The Young Justice: Animated Anonymous Fic Meme

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Prompt Post - Part Six [CLOSED TO NEW PROMPTS]
yj_anon wrote in yj_anon_meme

I am so sorry for the delay, guys. Life has been hectic lately (exams, haha) and I lost track.

Part two here!

Part three here!

Part four here!

Part five here!

Feel free to reprompt posts from parts one, two, three or four in part five once. If you do so, I'd recommend leaving a link to your fill on the original prompt, in case somebody is tracking the first thread.

Please note that you can still fill over at parts one and two- just don't prompt there! I encourage you all to go through looking for older things to fill.
Welcome to the Young Justice: Animated anonymous fic meme!

How does it work? Basically, you leave prompts, and people fill them with glorious fic. Pretty simple. Anonymity is allowed for those that feel nervous or awkward requesting or filling, but it isn't actually obligatory. Unlike a lot of memes (like kink memes) this doesn't have a particular focus beyond the fandom. Het, gen, slash, femslash, anything else you can think up? Welcome! Crack, drama, angst? Go nuts!

However, we do have some...

Rules and guidelines.

• Animated canon only, please. Crossovers are fine, so is integrating comics/etc. stuff into animated canon, but no outright Young Justice comic stuff, please.
• Be reasonable. Polite. Etc. You may be anonymous, but that is no excuse for being ridiculous.
• Likewise, be considerate in your prompting. Trigger warnings are appreciated (for content that may seriously upset people with past experience, such as rape/non-con, self harm, suicide, etc.- at the absolute least, please make it clear what the fic contains about before someone stumbles across it halfway through!), and please be careful with your wording. Memes like this often touch on some sensitive material. If you feel somebody has posted an actively offensive prompt, please either PM me or use the mod post here to bring it to my attention.
• One prompt per post, please!
• Repeat after me: Your Kink Is Not My Kink. Don't attack people's prompts because they aren't your cup of tea!
• Look, just don't wank up a storm in general. I'm sure we can all manage, right? :)

ETA: Please do not reprompt things until we reach a second part. In addition, I encourage anyone looking for things to fill to go back through previous pages. A lot of people have old prompts tracked, so your fills will still be seen!

This is the 'flat' view of the page; it shows comments in the order they're posted, rather than as threads. Makes it easier to see new fills on previous pages.

I'll look at getting a Delicious or Diigo or something-or-other archive up for filled prompts if it gets to the point we feel it'd be useful. In the meantime, have fun!

ETA: We now have a discussion post if you need one!

ETA: I need help with archiving! Also, we set up a fill post. Can you please leave links to any fic you write there. See the post for more details. Thanks!ETA: GUYS. I am officially making the 'PM me about offensive prompts' thing obligatory. Please, I have difficulty keeping up without your wonderful help!

Incidentally, being polite includes not telling people they're being 'too sensitive' for being bothered by things. Just sayin'. This place is a safe space, in so much as I can make it one, and I don't really like the rhetoric of 'oh, if you're offended you're oversensitive' that I'm seeing in a couple places? Remember: people may have had different experiences than you that influence their view. Don't assume. :)
ETA: Since apparently it doesn't come under some of your definitions of 'civility':


I don't care if you hate that ditz M'gann, I don't care how much you think Kaldur is sooo boring, I don't care if you think Artemis is a bitch, I don't care if you want Wally to go die, I don't care how much you want Superboy to punch himself into oblivion or how bratty you think Robin is. This is not a place to ask for fic that is for nothing more or less than to satisfy said hate. We have and welcome fans of ALL CHARACTERS here, and it's just insulting and rude to tear them down.

And this is not the same as asking for a single prompt where they're AU and evil, or for a prompt where they mess up in some way, or even where they get called out on something they did if you feel it would make a good story. But come the hell on, guys.

ETA: Please see this recent post regarding certain issues we've been having. Thank you.

ETA: Are you offering anything for charity in the recent fandom auctions for relief efforts? If you are, feel free to promote/browse/etc. here!

ETA: New affilate - DC comics meme!

ETA: At several people's requests - rec post & general finding-things post!

ETA: New affilate - YJ kink meme!

ETA: Since part four seems to be going so fast- poll about the next prompt freeze!

ETA: Okay guys, the next freeze is going to be halfway through this part- at 2,500 comments or so. People have said they wanted it to be a little quicker coming this time! So, yes. And then we may or may not have one before the next part itself. Crap, I forgot I left this on! We didn't need one this time guys, since stuff seems to have calmed down a bit. The next part is due soon though and I know stuff might pick up now it's airing again (!!!), so we'll see what happens.

  • 1

Before The Dawn [1/?]

It wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be simple. But that's how it always goes, isn't it? Just a ''simple'' mission, get in, gather the information, get out. Disappear. Like ghosts drifting through the walls; the world goes on as if nothing ever happened.

But it was never that simple. Something always happened, something that would set off the domino effect that came with being a hero; that came with getting nose to nose with madmen - murderers, for heaven's sake - for sending children to do an adult's job. An adult with half a life time worth of training and ohdeargod how could they not have expected this? Well, of course they expected the children to get hurt and bruised, burnt and broken but never this bad, never this horrible never -

Diana takes a deep breath as she circles the area for what feels like the hundredth time yet nothing changes. The scenery lies before her as it was a mere moment ago and remains unchanged. The rubble and the debris changes locations depending on whether Superman has turned it over or not; judging by the look on his face he already has, a million times, yet his efforts have remianed futile. They all search, for hours it seems but she can't be certain as no one stops to check the time - they don't have time, they have to find him before it's too late and what if he's under a beam or fifteen tons of concrete what if he's dead what if he's crushed oh dear Hera have mercy -

''He's gone''

Superm - no, Clark, looks at her as if he's trying to rip himself away and out of his own body, away from this delusional scene of everything they always knew could happen but never actually thought would happen because he's Robin, for god's sake it's Robin, their little, tiny acrobat who's become more like a son than anything over the years and he can't be gone, nonononononno she won't let him be gone he can't be -

''Diana?'' Clark's hand is large and heavy on her shoulder, adding to what feels like the weight of the world she can't tell if the sinking of her feet is just imaginary. ''Are you alr--''

''I'm fine''

She doesn't mean to brush him off. She can tell by the peculiar way his eyes glaze over, as if a shielding lid has slid over them, slid over him to protect him from what he's trying to deny, she can tell that he's hurt but at the moment she can't find it in her to care.

''Is Bruce..?''

''He's been notified'' Clark speaks as if it was any other day, as if nothing was wrong or out of the ordinary, like maybe they misplaced a jet or someone dropped their communicator - Barry, maybe - and it was all going to be fine if they just calmed down and breathed, dammit but she can't breathe she can't --

Diana clenches her eyes shut as she tries to compose herself .Tries to remember who she is and what she stands for but it's so hard to be brave. Nevermind facing Giganta or crushing meteors, this is different because this time she is utterly powerless. With all the gifts of the gods she is still so useless and it hurts how it hurts that the great Amazon who can deflect bullets and stop derailing trains can't even find a child who is like family to her.

''This isn't... this isn't your fault''

She can't tell if Clark is trying to convince her or himself, more so it sounds as if he's just murmuring empty words to fill the silence. The silence that isn't really a silence as much as it is the horrible sound of feet walking in circles and rocks being turned but revealing nothing and she can't take it anymore she has to get out has to find Bruce has to find something, anything that makes any sense at the moment and she --

Clark barely sees her as she speeds off into the night, disappearing as a glimmer in the starry canvas and for a second his mind stands still. Clark doesn't know if it scares him more that the child he has grown to love like a nephew is missing or that the strongest woman he knows can't take it; that she has to run away like a frightened girl and not the strong, powerful woman he knows and if she can't be brave, how can he? Clark doesn't know anything anymore but the one fact that they have all silently agreed on.

