The struggle against the three assassins continued without Robin, something that went unnoticed for at least a little while.

Aqualad dodged yet another kunai from Cheshire, and was able to get a good look at the fighting in the warehouse. All three assassins were engaged with two of his teammates – well, except for Cheshire. Kid Flash started to notice the lack of laughter as well

::Guys, where's Rob?:: he said over the link as he sped out of the way of Black Spider's webs. ::Did he do the ninja thing again? Come on!::

::Maybe he's just trying to get ahead of us to complete the mission!:: Miss Martian proposed, stopping Hook's giant-hook arm from hitting Artemis with her telekinesis.

::Robin, what's your status?:: Aqualad demanded.

There was no response for a few seconds, and the team was still preoccupied with not being killed by assassins.

::Tracking down some convicts that were trying to escape. You guys don't really need me.:: came the reply.

::So you DID just disappear on us! What the heck, Rob!:: Kid Flash said. ::We could KINDA use your help!::

::You'll be fine without me.:: said Robin. He was speaking without much conviction in his voice – what he said seemed more like a statement than any sort of suggestion. ::These guys are…dangerous. I can't allow them to escape.::

Aqualad used his water-swords to slice at Cheshire, but she dodged him easily. ::Robin, return to us! We need to complete the mission!::

There was no response.

::Miss Martian?:: Aqualad asked, obviously meaning 'why isn't he responding'.

::He's-ack!-he's blocking me out! Disconnected from his end!:: she said, narrowly missing one of Cheshire's kunai.

::So…he hung up on us.:: said Superboy, who was at the moment grappling with Hook, testing out each other's strength. Superboy was winning.

::What's with him?:: Kid Flash said.

::Are we really that screwed without him?:: wondered Artemis. Something didn't feel right to her at all. She'd been watching Robin rather closely, and something was very wrong with him. He was overly irritable, more easily distracted, randomly mumbling to himself, overly serious…something had really worked him up.

Aqualad sighed. ::I suppose we can handle this until Red Tornado or another league member comes to assist, but…we'll need him back.::

::I'm going after him.:: Artemis said, and she jumped to give Black Spider one final kick in the head (he dodged) before making a quick retreat. ::I'm pretty much out of arrows anyway. I won't be much help!::

::Artemis, wait-!:: Aqualad yelled in protest, but she was already out of the warehouse in pursuit. ::Just make sure to bring him back!:: he sighed in defeat, even as he charged at Hook.

::Roger!:: she replied, and with that, she was gone.

Robin stalked his prey quietly in the night. The three men had gotten far enough from the warehouses for the sounds of fighting to be diminished, but not enough for the light of flickering fires to stop illuminating the paved streets. One good thing about the light, though, was that it made plenty of sharp, black shadows.

"Hey, Tony…d'ya even know where we're goin'?" said one of Zucco's lackeys, whose name Robin didn't know and didn't care to know.

"Wha? 'Course I do! We're going as far away from that circus of nut jobs as we can!" replied Zucco. Robin's eyes narrowed. Hmph. Could it only have been Tony to like them to a 'circus'? Perhaps this was just fate?

"But where'll we end up, do ya think?" asked the second lackey.

"Well, this place is somewhere in LA, right?" said the first lackey. "Maybe we'll go to Hollywood! Get famous!" he giggled like an idiot.

"You numbskull!" shouted Zucco, hitting the first lackey over the head. "We're convicts! Soon as anyone catches a wiff of us they'll send us straight back to jail! We gotta lay low!"

"But Tony," said the second lackey. "Didn't those ninjas guys give us new names and everythin'? I got my new ID card right here!" he said, and he reached into the belt around his waist to take out said card.

"What?" said Zucco, snatching the card from his hand. "You got one o' those? I didn't! Sonnova bitch!" he threw the card back at the lackey's face. "So, you're Thomas now, huh, hot-shot? Too good for us with your fancy new ID, are ya?"

"Aw, come on, Tony – "

"Don't you 'come on, Tony' me, you sorry excuse for criminal! What'd they nab you for, killin' a butterfly?"

