Title: Laughing Gas
Word Count: about 4,356
Summary: A low rumble of laughter echoed around the room, "I know death," Robin whispered, his voice sending chills down everyone's spines. Missions don't always go as planned, and the world isn't always rainbows and sunshine.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters and I write completely for fun and not for profit!
Beta: Thank you to KTrevo! You were a great help and thank you for letting me pick your brain!
Idea: This came from something else I was working on. The orginal intro didnt really work with what I had written, so this turned into it's own story. That I hope you enjoy!
Authors note: This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to write a summary for! or make a title for! The actual story came pretty easy. Strange, I Know!
Everyone is a little OC at the start of the story, but if you read, I think they have a reason to be. I dont want to give the story away, so I am just going to let you all read and make up your own minds.
Black Canary led the way down the halls of Mt. Justice and through a pair of double doors. It was the same room as the therapy session from the mental link mishap a few weeks ago, but the furniture had been rearranged into a circle. Superboy and Miss Martian took one of the two couches; Aqualad took a chair next to Superboy while Artemis took the chair next to Megan. Wally sank into one side of the second couch, next to Kaldur. Robin took the open spot next to his best friend. Black Canary took the last open seat between Robin and Artemis.
The team sat in silence for a few minutes. Canary observed the teens before finally clearing her throat. "You guys all know why we're here today." She began, her voice steady and calm. "Your last mission didn't go as planned and some civilians were..." The senior hero paused for a second as if searching for the words. "...lost. We're not here to point fingers or blame anyone for what happened. I just want to talk this over. Sometimes it can be a shock to lose people while working as a hero, and I just want to help you all through it."
Robin's hand shot into the air, the sudden movement startled the rest of the team.
Black Canary nodded to the young bird, "Yes, Robin. You have to be here."
"Batman's orders?" he asked.
The senior hero nodded, "Batman ordered for everyone to be present."
Robin sighed, crossing his arms over his chest with a slight huff, and fell back into the cushions. He pulled up his legs and rested his elbows on his knees.
Black Canary took this as her signal to continue. "Who wants to start?"
The room was silent, and then Aqualad finally raised his hand. "I will." The team leader took in a steadying breath. "We received the mission from Batman yesterday afternoon…"
The team had already gathered when the computer announced the arrival of Batman and Robin. The Dark Knight went straight into the mission briefing; Kobra had taken over a chemical plant on the coast of Chile, it was the teams job to infiltrate and observe. "Respond accordingly." Batman growled. "Interfere if you must, but inform the League, when and if you do."
"Batman dismissed us from there." Aqualad finished.
"How was the flight?" Canary asked. The senior hero wanted the group to relax. She wanted them to open up and talk.
Artemis shrugged, "Normal."
"We asked Robin about the cuts on his face." Megan added gaze flickering to the little bird. "Well, technically Wally did…"
Megan flashed Robin a smile when a small holographic map appeared on the front screen of the ship, and followed the indication to go south from Happy Harbor. Megan turned her attention to directing the ship across the eastern border and down to South America. Artemis, Connor and Kaldur were debating on the best way to handle the situation when arriving in Chile, at the front of the ship.
Wally took to staring down his best friend, "Yo, Robbie." Wally called across the cockpit.
"Yeah?" The teen in question glanced up from his holo-glove with a trademark smirk plastered on his face.
"What happened?" The red head asked, gesturing at his own face for clarification. The rest of the team fell quiet, and most of the attention was turned towards the Boy Wonder.
One of Robin's hands flew to the cut along his forehead, the smirk of confidence still firmly in place, "Late night in Gotham." He shrugged.
"And you're on a mission today?" Megan frowned, concern obvious in her facial expression.
"'Tis a flesh wound." The Boy Wonder was the only one to laugh. "Seriously?" he said a playful frown on his face "No one has seen that movie?"
"Are you sure it is safe for you to be on a mission with a head wound?" Kaldur pressed, ignoring the joke.
Robin rolled his unseen eyes, "I'm good. I've had to do more with much worse." The teen flashed a smile at the team. "Don't worry."
"The rest of the flight was uneventful." The Martian finished, tears welling up in her eyes.
Superboy wrapped Megan up in his arms, and shot Black Canary a glare, as if blaming the woman for the girl's pain.
"What happened during the mission?" Black Canary asked her gaze flickered between the other members of the team.
"Everything was going according to plan." Wally muttered his eyes were glued on the floor. "Robin was working on the computers and security from the inside. I was watching his back. Kaldur, Superboy, Artemis and Megan were checking the area around the lab. That was when the alarm went off…"
It was loud. There was a siren coming from the speaker system, and red lights began to flash in the hallways.