They have to find Robin.

OP: Re: Before The Dawn [1/?]


*sniffles* OP will come back when she is less overwhelmed. And she thanks you because she kindasorta likes both her kidneys, but she will definitely buy you that drink in another year. And she doesn't care if you update only once a month, as long as you get to the end somehow.

Clarification: OP may be too overwhelmed to write a proper, long, deserving review right now, or to stop talking in third person, but she still loves this fill beyond all reason.

Re: Before The Dawn [1/?]

Ooooh, I want to see where this goes SO BAD ♥ Awesome beginning - very strong already :)

Re: Before The Dawn [1/?] (Anonymous) Expand

Re: Before The Dawn [1b/?]

''He's alive. He has to be alive.''

Wally is pacing around the room like he's been doing for the past half hour, only to him it has been so much longer than that. When every second stretches vast as an hour, the pain and the worry and the what if I'd been there he was right there I should have done more I should have done enough why is it never enough -- it becomes too much for him to handle. He tries to slow his mind down but there is nothing stopping the imagery playing - taunting him - in his head.

Wally wipes his eyes, though dry he hopes to rub the tiredness away. His every muscle is screaming, twitching in pain and his body is begging him to sit down. But Wally can't rest, Wally can't stop, can't stop thinking, wondering if maybe there was something, anything they could have done to preventt this

It had been so simple. They only had to collect some information, only had to sneak in and download some files and get out of there but suddenly there were so many of them. Bad men with guns everywhere and then something exploded and they were all nearly crushed but Robin got them out, he got them out of there before they could be crushed what if Robin was crushed they had to find him and Wally couldn't breathe.

M'gann tries desperately but in vain to find his mind; where his thoughts had previously frolicked in her own there is but a void. As if Robin has been sucked out of their world completely, M'gann fears the worst but tries not to think of it as she painfully grips Conner's arm. Had he not been part Superman her nails would have cut his skin but he is strong, he can handle it, he can handle her which is good because god knows she can't. She wants to do something, be useful, comfort the others as their thoughts, unlike Robin's, are open to her and their pain seeps in like an ice cold flood. It takes all her might not to buckle under their silent screams.

Re: Before The Dawn [1c/?]

Artemis is silent, everyone is silent and it's driving Wally insane.

''He's not dead.'' he repeats again and again, trying to evoke a response, trying to gain some reassurance. Trying to tell if they feel the same. ''He can't be, he - ''

''Would you shut up?!'' Artemis has risen out of the couch and is looking at him, glaring at him as if all she wants in her life is to rip his jaw right off its hinges. Like she wants nothing more than for him to just shut the hell up. She needs his words to stop because every time he tries to reassure himself that their friend is still alive it only pushes the feeling of the contrary deeper into her gut; it solidifies the fear already gnawing at her spine.

''It's been two days, Wally, statistics say - ''

''I don't give a shit about statistics!'' Wally turns around so fast the kinetic energy alone rips an ornament from a shelf, sending it crashing down to the floor where it splits in many little pieces. The archer and the speedster both watch the shards in quiet contemplation, as if it means something, as if it holds an answer that they need.

''Please, can we...'' M'gann bows her head, then turns her eyes to them with the fiercest determination she can muster. Her eyes burn them with her intent, and the two arguing feel their shoulders sag in shame. ''Can we not do this? Now? Please, I just...'' she bites her lip but cannot stop the trembling. ''I just want to find him. Can we please just focus on finding him? I...''

Conner puts his arms around her in a way that reminds them of a shield and the Martian says no more. Kaldur shakes his head in sorrow, but his stance remains upright and strong. He is torn between his worry as a friend and his anger at himself as a leader. Clearly this has to fall on him, as the leader of the team any misfortune to a member falls on him. Kaldur knows he should have been better, acted sooner, thought quicker, felt braver but he -- he cannot ponder such matters at the moment. He cannot let his own self-hatred and guilt come in the way of the true goal. Before they find Robin, dead or alive as it may be, he cannot clutter his mind with self-doubt.

Though he feels he deserves nothing less, Kaldur knows he has to think with his head and not his heart right now.

''We will find him'' he says to no one, everyone, ''We will not rest until our friend is home. This I promise you.''

Wally looks at him like he wants nothing more than to believe, but cannot understand how.

Re: Before The Dawn [2a/?]

When the nausea lifts he is mildly aware of the dull ache in the back of his head. Whether the source of the pain is external or internal he cannot determine, but Robin knows that when he wakes up he is not in good shape. He tries to recollect the memories of where he was and where it may have landed him, but before his gaze focuses and the blurry silhouettes turn into solid shapes and colours, he can feel the smell of bleach.

''Awake now, are we?''

There is a laugh that circles around him, bouncing off the walls it hits sharp and clear in his ear. Something about the man's voice makes every cell of his skin crawl, trying to get anywhere that is not in the man's general direction. But Robin is trapped; his muscles flex and tense under leather belts and the more he fidgets the harder they seem to constrict.

''You didn't think I'd get a bird but not a cage to keep it in, hm? Such a pretty thing would just fly away.'' fingers that smell of leather; gloved, he notices - grasp his chin and for a second he is almost overwhelmed. ''I can't have that, you understand, no?''

Robin swalllows down and try to stay whelmed, but there is just something about the man he can't quite escape from. Something deep and haunting, the kind that stays within you for weeks and months and perhaps even years and after several minutes, the touch of the hand lingers still on his skin long after the hand is gone.

''Who --'' he feels the faint taste of metal around his teeth as he speaks.

''Me?'' the man chuckles warmly. ''I'm just a man who likes to go birdwatching. Never did I suspect one would fly into my nest willingly but... a pleasant surprise is always welcomed, don't you agree?''

There is something peculiar about the way he moves; like an old injury still haunts him and Robin subconsciously starts profiling him, a force of habit he can't quite control.

''Tell me, little Robin'' there is a sharp sound of metal against metal, the man's back tells Robin nothing of his intent but it sounds like - oh please, is he really sharpening a weapon? Are they going to torture him? Robin can't believe they're actually going to -- ''Did you know that in each hand there are around 48 nerves?''

He wants to laugh, but doesn't. The moment is just too absurd.

Re: Before The Dawn [2b/?]

He's been beaten around a lot, gotten a few bones broken, limbs dislocated, even had his eye swell shut for almost a week and there was that one unfortunate encounter with a two-faced fellow and a crowbar and the old wounds still haunt and hurt from time to time, especially in the winter when it's cold but Robin's never -- he's never been tortured before. Of course Batman has prepared him for this, should the day ever come he has made sure that every preventive measure has been taken. He's not surprised, actually he expected it to have happened sooner rather than later but he's still -- he's still frightened and Robin can't help but feel like he's disappointing someone because really, he's been trained for this, he shouldn't be afraid. The Flying Graysons never feared. He can't be afraid, not when there are so many secrets depening on him right now.

The man walks over to him. His face is hidden in the shadows left by the sharp light of the lamp that shines bright and yellow - like the sun, like Superman when he basks in its mornings rays and where is Superman where is everybody are they safe, why aren't they coming to get --

he hears the sickening sound of something breaking, breaking like the bones of - nononono, no he won't think of that right now, he won't go back to that time and the smell of their blood on the floor, the floor where he'd play with Zitka and the screams, the many horrible screams that were just so loud but not as loud as his and - Robin bites back a whimper but it comes out strangled and the man chuckles at his pain.

''Oh, you've broken a bone before, haven't you, little Robin? It comes with the job, doesn't it?


Re: Before The Dawn [2c/?]