"Naw! Got nabbed dealin' some drugs to a undercover cop…she was a real dame, though!"

As Robin continued to follow them, somewhat disgusted by their conversation, he accidentally made a mis-step in his footing and the bottom of his boot made a scraping sound against the pavement. It wasn't too big of a slip-up, but…

"Hey, did you hear that?" said Zucco. He stopped walking and started darting his head around his shoulder and looking around, examining his surroundings.

"Hear what?" said the first lackey.

"Maybe it's just a cat or somethin'," said 'Thomas'.

"Ooooh no, I ain't making the same mistake a second time." said Zucco, paranoia abounding. "Last time I shrugged off a noise I got jumped by the friggin' Bat!"

"Relax, Tony, I bet it was just part o' these old buildings fallin' off," said the first lackey. "You know how run-down this place is! Why don't we get a move on before anyone realizes we're gone, yeah?"

"Whatever," said Zucco, and he straightened himself up, letting down his guard. He made to keep walking forward, but at that moment something whizzed through the air and imbedded itself in the ground directly in front of his foot.

"JESUS!" shouted Zucco. "What the…!" he got a good look at the thing on the ground, and it took him only a second to realize what he was seeing. "No way, it's – !"

Robin jumped down from his position on a rusted metal balcony above them, cape fluttering in the night. All three men turned, scared, to see him.

"It's Robin!" shouted one of the lackeys. "Shit, that must mean-!"

"Oh, by the time I'm done with you, you'll wish Batman was here," Robin said, poison dripping from his voice. He only had eyes for Zucco. He studied every crevice in his face, remembering with horrible clarity what that man had looked like as he threatened Mr. Haley for money. He compared his spooked expression to the one of fear he wore when Robin had pounced on him that first time, ready to beat him to a bloody pulp, the only thing restraining him the Dark Knight hanging back in the shadows, watching him.

But Batman wasn't here now. And the burning, vicious impulses inside him wouldn't be satisfied with just hurting him…he didn't know what would satisfy him, honestly. "Now would be a good time for you to run." He said, and the birdarang in the ground near Zucco started to beep, lights flashing. All three men made pathetic noises of fear and bolted.

Artemis had been desperate to get out of that situation with her sister. She would have done anything to leave the vicinity of both Cheshire and Sportsmaster, because she was not prepared for a little 'family reunion', especially not when her teammates still knew nothing of her upbringing or…relations. She didn't want to imagine what Wally would do if Cheshire said anything to hint at being her sister. The suspicion, the anger, the resentment…she didn't want to deal with that.

So when the opportunity to go search for Robin had arisen, she jumped at it. Artemis took the only plausible direction he could have gone – the one where nothing was happening – and proceeded to give chase. Not ten seconds had passed before Artemis saw a sudden explosion only a block down from where she was. It was small and relatively controlled, but still an explosion, and it could only have come from Robin. Artemis had no idea why Robin had blown something up, but it didn't sit well in her stomach, so she changed her pace from a run to a sprint to get there faster.

She reached the site of the explosion and could hear sounds of commotion nearby. She turned down an alley and saw Robin disappearing around the corner at the other end, chasing down some thug. "Hey! Robin!" she called out to him, turning the corner herself. The guy Robin was chasing didn't look very threatening – sleazy, sure, but not necessarily dangerous. The two of them ducked down another alley, Robin completely ignoring her as they ran. Artemis got to the alley they had run into, and was about to call out to Robin again (who was currently engaging the sleazy guy), when she heard a sinister 'click' behind her. She turned around to find a gun almost inches from her face.

Artemis ducked, bullet tugging on her hair as it whizzed over her head, and quickly dealt a punch-and-elbow combo into the gut of the guy who had been holding it. The grip on his gun loosened as he bent over to clutch his stomach, so she quickly kicked it out of his hand and drove her knee into his face to finish him off. There was a second guy there, brandishing another gun at her, but he seemed spooked at her display of ass-kicking and wasn't very intimidating. He frantically aimed his pistol at her, but she rushed at him with a handspring and spin-kicked the firearm out of his hands, sending it flying and clattering to the ground several feet away.

