A.N. Stick with it, okay? The beginning's a bit odd, but thing will start to make sense before too long…
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. The Dr. Madalon in this chapter is based off of an actual doctor I had once…total fruitcake. -.- But he (probably) meant well.
Of Multiverses and Child Soldiers
Chapter One: Lost in the Light
It was raining. Heavy droplets of water fell from the heavens to splash down against the ground and into the ocean beside which Young Justice was engaged in a vicious battle with some of Gotham's many criminals. They weren't on a mission, although they had been sent by Batman. They were supposed to be touring the city with Robin in preparation for an as yet undisclosed assignment which was to be undertaken within the next few weeks. That had been the plan, anyway; who knew if Batman would still let them proceed with it after this fiasco.
It was made worse by the fact that they had been in civvies. Well, of course they were; they'd have to be stupid to go to Gotham in uniform if they didn't want a fight. But they had been careless. There was another mission they were supposed to see to after exploring Gotham, so rather than have to go back to the mountain and change, or try to have M'gann erect separate rooms in the bioship (never again—once was more than enough for them) they had simply worn most of or all of their costumes underneath. Superboy wore a jacket over his shirt. M'gann could shape-shift. Robin wore jeans and a hoodie. Unlike Superboy, he chose not to wear his costume, instead keeping only the bulletproof vest. His eyes were hidden both by sunglasses and by the hood shadowing his face. The rest was in a small backpack slung over one shoulder. Aqualad had something similar; he kept the top half of his costume underneath a hoodie of the same design as Robin's, but changed into jeans. Artemis slipped on some baggy sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a backpack to conceal her bow and some of her other weaponry. Kid Flash copied her, also detaching his goggles and headpiece and hiding them in Artemis' backpack when she wasn't looking rather than carry them himself.
All in all, their disguises were terribly flimsy. It was a relatively well-known rule in the Justice League, unless you're there to pick a fight, never go out into dangerous territory with your superhero costume under your civilian clothing. Murphy's Law ensured that the odds of it getting ripped or pulled off somehow were just way too high. But Young Justice was not part of the Justice League, and had no knowledge of this, something that was proving to be disastrous—heavy on the 'dis'.
The team had been just finishing their tour when an old drunkard stumbled out of an alley and grabbed hold of Aqualad's shoulder. He asked for money, please, for an old police officer fallen on hard times. Startled, and seemingly not noticing Robin's warning stare, Aqualad had replied that he was sorry, but he could not help. The man responded by screaming incoherently into Aqualad's face and attempting to yank him forwards into his waiting fist. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Aqualad stood his ground and did not move. However, his hoodie did. The drunk had blinked once, stupidly, at the emblem half-revealed, then dropped the torn bits of cloth in his hand and ran away, screaming once more.
When the first batch of thugs and gang members showed up, curious about all the yelling—or, more specifically, about the heroes that the drunkard had been babbling about, Robin, aided by Artemis, was still trying to get his team to make like the drunkard and run, but they moved too slow, and the criminals in Gotham knew a hero when they saw one, and who knew about the kids in street clothes, but that one in the torn jacket with the red showing underneath was definitely a hero and for them that was apparently more than enough reason to attack. No way was Young Justice leaving their leader to fend off his enraged attackers by himself, and thus, their current predicament; backed up against the ocean, struggling to hold their own.
Artemis shifted to the left to dodge a punch, then got in a blow of her own, turned into a spin kick and knocked the thug down for good. She purposefully wobbled a little on her landing and stumbled a few steps. When they had seen the first gang coming towards them, Robin had hissed that one hero was bad enough, and if it was discovered that there was a whole group of heroes in Gotham they'd have a madhouse on their hands. After all, it wasn't only Batman who was protective of the city. So even though it was exhausting, and most likely a wasted effort anyway, Artemis was doing her best to downplay her abilities. M'gann had already called the bioship; it was hidden two streets over in an alleyway. They just had to maneuver their way out of this mess long enough to escape. Shouldn't be too much longer….Two more criminals moved in, muttering threats she couldn't be bothered to listen to. She blew a strand of hair out of her face and lunged in again.
Superboy had been backed up to the very edge of the dock. Below him was the ocean, dark and murky and clouded with rain. He wasn't worried; he knew he could take the dozen or so half-bit rejects challenging him. He was more concerned about not killing them in the process.