The long and slender fingers - like spiderlegs, ready to crawl over him and devour him and - Robin tries to breathe, tries to stay calm and focused; remember what Batman told him, remember what he taught him, remember who he is but it hurts so much and Robin can't remember the mantra he was supposed to repeat. He can't remember how he was supposed to go into the trance, away from the pain and sheltered in a blanket of comfortable nothingness because the man is pulling his finger - his broken finger which hurts so much it's as if it is trying to burn itself off and separate from the rest of his body. Robin can't blame it as when the next finger breaks he wants to do the same.


He lets out a gasp but bites back the scream and the sweat is pooling all over his forehead; his mask feels sticky and heavy yet safe at the same time and brief panic washes over Robin as he realizes the man could pull it off at any given second.

''Such marvelous gloves, my boy'' the man tsk-tsks and hums and murmurs to himself as he admires the craftsmanship of every little piece of Robin's costume. From the buckles and the seams to the fabric and the abnormally smooth kevlar and his belt - his utility belt, where is the belt? Never leave home without it, first thing Batman taught him - where is his belt he wants his damn belt. He could pick out a birdarang or a smoke bomb and escape or even if he could access the lock pick in his glove he --

the glove slids off and it jars the injured fingers.

This time Robin can't contain his scream and as it slips out the man grins and grunts like a kid having cake. A horrible, repulsive, disgusting little kid that no mother could ever truly love.
The other glove comes off, and soon follows his boots and Robin waits in tense anticipation for the mask to come off as well, his entire body taut and his muscles feel like tearing - he prepares to thrash and bite and lunge as much as the restraints will allow, no, more than that, whatever it takes to protect the idenity he --

''Don't look like that'' the man puts his face in his level and bores his eyes, his tiny, beady little yellow eyes, into Robin's and he smiles; the bastard smiles. ''I won't take a peak, I swear.'' and mockingly he raises a hand to his heart and says ''Scout's honour''

And all Robin wants to do is scream because it makes him think of Clark and where is Clark, where is Bruce Wally Roy where is everyone he -- Robin collects himself and tries to remember everything that Batman taught him. Robin is capable of taking care of himself, because Batman taught him to be ready he will be ready and he can get through this. Robin knows he can get through this if he just pulls himself together and --


Re: Before The Dawn [3a/?]

He hasn't slept for days. At least he thinks it days but he can't be sure because it feels like years right now and he just wants to sleep, he just wants to sleep for god's sake, why won't they let him sleep? Robin is used to pulling all-nighters, used to getting by on three hours, maybe one a night and he's used to drinking lots of energy drinks but he's not used to this - he didn't choose this, they're doing this to him to break his mind, he knows they're trying to make him cave but Robin won't. Robin will soldier on and he won't tell them anything about the League, Batman or his team, he won't tell them about his family, he won't let them, he won't let them know.

''Robin... aren't you tired? Don't your muscles just ache?''

Robin can barely hear him, the ornithologist as he calls himself, over the loud humming of pain and white noise in his head. There is the dull ache of something trying to claw through his skull and Robin can't keep his eyes open, can't keep his legs from shaking and his vision swims in black and blurs, he barely remembers his own name but tries so hard to remember what Batman taught him.

''Come on, little bird. Just tell me, and I'll let you sleep. Just tell me what I want to know and you'll get a nice, warm bed to cosy up in. Clean pajamas, cotton sheets...'' the man caresses his cheek, almost lovingly but Robin sees no love in his rotten, withered eyes. ''I'll even sing you a lullaby.''

Robin just smirks - at least, he thinks it's a smirk but can't really tell as he's starting to lose sensation in his face.

''What, were you born yesterday? Everyone knows who Batman is.''

The ornithologist looks at him good-humoredly.

''You know what I mean, Robin. Tell me who batman really is. What hides beneath the cowl of the caped crusader?''

Robin gives him as solid of a glare as he can, tries to find the blurry shape of the man and focus on it - focus a glare so cold and unforgiving that for a moment he forgets how to feel.

''The man who's going to break every bone in your body when he --''

The slap is unexpected and shocks him silent for a far longer while than it takes for the pain to subside. When Robin fully realizes what has happened he's too surprised to speak. A punch would have been expected, yes, but not a slap. Something so chastising as if the two were having a family banter and -- the rage swells and screams because this man is not his family and Robin will be damned if he's going to let himself ever forget that. His real family is out there and he has to protect them - no matter what happens, no matter what this man does to him Robin will never, ever let him get near enough to even smell them.

''Really, Robin, you're disappointing me.''

''Well, don't expect to be appointed anytime soon.''

''I have powerful friends, Robin'' the man's face is stern and taut, every word heavily emphasized it only barely reaches its sticky fingers through the fog in Robin's head. ''Very powerful.''

Robin chuckles.

''I'm supposed to be scared?''

Re: Before The Dawn [3b/?]

The man grabs his neck with the gloved hand and the smell of leather is nauseating, he can feel the bile crawling in his throat but his stomach is so empty, he hasn't eaten in so long; Robin just wants to collapse and break but he won't let himself, he has to be strong. He can do this.

''I could skin you alive'' the man says slowly, almost affectionately. ''I could skin you alive and have my friends heal you and skin you again and again. I can rip your eyes out and grow them back and it will never end, Robin, it won't end until you tell me what I want to hear''

Robin says nothing and the man sighs.

''Fine. If you enjoy this so much...'' he throws his hands up in resignation, Robin is just glad the smell of his gloves is far away. ''I was going to be nice to you but as they say...'' he gently peels the gloves off as if shedding a second skin and they both watch the things as they are thrown on the floor. ''The gloves are off.''

Robin waits patiently as he returns to his table. It seems like eternities before he returns, the tools are sharp in his hands and Robin is starting to panic -- he has to collect himself, has to remember the meditation, has to find his calm place, has to find his center and --

The pain is only as unbearable as it is horrible and every nerve in his body screams in pain as the skin tears. His muscles twitch and move in a way that suggest they are attempting to separate from his bones; his entire being is turning itself inside out and he can't scream - he wants to but he can't, the pain is just too much and as the blood falls thick and sticky down his chest Robin can't remember where he is.

The skin comes off in a long, transparent film of pink and the man holds it in the light like a photo strip. He regards the texture like old memories, gently putting it aside before he returns again. Robin can hear the tearing of flesh and the wet, sickening sound of his blood and his skin and he - he can taste the blood in his mouth and the dry heaves are robbing him off all air as his throat closes up and Robin wants to pass out, wants to go to his happy place but that place is so far away, it's just a never ending carousel of blood and the skvisch skvetch skvisch of his body being disassembled and --

''Oh, my dear little bird...'' the man chuckles, but puts the knife down and if Robin could breathe he'd draw a sigh of relief. It isn't until the man brings a bucket that he smells the urine and he realizes it's coming from him and he's soiled himself because the pain and -- the water is colder than anything he's ever experienced ; it rips and tears at his skin and his fresh wound like he's burning from the inside and he can't even feel the man's breath on his skin because it all hurts so much he couldn't ever imagine something as innocent as water hurting this much.

''We'll have to take those pants off, too'' the man mumbles, mostly to himself it seems. When he tugs at the garment Robin can only manage a little twitch of resistance as his body will barely even move, the shock from the water is still crushing him like an anvil and Robin just wants to go home.

''We should dry you off.''

Robin doesn't even listen anymore. He's barely even there and the man just keeps talking and keeps fumbling around at his table with tools and Robin doesn't want to be here. The second he recognizes the battery and the prod he wants to crawl into the wall and disappear. Robin has only been shocked a few times, most of them harmless. The first time he fell into an electric fence, it was nothing horrible but the second time he came too close to Live Wire and it hurt so unbelievably much and everything that can happen to a body that's subjected to an electric current rushes through his head, merciless and unrelenting - Robin briefly curses his brain for knowing too much about these things. Curses it because he knows so much in theory but so little of it in practice - and he's the most experienced of the partners, for heaven's sake. So little of it he's experenced , he's going to experience today and he doesn't want to know, not like this, never like this.

