Tim recoiled at the gentle stab of the needle in his cheek and shut his eyes. He could not stop the flinch.
He heard Batgirl's uncertain sigh, as she paused, worriedly. "Tim, did I hurt you? Are you alright?"
He couldn't help clenching his fingers into fists, as he drew a shuddering breath. She frowned in concern as he looked as if he were bracing himself for a blow.
"I'm sorry." He whispered, ashamed and embarrassed. This was such a minor thing compared to the torture he had lived through. Why the hell was this so hard to bear?
He felt her warm hand against his, a reassuring grip on his shoulder that lingered. "You have nothing to be sorry for. What he did to you was so terrible that I can barely stomache even thinking about it."
It was meant to convey comfort, he knew that. But he hated, hated, hated that wrenching look in her eyes, the tears, the pity. The hideous sense that she knew so much of the unspoken hell he had just emerged from. The horror of the whole thing left him scraped too raw to endure much more.
He recoiled as if slapped. "Then, please don't think about it."
The silence suddenly felt as swollen as a thunderstorm ready to break, it was so damn tense. She sighed with infuriating patience, needle raised and waiting.
"If you need a break, I'll understand."
She watched, dismayed as the few muscles of his face he could still moved crumbled. "There's no way in hell you'd ever even begin to understand what that monster did to me. What he made me into."
For one horrible moment, she felt as if she were standing on the edge of the cliff and was only waiting to be shoved off. He had never elaborated much on what exactly the Joker had done to him, but she wondered, bleekly, if she could stand to hear the whole story. And after seeing Tim's frail tremoring frame, she honestly did not know if he could stand telling her.
A simple killing would have been far more merciful. She shivered when she recalled the Joker's giddiness as he waved a gloved hand and gloated when Tim slowly lurched into view.
Teeth bared, sharp as blades against the paint-smeared lips that were flexed in maddening glee.
A mouth split open wide as a wound. Robin's skin had either been painted, or stripped, or dyed from it's normal tan to the color of bone.
Pale. He was so blindingly white, as if bleached and scraped of anything that he was once.
His eyes were huge, and dark as the pits of hell, glittering with hideous promise. The mad, broken cackle fractured from his throat again, as he twitched and figited in some sort of spasm.
She exhaled sharply as if she wer drowning, before she shook off the memories to deal with now. And hastily, she manufactured the serene acceptance without tears.
Warily, his eyes slid to hers, searching, as he finally hitched his shoulders tiredly.
Another long wounded silence, as she only stared at him, helpless and trapped as he was.
Finally, after mentally groping for something soothing to say, she whispered,"You're not a monster, Tim. He didn't break you."
The bitter chuckle fragmented with no mirth, as he shook his head. "He wouldn't be content to break me. Not when he could slowly kill me from the inside."
"But he didn't. He couldn't." She flung out the words as a desperate tether through the torment that he was drowning in. And she watched as his eyes hardened, and the scowl finally ghosted over his paralyzed lips.
Her counter-argument choked like boulders in her throat, as he just shook his head in finality.
"He did, and he already has." He shut his eyes, then, ground the lids together to stop the flood from trickling down his cheeks.
"Look, I know what you're trying to do, and I appreciate it. But, it's not helping, and I'm not ready to discuss it. Not yet."
"Alright." She breathed out the agreement, relunctantly. "But I'm here for you. You know that, right?"
"If you weren't here for me through this, I would have fallen apart completely." He said quietly, as he gripped her wrist in gratitude.
She ducked her head, and muttered, "Are you ready to continue?"
She watched his eyes narrow at the glittering point of the needle, before slowly sinking back into the pillow. He drew in two shaking breaths, and nodded.
Steeliing herself, she carefully inserted the needle into his flesh.
He flinched on tortured instinct, but the pain wasn't that bad, just a sharp poke and cold metal.
The odd sensation of muscle relaxant being pumped into the twisted muscles of his mouth. Whatever the Joker had injected into his face left him with a frozen, gaping grin, and facial muscles set and rigid as concrete. Now, he felt the grin slowly dribbling away like melting water as the muscles slowly relaxed back into their natural position. Cracking his eyes open, he caught his reflection in the mirror, and hastily shut his eyes before the tears started.
God, he hated seeing that grin across his face. He knotted his fists and stuffed them under his thighs to avoid shoving her away.
She scowled, set down the needle, and very gently started massaging his aching jaw, apparently attempting to manually rearrange his features.
His cheeks did not bend under her fingers. They felt as if he had jammed two rocks between his tongue and left them there.
Angered now, she dug her fingers into his cheeks, and tried to force the muscles around his jaw to fold downward. His eyes met hers, glittering with tears, as he very gently took her fingers between his own and set them with finality on the side table.
"Please don't do that." His voice was trembling, as he sighed.
He couldn't scowl. He couldn't even wince. She watched as one of his hands slid up, ghosted over the wide arc of his mouth.
"Batgirl's voice was ravaged with anguish. "How...exactly did he do this?" She asked softly, as her sorrowed gaze fell over his face.
A brittle sigh, and a resigned shrug. "An injection of some sort. He tole me it was the same sort of chemical that embalmers used to set the features of corpses.
He used several, and never gave me any specific names." He breathed out.
He felt her fingers tremble and tighten against his own, shaking and twisting as she tried to conceal her rage for his benefit. She couldn't hide the horror as she carefully tapped his chin, as if he were too fragile to stand more than a touch. He allowed her to tilt his chin towards the light, and was so grateful that she didn't say a word as she thumbed away one of his tears.
He tried and failed to keep from flinching as her gentle hands glided over his cheeks, his lips, even his ears in search of something.
Finally, she sat back, bewildered and sickened. "There's no injection marks on your face. Where did he give you these shots?"
His eyes flickered with some sort of emotion she could not place before he shut his eyes and sighed. Raising a trembling finger, he gestured towards his jaw.
"Here," he whispered, as he ran a finger along his gumline. "All the injections were inside my mouth."