A/N: I'm not entirely sure if I'm happy with this story or not, but there's too many plot holes in my brain right now to think cohesively. This one particular little fic just wouldn't buzz off until I wrote it; I have a feeling later stuff might feel more satisfactory. Then again, maybe the little nit-picker that resides somewhere in my head has programmed me to be in a permanent state of 'must-do-better.' I don't know. Either way, it's my first story and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. Reviews may contribute to a more whelmed experience! ;)
Sixteen hours. What did we do? The possibilities swirled over and over in Batman's head as he strode down the corridor to the room that housed the security console. He intended to view everything that had occurred on the Watchtower for the last twenty-four hours, even if he had to do it frame by frame. He just hoped it would generate some answers. Batman hated not being in control, and knowing that there was sixteen hours that he could not account for whilst under the influence of the Starro biotech was eating him up.
Unfortunately, several hours later the Dark Knight was forced to admit defeat. After scanning the cameras thoroughly from the moment he was placed under Vandal's control, until he and the others left through the portal to do God-knows-what, Batman reluctantly accepted that he would not discover what or where they had been for the sixteen hours. The other League members, – with the exception of Black Canary and Red Tornado – remained on the Watchtower doing nothing. In fact, the most interesting sequences of the last twenty-four hours were the efforts of Young Justice to take down the mind-controlled members of the Justice League. Batman was both surprised and pleased by how well they performed. He knew that the Justice League were under the control of Klarion, and that by reducing them to mind-controlled puppets he had limited their abilities. But that did not detract from the efforts of Young Justice to take down a team that not only outnumbered them, but boasted far superior abilities to their own. Batman was impressed, until he reached the scene where he pummelled Rocket into a brick wall.
The dark knight felt himself grow cold as he watched himself turn and face Robin, saw himself crack his knuckles in one of his signature threatening gestures. Tell me I didn't...
Robin threw a smoke pellet and for several seconds, Batman couldn't see anything. It wasn't until Robin came flying out from the smoke, twisting in midair to regain his balance, that Batman realised one of his worst fears.
He had attacked the most important person in the world to him.
His eyes riveted to the screen in front, Batman watched the brutal confrontation between himself and his protégé. With a growing feeling of disgust and self-loathing, he watched himself drive several hard punches at Robin; the boy was able to parry some but took the full force of others. He also managed to get a few hard thrusts at his mentor – which explained some of the aches that Batman was feeling – but the pride that flared at Robin's excellent fighting skills did nothing to assuage the self-disgust. Batman could only watch as Robin tried desperately to evade a far stronger opponent, producing his escrima sticks when his mentor blocked his every move.
Oblivious to the cataclysmic showdown occurring between Superman and Superboy on the same screen, Batman watched himself drive a vicious punch into Robin's jaw that sent him reeling through a hole to the ground two floors below. He recovered quickly, twisting in midair and landing on his feet. But he didn't get up; remaining crouched beside the splayed Superboy. Batman could see he was hurt and exhausted, and swallowed hard as he watched himself leap from the upper floor, Superman speeding alongside him towards the two teenagers.
But then the boys surprised him. He watched as Superboy grabbed Robin's hands and spun him around before throwing him into the air. In a spectacular aerial manoeuvre that left the watching Batman stunned, Robin landed a hard kick to the centre of his mentor's chest, driving him back into the wall. Even Superman had stopped in his tracks to watch. As he fell to the floor, Robin spun in midair so that he was above Batman, administering the antidote whilst freefalling. The first thing Robin did when they hit the ground was check to see if Batman was okay.
The Dark Knight was stunned. He knew Robin's abilities were exceptional but he hadn't realised that he was capable of a move like that. The boy had grown in the past few months and he hadn't noticed.
He returned his attention to the screen. Robin was on his feet while Superboy had Superman in a vice-like grip. Robin ran towards them, removing something from his utility belt and at once the two Kryptonians weakened.