Re: Before The Dawn [3c/?]

The jolt feels like he's being kicked by hundreds of steel toed boots at once. Every shock jars his body and crushes against his chest, his lungs coil in on themselves and shiver into smoldering lumps of tissue. He's pretty sure he's soiled himself again - he should, at least from what he knows in theory and his brain burns and stings and it's almost as if it is melting and Robin just wants to go home. He doesn't want to be here he doesn't want to be here he just wants to go home, home to Alfred and his cookies, even M'ganns cookies, he swears he'll never decline any of her cookies ever again if he could just go home he'd eat everything she made for him no matter how burnt of singed or on fire it was and the thought of the burning oven makes the smell of his burned skin so sickening and he doesn't know how much more he can take.

The prod hums and sizzles and the man chuckles. The smell of burnt skin is only overpowered by the smell of urine and feces. The man strokes his skin in thought, before a smile splits his mouth open. He disappears out of Robin's view, which is covered in spots of light dancing gently across his retinas. When the man returns he has more water and he pours the ice cold fluid over his body again. It feels more like glass splinters digging into his skin this time, tearing at every little part of him as it seeps into his nose and his armpits. The man seems to walk away and return again, more water as if he has some endless supply and this time he's pouring it on Robin's face he's -- Robin thinks he's being goddamn waterboarded like in some stupid movie he can't belive they'd be so cliche but it -- it works, he has to give them that.

He tries to fight it with logic, tries to fight the surging fear and the panic that is swallowing him, the itch of dread under his skin and his heart thumping wildy under his ribs he wonders if the man can hear it. He knows he isn't really drowning, the man probably won't let him die because Robin would actually be happy about that; he knows he isn't really dying but he feels like he's drowning over and over and over again and he's fighting for air so hard it's like his lungs are on fire.

''Oh, Robin'' the man laughs. ''How you entertain me.''

A touch on his chest that lingers too long before ungloved fingers press at his wounds; press hard and raw and fierce and it hurts only enough for him to snap out of his shock. But when Robin remembers where he is and what is happening the prod hums and crackles and next thing he knows it's as if someone is trying to kick his spine out of his body. Robin screams and if he could he's pretty sure he would soil himself again but he's empty, completely empty and there's nothing but pain and everything burns and grates within him. The current rushes through his body and back again, before the man laughs.

''Don't worry, Robin. I'll fix you up in no time. Just know that any percieved brain damage is only temporary.'' he crouches down to whisper in his ear and his breath is hot and warm and rotten. ''I have powerful friends, remember?''

There is a hand on his crotch but Robin doesn't have time to panic before a new electric current is shot through his genitals and he almost blacks out. Had the voltage been higher he's sure he would; but the ornithologist won't let him black out, won't let him miss out on this won't let him miss the pain he has to feel it all and his body arches and bends and twists trying to get away from the prod but the man just keeps on going.

''Oh, dear'' the man shakes his head and sighs. ''Your ears... are... you're bleeding. Ah. I ... should patch you up. I wouldn't want you to die, now, would I?'' as the man passes Robin, heading for the door, he ruffles the boy's hair in a fatherly gesture. ''Don't move, I'll be right back.''

Re: Before The Dawn [4a/?]

They tried everything they had but it wasn't enough - nothing is enough to break him because Dick won't give up his family, won't tell them who they are or how to hurt them. They burn and cut him, beat him almost every day. They won't let him eat, won't let him eat and for a while that feels so long he loses track of time when they won't even let him sense anything - Dick can't smell or hear or see, he can only feel what they're doing to him for days and days on end. He can feel the lye on his skin, can feel the cold, soothing feeling of healing - the meta must constantly be in the room because his wounds stop bleeding almost as soon as they appear and he can swear he feels all the skin grow back on his face and Dick's like untouched again and they can go on forever. Dick wonders if he's even still alive or if this is hell, if he's died and this is eternal damnation which he will never escape from.

His father never taught him much Roma when he was still alive, but the little things he said, the little sayings and proverbs and terms of affection are on constant repeat in his mind again and again there to remind him what family is and the importance of keeping family secrets. Never to let the strangers enter never let them understand or know just keep them out get them out get them out of there. He only speaks in carny slang and no one understands a word he's screaming before he can't even scream at all.

Then suddenly all of it just stops and somehow it is even worse than the pain. He hates when they're not doing anything because he can't tell what they're planning, his minid is just a mess of indistinguishable screams - he hears their movements but he can't see for all the blood in his eyes but the light is still bright and yellow and Dick just wants to know why no one is talking, no one is saying anything and he wonders if this is what dying feels like. Dick wonders if they're going to kill him now, if maybe they grew tired of him and as much as he fears the end and never getting to see his friends again, never washing the R-cycle on a warm summer day or playing basketball with Bruce or practicing his quadruple flip - the last living person on Earth who can perform it anymore because -- never again go camping with his friends and watch M'gann set fire to ice cream for crying out loud never having Superman pick him up and fly around Gotham to view her majestic, broken beauty as it was meant to be seen he is -- proud, happy that he made it all the way through and that they will never know. They will never hurt anyone he loves because Dick stayed strong, Dick did everything he was trained to do and he made it, he's proud of himself, they didn't break him and no one can ever take that away from him and --

''You have such wonderful, blue eyes'' he says as he wipes the blood off the boy ''Such a pretty, young face''

The touch on his skin burns and burns even though it's just a hand, a gloved hand and Dick tries to thrash but he is exhausted he can't move can't even scream he --

''What a shame to let it go to waste, hm?''

Nonono this isn't happening -- he never expected thi-- no, nononononnonononoNO NO NO THIS ISN'T --

The hands are everywhere and he can't feel anything but the leather against his chest, his skin and there are fingers and they're touching him they're touching him and it hurts even worse than anything, but it hurts more than his body, it hurts his soul, it hurts his mind and heart and he can't let them do this, he doesn't believe he could make it back from something like this, he has to stop them but why can't he move, why can't he scream why can't he -

Re: Before The Dawn [4b/?]

''N-no!'' his voice breaks and tears on every syllable but he forces the words out through a mouth so dry it feels close to splitting ''No! No! NO, GET AWAY FROM ME!''

This was his first time it can't be like this it has to be a bad dream like the ones he has whenever their names come up or the anniversary except so much more horrible it has to be it can't be real no nono this wasn't how it was supposed to happen --

The filth is in his skin and in his marrow, under his tissue in his bones it's eating him alive and Dick has never felt so dirty he just wants to vomit and scream and kill them he wants to break their skulls and get them away get them away from him he's just a child why can't they just let him go home Richard can't take it anymore he -- can't find his happy place can't find any place other than the here and the now and he feels everything and he smells it, he hears the sounds he feels him inside where he should never ever be he's not allwoed to be there why would he do this why whywhywhy oh godohgod why?

''My pretty little Robin... It would be so'' he grunts and he moans and he makes those disgusting little sounds, the bastard is enjoying this he's enjoying this humiliation and abuse he loves it, the bastard loves tearing him apart ''Selfish... of me to... keep you to myself.''

The man touches his cheek and he flinches but can't get far enough away from the man can't get away -

''I know some who would love to share you, my little bird... We could make it a family funtime, no?''

No. Nonononononono no. They can't he won't let them they can't why won't they get off him get it off get it off get them off -- Like a burn victim he just wants to die from the pain but he can't give up can't give in he has to stay strong he wants the pain to end but it never ends it will never endit will never end.

Re: Before The Dawn [5a/?]