The guy panicked and threw a punch at her, which she ducked under, and then proceeded to grab his arm and throw him over her shoulder, slamming him into the alley wall and knocking the wind out of him. He wasn't out, though, so when he slowly tried to lift himself up, she grabbed his head and slammed it into the ground with a satisfying crack.

Now that she was free of distractions, Artemis looked to where she had last seen Robin, but found that he was gone. "Godamnit, Robin!" she groaned. Taking out those two guys had taken her less than a minute, so they couldn't have gotten far…

Turns out he hadn't gone far at all, because as soon as she ran down the rest of the alley and turned into the area behind the directly behind the building, he was right there.

Of all the things she had expected to see – Robin tying up the guy and grinning at her, or finishing him off swiftly and effectively, or maybe even just leaning against a wall with the guy tied underneath him waving and asking her 'what took you so long?' – she could never have expected this.

Robin had managed to chase Zucco down, separating him from his 'friends', and if Artemis's appearance did anything it helped remove them as a factor quickly enough. He'd tried to induce as much fear into the man as possible – to be truthful, he could have caught him easily without the chase, but the point had been to make him desperate to get away. Scared. And when Artemis had appeared, he was almost grateful to those two thugs for distracting her so she couldn't interfere.

But no matter how many times Robin hit him, it wasn't enough. Zucco staggered back from his last kick, clutching his stomach, and Robin fitfully punched him in the face, full-force. He felt such momentary satisfaction, feeling the murderer's nose break between his knuckles, but it dissipated quickly. Zucco yelled out in pain and clutched at his nose, scrunching up his eyes. His absolutely pitiful appearance made Robin angry. The last thing he ever wanted to fill for this man was pity. He didn't deserve that luxury. Robin angrily grabbed Zucco by the back of his head and slammed it into his knee, eliciting another cry of pain.

And on. And on. No matter how many times he hit him, he would simply recoil and not fight back, and his grunts and cries of pain only made Robin angrier and angrier. Zucco wasn't a victim, why was he acting like one? Every time his punches failed to elicit any sort of satisfying reaction, it felt more and more pointless and wrong, and the anger and frustration just welled and twisted themselves together in knots inside of him. Every time he attacked it was like the black hole in the pit of his stomach was ripping wider and wider instead of filling up like he wanted it to; he felt like he was spiraling down into an inky blackness full of hatred and disgust and dissatisfaction and hopelessness.

Robin stopped his attacks, looking down at the broken man before him, bloodied and beaten. They both panted, starved for breath, and Zucco's wheezing only made him want to kick him while he was on the ground to shut him up. But he knew it would have been pointless, and he didn't want to hear the man whimper again, as if he was some poor, innocent puppy that didn't deserve every single drop of pain he was feeling. He couldn't keep going like this. The need for some sort of vengeance, for some sort of closure had only intensified in his chest, but he knew that just hurting Zucco like this wasn't enough, that it would only make it worse.

Robin stood straight, limbs shaking not from exhaustion, but from anxiety and anger. It was only as he tried to steady his trembling and recover his breath that he finally noticed Artemis several feet behind him, staring with utter shock and disbelief. He had a brief urge to talk to her, to say something, but quickly threw that idea out the window. Let her stand there. This wasn't any of her business, anyway. This was personal.

Zucco wasn't as pathetic as all that, it seemed, because during the pause in action he slithered his hand down to his belt and quickly took out his pistol while Robin was distracted. "Fuckin' punk…" he slurred under his breath, but Robin noticed what he was doing and felt his heart leap into his throat.


Robin growled in fury and rushed at Zucco, kicking the gun out of his hand and letting it bounce off the alley wall, clattering uselessly to the ground. He allowed himself to ride on his momentum and grabbed Zucco by the collar of his shirt, lifting him up off the cracked pavement and slamming the back of his head into the wall.