Kid Flash was panicking. Well, no, not quite—but close. He couldn't use his super-speed, and it was psyching him out. He had, of course, trained for this, but that was all geared more towards when his super-speed had somehow been taken away from him, and not when he could still use it, but wouldn't unless he wanted to bring all the villains of Gotham down on his head. And his friends, because one hero with friends with average fighting skills actually wasn't too unrealistic, but if he or any of the rest of them started using their true abilities, thus betraying them as a group of heroes…well now. Especially since they were all, to various degrees, well-known as protégés of the Justice League. The gloves, so to speak, would be well and truly off. And then, when (if) Gotham's rogues got tired of them and make a mistake, thus allowing them to escape, the full wrath of The Batman would descend upon them, and especially upon whoever he deemed responsible for the catastrophe. Of course, the odds of this happening were growing higher each passing moment anyway, but all Wally knew was that he was not going to be the one to slip up and let them all down.
He concentrated, mentally locking his powers away in a box, and joined the fight.
Ms. Martian was totally lost. She had never had to fight like this before. So far, she had survived by morphing her skin into an imitation of Connors' (and thus into a sort of armor) and stealing moves from Artemis' mind as she conceived them, but M'gann was floundering and she knew it. I hope Aqualad gets us out of this soon…she thought to herself with a grimace that was part agitated worry and part annoyance. If only she—and the others—could use their powers, this would be over already.
Robin twisted away from a blow and kept maneuvering through the crowd, his keen eyes searching. Something felt wrong about this. The way he and his team had been swarmed, so immediately, by so many…it didn't make sense. Don't think about that now. Figure it out later. Now, you have to fight. He saw an opening and slammed a random druggie into the ground, restraining the automatic laugh that had earned him nearly as much fear as Batman's glare. It was too trademarked, too familiar to these rough surroundings. Right now, he couldn't let these criminals know who he was.
It was because of that that when the Riddler (when did he get here? And if he is, does that mean other big-name criminals—no, can't think now, concentrate!) lunged at him, Robin hesitated (don't flip, don't jump, don't do anything he's seen Robin do—) just long enough for the hit to connect and send him spiraling off of the wooden dock, and towards the ocean below. As he fell, he glimpsed Wotan, Klarion, Spellbinder, a magician half-hidden in shadow, and—Etrigan? standing in a circle underneath the dock and out of sight of both the heroes and the criminals above them. But he didn't have time to wonder because he was falling (like his parents) too fast, too fast—
And then he was underwater and everything was muffled and distant. There was a ringing pain in his ears and his body wouldn't respond to his mental commands. Helplessly, he drifted for a few horrible moments. He felt a wave crash over him, which made no sense, they were at the docks, not the beach, and the force propelled him deeper under the surface. Belatedly, he realized that it was more than simple injury (was he injured?) keeping him under; runes shone all around him, and although he could not turn he sensed a brighter light behind him (so they're working on something in the water…a buildup to a curse, maybe? The gangs—criminals—are they part of this too?). He tilted slightly in the water as his lungs began to burn, and was left staring thankfully upwards.
He could see the surface of the water, could see the light shimmering across it, could even see the shaky images of his teammates still fighting furiously on the dock (dangit, if they could fight like he and Batman could—and Artemis he supposed, to some extent—and mask their true fighting abilities while still finding a way to escape, this would be over already. Well, probably. Most likely). But he was trapped, held in place by the same magic was agitating the water around him. His vision was obscured for a moment as he was thrown backwards by a torrent of bubbles, then something took hold of him in a vice-like grip and everything turned white.
His thoughts blurred and skipped in an incredibly disconcerting way, and there was a tingling sensation that reminded him of zeta beams. Something wrenched, there was a pop, and he was flung forward into chaos.
Robin scrambled to the side, trying to get his bearing. He was in the middle of a crowd of people, all screaming and pushing to escape…something. Around them rose tall buildings, silhouettes both strange and familiar at the same time. It almost looked like New York, but some things were…off. There were more skyscrapers, for one thing, and several unfamiliar logos and designs.
Robin observed this all in the split second it took him to catch his breath, and then he was up, moving with practiced ease through the crowd until he located the source of their panic; a small army of robots hovering in the air, all made in a style that Robin found completely foreign. Not to mention unattractive, because seriously, the colors alone….
