"I can't find a single thing wrong with him," Cyborg said, fatigue and defeat obvious in his voice. "He even gets up and gets food when he's hungry."
Robin was sitting in a rigid chair in the hospital bay, staring straight ahead. His chest rose and fell, his eyes blinked, but there was nothing inside.
Raven knelt beside him, looking into his vacant eyes, her chest suddenly too tight to breathe.
"Robin, can you hear me?"
But she knew the answer. Inside his mind, her voice sounded, but it echoed off of empty walls. Raven stood, staring at him. He was right in front of her- his hair sticking up on end, his T-shirt on inside out, his face registering hers but showing no signs of recognition.
Robin wasn't in there.
"Tell me you know what's wrong with him," Cyborg said, finally. "I'm out of ideas."
"I don't know what's wrong with him." She said quietly, moving to leave the room. She couldn't be in there any longer. "But I have an idea."
DOC MANAGER WONT LET ME PUT A DIVIDER IN
David was much less put together than the first time she had met him. He sat at the far side of the interrogation room, both wrists cuffed to the table in front of him. His hair was limp and matted on one side of his head- Raven guessed he had been sleeping in here as well. He was wearing the same thing he had been when he attacked her- apparently he hadn't been able to escape before the Tower had locked down.
"We are better than that," she scolded in a furious mutter to Cyborg, referring to David's two black eyes and the crusted blood under his nose. Cyborg shrugged, not meeting her eyes.
He refused again to meet her glare and left without another word, locking the door behind him. He didn't go far- Raven could feel his roiling emotions from behind the two way mirror.
"You're supposed to be dead," David spat at her.
"And you're lucky to be alive," She countered, sitting in the chair across from him.
"Interrogation resistance is the first thing they train us in," David grimaced. "And they don't have your ethical code."
"Fine," Raven didn't doubt him. She leaned back in her chair. "I don't care about H.I.V.E. secrets. Just tell me what you did to Robin."
She watched him consider.
"He's my bargaining chip. Why would I tell you?"
"You wanted Cyborg to think you know what you're doing. I think you're an idiot."
"You think I'm an idiot." He repeated, eyebrows raised.
"I think you're a child," Raven said icily. "Trying to play with the big kids. I think you have no idea what you did to Robin, and you're trying to keep Cyborg at bay by pretending to have a clue." She stood up, leaning over the table.
"But I know you're full of sht." She forced a small smile to cross her face. "And if I tell him you don't know anything, he'll be free to do what he wants to you. I'll watch."
David's face was deliberately still. "He wouldn't."
"Robin is basically Cyborgs brother. Cyborg only has one stage of grief," She leaned a little closer, widening the smile.
David watched her as she sat back down. She knew she had shaken him- his eyes darted to the mirror, to the door, to his hands, and back to the mirror again. Finally, he settled on her and took a deep breath.
"Robin is a prisoner," he said slowly. "In my mind."
Raven stood again, abruptly, knocking her chair back. She left the room before David could even blink.
She joined Cyborg behind the mirror, breathing heavily.
"Is it possible?" He asked her.
"I don't know. Probably."
They looked at David together for a moment, fuming in the darkened room. And then Cyborg reached over and took her hand.
"Can you… do anything?" His eyes were closed, and there was nothing but pure desperation in his voice. She looked up at her friend and watched tears squeeze out from under his eyelids.
"I- Cyborg…" she stammered. His raw emotions nearly made her collapse. She suddenly realized what the past three days had been like for him- the de facto leader of what remained of the Titans, clinging to hope by his fingernails. Fueled by desperation, anger, and fear, in the same way David clung to Robins mind in the hopes of surviving the Titans and the H.I.V.E….
She got an idea. This was going to be unpleasant.
"Give me a couple hours." She squeezed his hand before pulling from his grasp. She made to leave to room, but paused at the door.
"Do not touch him again," she said firmly, and left him alone in the dark.
DOC MANAGER WONT LET ME PUT A DIVIDER IN
Raven normally went to her room to meditate. Or to the roof, if she was having trouble, to listen to the sound of the ocean. This was different though- all her meditation in the past had been to suppress emotions, to focus her attention away from them. But this time her own defenses were weaknesses- her plan required her to be in touch, to feel each and every one of them. And she had to practice. This time, she found herself standing outside the door to Robin's room.
She held her breath as she opened the door, unwinding the internal locks with her mind.
It looked exactly the same as it did when she and Robin had spent long nights doing research together. The desk was piled high with papers- she pictured him sitting there, his hand balled up in dark unruly hair. She saw herself across the room, sitting on the neatly made bed, with a laptop and a cup of tea. In light of what was going on outside of those walls, the scene seemed frozen, shrunken, like she was looking at it through a sheet of glass in a museum. She stepped inside and closed the door, her minds eye watching as he brought her a set of old notes he had taken, sitting next to her and leaning in to compare to whatever she had on the screen. He smelled like coffee. Her shoulder touched his. He wasn't wearing a shirt… The casual way he moved around his space, his calm and focus resonating off the walls- for a moment Raven was lost in fear. Fear that all of that was lost forever. Fear that she had failed to protect him and now she couldn't save him. She felt tears sting her eyes as she thought of him sitting in the hospital bay, back straight, jaw shut, forever. It was a thought that sucked all the air out of her lungs.
The window was open, just like it always was, and as she sagged against the door behind her the breeze lifted a few loose papers and tossed them at her feet. The slight movement brought Raven back to reality- if she was going to accomplish what she had come here to do, there could be no more thoughts like that. She locked the door and moved into the center of the room. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes.