Kid Flash turned towards Robin, eyes wide under his cowl. Robin just shook his head no, indicating that he wasn't the on responsible. Kaldur's voice echoed though everyone's head, commanding the team to regroup at the ship and stay hidden.
Robin disconnected himself from the labs computers and nodded to his best friend. Kid Flash was ready to pull the door open, when the Boy Wonder grabbed his hand, and shook his head once. A few seconds later, running footsteps passed the door. The ebony haired teen flicked his gaze to the air vent then singled for Wally to follow him.
The duo crawled through the air vents, Robin's holo-glove lit up to show a map of the lab. The sirens stopped suddenly, but the red light still flashed, through the grates in the vents. Robin's frown deepened, but continued crawling. Both boys could hear voices, yelling, growing louder as they moved.
A woman with a thick Spanish accent was arguing with Kobra and his men. "We are going as fast as we can, Kobra." She screeched. Behind the woman, one of the soldiers dropped his gun; the strap keeping it secured to his side, and pulled a hunting knife from the holster at his side.
Robin and Kid Flash stopped crawling and exchanged worried looks before calling out to the team.
"We cannot work us like this you –" the woman paused to take in a ragged breath, "Que demonio vicious!"
There was a sudden and slight change to Kobra's stance and a flicker in his face. The soldier caught the message, but so did Young Justice.
An arrow flew through the air and knocked the knife out of the young man's hands.
"Everyone jumped into action from there." Wally ended. The redhead ducked his head and choked back tears. "That's when things went wrong." He whispered.
Dinah let the room fall into silence, and took the opportunity to observe the team.
Artemis clutched the armrests of her chair with white knuckles, her whole body was rigid and a mix of sadness and anger flashed in her eyes.
Tears flowed freely down Megan's face, and she burrowed herself into Connor's side.
The clone sat with his face blank, but his hands clenched and unclenched in anger.
Kaldur was half curled into himself, his shoulders were slumped in defeat and he looked exhausted.
The normally mischievous gleam in Wally's eyes were gone, he looked almost hollow. Tears threatened to fall down the speedster's face.
Black Canary's gaze finally landed on Robin. The Boy Wonder sat cross-legged on the couch, chin resting on the palm of his right hand and elbow on his leg. His left hand was silently tapping out a beat on his other knee. The teen looked uncomfortable, closed off, and bored. The senior hero frowned.
Artemis followed the older woman's gaze and scowled at the Boy Wonder. Something snapped in the archer, and she was on her feet in seconds. "What the hell?" She screamed, crossing the room to stand above the smaller boy. "What the fuck is your problem?"
Something flashed across Robin's face, but it was to face for anyone to catch. "I don't seem to be the one with the problem." He said at last.
This only angered Artemis more, "Then why the hell are you acting like this?"
"Like what?" Robin hissed, pushing himself off the couch and squaring up to the archer. "Normal?"
"Yes!" Aqualad and Black Canary took a firm grip on Artemis, and dragged the blond away from the bird. "Six people died because of us, you heartless bastard! Do you even care?"
Robin froze and his expression went blank.
Artemis ignored everyone else in the room, her focus on the little bird. "Are you really indifferent about all of this? Innocent people died! Families were destroyed because of us! Do you even know what it's like to-" The blond was cut off with a swift, solid kick to the stomach. The archer and the two heroes restraining her were pushed backwards, barely catching themselves before falling to the floor.
Robin stood in the center of the room, his fists clenched at his sides. "I know more death than you could ever understand." He said his words were filled with venom, his voice dropped an octave and a sickening smile spread across his face. Suddenly the thirteen-year-old had aged beyond his years. "I have witnessed forty-three people die in the last four years. Forty-three people since I was nine, and I have nightmares about every single one of them. I'm haunted by their screams, I close my eyes and I can see their faces. And that's just while I was working as Robin." The Boy Wonder took in a ragged breath, the smile slowly growing on his face.
Black Canary stepped forward. "Robin." She whispered, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Robin pulled out of her grip with a jerk and stepped out of reach, "When I was eight years old, I saw my parents murdered."
"Robin," Black Canary cried, trying to once again grab a hold of the teen. "Your identity."
The Boy Wonder dodged the senior hero with ease, and bolted around his friends and vaulted over the couch. "Screw the secret identity!" He screamed, then dropped his voice to a low hiss, "When I was eight year old I saw my parent's fall more than two stories to their deaths. I saw the look in my mother's eyes change from pure joy to pure terror. I cried over their broken bleeding bodies."
Robin refused to look at anyone and let out a low rumble of laughter that echoed around the room. "I know death," he whispered, his voice sending chills down everyone's spines.
Superboy could hear the faint sounds of footsteps from down the hallway, but remained focused on the slowly cracking teen near the door.