He held his family's murderer there, not moving, their faces only centimeters apart, glaring deeply into the other man's eyes, fury coming off of him in waves. He breathed through his teeth, seething with anger, the amazing satisfaction he'd just felt slowly emptying and leaving an even bigger hole inside of him, smoldering, festering.

He had to do something. Something, anything, to make this painful chasm inside of him go away. He couldn't stop thinking about this moment, this righteous moment for days, and it felt nothing like what he'd wanted. He'd thought that seeing Zucco with fear in his eyes would have made everything better, but it hadn't. He'd thought that being able to hurt him, hurt him like he'd been hurt for all these years, would make the hurt go away. But it hadn't.

He had to go all the way. He had to. Nothing…nothing else was working.

The battle in the warehouse raged on with two of the team's members missing. The team was tired, and although it had only been about five minutes, maybe more, since Artemis had left, they were all tiring quickly.

Red Tornado had finished subduing Sportsmaster and rounding up the various goons outside. He moved to help the teen heroes, but he heard another sound. A jet flew by overhead, a familiar black one, and a body was dropped from it. Red Tornado flew up to catch them, and after hearing a brief "Few, thanks!" from them, he quickly flew them down and set them on the ground.

They ran off to the third warehouse, and told Red Tornado to start dealing with the Kobra Venom in the second one.

Aqualad was hit square in the chest by Hook's metal arm, and he was knocked down heavily to the ground. He was too tired, however, to find the strength to get back up, and Miss Martian had to use her telekinesis to deflect Black Spider's webs away from him as he lay there.

Cheshire was sneaking up behind Kid Flash, poisonous twin sais poised to strike…Wally turned around, unable to avoid it…

A huge shriek reverberated around the warehouse, and the blast of sound hit Cheshire dead-on, flinging her far away from the speedster and attracting all attention to the origin of the cry.

Black Canary cracked her knuckles, smiling at the four heroes. "I heard you guys needed some help?" she said.

"Black Canary! Oh, thank goodness!" shouted Miss Martian.

Cheshire wasn't too quick to recover from her eardrums nearly bursting, but Black Spider lunged at Black Canary.

"Well, time to get down to business!" the blonde said, getting down into a ready stance.

"…Robin?" Artemis asked, her voice weak, eyes still betraying her disbelief. She had to make sure that this was him, because she had never seen Robin like this. Ever. She could never even imagine him acting anything like this. Robin could get angry, sure, irritated, frustrated, he could yell and fight and do all sorts of things like that…but Robin was always, at the very least, controlled. That had been what had saved them during the invasion of the Reds all the time ago, that made him so effective in battle. He knew what he was doing and when he fought, he did it with a smugness that showed how much he loved to do what he did.

But this? This was some monster that looked like him, because Robin didn't seethe with anger, he didn't shake with fury, he didn't punch and fight and hurt just for the sake of hurting. Robin was understanding, the kind of kid who laughed and was smug all the time, but you could always tell he cared no matter what.

"What are you doing here?" said the boy in the mask. He voice was low and shaky. He didn't look at her, didn't move from his position.

"I came…came to find you…" she replied. "What are you…why are you…?"

He didn't answer her. More time passed, and Artemis was able to get over her shock. Maybe…maybe this was what had been making him act strangely all day? Who was this guy, anyway? And despite what she thought, this was Robin, and he was her teammate.

"What the hell are you doing, Robin?" she asked him, feeling frustration rise into her throat. He'd been acting weird all day and still he was being cryptic with her. Well, she wouldn't be left in the dark, and she wouldn't just stand by and let him do whatever the hell he wanted. "I come looking for you and this is what I find? Is he really worth your goddamn time? Your team needs you!" She took a few steps forward and fisted her hands and her sides, trying to make more of an impression on him.

Robin continued to shake where he stood, but after a few seconds he let go of the guy's shirt. The man slid to the ground, panting and wheezing, groaning in pain. Robin turned abruptly away from her, looking down at the ground, taking a step away from his victim. She assumed he was trying to regain his composure, so she stood and waited, crossing her arms over her chest.

The guy on the ground coughed, and Robin stiffened. Something didn't feel right…Artemis took a hesitant step forward, lowering her arms. Maybe she could…?

