edge of a cliff. It looked black down there, full of darkness, desolate yet full of monsters of the imagination. KF winced at the thought before wondering what Robin's worst nightmares would be. He wished he knew. He just... wanted to know more about him. It made sense though, right? Best friends should know everything about each other.

"I'll catch you," Superboy promised gruffly, and Miss Martian brightened again as if Christmas had come early.

She backed up to the edge and sent them a final smile. "I'll get us out of here," she promised, and then let herself fall backwards.

x.

The sound of typing and white noise engulfed the room as a man sat hunched over a holographic computer, eyes blank as he gazed listlessly at the screen. He noticed a sudden silence in his ears andglanced back at another monitor, frowning deeply. He could no longer hear the thoughts of that martian girl and, whilst she had managed to shove him out earlier, he had still been able to listen to her even if he couldn't actively engage. Now the connection was cut off altogether. He turned to go and check on the bodies of the teenagers, only to freeze when he was barely inches away from smouldering brown eyes.

"You will pay for trying to hurt my friends."

x.

They watched her fall, most looking sombre and prepared, whilst Superboy seemed mortified, fists clenched and eyes wide as the girl became immersed in darkness.

"I'm going down," he said, moving towards the edge, only for Aqualad to capture his arm. He growled and tore himself out of his grasp.

"We must wait, Superboy," he insisted. "It will take her some time to free us if she has successfully awoken."

"If?" Superboy growled.

"There's always a risk," Aqualad said in a conciliatory tone.

"She's tough." Artemis added. "Tougher than you think. Give her a chance."

"Don't tell me what to do!" he snapped, turning away and folding his arms, resuming his glaring contest with the darkness, but he didn't move.

Robin swayed suddenly, catching himself on a nearby tree. His vision blurred and numerous thoughts scattered in his head, some his own and some not, and suddenly the noise enveloped him and he found himself falling forwards.

"Robin!" Kid Flash shouted, running to catch his friend before he hit the ground. "Rob, what's—"

Before he could finish, he heard a loud thump, seeing that Superboy had also fallen unconscious. His eyes widened and he glanced at his other team mates as Artemis staggered back and Aqualad grabbed his head. His sight became blurred around the edges and he looked back down at Robin before darkness surrounded him entirely.

Robin...

x.

"KF!"

His eyes snapped open to meet a familiar mask. "Rob!" he shouted, lurching up and grabbing his friend's shoulders. "You're okay," he breathed.

"So are you." Robin said, a small grin lighting up his face as he was encompassed by relief, trying to ignore the mental image of being encompassed by Kid's arms.

Green eyes surveyed the room, taking in the white walls and equipment, of wires strewn across the floor and of the sound of constant beeping. "What is this place?" he asked, rubbing his forehead absently as he felt it ache. Probably from being stuck inside of a fake world for so long, he thought bitterly.

"A lab," Robin answered, standing and offering Kid a hand, who accepted it gratefully and pulled himself to his feet. "This is where the man behind the scenes works."

"The guy who screwed with our heads, you mean?" he muttered, scowling.

"That's the one," Robin replied light-heartedly. KF turned to him, prepared to demand why he sounded so carefree, but he had disappeared.

How the hell does he do that?

He heard the all too familiar laugh of the Boy Wonder and trailed into the next room to see Miss Martian holding the inventor in place in midair. Superboy was clutching his head and glaring darkly at the man while Artemis helped Aqualad up. Miss Martian glanced up as if noticing something and let the shield drop, only for ropes to curl around the inventor and constrict him painfully. He was flung into a chair where the ropes continued encasing his limbs and leaving him still.

Robin appeared from nowhere and rubbed his hands together. "Man, I should be a pirate."

"I'd say you're more of a ninja," Kid replied, blinking at him.

"In a showy outfit like this?" Robin said, surprised, but then paused. "Then again, it's not as bad as my old one..."

"What did your old one look like?" Miss Martian asked inquisitively while Aqualad contacted the league.

Robin flushed. "Uh... It was just really... flashy," he said awkwardly, averting his gaze. KF found he was curious. Robin wasn't easily embarrassed, but he'd been blushing more lately, and the mention of his old outfit seemed to turn him into a lobster. He vowed to find out about it at some point, and that thought led him back to his earlier musings about how little he knew about Robin and how much he wanted to learn.

"What makes you think you can go into people's heads?" Superboy demanded lowly, and the others looked up to see him glaring heatedly at the inventor, eyes smouldering with restrained rage.