Raven tentatively returned to the image of Robin sitting next to her, touching her—
She jumped as a large fracture splintered the window, causing her to instinctively restore order and reject the intense feeling of giddy joy. She sighed, sinking into his chair. It was too much, too soon. She had to start smaller.
Instead, she returned to a time when she had asked Robin to teach her hand to hand combat.
His voice was so patient- it pissed her off. She thought she could sense annoyance emanating from him. She had mastered individual moves quickly, and was stringing them together just fine. But now he was pushing her- he kept saying-
"Don't just react. Anticipate. Read my body language, be ready for what I'm going to do next. It's the only way to gain the offensive."
They had been at it for an hour. It wasn't hard. She understood the movement. But no matter what, he was always faster than her. And she could tell he was holding back. That pissed her off too.
She let the frustration in- it had always been the emotion with the littlest consequence, one that she let slip more often than the others. It settled in her chest, and her jaw clenched.
And then she saw it- something about his eyes, the way his body tensed in a certain manner- subtle hints. She took a chance, seeing his shoulder drop, and side-stepped. It worked. He missed, and as he followed through with the punch she snuck one of her own under his arm, catching him in the side.
His breath caught, and she felt smugly satisfied. Swinging her other fist, she stopped just short of his temple.
"That," he said, grinning at her, "was perfect. Again."
She remembered the look in his eyes. Pride. She remembered how infectious his smile had been- slowly, she allowed herself to feel the same way.
And now, an apocalypse and several years later, Raven let the same feeling come closer, wary, like an abandoned dog being offered a treat. She almost lost the feeling, her instincts pulling her back from the brink. She concentrated- for once not on shoving it away, but on letting it get to her. Accomplishment, satisfaction, thankfulness, relief. Trust.
Warmth pooled in her stomach as her feelings passed her defenses. Her muscles relaxed, and she fought to keep them that way, to allow the feeling to remain, to keep her mind from rejecting it. It reminded her strongly of learning to meditate in the first place- focusing on rejecting the outside world, the world that her mind was trained to listen and react to. It seemed completely impossible. And now- to fight all that training, to open up again for the first time since mastering meditation at seven years old…
She could see the crazy in his eyes. And she saw the fear in her team- they did not recognize their leader. She had caught Starfire in the hall, examining the bruise on her arm as if she couldn't believe it was there.
Raven knew that she could help. But she had never done something like that before, and it was dangerous. She could hurt him. There could be lasting effects, ones she couldn't predict.
It seemed, however, that she didn't have a choice. Robin was losing it.
The other Titans were trying to find him on foot. She closed her eyes instead, and reached out with her mind.
Her soul-self was battered instantly by all the emotions filling the tower, namely fear and confusion. But she found Robins instantly- no one else had the same rabid desperation staining their emotions.
He tried to fight her, but he had never been trained to resist a mental attack. She broke through in a heartbeat.
The inside of Robins head was chaos. The facts, and some of the fictions, that the Titans had about Slade were churning in his head, playing over and over. Memories Raven knew to be false screamed through his mind, each demanding attention all at once. It was a miricale, Raven thought, that he hadn't shown more of this on the outside. There was a part of his mind, from his training no doubt, that was pleading with the rest to calm down, to focus, to control these emotions so that he could achieve his goals, a voice Raven was extremely familiar with. But the tumult was drowning it out. It felt like the minds of addicts she passed in the street- there was something, some sort of agent, that wasn't allowing him to regain control. Maybe it was a drug. Maybe it was a distant memory. Maybe it was simply a line that he had crossed and didn't know how to come back to the other side.
But underneath it all, more clear to Raven than anything else, was a deep and pure desire to do the right thing. A young, orphaned Robin stood before Batman in their shared minds eye, pledging to protect and serve, and she could feel the upmost importance of those words over anything else.
Raven allowed the feelings of admiration and respect to join those from her first memory. She turned her attention to the moment she had regained her memories during the apocalypse.
Like a light switching on, suddenly it was all there. Robins eyes, widening as she told him about the prophecy. He raised a hand and put it gently on her face, and she was shocked. Even as she held him, bleeding, telling him a horror story, he was trying to comfort her. To reassure her. She wanted to burst into tears- no one had ever shown her that much tenderness. She resisted the strong urge to burry her head in his shoulder, to thank him for even bothering with her, to tell him she was sorry that she was going to destroy them all in the end.
But she didn't have the chance. She had thought then that his faith in their ability to stop the inevitable was sweet, admirable even, but naïve. A few months later, her father came, and her last memory was of complete despair and hopelessness.
When she awoke, she realized that Robin was still there. He was still fighting. She had given up, and he was still there, trying to kill the demons of hell for her. It was such a powerful realization that she was able to stop the end of the world.
Frustration, Trust, Admiration, Respect, Gratitude. Love.
It was almost too much- Raven almost forgot why she was doing this. A tornado of emotion swirled around her, sucking her breath away…
It was time. With tremendous effort, Raven pulled all of the emotions into a deep corner of her mind. Boxing them up, barely fitting the lid on. Feeling like she was about to burst, she stood. She forced the emotions to remain in place as she left the room, walking swiftly back to the floor where Cyborg was waiting.
"What are you going-"
She silenced him with a grimace, holding up her hand and shaking her head. She rolled her shoulders, clenched her jaw, and entered the interrogation room once more.