It's been two weeks when he hears it. Or, feels it, rather. When J'onn glides over the area there is as if a shield is taken down, momentarily a glitch in their defensive systems and it hits him so hard it almost knocks him out of the sky. The screaming is loud and brutal but to his ears there is only silence; meanwhile his mind is being flooded with pain and sorrow and disgust, regret and so much pain J'onn has never felt anything like this. All the times the League has gone out to stop cattrophes, saving people from floods and storms and galactic threats the pain has never been this potent, the screams were never this loud and he'd rather change this feeling for thousands of voices because he can't stand the pain he has to close the mind link - no, he can't close it because they'll lose him, they're so close he can feel him, he has to find him, can't let go before he finds him.

''He is still alive'' J'onn's voice carries through the intercom because he's too overwhelmed, too overpowered to tell them telepathically, ''Somebody, please, hurry. I - I do not know for how much longer I can...''

''J'onn?'' Superman appears out of nowhere and there is something hard, something unfamiliar and frightening with his face ''J'onn, can you hear him? Is he..?''

''He is alive'' the Martian Manhunter whispers, grasping his head it's hard to know what sensation is in his mind and what is outside of it. ''But only... barely, you have to hurry, I can't... I can't keep the link up for much longer''

Superman wastes no time darting through the sky and he crashes through the roof like a meteor, like a guardian angel he crashes through every room and wall until he finds him. Until he sees the man with the gloves and his comrades. Before the last son of Krypton sees the blood and the horror and he suddenly stops thinking.
It only takes a minute before more League members arrive; but a minute is all Clark needs to ruin the place. It takes five of them to hold him back, hold him back before he kills someone, before he snaps their necks in his bare hands, before he breaks every last son of a --

''Get him home.''

Bruce's eyes are hidden behind the cowl but his glare hits Clark right where it hurts and it's all it takes for the energy to leave him. The fury drains but leaves a seething, smoldering anger in the pit of his gut and he feels sick all of a sudden.

''Are you --''

''He needs a hospital. You're the fastest flyer.'' when he sees Clark open his mouth, trying to say something when they don't have time to talk, they need to act, they need to go, Bruce merely snarls. ''Go.''

And Superman is gone so quickly they barely see him leave; Robin is gone with him and left are only the horrible, horrible men and a League of omnipotent people trying as hard as they can not to cross the line.

Re: Before The Dawn [5b/?]

They can't see him for a couple of days. Understandable; he needs medical attention. They're happy he's returning at all - they already waited so long, what was another day or two?

But they're almost out of their skin, almost crawling the walls and gnawing at the ceiling, anxious to hear the announcement of the teleporter. When the words ''Robin - B01'' ring through the speakers, they draw a collective sigh of relief. Closely followed is the announcement of ''Batman - 02, Superman - 01, Martian Manhunter - 07'' and the four forms emerge from the portal. The silence is heavy and crushing as they enter the room and all protégés stare at them in silent expectation.

Batman looks pale, paler than usual - grey, almost transparent - he doesn't seem to have slept much at all. Superman and Martian Manhunter are stern, sorrowful but with their backs straight as they try to look brave. They can relax now, they can calm down because Robin is home and everything is fine, so why doesn't anything feel fine at all? Why does it all feel so wrong? Wally can't put his finger on it but there is just something off about all of this, much like a thorn the size of a fist in his side but he doesn't spend more thought on it the moment Robin steps out from behind Batman's form.

M'gann is close to tears and only barely keeps them to small pools in the corners of her eyes as she leaps through the room to embrace him in a firm, but gentle, hug.

''Oh, Robin I'm so glad you're home I didn't think I'd ever see you again I'm so glad you're back I was so worried --'' is all they can discern before her ramblings carry over to the Martian language and no one understands a word, but they can guess she's saying what they're all thinking.

When Robin flinches away from her she only looks hurt for a second; her face morhps into an expression of guilt and she jolts away from him as if she fears she will hurt him.

''I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking! I didn't mean to startle you, I'm sorry, I'm just so glad I --'' she smiles, awkwardly. ''I - I made cookies!''

Robin smiles at her and there is something so inexplicably wrong with it.

''Awesome. I've been craving cookies for weeks.''

The words are seemingly innocent but the implication that lingers with them makes their guts clench. Superboy looks angry when he sees how neauseated M'gann really looks, but one glance at Robin and his anger sinks. He looks at Superman, right in the eyes as the Man of Steel no longer can ignore him. The silent quesiton ''why, why didn't you let me kill them why can't I hurt them like they hurt my friend why do you get to hurt them why can't I -- '' hangs between them for the small moment it takes before Clark looks away.

''Are you... are you...'' Artemis can't finish the sentence because she doesn't know what to say. Anything she thinks of just sounds stupid and obvious but she can't just be silent.

''My head feels like cement, but they say I'm fine. I won't even scar.''

Wally doesn't want him to smile like that. It isn't Robin, Robin wouldn't smile like that there's no joy in his eyes there's only something dead dead dead and rotten and Wally just wants his best friend back. He wants to vomit, wants to run around the Earth a thousand times because it feels so wrong - He was going to ask him out that day, right before they had to leave for the mission but there was no time to ask and then it all went wrong and Wally was supposed to ask him to dinner - nothing fancy, just a quick grab at the closest McD before they would hit the arcade but he wasn't on time didn't have time and Wally wishes he could have done something and it's all his fault. He's a terrible, terrible best friend, what kind of friend can't even save someone from such -- Wally takes a shaky breath and walks over to Robin. The youngest teen visibly tenses under his cloak and it hurts, it hurts because Wally knows he deserves that he deserves the fear he deserves it for being so useless.

Re: Before The Dawn [5c/?]

''Rob... I'm...''

Robin meets his gaze, the mask is clean and his face is shiny and healthy and he looks normal, like nothing ever happened, like no one ever laid a hand on him. There are no bruises, no wounds or stitches or swellings and yet Wally can't help but feel like something is broken.

''KF, don't sweat it. You guys... You did what you could, alright? I'm just glad you all made it out. And I'm back now so please... stop it with the pouty faces, okay?'' he crosses his arms with a playful smirk but there is nothing mirthful about it. ''C'mon guys. This is the worst welcome home party ever.''

They look at him in silent awe, not really knowing if he was just joking or how to react and Conner can't take it, he needs to go somewhere, he needs to break something, needs to punch and hurt and destroy something. So he leaves, quickly, his steps are heavy and wide and Robin looks confused and wonders if it was something he said.

''Aw, Con didn't take me seriously, did he?''

Wally raises an eyebrow in disbelief.

''Dude, he's... are... you were gone for two weeks, Rob. Two weeks. Do you have any idea how worried we were?!''

Robin doesn't seem to get it, doesn't seem to understand because he just keeps smiling and Wally wants him to stop.

''C'mon, guys. I'm home now. It's fine.''

Kaldur steps up, noticing it is becoming much too tense, and keeping his distance as not to make Robin uncomfortable - he has read about trauma victims, read about the aftermath and decides it is better to keep his distance and be gentle - he nods at him.

''Robin, I think we are all just very... tired. We are all very happy to have you home and I... I am sorry, for failing you. As the leader I --''

Robin rolls his eyes.

''Give it a rest, Kal. You blame yourself too much.''

Kaldur doesn't reply, just looks at him grimly. Such a typical thing of Robin to say; but of course Aqualad blames himself. How could he not? He is certain that had the roles been reversed, Robin would feel the same. He would have given anything for it to have been him, and not Robin, anything in the world. But he cannot change the past, and instead has to focus on making the now and the tomorrow a better place. For all of them. He's just not sure of how to even do that.

''Hey, how 'bout those cookies, eh?'' Wally smiles half-heartedly at M'gann who lits up with new and sudden enthusiasm.

''Sure! I - they are in the kitchen, come with me! Uncle J'onn and I made lemonade!''

Martian Manhunter narrows his eyes in tired frustration as he recalls the disastruous event of helping his niece in the kitchen - to take her mind off of everything, she was always closest to him and J'onn had wanted to do anything he could to ease her worry. The lemonade had almost lost them half the kitchen but at the end of the day it had all been fine. Just like this would be; like he would try with all his might to make it be. Not just for Robin, but for his niece, for their friends. J'onn had to remain hopeful.