Kryptonite, Batman realised as they sank to the floor. Robin administered the antidote to the man of steel and snapped the little container shut before helping Conor to his feet.
Batman didn't watch anymore. Switching off the security footage, he remained in his own troubled thoughts for several minutes as he contemplated what he had just witnessed. He knew he had been under the influence of the Starro biotech and could not be held accountable for his actions, but that did nothing to assuage the horrible guilt that warred within him; he had attacked Robin, beating the boy like he was a common thug. No, worse; Batman had been fighting to kill, something he would never do against even deadly foes such as the Joker. Yet here he had been ready to do it against the one person in the world he was supposed to protect.
His anger grew as he recalled his actions upon regaining consciousness and learning of the night's events. Unable to discern what the six League members had done for sixteen hours, the Justice League had accepted that there was little else they could do for the night and retired.
But not Batman.
Consumed with frustration and anger, he had gone in search of answers. He did not stop to acknowledge Robin or the bruises darkening his face, he did not ask the boy if he was okay. Batman held a hand to his head as he was faced with the enormity of his blinkered vision. When it came to the pursuit of justice, it often blinded his sense of humanity. As the league members retired, an exhausted Young Justice had returned to Happy Harbour and their respective homes…all except Robin. Robin had remained on the Watchtower because Batman had forbidden him to leave. After the events of the last twenty-four hours, he wanted Robin to be nearby. Safe.
Except he neglected to tell Robin that. He had just ordered the boy to stay, and then swept off towards the security room…and he didn't even have the excuse of being under the control of the biotech. For a man who was supposed to see everything, sometimes Batman saw nothing.
Shaking his head in anger, disgust and loathing at his own actions, Batman strode back towards the meeting hall where he had left Robin. He hoped the boy would be still there and had not left in a fit of rebellion or anger. Not that Batman could blame him if he had.
He reached the hall and cast his gaze around, sharp eyes alighting on the lone figure in the corner. Robin was slumped in one of the more comfortable chairs, cape wrapped around himself and his head lolling uncomfortably against a propped hand. He looked small, lonely and vulnerable.
Batman felt something twang painfully within him as he made his way slowly over to the boy and shook him gently. "Robin."
He jerked awake. "Batman, what's wrong?"
The man didn't know how to answer. Everything was wrong. His attention now focused on Robin, he could see the bruises he hadn't noticed earlier. There were several dotted across his face and one on his arm…Batman could only imagine what under his uniform looked like. The worst one covered most of Robin's left jaw; a livid purple monstrosity with the clearly defined outline of a fist…his fist.
Robin's concerned voice brought him out of his thoughts. He could see fear on the boy's face, fear of him, and his heart wrenched. He had put that fear there.
The words were out before he'd thought about them and Robin looked startled. Bruce Wayne apologised. Dick Grayson apologised. Robin apologised. Batman never apologised.
A large hand reached out towards Robin's face and the boy flinched. Involuntarily, but it was still a flinch. Batman couldn't bear to have the person who meant more to him than anyone look at him like that, like he was scared of him. He withdrew his hand and used it to pull back his cowl instead. The boy's eyes went wide with shock that Batman had removed his mask in public. It may have been the Watchtower of the Justice League, but there were still league members who didn't know Batman's true identity. He shifted as though getting ready to run.
"I'm not being controlled, it's me," Bruce said quietly, guessing the teenager's thoughts. Robin opened his mouth to respond but then shut it when nothing came out.
Bruce raised an eyebrow. "Not often I see you speechless." Robin gave him a what-the-hell-do-you-expect look. "Robin, I am so sorry for…this." He reached out again to touch the bruise and this time Robin didn't flinch. "Does it hurt?"
"Nah. I've got a hard head. Besides, I've had worse, right?" Robin gave him a cocky grin and Bruce knew, even with the mask, that the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
The smile faded. Using his real name, while he was in costume, in public. Robin was beginning to wonder if he had wandered into the Twilight zone. "Alright. Maybe it hurts a little. But seriously, Bruce, I'm okay."