There were heroes too, brightly dressed, shouting to each other as they struggled to drive the androids back while simultaneously protecting the civilians. To their credit, they were doing a good, if somewhat slow, job of things. But the robots had caught on, and Robin watched in horrified disbelief as they stopped targeting the heroes completely and turned their guns downward at the masses still fleeing to safety.
The heroes intercepted the first dozen attacks, but then a stray blast hit a billboard, and another flashed across the crowd to hit a spot of pavement, barely missing a group of teenagers.
As if in slow motion, Robin saw the robot closest to him take aim, saw the gun barrel explode with a brief flash of white, saw where it was going to hit…a young girl, stumbling after her mother…
And then Robin was moving, twisting around bodies, forcing himself through the crowd—please don't let me be too late—and then he was there, and she looked up at him, her mouth forming a small 'o' of surprise, but there was no time, and he flung himself in front of her as the missile collided—
BAM. He heard the impact, even saw some of it through slitted eyelids, and was faintly aware of the girl screaming—good, that was good, it meant that she was okay—but then the force of the blast propelled him away from her and he felt himself skidding along the pavement briefly (I hope the hoodie isn't too ripped up by this; my costume should be okay, though), and then there were hands, trying to intercept, and he dimly realized that someone was behind him, trying to stop him before he hit them. It didn't work, naturally, and he crashed into them a second later. Limbs folded around him loosely, and Robin wondered if whoever he had hit was unconscious, seconds before he himself was.
Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, was just finishing off a Hydra when he heard the scream. It sounded like a young girl—civilian—and he whipped around so quickly that his shield was almost torn from his grasp. With a soldiers efficiency, he took in the situation; the girl, unharmed, but very possibly going into shock, staring at a boy—her brother?—as he was hit in the stomach by a stray shot (how did that get past me?) and shoved backwards across the asphalt (ooh...that's going to leave a mark). But even as he took it all in, Steve was already running towards the boy, who seemed to be unconscious. He managed to grab at his hood and shoulders, awkwardly directing the boy into a collision with himself.
Steve had underestimated the boy's speed and was smacked into the curb before they stopped. The child—no, was it a teen? He wasn't sure—lay still and unmoving in Steve's lap, and a quick check confirmed that he was knocked out. Sparing his team a glance, he determined that they could manage without him for a few more moments. Turning his attention back to the boy, Steve saw that his brow was furrowed and his lips were tightened, as if in pain, but at the same time Steve could see that he was struggling to hide it.
Captain America's eyes narrowed. He knew that look. It was an expression he had seen on many of his fellow soldiers' faces back in the war, when they tried to play down their injuries in order to keep fighting. More recently, he had seen in on Black Widow. Both his old teammates and his new teammate were battle-hardened warriors; that this boy, this child would automatically respond to pain the same way that they had…it made Steve uneasy. But then, he was tired, and probably over thinking things.
Absently he noticed that the sounds of fighting had decreased and looked up to see that his team were almost finished defeating the mechanical Hydra creations.
He looked down again to see blood darkening the kid's hoodie. Cursing quietly, Captain America gathered the child in his arms and started running towards the nearest hospital.
Robin woke up with a pounding headache. He stayed completely still, like Batman had taught him, and tried to get his bearings.
There…a scent he was entirely too used to. The smell of a hospital. He could feel an IV in his right arm, and a hard, narrow bed beneath him that was definitely hospital-issue. Well, either that or it had been made for the military, but somehow he doubted that.
Alright, so far this all tied into what he remembered. He had saved the girl, but had taken the hit himself in the process.
Ah well. Win some, lose some.
Hold on, though…he had also…crashed into someone? But, he could have sworn they had grabbed him first…why would they do that?
Robin almost winced when his headache increased suddenly, but managed to hold it back. He couldn't hear anyone in his general vicinity, but that didn't mean that no one was there. Still, he couldn't play dead forever.
Groaning theatrically, he opened his eyes slightly, then immediately shut them to shield them from the bright overhead light. After a few moments, he opened them again, being more careful this time, and looked around.
He was right; he appeared to be in New York (so it was New York, then…weird) Central Hospital, at least according to the embroidery on the towel hanging from the handle of a small trolley pushed up against the far wall. He craned his neck and saw that it was filled with either medical equipment or torture devices; eh, tomato, tomahto. His wake-up performance had been wasted, he saw, as he appeared to be completely alone. There weren't even any cameras, or if there were, they were well hidden.