Robin had only half-listened to her. He wanted to care, he wanted to, but right now all he could feel was this aching emptiness. Robin had turned away from Artemis, not wanted to look at her disapproval, but the glint of metal caught his eye.

Zucco's gun lay on the ground not a foot from where he stood.

The gun lay there, taunting him. Bruce hated guns. Dick hated guns. But he found himself gravitating towards it…

Zucco coughed up some blood. Robin stiffened. "Kid, why dontcha…listen to the chick…? I'm s-spent…" he slurred, and Robin could just feel the hint of a smirk on his marred lips.

Instantly, Robin dashed forward and picked the gun off the ground, smashed the back of Zucco's head against the wall and watched him slide down further, then stepped hard on his chest and pointed the pistol directly between his eyes.

"Robin!?" Artemis shouted, taken aback.

"Shut up." He said, venom dripping from his shaking voice. "Don't say another word."

Everything froze. Zucco was looking cross-eyed down the barrel of the gun, completely terrified. Artemis couldn't believe what she was seeing. Robin had a gun in his hand and was…was he really…? He'd never held a gun before. Just seeing his fingers wrapped around the pistol, finger poised on the trigger, felt so wrong.

"Robin…Robin stop. Stop. You don't know what you're doing!" she said, trying to be gentle, but…

He didn't know what he was doing? He knew exactly what he was doing. He was going to end this, once and for all.

He had wanted nothing more than to get his revenge these past few days. The desire had been sleeping within him for years after he and Batman initially put Zucco away in jail. He'd gotten justice, he'd thought, and he had been fine with that. Zucco had been taken out of sight and out of mind, and after Dick convinced Bruce to let him be Robin full-time instead of the temporary deal they'd had (to capture Zucco and that was it), his life had gotten busy and, dare he say it, fun. Happy, even. But in reality, he wasn't satisfied. He'd trained for months just so Bruce could feel like he was safe to run about the streets at night, just for the opportunity to capture his parent's killer, all for an anti-climactic scuffle and the sight of Zucco pouting as he was driven away in handcuffs. He'd thought he'd gotten justice. Really?

No. Where was the justice in that? Where? Zucco got to live while his family didn't? Zucco got a place to sleep and three meals a day while Dick had to live through birthdays and nostalgic holidays and old anniversaries with only tombstones and comatose uncles to spend them with? Why shouldn't he kill him? It…it was only fair…

The gun felt heavy in his hand, and he just couldn't seem to get his finger to move. Why? It should be so easy. Just pull the trigger. Pull the trigger and get revenge for your family. For Mom and Dad and Charlie and Aunt Cathy, for Uncle Rick in a hospital bed, one of the greatest acrobats who ever lived forever doomed to never move his limbs again.

"Robin, I'm serious, put the gun down! Don't be stupid! We don't kill! Are you an idiot? Are you…!"

He cocked the gun.

Artemis froze, all anger draining from her just as the color drained from her face. This was really happening. He was going to do it. Robin was less than a centimeter away from becoming a murderer, and what could she do? She couldn't let that happen. All those years training with her father…all the horrible things she had done flashed before her eyes. She didn't want that in her life anymore, she wanted to protect people, to keep people from dying. How could she let him become like her? She couldn't.

"Robin…Robin, please, don't make me do this." She begged him as she knocked one of her last two arrows in her bow and aimed it at him. It was a regular-tip, sharp and deadly. She wouldn't…she wouldn't kill him, but…how could she fire at her friend? Her family? "Just…just talk to me. You don't need to do this. Tell me what's wrong, I can help you!"

Robin's hand was shaking violently, and his face was contorted with frustration and pain. He brought his other hand to help him hold the gun, to help steady himself.

He tried and tried to pull that trigger, but his finger wouldn't respond. He wanted to end it, he wanted real closure, but…even now, he felt like this wouldn't help it. Did he really want Zucco to die?