Everyone seemed frozen in place as Robin broke down.
The Boy Wonder's laughter continued; it was bitter, heart breaking and spine chilling all at once. "I know death." He repeated, his laughter growing louder.
No one reacted when Batman busted though the doors, Superman on his heels.
The Boy Wonder began gasping for air and his knees buckled. The laugher still echoed eerily off the walls and through the room.
Batman was at Robin's side in seconds and in one fluid movement, he pulled something from his belt and placed it over this partner's face.
The laughter slowly died down, until Robin was left panting into the mask. Dick felt heavy. His limbs wouldn't move and his eyelids drooped. The shocked faces of his team swam in his vision and a hand brushed over his head. Bruce's voice flooded his cloudy mind, "Dorm acum pasăre meu mai mic. Eşti în siguranţă acum." Robin let out a slight groan then everything went black.
Batman straightened with a sleeping Robin in his arms. The hero gave a sweeping, unreadable glance around the room, then turned on his heels and walked out.
The team made to follow but was blocked by the Man of Steel. "Leave them." He said. "Batman has it under control."
"What was that?" Megan whispered hands clasped over her mouth and tears streaming down her face.
Superman and Black Canary exchanged quick glances. "It seems to be the effects of the Jokers laughing gas." The reporter explained after a second.
"We didn't face the Joker." Wally stated in a whisper.
The room was consumed by silence, the sound of laugher still echoed in their ears.
For two days, the mountain stayed quiet. The team, excluding Robin, had been ordered to stay at the headquarters until further notice, but the mountain seemed void of its usual life. Each hero took to his or her own space.
Connor took permanent refuge in front of the television, eyes glued to the static screen.
Megan drifted between her room, the kitchen and Conner's side. Her normally bright green skin was slightly pale and she looked about ready to cry at any moment.
Aqualad could be found in the pool almost all the time. He took comfort in the cool feel and the depths of the salt water.
Wally shuffled thought the halls without his usual speed. The redhead circled between his room, the kitchen and Robin's bedroom door.
Artemis vanished into her designated room the moment Black Canary had dismissed them two days ago, her guilt forcing her into hiding.
It took two days until the computers announced the arrival of Batman and Robin. Shortly after, Batman's voice echoed through the halls, "All members of Young Justice report to debriefing immediately."
Wally was the first to arrive, and a look of relief flashed across his face at the sight of his best friend. The redhead resisted the urge to tackle the bird with a hug and waited for the arrival for the rest of the team.
Everyone filed into place, with Artemis taking up the rear and avoiding eye contact with anyone in the room.
Robin watched his team with an apologetic smile. The teen looked relatively normal, a pair of tinted glasses sat on his face, green sweatshirt and black sweatpants on his body, a pair of black converse on his feet.
Megan and Wally looked ready to jump out of their skin with questions, but it was Batman's scowl that kept the team frozen and silent.
"You all witnessed something..." The Dark Knight paused. "...Unpleasant the other day, and according to Black Canary and Superman the team was..." The hero paused again. "...Unnerved by the first hand exposure to the effects of the Joker's laughing gas."
"We didn't face the Joker." Superboy interrupted with a growl.
"You didn't," Batman emphasized the subjects. "We did."
"But how –" Megan began, only to be interrupted by a glare from Batman.
"Robin, along with a few other residents of Gotham were unknowingly exposed to a slow acting form of the Jokers laughing gas. It was meant to sit in their systems for twenty four hours then be activated by an increase of heart rate."
The team once again dawned looks of shock and silence fell over the room.
Batman took the opportunity to glance down at his partner; the Dynamic Duo shared a silent conversation before the Dark Knight nodded once. "Be back for patrol." He stated before turning on his heels and walking out.
The transporter came to life, the computer announced the departure of Batman and the mountain fell silent.
Robin scratched the back of his neck awkwardly and smiled sheepishly at his team, "I'm sorry you guys had to see me like that." The bird let out a chuckle, and Artemis flinched. "I usually try to leave the Gotham stuff in Gotham."
"Is something like that common?" Miss Martian asked in a whisper.
"The Joker?" Robin countered. "Or his laughing gas?" The teen didn't wait for an answer. "He doesn't always use the gas- it's actually been a while since he pulled the stuff out. The Joker, himself, pops up whenever he is bored and gets out of Arkham."
"You let him go?" Superboy growled a mix of anger and confusion on his face.
Robin let out a humorless laugh, "We don't exactly release him, Supy. Usually the baddies break out. It's rare when a villain is released from the asylum. That only happens when they are declared cured and usually means we have a cop or doctor being bribed, blackmailed or threatened."
