The sound of applause

Disclaimer: Do not own.

The memories start off slow like whispered mummers through his mind and he wonders how long he had been asleep this time.

Awareness pierces through his mind like a migraine, as he leaves the sweet lull of nothingness in his mind, memories flash through his head like bullets. He sees the blurs, but they are too fast to catch. Then suddenly they start to slow down again, enough that he can touch them and hold on to things forgotten. It comes to him that he should be dead, but realizes that he can't die anymore. Then he remembers that it's because he isn't human. Not really.

It's not something he remembers clearly, nor is it something that they prohibit for him to think on. They tell him that it shouldn't matter, not when he could live forever, not if he could be happy serving them.

In the floating pictures that pass through his memories, he hears the faint sounds of laughter and applause. The memories are transparent but for a moment he feels the warmth of a spotlight that hits his face. And feel the breeze of flying through the air without the invisible leash that tugs at his neck whenever he is awake.

The faceless pair of a man and a woman begins to take shape as they always do. He sees their smiles, hears their voice, though their words are nothing but a sweet buzz to his ears. It's then that he starts to feel the stirring in his chest. The feeling that aches and soothes at the same time, its emotions that he had been forced to accustom as weak, and weakness has no place in the court.

He hears the distinct yet solid whispers past the memories that now trickles through his brain, and he feels the soft touch of a cold hand that lays on his face in mock gentleness.

"Richard Grayson, you are needed by the court. Awaken." A cold voice calls to him and he opens his eyes in obedience.

"Why him?" Another voice questions, "He is still young, why not choose someone else with more experience?"

"With experience, he could be our best Talon yet." Another voice says in final, silencing the protester.

When he sees them he is met with white masks carved in the faces of owls, they surround him and their masks exude intelligence along with cruelty and expectation. In the recess of his mind he remembers the face of the smiling couple more vividly and his heart suddenly feels the need to flee, the tight feeling of claustrophobia grip at his chest and for a moment he wonders if he is breathing, or if he even needs to breathe at all.

The ones who'd circled around him steps back and the grip on his chest relaxes as a woman in a wheelchair is pushed towards him. Automatically he kneels down in submission as he stares at the ground. The action is not something he questions.

"Bruce Wayne," The elder of the court hisses through her mask, hatred evident in the way she leans forward and clenches her thin frail hand, "kill him."

Suddenly, something takes over, the laughter and applause disappear. The faint warmth he felt moments ago freezes over to zero and the fading couple finally disappears from his thoughts along with their screams and the sound of broken bones and blood.

Instead he stands and nods his head in understanding, the memories erase from his head as the longing disappears.

All he remembers now is that disobedience to the court is not painless.

And loyalty is the closest he has to freedom.