He had so much pent-up anger…after the social services had taken him away from his home, they'd dumped him in a juvenile detention center for a week, because there 'wasn't enough room in the orphanages' or something. More like the social worker thought that other orphans deserved it more than some circus brat. And throughout his miserable time there, before Commissioner Gordon and Bruce realized where he'd been put, he'd tried to sleep locked away in that dark, terrible room with bars on the windows with bruises from the beatings the other kids gave him. They teased him, taunted him, and when he'd tried to retaliate – "Shut up! I'm not filthy, I'm better than you! I haven't done anything wrong-!" – they'd hurt him, and then all involved would be roughly thrown back into their rooms to be punished for fighting.

The only thing that had kept him sane as he lay sobbing into that uncomfortable pillow was that he hadn't done anything wrong. This wasn't his fault. He wasn't in this hell-hole because of anything he'd done. His family wasn't dead because of him. It wasn't a tragic accident, it was murder. It wasn't his fault…it was…that man, Tony Zucco. It was all because of him that…

The twang of the wires as they came loose from their bindings. It was so sudden. Happy one moment, the next, they were falling, falling, falling…


A scream. More screams. People running frantically around, but Dick only had eyes for his family, oh god all the blood and why were they so still? 'No…no…no, please…' He couldn't do anything, he was completely powerless, helpless, pathetic.

All he could do was cry and scream.

Robin could feel the tears in his eyes return from remembering. He felt the lump in his throat, he was shaking uncontrollably…if he fired now, he'd probably miss…ha…how pathetic was he?

"Robin…?" Artemis said, bringing him back to the present.

Robin was crying. He was crying. There were tears rolling down his cheeks, escaping from underneath his mask. Artemis's arms twitched and she lowered her bow slightly. He looked so broken. God, what could she do? There was obviously so much more to this than she knew. If only he'd tell her…!

"God, Robin, please…just talk to me…!" she felt a lump in her own throat, but she swallowed it down.

Robin continued to not face her, tears streaming down his face, trembling violently with both his hands gripping the pistol so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. But after a moment, he screwed up his face and took a few deep breaths.

"His name's Tony Zucco," Robin said, voice trembling with emotions other than anger now. "And he…" he paused, cutting himself off, obviously struggling to say the next few words. "…he's…" the flow of tears down his face intensified.

"He's a murderer…"

Artemis sucked in a breath. Honestly, she was expecting it slightly. Something horrible, something terrible…but it was just so hard to imagine Robin as some sort of victim. But before today, she couldn't even imagine him having any sort of vengeful bloodlust, either. Shows how much she knew. This was a whole side of Robin that probably few people ever got to see.

"Robin…" she began, trying to choose her words carefully. She was never good at comforting, but she had to try. "I know…I know how badly you must want to do this," she said. Artemis sucked in a breath, trying to steady herself. She had to be calm. "But you don't want to kill him. You want…you want revenge, but you don't want to pull that trigger. Trust me, you don't. Killing him won't make anything better, Robin. If…if Tony Zucco dies, it won't bring them back."

Robin's shaking stopped. "They aren't coming back, and…I know I didn't know them, but…I'm sure they wouldn't want you to do this. Would they want you to become like him?"


Robin's eyes widened underneath his mask, and suddenly the gun in his hands felt like something terrible and evil that he had to let go.

Every time he visited his family's graves the thoughts of what they would say to him constantly haunted him. Would they be proud? Would they disapprove? Surely they would know that he was doing the right thing, helping people so that nobody would ever have to go through what he did. So that nobody would have to lose what he did. They would understand that he never wanted to feel so helpless, so powerless, ever again. That he wanted to take charge of what happened in his life. He wouldn't allow himself to just stand by and watch, ever again.

His parents always told him that all life was precious, that all people had good inside them. That's why he shouldn't pick fights with the other kids, why he should always try to perform his best to bring out the good in people, why their family did what they did.