''Sounds amazing, sugarcake!'' Wally puts his arm around her shoulders and M'gann is briefly thankful Conner is not there to see it; his jealousy would not be well handled in his current state of mind.

''Race you there?'' Robin says, then as an afterhought he adds, ''Twinkletoes''

Wally's eyes grow and narrow in irritation, huffing at the nickname he gives Robin a tentative smile.

''Got it, Birdbrain''

Because maybe if he can keep trying, everything will be normal again. Maybe he's just imagining the tension and the thick, sticky film that covers his skin and maybe, just maybe if he tries to make Robin smile - genuinly smile - it will be alright again.

Re: Before The Dawn [6a/?]

Everything is back to normal almost instantly and it's the silence that's really getting to him. It's not just Wally, the others see it too; Robin smiles and teases and flips around like normal. Too normal. Wally doesn't have a lot of torture victim experience but he's read enough to know that a trauma like that isn't something you just brush off. He watches Robin secretely, from the corner of his eye, but the boy never turns his back on anyone, never leaves himself unguarded, always watching, listening and anticipating - Wally hovers around him just to keep an eye on him. It feels wrong because in a way it's almost like they're more traumatised by this than Robin himself - and it's weird, it's wrong because Robin should be the one crying but instead it's M'gann who can't sleep unless Conner comforts her and it's Artemis who's too nauseous to eat breakfast and Kaldur is the one silently brooding to himself. Wally is the one with the ants underneath his skin and this is wrong.

He knows he should be happy, knows he should be grateful because Robin is smiling and Robin is talking and moving freely. He doesn't limp nor sag his shoulders; the only small evidence Wally has seen of the experience is the constant trembling of his hands. It's in the kitchen when Robin is preparing some hot chocolate - M'gann is off to buy marshmallows because Wally ate them all last night when he couldn't sleep, couldn't stop thinking - and it's so bad he almost drops the cup twice. Wally wants to say something but doesn't know exactly what that would be.

It's okay? It's alright? Everything will be fine you were jus tortured for two weeks, these things happen, it's normal, we'll get over it? No words can convey what he feels because Wally doesn't even know how he feels. Except that he misses him, he misses Robin because Robin isn't there but at the same time Robin is still the same he always was but it feels like he's an impostor, a doppelgänger who lives in Robin's body and maybe Wally is the one going insane and none of this is really happening.

Batman said to take it easy. Well, he didn't say it as much as he glared it, but his intention was clear. Robin had a rough time, Robin was still jumpy and nervous and don't touch him, just give him some space. They didn't know what had happened, or if they did they wouldn't say; all they had revealed was that Robin had been tortured - ohgodohgodhgod - for weeks but he had no injuries, he had no physical evidence of anything except the last thing they did - what was the last ting they did? No one knew, because no one would tell them ,Wally didn't know - and there had been a meta in the group. A metahuman with the ability to heal any injury except death - Robin wasn't dead, he hadn't died, only nearly, barely, he was still alive and he was so thankful because Robin was still there.

''KF?'' Robin waves his hand in front of Wally as the kid zones out; Wally seems to forget for a moment that he's even there.


''Dude, spaced out on me there.'' he purses his lips in what looks like worry. Why is he worried what does he have to worry about can't he see Wally is the one who should be worried he -- ''You okay?''

''I'm fine'' Wally doesn't even believe himself but Robin says nothing of the clear strain in his voice.

''You want some hot chocolate?''

Wally casts a glance at the many stains on the kitchen counter, stains becaue Robin can't stop trembling, can't stop that small little tremor going through his body as if he's not even aware of it or maybe he's just suppressing it, maybe this is just the tip of the ice-berg maybe he --

''Rob.'' Wally casts a quick look around. ''Dick.''

The dark haired teen's face tightens at the mention of his name, his lips a thin line that reveals nothing. Wally draws a hand through his hair.

''Are you... are... You're okay, right?''

''Of course I am, Wally'' he arches a brow and the disbelief looks genuine. ''Why wouldn't I be?''

''Dude, Rob... You can't... are you serious?'' Wally rubs his eyes but the tiredness won't go away. ''You've been... Robin, we heard what... We know they tortured you, we --''

Re: Before The Dawn [6b/?]

Robin's face is shadowed in a sudden grimness, and something hard and cold switches on and Robin looks succumbed in anger. Sealed off, he's sealing off from Wally who loves him in so many ways it's not fair of him to look at Wally like that why is he --

''Wally, I'm fom Gotham. I'm used to this. C'mon, you think I haven't been beaten around before?''

Wally doesn't answer. There are too many things he wants to say, too many angry things and he doesn't want to fight with him. He wants to hold him and tell him it's fine it's good and alright because Wally's here and he's sorry he let them take him and he misses him and everything is going to be alright because Wally's here for him. But Wally doesn't say anything.

''Dick, are you - '' Wally reaches out a hand that has Robin flinch back so hard the beverage spills out on the floor; Wally can only look at him sadly as his best friend - as his more-than-that - shies away from him as if Wally was something large and mean and out to hurt him. Wally would never hurt him, so why is Robin backing away from him why is he pushing back against the wall why is he looking at him like that?

Robin clears his throat and straightens out his clothes, he's in civvies but the mask is still on - the mask hasn't come off since he got home, he doesn't wear his glasses, not even when he sleeps does the mask come off - and looks away.

''I have to go... I have to practice my kick.''

And with nothing more Robin leaves. Leaves Wally alone in the kitchen and there's such a mess everywhere and in his head a thousand thoughts are swirling and he has to sit down because he can't breathe and -- Wally just wants to know what to do.

Re: Before The Dawn [7a/?]

Bruce decides to pick him up after his weekend at the mountain - because it feels safer, because he doesn't want him on the R-cycle right now, because Clark can't fly him everywhere like a charity case - because Bruce just wants to spend some time with his son. Robin welcomes the ride home; he hasn't been in the Batmobile for weeks and he's missed it and the way the motor hums and the glimmer of the dashboard and the way the lights flash by the window and how fast it is, it almost feels like flying even when they'r not and -- and he's missed Bruce so much he still can't fully understand he's really there.

Dick doesn't do more but enter the seat when it hits him -- the smell is pugnant and strong and it's strangling him. Dick hadn't thought about the seats, hadn't thought about the leather hadn't thought that it would be a problem but suddenly he has to vomit and Bruce seems to see it in his body language because the man has pulled over in the nick of time. Robin throws the door open and hurtles himself out into the ditch, where his stomach is doing it's best to evacuate his body; he swears it feels like it's crawling up his throat.

Batman waits patiently for the vomiting to stop but as the minutes go by his grip on the steering wheel gets harder.

When Robin is done he lingers on the ground; doesn't want to go back into the car doesn't want to sit down and smell it doesn't know if he can handle the smell because it just brings it back it brings it all back and Robin doesn't want to deal with it - not right now not ever maybe tomorrow when he's stronger but not right now please just not right now -

Bruce is by his side silently, and Robin wonders how off his game he really is if he couldn't even notice the man approaching and it scares him.

''Is everything...?'' Bruce doesn't even know how to finish the sentence, thankfully Robin is quick enough to respond for it to matter.

''I'm fine. I just... must've eaten something bad.''

Bruce doesn't believe him, he knows he doesn't believe him but Robin wants to pretend for as long a he can. Wants to ignore the truth for as long as possible because maybe if they don't speak about it eventually it will go away.

''I don't want to get back into the 'mobile.'' Dick says then, almost guiltily, as if he's just insulted him.

Bruce frowns but nevertheless gets his communicator on.

