All recognizable characters belong to their respective owners (Cartoon Network, DC Comics). For a prompt on YJ_Anon_Meme.
He blinks, steps out of the tube, and almost trips. The world looks so odd, until he remembers that, no, this is the way the world always looks, he's just short. And then he remembers the situation, and spins around, looking everywhere, just to make sure.
He's both alone, and now dizzy as well. Robin catches himself, and puts a hand to the wall for steadiness. Zeta beams don't usually cause issues for him, but then, it had been a bumpy ride.
"Oooh," he says, and closes his eyes. "Oh."
And then the beam flashes, and Batman's there. A heavy hand falls on his shoulder, and he leans his forehead against the cool concrete of the wall. "M'fine," he mutters, and he sounds unconvincing, even to himself.
"The Joker?" Batman rumbles from behind him, and he turns, burying his face in his mentor's side, hiding under the cape. Hiding in the dark.
"Didn't come through," he mumbles, and wonders for a single crazy second whether he could stab Batman in the side with a birdarang and get away with it.
He shakes his head and pushes closer, feeling the hand slide from his shoulder to his back, applying light, comforting pressure.
"Robin?" Batman asks, because he's not usually like this, he's stronger than this. It's just...he feels a need to ground himself. And Batman's always been his anchor.
"I'm fine," he repeats, and "I'm fine."
If he says it enough, maybe he'll believe it.
"I've got to check the logs," Batman says, and he nods, squeezes tight, and lets go. He steps back, composing himself, and sticks his hands in his pockets. Well, he tries to, realizes he isn't wearing pockets, and folds his hand behind him like he usually does.
"Computer, pull up zeta beam four logs," Batman orders, and Robin tugs a holoscreen out of the air with ease, checking on them himself. One teleported, one arrived. No record of anything in between.
"He must have got caught up in the scoop," he murmurs, and starts crunching numbers. "The beam picked him up peripherally, and didn't realize it. Possibly the buffer..." he trails off, initiating a cache dump to the main server. Whatever they may find, he does inot/i want to lose this data.
Batman scrolls the keyboard back into the wall. "No imminent threat," he summarizes. "Let's get you home."
"I'm fine!" he protests yet again, but he follows Batman to the hangar, quietly thankful to his mentor for not wanting to use the beams.
He falls asleep on the ride home, dozing lightly.
He doesn't dream.
He wakes when Batman lifts him out of the cockpit. He's too big to be manhandled, and he protests blearily, but the feel of solid arms under and around him is too much, and it feels so nice. It's been forever since anyone's touched him without homicidal intent.
It's nice, and that's the last thing he really remembers of that night.
The next morning dawns sunny and gorgeous, and he groans and pulls the covers over his head. He almost decides getting up is not worth it, before remembering with some surprise that he has to go to school.
So he gets up, mumbling and yawning and dragging. He runs through his morning stretches, going up and down and over and backwards and up and up and up, and flying feels so perfect, just like normal.
He takes a look at the place set for him at the table and grimaces at the oatmeal. It's likely his favorite flavor, but today he feels like an apple. Or two. Or lots. Lots of apples. All the apples.
He grabs a fruit from the bowl, and giggles. For some reason, the thought's just kind of funny.
None of the older kids try to bully or trip or even talk to him all day. He doesn't notice.
He's too busy discovering all the apples he'd apparently pilfered and hid about his person.
There's an inconsistency in the buffer data, so he isolates it, and tracks it back through the code. It's odd, almost...organic. It's likely a clue, so he digs it out, and says, "Found something."
Bruce is over his shoulder in seconds. "What is it?"
Dick squints at the screen. "I think...I think the Joker got caught in the buffer," he says. "The beam didn't recognize him as a target, and treated him like the scenery."
Bruce leans over and traces a few lines himself. He hums, and says. "This might work to our advantage."
Dick's trying to think like Bruce, and all he can come up with it, "A computer buffer is harder to escape than Arkham?"
Bruce smiles a touch grimly. "Exactly."
They have a mission that weekend, and it goes pretty much like they all do; objective achieved, stealthily, not so much. They're just chasing down the last guys right now, and maybe, if they can secure all the witnesses, maybe it won't be a complete failure.
It's simple enough to slip himself into the situation, into the guy's shoes, so when Artemis says, "He probably went that way," he snorts and shakes his head.
"No," he says, "this plan is simple, elegant. If it were my minions, I'd make sure that if they ran, they could only run one way."
"You don't have any minions," Wally reminds him.
He thinks he hears Artemis murmur thank God, but he ignores it. "I used to," he murmurs absently, flashes of idiots and morons and fools passing behind his eyes.
Minions are a bother, and generally incompetent, but they make great cannon fodder. The thought makes his mouth quirk up.
There's an awkward beat, then Wally says, "Right, okay," and takes off in the direction Robin'd indicated, and the rest of the team follows.
For some reason, no matter what he's doing, he keeps getting drawn back to that folder he'd tucked into a hidden subdirectory. It's like the loose tooth he can't help but poke at, even though it brings the taste of blood and pain.
He pulls up the lines, reorganizing them and filling in bits here and there. He's pretty sure that if he fed it back into the teleporter, he could reassemble the Joker.
The thought sends a little shiver down his spine, and he suddenly catches sight of his reflection in the screen.
The stairs creak, which is Bruce's polite way to tell him he's coming down, and he hurriedly saves and closes out of the programming.
It takes a few seconds longer to wipe the grin off his face.