To his left there was a medium-sized window. Looking out, he saw that he was two or three floors up. Hm. Robin eyed the opening, calculating. The walls were smooth, but not too smooth…there was a flagpole, too…and the window pane didn't look like it would be too hard to move.
Suddenly, Robin tensed. His head swung around, eyes wide, to stare at the doorway. Someone was coming. For a moment, he debated pretending he was still asleep vs. staying awake. Or, better yet, simply disappearing….but no, they were too close. He would stay awake. That way, maybe he could find out more about this new dimension he had found himself stranded in. And he was fairly sure that it was a dimension; too real for an illusion, and it had gone on for too long to be spell or a mental projection, unless the caster was unusually powerful. Unrealistically powerful. He had seen several magic-users combining powers before he went through the portal, true, but a dimension seemed more their style…well, Klarion's, anyway, and the Witch Boy tended to be very true to his style. Besides, if was a mental projection, they never would have allowed him to see them. And it couldn't be his world—dimension, whatever—because even if he was misremembering New York, he knew he had never seen those heroes before, and he knew all the heroes.
They were almost to his door. Robin leaned back and arranged his features so as to appear groggy and unfocused. He could hear them, now; a woman—nurse, he guessed—and two men. A doctor? He wondered silently. Two doctors? No….He hesitated. Why would there be two? He supposed one could be an assistant of some kind, or maybe…I have a visitor?
"He has a moderate concussion, two cracked ribs, and multiple bruises and lacerations all down his body. We've treated him for his various injuries and are confident that he will, in time, make a full recovery."
Steve nodded thoughtfully. "Thank you," he said, but the doctor—Dr. Madalon, according to his name tag—shook his head.
"Thank you," he said. "You saved him. Not everyone would have done that." he hesitated.
Steve caught the uncertainty in his eyes. "Yes?" he prompted.
"There is…something else," The doctor confided. His gaze darted down at the floor, briefly, then back up to meet Captain America's. The hero, no longer in costume, could practically taste Dr. Madalon's uneasiness in the air.
"I don't like talking about…this sort of thing," the doctor admitted nervously. "But I can't…not tell you."
"What?" Steve asked after a few moments of silence. The doctor glanced around the empty hallway, confirming that they were indeed alone, before taking a deep breath to calm himself.
"When I was…examining the patient…" the doctor paused again. Steve could tell that it was very hard for him to say this—whatever 'this' was. His agitation was started to get to Steve. "When I examined the patient," the doctor said again, "I found…" his face spasmed briefly in distaste, and he leaned closer. "Injuries," he whispered. "Not from the accident, I mean. Scars and…cuts…burns…bruises…and some…bullet and knife wounds…" he trailed off, looking sick and vaguely horrified.
Steve frowned, even as his eyes widened slightly at the insinuation. But he didn't want to jump to conclusions. "How many bullet wounds are there? And, aside from them and the, uh, knife wounds, could the rest of it be merely a result of rigorous physical activity, like sports?"
Dr. Madalon shook his head immediately. "No, although he could definitely be in sports; he is extremely fit. But no, I've seen sports injuries, and these…are not. Many are very, ah, precise."
"When you say precise…" Steve trailed off. A ball of cold fury mixed with nausea and horror was growing in his stomach.
The doctor pretended not to hear, but his expression told the Captain all he needed to know.
Steve nodded, almost imperceptivity. His breathing slowed. The soldier in him was taking over, spreading a layer of steely calm and preventing him from doing something rash that he would likely later regret. He started analyzing what he knew, searching for the best course of action like he would if he were forming a strategy in battle. Something clicked in his mind, and he turned back to the doctor, who was watching him anxiously.
"Any I.D. so far?"
The doctor shook his head apologetically. "We still don't even know his name."
Steve nodded absently in acknowledgment, already turning away. "Thank you for telling me this."
"Wait," Dr. Madalon blurted when Steve made to leave. "Don't you want to see him?"
Steve considered this. He could help; had already been planning to, albeit from a distance. With his resources, he could give the kid a new chance, a new family, a new life. But did he really have to meet the kid to do that? Technically no, but….Eh, why not? He made his decision, and turned around.
"Yes sir, I would."
Robin watched warily as a cheerful woman in her late twenties or early thirties bustled in. She was, some part of him noticed in satisfaction, a nurse, as he had guessed.