The man glared back, eyes as empty as the holograms were, and Robin grimaced. "Because it's so easy," he drawled uncaringly, raising a brow. Superboy growled, fists clenching tightly and trembling with the effort of restraint. The man's eyes flickered over to Robin and he smirked slightly. "Hello, little bird," he murmured, and Robin tensed before shooting a dark glare at the man. "What's that expression for? I offered you what you want most..."

"Shut up," Robin snapped, closing his eyes. "I don't want to give up what I have now for what I had once," he said, exhaling shakily. "What you offered is not yours to give. I'm happier knowing they're at peace instead of puppets at your hands." He glowered at the man before turning away again, leaving his team mate's to gaze at him in confusion and concern. They all had undisclosed identities and pasts with dark secrets, but they did truly care for one another. Seeing each other so unhappy stirred something within them, and KF felt especially hurt by the poignancy radiating from Robin's very being.

Nobody had time to consider broaching the subject as Superman briskly walked into the lab, eyes narrowing when he saw the man tied up. He approached him and stood before him, towering over the man and resonating power and judgement. "You," he said clearly, "are coming with me. You have broken numerous laws, all of which can be proven by this very laboratory, which will be used for evidence before it is torn down." His eyes narrowed dangerously. "How dare you trick us into believing you had a mission? You put so many lives in jeopardy." He drew himself to full height and glared warningly. "This will not go unpunished."He turned and his gaze roamed over the teenagers, lingering briefly on Superboy, before he said, "As for you..." Superboy's eyes narrowed, prepared for insults. "Congratulations. You dealt with this very well. Black Canary is obviously a competent tutor."

"Maybe you could teach us sometime," Superboy blurted out. Superman's eyes landed on him again, and he felt exposed under the scrutiny. "I mean... it might be good to be taught a range of techniques," he explained lamely, inwardly cursing himself for his stupidity. As if Superman would ever—

"That... sounds plausible."

His eyes widened and he looked up at the man he admired and resented at the same time in shock, aforeign feeling of warmth expanding within him. Superman noticed the slight change in demeanour and averted his gaze once more.

"I will be escorting this man away from here," he announced, and they all noticed he didn't specify where he was taking him, nor did he state his name. "Red Tornado will be arriving shortly to ensure you return safely." With that, he yanked the delicate looking man with dead eyes over his shoulder, who spared Robin a final glance, before Superman took off, disappearing into the evening sky.

Superboy watched him vanish with a sense of longing, but he allowed himself to be distracted when M'gann gently took his hand and smiled. "I think you're making progress," she said. He blinked slowly before returning his gaze to the sky, hope filling him at those words.

"This mission ended well despite our miscalculations," Aqualad said, frowning sternly, "but we cannot afford such mistakes in the future."

"No need to guilt trip us, dude," KF said with a sigh. "We're gonna get the disappointment lecture from Batman later anyway."

He turned to see Robin typing on his holographic computer and raised a brow.

"Rob? Everything okay?" he asked tentatively, still befuddled by his friend's odd behaviour.

Robin frowned, closing the hologram slowly before offering a short nod. "I couldn't access any technology on my holographic computer," he said. "It said there was nothing to hack."

"There is no need to worry, Robin," Aqualad assured him. "We can report it later if it troubles you."

"As for now," Kid Flash began, stretching and groaning as his limbs popped and missing how Robin stared at him for a moment longer than necessary, "I think we should all chill out and get some food."

"Is food all you ever think about?" Artemis snapped, sounding disgusted.

"No," he retorted defensively and glanced at M'gann. "I think about girls too."

Robin scowled, chest feeling hollow, and he sighed in frustration. "Where the hell is Red Tornado anyway?" he demanded, eager to get out of there and train so he could vent his feelings. He was good at hiding them, but there were some things he couldn't hide behind his mask.

x.

"Dude, Final Destination?" Wally skidded into the room with a large bag of popcorn and a can of coke, swiftly seating himself beside M'gann. "It's probably good we don't have pizza. There's a scene where these two girls get burnt—"

"Don't ruin it," Superboy interrupted with a scowl, folding his arms and leaning back into the sofa as he stared at the screen.

"Chill," Wally said, lifting his hands in a gesture of surrender. He glanced at the doorway, expecting Robin to appear any moment with a smirk and a smart ass comment about something, but he never did.

"He went to train," Artemis said as if reading his mind, and he turned to her with a frown.

"How d'you know?"

She scoffed, crossing her arms and levelling him with a look that questioned his intelligence. "I'm not oblivious?" she suggested. "Pay attention once in a while, Wally," she advised. "You might notice something."

He blinked in bewilderment and shook his head. "What are you talking abou—?"

