Following Slade's bulky form down the hall had all the expectations of following an executioner. The boy's eyes slid up from the ground to rest on the back of Slade's head. Knowing that Rose's hair was white should have prepared him for this, but he still hadn't been expecting it. Though, he supposed it was nice to know that the singular eye in the mask was because he only had one eye.
Slade led him back to the main lair. Orange light filled the room. It reminded the boy of a cathedral, but this one had been twisted by the darkness of the man in front of him. The one eyed villain made his way over towards his throne and sat down, beckoning Robin come forward with a single gesture of his hand. The boy hesitated for a moment before coming a few paces closer.
"You're trying my patience, boy," Slade said sharply, though the expression on his face was unreadable.
Robin moved a few steps closer before the larger man surged forward, snagged the boy by the shoulder and pulled him forwards. The young leader lost his balance, smashing into Slade's legs before being steered to sit at the side of the throne. Smashing into the armor had hurt, and there was a rectangular mark on the boy's chest where he'd smashed into the man's knee. Robin sat there looking dazed for a moment, before he realized he was uncomfortably at Slade's feet. A scowl marred the young face. When the boy moved to get back up, Slade snagged him by his hair, shoved him back down and slammed his head against the side of the throne. Brilliant white light flashed across Robin's vision and the boy stilled.
"You are going to stay right here where I can keep an eye on you," the man said, leaning over the boy. Robin didn't move, though he wanted nothing more then to shrink down and away from the one eyed villain. "I have some work to do, so I want you to stay quiet and not disturb me." the man pulled paper from a file set near the throne that Robin hadn't seen before and a pen as well, shoving them at the boy besides him. "While you're waiting I expect you to write a series of essays."
The boy glared up at his teacher but his posture had relaxed at the revelation. When Slade had said punishment he'd expected something less ethical. Slade waited expectantly and it took Robin a moment to realize that he was supposed to write down his essay prompts. With a scowl the boy set his pen to the paper and glanced back up at Slade.
"I require three essays each two pages long," the man said. "The first one will detail how the consequences of your actions came to negatively affect your friends. Persuade me that you know what you did wrong, and perhaps I might forgive further punishment."
The boy's eyes widened and he stared at Slade. There was no way he was writing that!
Slade stared back down at the boy, looking mildly amused, before he launched into the next prompt. Robin hastily scribbled down the first one. "You second essay will be a reiteration of how this apprenticeship is going to work. Think of it like a pledge. Explain how you will fill your role as my apprentice and what I can expect from you."
His hand stalled in it's writing as the boy's face scrunched up in dislike.
"The final prompt I think you will enjoy," the man said, a smirk gracing his face when the boy's head instantly tipped up to stare at him. "I would like you to set a list of realistic goals and rewards for yourself," he said.
Robin's eyes narrowed but a small smirk quirked the corner of the boy's lips.
He set to work on the essays. It was hard to write about his friends dying because he's failed them as a friend and a leader. The tears ran hot, heavy, and unbidden down his cheeks. He didn't want to cry so close to the villainous mastermind that had caused him all this pain, but this reminder that it had been his fault his friends were dead was too much. The guilt was overwhelming. The boy stopped writing as his vision blurred and got a shock for his efforts. It wasn't harsh, a small one spasming across his nondominant hand. He scribbled out the next word slowly, and then another, and another. It was a painful, sullen guilt-trip that left him feeling hollow inside.
He wasn't fit to be a leader. He wasn't even a good friend. Those horrible thoughts swirled around in the boy's mind as he slumped next to the"throne" and listened to the sound of Slade's typing. He barely spent a moment to wonder what the man was typing when his cuff shocked him again.
Minutes slipped into hours and before Robin realized it the papers were being pulled out of his hands. The boy resisted at first before he simply let Slade take them and slumped back against the throne looking defeated. The first essay had taken a lot out of him, and while the final one had been slightly revitalizing it still hadn't helped to alleviate the guilt dredged up with the realization that his friends would still be alive if it weren't for him.
There was a deep chuckle from the man behind him and the boy turned his head swiping at his moist cheeks with the back of his hands before looking at Slade questioningly. He couldn't fathom what he had written that could be so hilarious.
"Robin," the man said gruffly, but his mouth was tipped slightly upwards in the corner as though he was amused. "When I asked you to come up with goals I expected them to be realistic."
"Seeing you rot in jail is perfectly realistic," the boy replied testily.
A hand was suddenly in the boy's face and it took a lot of composure not to flinch back as Slade's massive hand tipped his chin up to study the child's scowling face. "Is that so?" the mastermind asked, looking amused. "And you think there is a jail that can hold me?"
"I'll make one," Robin promised.
The hand left the boy's face, ruffling his hair in a too familiar gesture before retreating. Robin didn't like the way Slade was laughing at him. Especially when the young leader was being perfectly serious in his threats. "I look forward to it," the man replied blithely before fording ahead with the other topics. "It seems you have a fairly good grasp of the consequences of your actions," there was nothing telling on the boy's face as the man said this. He continued. "And you seem to, on paper, understand the duties I expect you to uphold in our little partnership."
That caused the boy to stiffen like he'd just been bitten.
"However, your lack of ability to create proper goals means that I will have to create them for you." the man surveyed the child besides him. "I'm disappointed Robin. I expected better from you."
"And what is your idea of a "proper goal"?" the teen asked looking disgruntled. "Me deciding I really should be grateful that you murdered my friends?"