"Oh, good!" she said when she noticed him watching her. "You're awake! Good thing, too; you have a visitor," she told him, and Robin noted her broad smile and the blush she turned away to hide. Unbidden, memories of the exact same reaction from Gothamite women to Bruce Wayne came to mind, and for a moment, he couldn't help the hope that sprung up inside him. He was holding his breath when the two men that he had heard earlier entered.
Bruce wasn't there. Robin had to work hard to hide his disappointment. One was clearly a doctor (ha! Right on all counts!) and he set about checking the I.V. and the other machines scattered around. The nurse smiled encouragingly at Robin, beamed at the man still standing in the doorway, and angled the cart out of the room. Robin watched her go, then turned his attention to the man—his visitor, it seemed.
It wasn't anyone he knew, anyway. Soldier, he decided, sharp eyes taking in the military stance and haircut. But he could see the edge of Kevlar-enforced spandex underneath the sturdy jacket. Hero. Previous soldier?
"How are you feeling?" the doctor asked. Robin spared him a glance—mid forties, small man, nervous disposition, and good at what he did, if a bit too hesitant — then looked away, uninterested. He sighed quietly and took a few seconds to think about the question before he answered. "Tired," he decided finally. "What did you drug me with?"
"Oh—" the doctor blinked. Robin shifted back to look at him, and caught sight of the name tag on his coat. Madalon, he thought, and frowned. Sounds familiar.
"Morphine," Dr. Madalon told him, seemingly confused as to why someone might want to know what foreign toxins they had been injected with. Or maybe he just hadn't expected Robin to notice. "And some propofol. Obviously, that one's nearly out of your system."
Robin frowned, displeased. Morphine? I must be really beat up…or not. Their definition of 'seriously injured' and mine are probably different.
"How long was I out?" was Robin's next question. He'd ask about his injuries a bit later; or just assess them for himself. Or maybe steal his own medical file.
"Not too long," the doctor assured him. "A few hours—four or five at the most."
Robin considered this. No, four-to-five hours was not too long. Still, it was longer than he would have hoped.
"Okay," he said. "When can I leave?" Probably never, he thought sardonically to himself. If he was in an alternate dimension, which he was, then that meant that he didn't have any backup, which meant that he was on his own, and no grownup with any sense, or morals, for that matter, was going to let an apparently homeless teenage boy out onto the streets.
Still, he figured, it couldn't hurt to ask.
Dr. Madalon withered under Robin's expectant stare. "Well…you see…" he sent an uncomfortable, almost disturbed glance toward Robin's midsection. Robin frowned. Did they…? Internally, he rolled his eyes. Of course they did. It's a freaking hospital. The people here have absolutely no regard for personal space. Or privacy. He saw my scars and is very obviously struggling to find a way to tell me that unless my parents show up with a really, really good explanation, I am now a ward of the state and am going to be taken away from my family (not that I have any, but they don't know that). Robin was almost exasperated with himself that he hadn't figured this out earlier.
There was a part of him—a very, very small part of him—that was screaming, somewhere in the recesses of his mind at this slightly twisted repetition of what had happened to him five years ago. Not again, it cried desperately. I don't want to go through this again. Just let me go home.
Coldly, Robin quelled that part of him and slipped even deeper into Batman's training. Hurting wouldn't do anything but cloud his thought processes and make this even harder. Right now, he needed to stay strong.
"Where did you get those scars, son?" Robin's gaze flitted away from Dr. Madalon, still squirming next to him, to the man still in the doorway. His eyes automatically went over his jacket again, but the spandex was no longer visible. However, even though he looked like a civilian, Robin could practically feel the aura of power off him. Like Bruce, he thought before he could stop himself, and winced.
Taking a deep breath, Robin quickly reviewed his options. "What scars?" he answered a question with a question.
Army-hero-stranger-guy's eyes narrowed, and his mouth tightened. He gave Robin a Don't BS me look, which was disregarded. The doctor started to say something and stopped. They ignored him. After a brief, awkward silence in which Robin and the stranger held a staring contest (bored and indifferent for Robin's part, intense and piercing for the other's), he coughed, stammered something about being in the hallway if they needed him, and scurried off. The (ex?)soldier moved to let him pass, then moved closer, to Robin's bedside, by the window. Seemingly oblivious to the way Robin was staring at him in suspicion, he pulled the only chair around and sat down in it. Robin followed his every movement. He broke eye contact when the man sat down, and looked away.
There was another pause. When it became clear that Robin didn't intend to break it, the man propped his chin up on one hand. Not really a very soldier-like thing to do, Robin noted. Discharged…at least several months ago, then. Probably over a year. Or he could be new, but Robin doubted that.