"Hey! Hey, hey Rob, check this out!" Wally calls, skidding into his friend's side and using his shoulders as a brake. "Supey's got a knock-knock joke compendium in his head!"
Robin looks up from his holoscreen, startled. "Really?" he asks.
"Yeah! Here, Conner, tell Rob a joke!"
Conner scowls, shaking his arm free. "Would you stop pulling me around everywhere?"
"Yeah, sorry," Wally says. "Come on, say 'Knock knock!'"
Conner sighs, and says, "If I do, will you leave me alone for the rest of the day?"
"Absolutely," Wally promises quickly. "Absolutely promise, yes. Cross my heart and everything."
Conner side-eyes him pretty hard, but says, "Knock knock."
"Who's there?" Robin asks, and laughs. It's hilarious, really, it is. Who's there? No one's there, no one's inside your brain, and asking the question is just absurd, because the answer is always the shadow, always the secrets, always him, and it's just so perfect.
"Uh, Rob? You okay, man?" Wally asks, waving a hand in front of his face. "Only, Supey didn't get to the punchline..."
"Punchline," Robin gasps, and falls over. "Punchline!"
It's just so hilarious, and Robin doesn't think twice about the others, because no one ever gets the joke, anyway.
Wally shrugs, grabs Conner's arm, ignores the protests and the "You promised!", and drags him off to show Kaldur.
It takes Alfred asking him if he's sure he's all right to realize that Bruce is watching him.
The idea that Batman is watching Robin and Bruce is watching Dick and that all of Batman's not-inconsiderable attention is on him is...well, it's kind of a trip. He feels the eyes in the dark, and the way the gaze shifts over him, all sliding-sweet like arsenic on the tongue, like cyanide with a bitter twist of love.
So pushes harder and flies higher and stretches further. He climbs to the top of the trapeze tower, determined to put on a show, but when he gets up there, it's...kinda high. He suddenly feels like he's swaying, and wonders blankly if this is what vertigo is.
But then the bar hits his palms, and all his worries fall to the ground without a net to catch them, and Batman is watching, really watching, and it's perfect, and all he'd ever wanted.
"Oh," he whispers from where he waits on high. "Oh, yes."
Megaphone's beneath him, pacing the concrete floor of the warehouse. Wally and Artemis are tied up down there, back to back. Robin thinks they'd best get this rescue mission under way; he's not sure who looks most murderous, Artemis or Megaphone, but both are directing their ire at Kid Flash.
He's about to signal Kaldur when Megaphone turns, shouts something, and triggers a quick blast of ultrasonic waves. Wally sets his teeth and tucks his head, but Artemis whimpers.
Megaphone's hurting her.
Robin may be a little split in most things, but in this moment he is in total agreement with himself: No one touches him and his.
Screw surprise, this calls for the personal touch. He falls from the ceiling, both fists clenched together in an impromptu hammer.
Megaphone goes down. Artemis and Wally call out, but they're wearing gags, so he can't tell quite what they're saying. Instead, he looks at the downed Megaphone, and digs his toe into the man's ribs.
Villains need to learn manners. He glances around, and his gaze sticks on the pile of wooden crates in the corner, and the glint of metal from the top.
It doesn't take him long to grab it. Not long at all, not long enough, but also forever.
He grins, already anticipating the give and squish of skin, the lovely sound of breaking bones with the descant of screams, and the chaos is so delightful and he spins the crowbar in his fingers, walking it back and forth. He knows the heft and the weight of it in his hand and the way it leaves a perfect spatter of blood on the backswing and how warm it feels on his face even over the makeup—
The crowbar clatters to the floor, and he drops to his knees next to it. "Something's wrong," he whimpers, and clutches his hands over his ears, hoping to somehow prevent the images.
It doesn't help, and he smiles, a death's-head grin that hurts so familiar, and it's funny, it really is, why did he ever try to fight it because it's so painfully funny—
He screams, the sound tearing from his throat, long and loud and broken. He screams and draws another breath and screams and screams and sobs and beats his fists on the concrete to keep from grabbing that comforting weight of iron beside him—
He screams until his throat is raw, but it doesn't drown out the laughter.
He wakes up with a killer headache.
"Ow," he says, and tries to open his eyes. It doesn't take, so he doesn't bother trying to sit up.
"How are you feeling?" a soft voice asks, and a heavy hand falls on his forehead.
"Lonely," he answers before he thinks, and then frowns. "No, not lonely, just...alone."
"That's because we removed the Joker," Bruce informs him, still quiet and calm. "Apparently, the body got dumped into the buffer, but a little bit of the mind got shoved in with you, and it's slowly been growing."
Dick considers, and finally flutters his eyes open. "Like a cancer."
Bruce's nod is short and sharp, and he passes Dick a cup of ice chips. "I ran you both back through the teleporter, based on your program. He came back through whole, and you should be back to normal."
Once the chip has melted on his tongue, he swallows, and says, "My program worked?"
"No need to be surprised," Bruce murmurs. "But for now you should—"
"Rest, yes." Dick yawns. "I know the drill."
Bruce's hand still lays soft on his head, brushing gently at his hair. "You had me worried," he thinks he hears, and "Don't scare me like that," and maybe even, "I can't afford to lose you," but it's dark and soft inside his mind, and he may have made it all up.
He knows he made up the soft kiss pressed to his head, but it still makes him feel better. And it shouldn't because it's a hallucination, right? Right.
And for some reason, you know, that idea...it's kinda—well, it's kind of funny.