He remembered them, oh did he remember. His mother hugging him and kissing him on the cheek before their performances, calling him her 'little Robin' and sternly reminding him to be careful. His father holding him in his strong arms as they trained, but quickly their 'training' devolved into simple play with his father holding him in the air so he could pretend to fly. Charlie constantly trying to pick up girls, no matter what city they were in, and trying to divulge his 'wisdom' onto a 7-year-old Dick. Aunt Cathy showing off her favorite frilly dresses and guiding him along, teaching him how to dance. Uncle Rick ruffling his hair during one of their guitar lessons, telling him 'you're learning, sport!' and laughing with him. That feeling of flying through the air and knowing that someone was there to catch you.

They had all loved him, and had faith in him. And here he was, with a gun in his hands, about to murder someone in cold blood.

Dick steeled himself for a moment and brought the gun up, smashing the butt of the handle on Zucco's head, knocking him unconscious. Then he stood up straight and staggered backward, shaking, sobs threatening to rise in his throat at the revulsion he felt at himself. He threw the pistol away, far away, not wanting to ever touch a gun again in his life.

"What…what did I…?" he said, trembling. He continued to back away from Zucco's unconscious form, until his back hit the other alley wall. "What did I almost do…?"

He'd promised Bruce, sworn to him when he became Robin, that he would never take a life. Bruce hated guns, hated them because a gun had taken away his own parents life, and what had Dick been about to do? Bruce was like a second father to him. He'd done so much for him after everything had happened…paid for his family's funeral, for his uncle's medical bills, brought him up to the Commissioner and got him out of Juvi, and took him in, gave him a home, a new life…and his son had almost done the unthinkable.

Robin's back slid down the wall until he sat shakily on the cracked pavement. He pulled his knees up to his chest and brought his hands over his face, wrapping his fingers in his hair and pulling at the raven strands, the gravity of the situation still slamming into him.

Artemis watched, pain filling her chest, as Robin broke down completely and started sobbing into his knees.

"I…I…" he kept mumbling, silent sobs making his shoulders shake. The tears collected underneath his mask and loosened the gum-tape that kept it on his face. The liquid was starting to get in his eyes and he was forced to rip his mask of so he could rub them away, and he did so just as Artemis approached him cautiously.

She dropped her bow that she had long since let go taught and slowly walked toward the Boy Wonder, who was wrapped in on himself shamefully, shaking and trying desperately to stop crying. He hadn't done it, everything was fine, it was over now, so he needed to stop…

He felt arms wrap around him, gently and carefully. Another body sat next to his, and they leaned their head on his shoulder in a comforting gesture. Robin's crying paused for a moment so that he could tell that Artemis was holding him.

"It's okay," she whispered. "You…you did good. It's okay now." She allowed herself a small smile and gave him a reassuring squeeze. Artemis looked to see Robin's brilliant blue eyes fill again with tears, before he finally leaned into her embrace and dug his face into her chest, hiccoughing and staining her green suit with salty tears. He moved his arms from their position on his forehead and fisted them in her clothes.

Robin finally allowed himself to let go; to relieve himself of all his pent up fears and emotions. All his anger, all his hatred, all his pain and sadness. Artemis supporting him, he let himself cry into her arms.

Holy shit. Holy SHIT.

I just wrote this. I just sat down for pretty much 3 straight hours and wrote this, and I swear to God I started crying as my fingers flew over the keyboard. This got away from me, just as everything usually does, but I don't think I could be more satisfied with this. (Okay, I had to double back and add that part about Black Canary when I was already full into Angst-mode and was NOT in the mood for writing action, but it said what needed to be said…and broke up the angst a LITTLE bit. Meh.)

I hope you let yourself read all that and were satisfied by the end! Also, this isn't the total end. I've still got an epilogue to wrap up some of the dangling plot-points and maybe even put some Bats in there. ;3 No more angst, I don't think I could handle writing anymore angst! ACK!

I hope I didn't get too OOC, but I think I could be given some leeway due to the circumstances of the situation. I mean, revenge shit isn't the cut-and-dry 'killing people BAD' thing that most things portray it as. I mean, imagine if you had a gun in your hand and were about to pull a trigger that would send a bullet through a dude's SKULL. I mean, ACK, that's gotta be INTENSE.

Well, anyways, tell me what you think, hope you enjoyed it!