"The scars on your shoulders, torso, arms, legs…everywhere, actually," Army guy told him. "According to your doctor, some of them were quite serious."
Not that many, Robin thought, annoyed. Dr. Madalon was not his doctor. Dr. Leslie Tompkins was. "Oh, yeah. Those scars," he said. The sarcasm wasn't helping anything, he knew, but he was just so bloody frustrated… "I tripped," he told Army guy flatly. "Why? Who wants to know?"
"Well, I wouldn't have asked if I didn't," the Army guy said evenly. Robin said nothing. "Tell you what," he continued when it became obvious that Robin was not going to answer. "We'll drop that for now and go back to it. My name's Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America. What's yours?"
Robin tilted his head in thought. He could refuse to answer. But there wasn't really much point in that. He needed information, and talking to this man—hero—Captain America sounded like a hero name—was the easiest way to get it (Mentally Robin did a victory dance. He was such a genius. Wait, though—the confirmation that soldier guy—Steve—was a hero made him realize something…). Besides, it wasn't like he had to be honest.
"My name's Johnathon Wayne," he said. "But you can just call me John. You were there, weren't you? When the snake…robot…things…attacked. You—were you the one who stopped me from hitting the curb?"
Captain America smiled. "Yes. That was me."
"Oh. Thanks for that, then," Robin said. He meant it, too. He'd been more or less flung across the ground; he didn't know how fast he'd been going, but it had been fast. Hitting the fence—or maybe the curb, he wasn't entirely sure what direction he'd been thrown—would have been very painful. Not to mention there was a chance (a slight chance, but still a chance) he could have broken his back.
The captain accepted it with a nod. Knowing his own skill level when it came to deception, Robin correctly surmised that his lie about his name had passed undetected. As always, he felt a pang of guilt, but it passed quickly.
"So, John..." Mr. Rogers continued. Robin noticed his sudden, if mostly hidden, unease. He's about to ask me about my scars again, he thought with conviction. This was confirmed a moment later when Mr. Rogers told him that he had rather an impressive collection of scars. "You want to tell me where you got them now?" he asked.
Robin looked down, acutely aware of the captain's gaze on him. He was, of course, going to lie, but how much?
He looked up and met Captain America's steady gaze. Eh, to heck with it, he decided. Not like he could pretend it was an accident, not with that many scars.
"Foster care," he said with a carefully crafted tone; almost emotionless, but with a slight tremor underneath. "Some of those families—heh, 'families'—are pretty messed up." There was a touch of bitterness in his voice that wasn't completely fake; he really had spent time in the 'system before Bruce had come and gotten him out.
Robin waited long enough to let the captain reign in some of his surprise (obvious to Robin, anyway, if not to the casual observer), but not long enough for him to say anything else before asking, "Is that all you wanted to know?"
"Uh…no," the captain told him. Robin hid a scowl. Darn it. "Are you still in foster care? Who are you living with now?"
Robin adopted a patient expression and stared up at the ceiling in apparent fascination. The captain rubbed at his temples briefly.
"Alright then. Can you tell me why your clothes were wet?"
Robin blinked, than put on his best I-have-no-idea-what-you-are-talking-about-and-am-innocent-of-any-and-all-crimes face while he figured out what the Captain was talking about. "Oh." Oh, yeah. He had actually forgotten about that. "I was hit by a hose." He managed to make it a statement, rather than a question, but still winced at how pathetically flimsy it sounded.
"A hose full of salt water?"
Heh…not really much he could say to that. Why did Steve (Mr. Rogers, whatever) even know that, anyway? Robin shrugged and picked at a spot on his blanket. Mr. Rogers sighed.
"Okay. Can you tell me why you were wearing a bulletproof vest? And how, despite that vest, you managed to crack two ribs before getting hit by a Hydra?"
Hydra? That's what those robot things were called? And he'd been hit with a blast from a Hydra, not the actual Hydra itself. Accuracy, it's a good thing. And when had he cracked his ribs? He chewed his bottom lip thoughtfully as he cast his mind back. Come to think of it, there had been that gang leader who had picked him up and thrown him at a wall right at the start of the fight…a brick wall. Yeah, it had probably happened then.
"I think I got slammed into a wall," he said truthfully. Mr. Rogers appeared to accept this and continued.