"That's not a goal, boy, that's already expected of you," Slade replied.
He was on his feet in an instant, ignoring the way his hands went numb with the sudden electricity coursing through them.
"Robin," the man said in warning.
"No!" the boy in question replied clenching his fists. "You're completely and utterly insane if you think I will ever thank you for murdering the people I care about. You can't replace them. You're just a raging psychopath!"
Slade stood up then, towering over the child in front of him. He was even taller then usual because the base of the throne was raised on a dais. "You will show me the proper respect," the man said with dark intonation.
"Respect this!" and suddenly Robin was flying at Slade, his fist aimed for the man's face. Slade caught the fist right in front of his nose stopping the boy from breaking it. He didn't relax his grip once he had the boy, however, and instead flung the kid away from him. Robin sailed a few feet, landing with a thud. He wasn't wearing shoes. It would hurt to slide across the ground without them.
"It appears I haven't quite gotten through to you," the one eyed man said as he stepped down the dais. Robin wasn't sure he liked seeing Slade without the mask. It made him more human. It also let on the terrifying satisfaction he was getting from this that caused the boy's pulse to race with panic. "It looks like we're going to have to go right back to the first lesson, Robin. I will make you understand gratitude."
"You can't make me do anything!" the teen shot back in typical rebellious fashion.
"Robin, there's quite the evidence to the contrary, and I'm disappointed with how much difficulty you're having grasping such a simple concept." the single eye fixed the boy in it's stare. "I expected better of you."
"Maybe you should just give up on me," Robin replied, dropping into a fighting stance. "I'm not some kid you can mold into whatever you want!"
"I'm sorry to disappoint, Robin, but that's exactly what you are," the smile on the man's face was predatory as he stalked towards the boy. Robin waited until the man drew closer before attacking. Every quick movement was met with a stab of electric pain until he was throwing numb arms around that he barely had any control over. The man decided he'd had enough with the pitiful display from Robin and his hand shot out, gripping around the teen's neck and pulling him closer. The boy struggled, gasping for air, but the man's grip wasn't crushing. It was just enough to remind him to stay in place before it became that way. "What will it take for you to understand your place, boy?"
Robin made a noise, but he wasn't actually able to get the oxygen required to form words.
"Hi Daddy I was-" a feminine voice came from somewhere behind Robin and to the left but cut off abruptly with a gasp. Slade's attention turned from the boy, who he did not release, to his daughter standing in the doorway.
"Rose, I'm busy," it was said patiently enough, but the connotation was sharp.
"What are you doing to him?" her voice was just as sharp, but her tone was anxious. Robin felt a stab of hope. Perhaps Rose could convince her Father to let him go.
"I'm teaching Robin a lesson," Slade said, his hand tightening around the boy's throat in warning as he said this.
"If you hurt him, I'll hate you!" the girl said venomously, her footsteps moving closer towards them.
"Rose," the one eyed man warned his daughter.
"No!" she insisted childishly. "I won't let you hurt my friends."
"My dear child, you don't have any friends," Slade said with a wicked curve to his smirk.
"I do!" Robin could see her stance was rigid, her hands balled into fists by her sides. "I do! Robin and Terra are my friends."
The man dropped Robin, and the boy landed on his feet, but was forced to the ground when the one eyed man viciously kicked his feet out from under him. The young leader landed with a grunt, moving to get up, but halting abruptly at Slade's cold order: "Don't move." He watched as the man walked over to his daughter who stood still and waited for him to come over. He circled her in an assessing manner. Aside from trembling ever so slightly, Robin wasn't sure if this was in anger or fear, she stood resolute. "If I had known you would fill my daughter's head with silly notions," his gaze pointed directly at Robin when he said this, "I would have never let you train together. But what is done, is done." he spread his hands towards the ground and regarded his daughter again. "Are you willing to test your friendship?"
The girl leaned back ever so slightly. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"We're going to make a deal, my dear. You will be responsible for keeping Robin and Terra in line. As my heir you are going to lead them one day, you might as well understand that responsibility now." the boy's gaze flashed from father to daughter in bewilderment. "If either one of them misbehaves in any way you shall bear the brunt of the punishment," Slade said, the hair on the back of Robin's neck raising as he realized what this was going to mean for him.
"You will be silent unless ordered to speak!" Slade interrupted the boy coldly, his eye fixing on his daughter. "Do you accept the deal, Rose?"
The girl's jaw twitched and she narrowed her eyes before giving a single, curt nod. "I accept."
Slade smiled in a terrifying fashion. "Excellent," as his single eyed gaze swiveled towards Robin. "Now, where were we? Ah, yes, I believe we were talking about how you were going to show me more respect from now on."
The boy glared up at the man, not moving from his position on the floor. He looked very much like he wanted to argue, but a quick glance at Rose who stood there watching them was a painful reminder he couldn't without her getting hurt, and so the boy backed down. "Yes, master," Robin replied sullenly.
Robin didn't need to look up to hear the smirk in the man's voice when he said, "That's my boy."
I'm so sorry guys. The holidays hit me hard. It was partially my own fault because I baked over six dozen cookies in a week. But uh...yeah. I also picked up like all the hours over the holidays so until it's back to normal I can't promise my usual weekly update. I'm really sorry.
And, yes, that chapter was rather anticlimactic. But now the pickle has become...picklier.
I need to stop writing these so late at night.