"Be quiet," Superboy snapped, and Wally sighed in aggravation. He had so many unanswered questions, so many confusing feelings, but he had no idea what to do about any of them.

The movie started, but he couldn't find it in him to be attentive. His mind drifted to thoughts of Robin and how lost he looked when the man spoke of his innermost desires or whatever creepy Voldemort-like thing he'd said, and he wanted to know why. Dick was his best friend and he'd be damned if he was clueless to everything about him.

As quietly as possible, he left the room, intending to find his friend and get some answers.

x.

Punches were thrown, kicks were aimed, and gasps and grunts were emitted as he flipped and twisted and lunged. He leapt into the air and grabbed at a trapeze, swinging swiftly and leaping onto another, flipping backwards and then kicking on one to go higher. In his peripheral vision, he caught sight of movement, and his fingers slipped past the bar he was going to grab. His eyes widened and his heart stopped as he began to fall, but he couldn't bring himself to react, staring up at the ceiling and wondering if this was how they had felt...

Only there was no pain. His eye fluttered open when he felt he'd stopped, and he remained still in shock for a moment, before realising he was being held. Flinching, he looked up to see terrified green eyes staring back at him, and he questioned if that fear was for him...

"Rob, what the hell?" Wally demanded, tightening his hold on his friend and bringing him closer as if that would protect him from everything. "Be more careful! You could've been hurt—"

"Calm down, dude," Dick said, suddenly very relieved that he'd kept his sunglasses on while he'd been training, having forgotten about them with how fast he had began. Bruce would've never let Wally leave the mansion. "We've gotten hurt before. It's..." He trailed off. He was going to say it was no big deal, but he recalled how scared he'd been earlier when he was trying to wake Wally from the technology induced nightmare. "Yeah, you're right," he murmured. "I'll be more careful next time." He grinned weakly up at his friend. "You can put me down now," he added, almost as an afterthought. He'd felt so comfortable in his arms, it almost felt normal, like he belonged there... but he pushed that thought away and blamed the stupid chick flicks M'gann made him watch with her.

Something flickered in Wally's eyes before he carefully lowered his friend to the ground, but he kept his hands on Dick's shoulders. "Rob, I..."

He what?

What could he say?

His mind went blank, all his rehearsed speeches disappearing completely, all the smooth scenes he'd planned out in his head vanishing from his memory, but the feelings remained. Those infuriatingly unidentifiable feelings were still suffocating him, and he wanted to know what they were so badly but he was scared—

"Wally?"

I want to know more about you. "It's nothing. C'mon, let's go watch the movie with the others."

Dick looked disappointed, as if he'd been hoping for something and daring to expect it, but Wally wasn't sure what it was. "Sure," he said quietly. "I'm going to have a shower. I'll meet you there."

"I'll wait," he said quickly, cheeks heating up a bit afterwards. "I mean, it's no big deal. I've seen it before and Supey's in a bad mood." He shrugged and looked away. "I can wait."

Dick smiled and Wally blanched at the sight of it. It wasn't his usual mischievous one, but one that was full of pure happiness that he rarely saw on Dick's face. It suited him.

"Thanks," he said, turning to enter the showers, pausing at the doorway. "Me too," he added, and disappeared before he could be questioned.

I'll always wait for you. He frowned at himself as water cascaded over his exposed body and held his face in his hands. Jeez, I'm turning into a girl...

A shadow flickered behind him before vanishing into a crack in the wall.

x.

My first Young Justice fic. c: I hope it isn't too confusing, but it probably is. The inventor supposedly had something of great importance stolen from him, but this was apparently false information to lure the YJ squad into his territory. They hadn't noticed, but they were knocked out and captured, and became experiments of a device the inventor created to drive people insane. The voice, which shouldn't be as confusing as the reasoning behind the ordeal, was the inventor. Hopefully Robin's explanation filled you in on the rest. XD; If not... I apologise for writing in a baffling manner.

I've had this title in mind for use for ages. It was going to be for a fic from a whole other fandom, but I decided against it. But I recently found out that it's also the title of a book, which sort of irks me because now I seem unoriginal, and I'd sound like a hipster if I said I thought of that title before it was used for a book, so.

I'm going to have an editor/beta for the first time ever with this fic. c: She's known as LittleBlueSparrow on here, and I love her work even if she doesn't think highly of it. She's going to be my editor in the future too, hopefully. c: Optimistically, we won't have too many miscommunications, since I'm from England and she's from the US. At least she knows that when I say rubber, I don't mean condom... Thank you, Hetalia, for bringing that to our attention. But anyway, I'd like to thank her for editing for me~

I hope you'll enjoy this story. (: Thank you for reading.