An awkward silence fell over the group, and Robin sighed, "I know it is a lot to handle. I'm sorry you guys had to see me like that, I know it is a little intense. The gas is meant to break you emotionally while slowly choke you with your own laugher. I had a hard time when I first saw it."
"But are you okay?" Wally asked, eyeing his friend with worry and doubt.
Robin spread his arms wide and flashed a bright smile, "I'm right as rain and totally feeling the aster."
The smile dropped from his face and his own look of concern took over. "It's you guys I am worried about. I know I kind of unloaded a lot onto you guys."
"You have a lot of pressure on your shoulders, my friend." Kaldur said. "Especially for your age. What happened was just a reminder of how different our experiences as heroes have been."
Robin nodded along, his eyes finding a point on the wall right above the team leader's head. "Gotham is different than most places. It's darker, the villains are more ruthless. To some of them, it's just business, for others it's all a game. Death's become a statistic rather than a tragedy, killing is just part of the daily routine."
Megan gasped, "Why would anyone want to live there?"
"It depends. Some people, old money, like it there. They ignore the problems and live their lives of luxury. They have too much invested in the city. Most people can't leave. It's hard to get a job outside Gotham after living there. Everyone's scared they are going to hire a former henchman of the Joker or something. Then there are the residents that enjoy it. The thugs, henchmen and so on, they enjoy the violence and the evil that lurks in the alleys of Gotham."
Robin finally tore his gaze away from the distant wall. "Gotham needs saving from itself, and Gordon can only do so much with his corrupt police force. That's why Batman and I do what we do when we have to."
Robin shook himself and was brought back to reality, "I know it is hard to understand, and most people don't get it."
"Why doesn't the League do anything?" Superboy grumbled. "Why don't we do anything?"
Robin shook his head, "Bats doesn't allow powers into the city. We're barely allowed to patrol, but I think we're kind of Gordon's last hope. Most of the time, we have everything under control, but as soon as they see a super in the city all hell breaks loose. It seems to put the villains on edge. If there is one thing the villains of Gotham can agree on, it is no powers in Gotham."
"But your villains…?" Wally wondered with a frown.
"Madness, drugs and science." Robin interrupted, "But mostly madness." The little bird flashed a smile, and then his face went blank. "So, I told you guys a few things you weren't supposed to know." This time Robin's gaze fell to the ground.
"About your parents?" Megan asked in a whisper.
Robin nodded once, "I need you guys to forget about that. You can't dig around or ask questions; just pretend you never heard what I said." The little bird looked uncomfortable and avoided looking at any of his teammates.
"Of course." Megan said instantly at the same time Wally said, "Heard what?" Everyone else nodded in agreement.
This seemed good enough for the Boy Wonder and the smile was back. "Awesome. I was a little worried we were going to need a therapy session for our therapy session." Everyone but Artemis smiled back and Wally let out a chuckle. The hacker's eyes flickered between his teammates until landing on Artemis.
"Arty, I'm really sorry about kicking you…"
"Don't," The blond demanded, "I should apologise to you, not the other way around. I should-" the archers' voice cracked "-I should be the one saying those things to you. I was angry and I took it out on you. I'm so sorry Robin."
"Arty," Robin whispered, taking a few steps forward and placing a hand on the girls arm, "It's okay, apology accepted." A genuine smile crossed the birds face. "Really." He gave her arm a squeeze before letting her go. Robin flashed the team his smile, "I have to be back at nine." He announced. "Who's up for a movie?"
Robin landed on the roof in silence and slipped the grappling hook back into his belt. The Boy Wonder took the last few steps and fell into the shadow of the Dark Knight. "Anything happening, Bats?"
Batman shot a look to his left then returned to scanning the city below. "You're late."
"I had to stop a mugging on the way here." Robin whined. "You can't blame me for it."
Bruce turned back to his ward and raised a hidden eyebrow.
"Okay, so I didn't stop anything," Robin huffed, "but I could have."
"The team?" The older hero asked. Dick could hear the meaning behind his father's words.
The hacker shrugged. "It's all good."
Batman nodded once and dropped the subject, "The Riddler escaped from Arkham a few hours ago." In the distance they could hear the sound of sirens, and lights flashing off the windows.
Robin cracked his knuckles and smirked out at the city, "Let's do this."
Robin ignored the flashing light of his alarm clock announcing two A.M. to his bedroom, and slipped under the navy blue sheets of his bed. The little bird was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
The scream echoed off the factory walls. Robin watched in silent horror as the woman fell to the ground, he could hear the thud of the dead body over the sound of the fight. He could feel Kobra's eyes on his face, His own gaze met the villain's. Kobra let the knife drop from his hand and clatter to the floor next to the body.
The corners of the older man's face quirked and Robin attacked.