"I'll decide that once I've taken you home and Alfred has had a look at you." His hand dropped. "Dick, I'm sorry."
Robin was starting to look rattled. "Bruce, stop apologising! It's cool. You were Mr Puppet-guy, it's not like you could help it."
Bruce was shaking his head. "Maybe I couldn't, but it should never have happened. I could have killed you! I watched the fight, Dick."
"You watched the fight?" the false bravado disappeared from his voice.
Bruce nodded, reached up and gently removed Robin's mask. Just as he'd suspected, there was fear in his eyes. "Dick, Batman is supposed to scare criminals and thugs. You are the last person in the world that should be afraid of Batman." He took hold of the boy's hands and now Dick really stared, because Bruce was rarely tactile or emotional. Do you know why I wouldn't let you leave with the others?"
Dick shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe you wanted to debrief me after you'd viewed the footage?"
Bruce closed his eyes, feeling even more ashamed of his actions. "No." He opened his eyes and looked directly into Dick's face. "After the last twenty-four hours, I wanted you nearby where I could keep you safe." Dick's mouth dropped open. That his admission should shock the boy caused Bruce considerable pain. How had he let things get to the point where Dick thought that the mission was more important than he was?
"My actions while under the Starro biotech were bad enough, but my actions in the aftermath were reprehensible. My first concern should have been getting you home, not watching hours of footage that could have waited until morning. You should have been my priority."
"But it was important–" Dick tried to defend his mentor but Bruce cut him off.
"Not as important as you."
Dick stared at him suspiciously. "Are you sure there isn't some residual mind control going on here?"
Bruce felt even angrier with himself that he had let things come to this; this wasn't just tonight, this had been building for months. "This isn't mind control, Dick. This is me realising my failings over the past few months, and especially over the last few hours. I've been putting the wrong things first for too long."
"Is this really you talking?" Dick asked, sounding younger than his thirteen years.
"Yes. And I need you to understand how sorry I am; for attacking you this evening, for not seeing you were hurt because I was too blinded by the mission, and for letting things get to this…where I have to convince you how important you are. Do you understand?"
Dick nodded and Bruce leaned over and pulled him into a tight hug. Dick returned the hug just as fiercely. After a moment, they sat back and smiled at one another, Dick's smile free and easy once more.
Bruce felt some of the guilt drain away, although he suspected it would be a long time before it dissipated completely. "Well done on tonight's events; that was an impressive aerial manoeuvre you pulled. How long have you been practicing it?"
Dick looked guilty. "Er…well, actually…"
"You have actually practiced that before?" Bruce's tone was sharp.
"Not exactly. I mean, we've talked about it and I've run diagnostics to determine speed and impact but uh, that was pretty much our first practice run."
Bruce suppressed a sigh. The protective father in him wanted to give a stern lecture on attempting new and risky manoeuvres in uncontrolled situations along with a list of a dozen other precautions he should have taken, but one look at Dick's slightly apprehensive face stilled that instinct. "Well done, Dick. I'm proud of you."
The boy beamed and Bruce got to his feet, helping a somewhat stiff Dick to stand. "Better get you home and have Alfred take a look at you."
"What are you gonna tell him?"
"Seriously?" Dick was surprised. Alfred would explode when he found out the reason for the bruises. And the one thing both Bruce and Dick agreed on unanimously was that they would rather face twenty thugs than Alfred's wrath. That Bruce was willing to become Alfred's verbal punching-bag over this baffled Dick. "You're not going to make up a story?"
"And deprive Alfred of the opportunity to scold me? Heaven forbid!"
"You're either brave or stupid," Dick decided. "You sure your brain is back down on terra firma?"
Bruce didn't answer. Alfred's wrath was the least he could face after his actions tonight. He swung an arm across Dick's shoulder. "Come on, Partner. Lets get you home."
A/N: Okay, I know I had a note at the start but wasn't that move of Robin's freaking awesome? The boy kicks ass!