''Alfred, I need you to get the limousine and ---''

''No'' Dick says then. ''Not that one either.'' Leather interior and mahogany dashboard and everything tasteful but the smell - it will be horrible and Dick can't understand why he's being so silly -- ''I ... Maybe I should find another way back. I could... Get the R-cycle...''

''You're in no condition to drive.''

He needs to get into the Batmobile, needs to get into the seats - this is ridiculous, is he supposed to never ride the car again? Is he supposed to walk everywhere or always rely on his bike? What a great dynamic duo if they can't even travel together and -- Dick stands up and takes a breath, drawing his hands over his face and through his hair he tries to calm his stomach down.

''Never mind'' Bruce says to Alfred over the comlink and starts to walk back to the car. All the while he is casting glances at his ward, suspicious glances as Robin won't stop twitching and tremblig like he's had too much caffeine. When Batman has gotten into his seat several minutes pass by when Robin is just standing there, staring at the door on the passenger side and Batman is getting frustrated.

''Robin, get in the car''

He almost wants to punch himself at the way Robin flinches - he shouldn't be too hard on him he's had a rough time, it's hard on him , hard enough, he has to think with his head and not just be a stubborn - what was it that Diana always called him? -- and he needs to understand that Robin neeeds time but it's 3 am and they're in the middle of nowhere and they can't just stand by the side of the road forever and they need to get home.

Re: Before The Dawn [7b/?]

Robin takes a deep breath and when he finally enters the Batmobile it is with tightly closed eyes. Batman watches him warily but soon begins to drive. When Robin is near hyperventilating again -- sweaty and pale, Batman reaches into a compartment and hands him a paper bag. Robin doesn't speak just grabs it and almost instantly , like he's been waiting for an okay, he vomits even more than he thought was possible given the little food he's actually managd to eat today. His throat is raw and burning and his stomach feels close to tearing, imploding on itself but the vomit and eventually bile won't stop coming and the smell just gets worse and worse because he's right there, the leather is digging into his nostrils and suddenly it's getting hard to see.

And Bruce just wants to hold him he just wants to hug his son again but, he knows it's unwise to touch him but now more than ever he just wants to hold him, like it would make anything better, like it would actually make a difference -- But Bruce doesn't know what else to do and it is killing him not to know. He always knows everything always but this time when he rally needs it, his mind is as blank as it is dark.

''I'm sorry'' the words are small and unstable and he almost misses them completely.

''Excuse me?''

''I'm -- I'm sorry'' Dick says between the dry heaves and it's almost like he's afraid to look at Bruce. ''I'm so sorry I should have been better, I'm sorry I got caught, even though you trained me not to get caught. I was stupid and I failed you I'm so sorry I couldn't --- I couldn't remember the mantra, couldn't go into the trance, I couldn't remember the training and I am so sorry, Bruce, I --''

Bruce bits his lip down hard before he answers.

''Richard. What do I always tell you?''

Dick doesn't want to look at him so he just shrugs at his own stomach contents. They are more pleasant to look at and he can't bear it can't face it can't take the disappointment that's surely in his eyes and he can't handle knowing that he let him down like that.

''The most important thing is to know how to adapt. It doesn't matter how well you plan the world because the world doesn't care, Richard. Not getting captured is always the goal but that can't always happen. Sometimes plans backfire and we find ourselves in a tight spot and that is when we adapt. If we can't do that, we are as good as dead and you... you adapted, Richard.'' Bruce looks at him from the corner of his eye as Dick looks paler than just a moment ago. ''You adapted and you made it and that is all I can ever ask of you.''

Dick wants to cry but can't let himself -- Bruce doesn't need to see him so weak and pathetic and stupid and he should just shake it off already, snap out and take it like a hero but his head won't stop spinning and he just feels like such a useless, failure and shame.

''Dick, I'm... I'm...'' proud of you, prouder than I ever thought I could be because you did more than I ever asked of you and I'm so proud of you but he can't say that, can't form the words on his tongue because they always die before he opens his mouth, but he wants him to know, damn it, he needs him to know that he isn't angry with him, needs him to know that he isn't disappointed. ''I'm sorry.''

Dick looks at him for the first time during the ride now and his eyes are confused.

''For what?''

''For...'' failing you leaving you to that hell for not being there for not being enough for being a horrible horrible father for letting you down - ''I shouldn't have let this happen. I... Maybe...'' Bruce sighs. ''Maybe you shouldn't be Robin anymore.''

Re: Before The Dawn [7c/?]

Dick believes that for a moment his entire body stops, because the world seems to spin faster and faster like a ride he can't stay on, he's the only one to whom nothing makes sense and Dick just wants to scream until his throat collapses.

''No. Nononononnono.. Bruce, I need this. Gotham needs me. Gotham needs us. You can't... you can't fire me like that!''

''I'm not firing you, I'm just... Dick you almost died, you... You're just a boy and it was stupid and insane of me to even let you out in the first place -- '' stupid of him to take his personal quest for vengeance out on a boy stupid and selfish of him to let him suffer for pain he did not cause stupid to believe what's right for him would be right for a child stupidstupidstupidstupid'''re not safe, Richard. This isn't right.''

Dick glares at him with such intensity Batman feels it before he sees it.

''No. No, you don't get to do that! Damn it, Bruce, I need this! I -- what if it happens to someone else? Huh? What if it happens to Wally or even Superman? What if it happens to you? No, we don't get to do that. Of course it's dangerous, of course bad things happen but does that mean you shy away from what's right because you're afraid of what might go wrong? The Batman I know wouldn't think like that, he'd make sure it never happened to anyone else and what if it does, Bruce? What if it happens to someone else and I'm not there to save them and -- I can't let it happen again, Bruce. Being Robin is the only thing... only thing that makes sense, that feels right anymore and you... you can't do that to me.''

Because if he's not Robin he's just a victim and he never ever wants to be a victim -- Because Robin is all that makes it feel better, it's all he has left to suppress the guilt because if he can help people maybe he can make up for being such a failure maybe he can redeem himself and maybe he won't feel like such a disappointment anymore. Maybe if Dick can get it right next time, maybe he can be salvaged and maybe if he can help someone else he can help himself and everything will be alright and Dick just needs to feel like he amounts to something, like he matters. He doesn't know how to even breathe without Robin because Robin is as much a part of him as Dick Grayson is, the only thing to even get him out of bed anymore is knowing that he can be by Bruce's side and together they can help people and if Robin doesn't even have that -- then he's more lost than he thought.

Bruce's face is hard and almost shameful. He doesn't reply for a very long while and when he does it's with the most exhaustion he has ever let on.

''I... know that it means... what it means to you, I'm just '' scared terrified horrified worried ''I don't want anything to happen to you. You're my son Dick and ... '' I'm sorry I failed you as a father I'm sorry I wasn't there I'm sorry I couldn't save you so sorry sorry so sorry I let them do that to you - ''and...''

And nothing, because Bruce doesn't know what he can possibly say to make it all right again.

Re: Before The Dawn [8a/?]

Bruce notices him even before he makes his appearance known, but J'onn knows that. It is probably superfluous of him to even greet him because from the second he set foot in the Batcave, Bruce knew. J'onn is sure the man understands very well what's on his mind, too; one needn't be a mind-reader for that. Despite that, J'onn still clears his throat and still says a rustling, deep ''Good evening'' - because it's the polite thing to do.

''Have you assessed the situation?'' is Bruce's way of saying Good evening to you, too, nice of you to drop by. But J'onn knows that so he lets the abbrasive impoliteness slide. As he always does.

''There were not many people who knew'' J'onn sighs as he cannot figure out how to phrase the information; does not know if he wants to phrase it at all. ''The man... behind the torture, the ornithologist as he calls himself, he knew, of course. His mind is taken care of. Zatara was very helpful.''

''You got everything?''


''All of it?''

''... yes.''

Bruce glares at him.

''Are you sure?''