"Why was the vest so detailed? I didn't know they made them like that." There was honest curiosity in his voice, and Robin grinned.
"I had it custom-made," Robin answered easily. "Just for kicks. Role-playing and such. I did it with my friend Wally."
"Wally?" the captain repeated.
"Wallace Crock," Robin clarified, trying not to think about what Artemis would do to him if she found out he had covered for Wally's secret I.D. by giving him her last name. "But he goes by Wally."
The captain made a mental note of the name. "One more thing."
"Shoot," Robin told him, although he had a good idea what Mr. Rogers was going to ask.
"Who hurt you?" and now his stare was intense again, those clear blue eyes daring Robin to lie. "Who hurt you?" he said again when Robin didn't immediately answer, softer this time. "And who are you living with now? Are you living with anyone?"
Robin held his gaze, but his brow was wrinkled in thought and his eyes were distant. (What should I say, what should I say) "…a lot of people," he admitted quietly, purposefully ignoring the first question. "I'd give you a list, but I don't know most of their names."
Mr. Rogers exhaled slowly. "But you do know some of the names?"
"Maybe," Robin said, calmly, though there was an icy glint in his eyes that warned Mr. Rogers not to take it any further. Mostly because he was lying and didn't know how much farther to carry his deception.
Robin saw curiosity flicker briefly across Captain America's face. He kept his own face impassive and waited.
"You're going to need somewhere to stay for a while until you heal," Mr. Rogers said abruptly. Robin blinked at the sudden change in topic. "Since you won't expound on your current living locations, I can't, in good conscious, send you back to what may or may not be an abusive home. So until we figure out what to do, why don't you come and stay at the Tower?"
The tower? Robin wondered silently. Mr. Rogers had said it as if the specific tower implied should be obvious. If he was a hero, did that mean that 'the tower' was this world's equivalent of the Watchtower?
Robin hesitated. Captain America took his silence as a 'Yes'. "Good," he said authoritatively. "I'll tell Dr. Madalon."
And he swept off, leaving Robin staring after him in mute astonishment.
Steve sighed and resisted the urge to slump heavily against the wall. What was that? The last fifteen minutes had been some of the strangest in his life; or at least, when it came to interactions with children. He shook his head in bewilderment. John—if that was indeed his name, though Steve thought it was, he hadn't detected any trace of a lie (well, not about that, anyway)—didn't act like any child he knew. He didn't act like a child at all! He was flighty and scared, nothing Steve hadn't seen before, but his reactions…oh, his reactions.
And those wounds! Scars now, but some were still recent, the doctor had told him. John had been surprisingly honest about those, too. Not as much as Steve had surprised himself, though. Seriously, what had he been thinking? Inviting the kid to the Tower. But it wasn't just that; the whole thing, from the moment he stepped into the room to the moment he left it, had gone…not badly, exactly. Just…strangely. He supposed he could have pushed the kid more, but he had gotten a feeling, a sort of intuition, that it wouldn't do any good.
He had been honestly unnerved by the scrutiny of those intense blue eyes, a rare occurrence that had shaken him and made it hard to think. He still wasn't sure what exactly had happened. He had done his best to keep up, but, infuriatingly, he had gotten the distinct impression John had more understanding over the situation than he did. Steve wasn't used to that. Usually, it was the other way around, and he was the one in control. Although…that part at the end had come as a surprise to both of them. Steve still didn't know where that had come from. He just had a feeling he should keep John under surveillance. He should his head in exasperation. He'd never done anything even remotely like that before. Normally he was all about respecting the civilian's privacy. But that kid, there was something weird about him. Not bad, necessarily, just…different. He didn't know exactly why. Natasha might know.
Steve let out a soft 'oh' of realization. That was what was strange about the kid. He reminded Steve of Natasha. Steve went still as he processed the implications of that. Natasha was a trained fighter. She might have at one point been an assassin. He'd never asked. He just knew that her methods had—emphasis on had—been somewhat questionable. She had killed people; innocent or not, Steve didn't know. But now, to feel the same vibe from some random—twelve? Thirteen?—year old kid; that was creepy.
Of course, the kid wasn't an assassin. He couldn't be. Up until that moment, Steve had thought that the kid was a victim of abuse. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, some things about him were…odd, but nothing too bad. Nothing like some of the things Steve had experienced in his career as a hero. But now a dark suspicion was growing in his mind. Not an assassin, no…not yet. After all, Natasha had been, what—eight when she started? But Fury—S.H.I.E.L.D.—had promised….oh, Captain America had better be wrong, or Nick was in some serious trouble, number one S.H.I.E.L.D. commander or not.
Robin sat calmly, regarding his hands. They lay perfectly still in his lap, giving no hint of the chaos raging inside his skull. The full implications his predicament were setting in, and Robin was having the Bat!equivalent of a panic attack. Silently, he indulged in a few seconds of self-pity—why me?—before moving on to more constructive thoughts. Such as, what do I do now? Because I really have no idea.
He supposed he could slip away before Captain America came back. That would probably be the easiest thing to do. He could steal his medical files and hack the computers, thus erasing all traces of his existence from the hospital records, then disappear before anyone realized anything was wrong. Of course, whether they thought he had been kidnapped or left on his own, his exit would raise some questions. And since Captain America was involved, it would likely catch a lot of peoples' attention.
Or he could memorize his medical information instead of stealing, put everything back the way it was, and disappear. Change his hair color, eye color, whatever. He did have some money hidden away in his backpack, and he knew the best places to look for clothing that wasn't wanted and wouldn't be missed. People would still be looking for him, but he was confident in his own evasive abilities. He could lay low, look for a way…back….
Robin grimaced in annoyance. No, that wouldn't work. He could hide easily enough, yes, escape detection for years on end…but he wouldn't be able to find what he needed to start building a portal. At least, not without stealing a lot of very valuable equipment and catching most every law-enforcement agency in America's attention, anyway. And it would still take a while to figure out all the technical details and assemble it by himself.
So. How to get home. He could join up with a random, powerful organization, work his way into their ranks, then run the moment he found what he needed.
No. Too risky. Even if it worked, they would be angry, maybe enough to follow him back. Also, because of his age, he'd have to showcase far too many of his talents before they would consider letting him in. At least, he'd have to for any organization good enough to serve his purpose. And if there was one thing Bruce had taught him, it was to never give away his secrets. Ever. No matter what.
That left him with only one option; infiltrate the watchtower-that-was-not-the-watchtower (which should be pretty easy; after all, he'd already been invited inside by one of their own) and try to get a better feel for this world and figure out some more of the differences. If the heroes had the right technology (and he a feeling they did; he'd seen that red-and-gold robot they'd had on their side. It had looked even more advanced than Red Tornado!), then he could use it to recreate the portal that had transported him here in the first place. Being heroes, they might even help him, if he told them what he was doing.
But telling them was definitely a last resort. If he could, he'd be there and gone before a month had passed. They would never know what had happened to him.
Robin let a predatory smile steal across his face. Perfect.
A.N. Ta-da! End of chapter one. :3 So? Whatcha think? Oh, before you tell me, there are some things that must be explained. First; no one has looked through Robin's bag. Steve didn't think of it (he actually forgot all about it), and the doctor saw no reason to mess with it when Robin was brought in, choosing to focus on the bigger issue—that is, Robin. And then he saw all those scars and was distracted.
Second; the names. I was very deliberate with how I used them, in costume and out. See, I figure the heroes have slightly different personas in their different identities. Sort of how people often act differently around their family then they do around their friends. How different it is depends on the hero. To me, civilian identities are a little (or a lot) less professional, in the way they handle things, a little less assertive, a bit more...normal. Typical. Not as formal. So you'll see that Captain America/Steve Rogers went back and forth a lot, but Robin stayed 'Robin' the whole chapter. That's because to Robin, he's still on a mission. And he'll stay on that mission until he reaches his objective—in this case, getting back home to the manor and to Bruce. Until that happens, he's determined not to lower his guard for anyone.
However. Robin is still thirteen years old, no matter how mature he claims to be, and there is a very real part of him that's just collapsing from all this. I mean, he's in a different dimension! That is just so freaky-odd. And scary. Terrifying, even. And even though he's stayed outwardly calm, he's in utter turmoil because of it. But, he won't show it. He hasn't even admitted it to himself, and chances are he's not going to. But it does still come out in some ways. Like his current insensitivity towards everyone and everything else around him. He's going home, and that's all that matters to him. Sorry if that makes him a bit OOC right now, he'll straighten out soon.
Next chapter—we get to see what happened with that fight Robin was teleported away from, not to mention Batman's reaction to everything. Also, the Avengers minus Hawkeye have a meeting at Captain America's request.