J'onn suppresses a sigh and instead decides to nod firmly.

''Yes. He is... what is the phrase? Clean as a whistle?''

Bruce snorts irritably.

''Who else?''

''The metahuman, she goes by the name of -- ''

''Primrose. Yes.''

''... and the men who were... who...'' J'onn stops and by the look on his face he doesn't look intent on finishing the sentence. But he doesn't have to, Bruce already knows. Of course he knows.

''Who assaulted him.'' he says coldly, matter-of-factly, but there is a hidden hatred in his voice which feels cold to the telepath. ''And they are taken care of?''

''Everyone. I erased all memory of his identity. We have done thorough examinations and no one else seems to know.''

''Seems to?''

This time J'onn can't help but sigh. Loudly.

''Batman, I understand that this is very personal for you but --''

''But what, J'onn?''

''You need to trust us.''

Not until after the words come out does he realize what a futile request it is. Batman trusting anyone, an alien especially, is as absurd as it is stupid. Still, J'onn doesn't know what else to say to ease the man's worries. There is nothing to say, really.

Re: Before The Dawn [8b/?]

''How did you adapt to the school?'' Bruce says instead.

''It was... an interesting experience. It was very educational, pardon the pun.''

Bruce's face is hard for a moment, as if his mind is deep in conflict. Not that J'onn would know; his mental walls are nearly impossible to break through and he wants to respect his friend's privacy.

''Thank you.'' Bruce says, flatly but the Martian knows that he means it. ''You saved me a lot of trouble of coming up with an excuse for Robin's absence.''

''It is fine, I was just glad to help. Although I must say I did not appreciate his... math homework. I hope I did not cause any permanent damage on his grades.''

Bruce cocks a brow but decides not to dwell on it. There are more important things than Dick's grades; keeping the press oblivious is worth whatever B he may recieve. Not that it's very likely; his teachers love him and two bad weeks in math can probably be ignored. J'onn has agreed to play the role until Robin feels ready to return to his school, which could be never or tomorrow - Bruce doesn't want to push it, doesn't want to push him after everything and he knows he's not the most emotionally available person and Bruce, for all his knowledge, training and research is, for the one time when it really matters, completely lost.

''There is another... thing'' the Martian says when it is obvious that Bruce won't say anything more. Bruce only looks at him inquiringly and awaits a continuation of the sentence. J'onn furrows his brow and looks away, not sure of how to put it. ''There has... I have detected a wall in his mind.''

''A wall?''

''Yes'' he nods. ''A... mental proteciton, a shield, so to speak. As if there is something in his mind that he has sealed off. Like...'' he purses his lips as he searches for the right words. ''Like putting something in a box and locking it away deep in a closet.''

Bruce sighs, almost inaudibly but J'onn notices. He says nothing but he notices.

''He isn't dealing with it'' Bruce says more as a statement than a question. Because he knows, had his suspicions, already noticed that Dick wasn't coping in the way he should, wasn't reacting predictably and Bruce knows but he doesn't know what to do. He knows a lot of things but none of them are beneficial and it makes him feel so very useless.

''No. He is... ignoring it.'' J'onn shakes his head. ''I do not know for how long this wall will last; it is a strong one, thanks to you, I would imagine.''

He's not entirely certain but it almost looks as if Bruce is -- hurt, by the statement and J'onn suddenly feels incredibly guilty. For what he does not really know.

Re: Before The Dawn [8c/?]

''It will crumble, with time'' the Martian continues on. ''I cannot tell at the moment how hard it will crash when it does, but... I would suggest he seeks counceling. He is... bottling?'' Bruce nods. ''Bottling things up. They will emerge eventually. When it does he... he needs you to be there.'' Bruce doesn't answer, doesn't look at him as instead his gaze is fixed on the floor; but he sees not the floor nor the dust on it, he sees only failure. Failure from him as a mentor, as a guardian, as a father. Because Bruce knows that despite logic, despite everyone's kind words that this falls on him. ''He needs us to be there. Batman, are you listening?''


Martian Manhunter watches him in grim contemplation for a moment, before his shoulders tense and his voice tightens.

''Have you told them?''

Bruce's face is hard and cold and angry and J'onn knows he should probably not be asking at this time, when Batman is still upset, when they're all still afraid and angry and devastated but they need to be professional. They need to keep calm and do as much damage control as they can. Had it been a perfect world he would not need to ask the question, but the world is as imperfect as it is cruel and he has to make sure things are as well as they can be.

''No.'' Bruce pushes out the words like they are glass on his tongue. ''Neither shall any of you.''

''It could be ... It is my strong opinion that they need to know. They are a team and as such --''

''It is none of their business what happened to him. They know what they need to know and nothing more.''

''It could be crucial in the field. What if something happens, what if something triggers him and -- ''

''I know Robin and I know the team. They do not need to know so they will not know until I say differently.''

J'onn sighs, but decides that the mentor knows the protégé the best. Had it been M'gann he is sure he would react the same. Though he cannot know because he isn't in the same position and he is thankful in so many more ways than he can fully understand because if this had happened to M'gann he does not know what he would have done. And it is with respect and, perhaps even admiration, that he looks at Bruce before he decides he has said what he came to say.

When the Martian Manhunter turns around to leave, Bruce doesn't even say goodbye. But he doesn't have to; J'onn knows him well enough to see when it is written in his movements and, as always, he simply lets it be.

Re: Before The Dawn [8d/?]

The boy doesn't sleep much, anymore. Not that he ever really did; he and master Bruce always shared the same, strange habits. He knows bats are nocturnal but the amount of wakeness lately has been disturbing. The young master is sluggish and slow, ailed by the sleep deprivation yet in no inclination to remedy it. Alfred does not say anything, he knows it is not in his place but he... he wishes for something, something to ease the young boy's worries. If only just a little.

It is the fifth night when he hears the shower go off again, almost as on cue. The young master doesn't sleep, only spends hours in the shower so that when master Bruce gets up and showers for work there is but a minute of warm water left. But master Bruce says nothing of it, he merely showers in the ice cold water and gets dressed like it is normal of him to do.

It is five a.m and Alfred cannot sleep because the young master cannot sleep and, though he has gotten used to the strangeness of the Wayne's last living son, the newest member of their family is still capable of worrying him at times when he is taking after his guardian a tad too much. Alfred cannot keep at ease tonight and instead he bakes some scones for the young master. Not that he has been eating anything lately, and Alfred knows the young ward has been vomiting - even Bruce doesn't know it happens as much as it does - and he's getting worried. But he has not mentioned it, has decided to leave the boy be and wait for him. He trusts that the young master will know when he needs him and when the time comes, Alfred will be right there.

When Dick enters the kitchen later, the scones are just out of the oven and he looks mildly surprised to see Alfred there.

''Alfie, why're you still up?'' he says groggily, his body dragging him towards sleep but his mind as awake and on edge as ever.

''I figured you might be hungry at this hour, master Dick. Would you care for a scone?''

Dick gives him a lopsided grin, but it looks painful more than joyful. With a small little sigh he sits down by the kitchen bar, plopped up on the same stool as he always chooses; Alfred fondly remember the first weeks when he came to stay with the family. Just like now he couldn't sleep, but he would be awake in the gym for hours and hours and eventually Alfred got tired of worrying. So he got up and made it a habit to bake some scones for him. Just like now Dick had been surprised, but had accepted the quiet comfort nevertheless. Alfred knew it was different now, it was a wound that hurt differently, but he decided he would try and if nothing else, the boy would at least get something to eat.

The boy sits silent as he smears some marmalade on the scone. He spreads the condiment for almost five minutes, watching the knife as if hypnotized.

''Master Dick, I do believe you have an ample amount of marmalade already. There is no need to wear the knife out.''

Dick looks at him shyly underneath his bangs and, almost embarrassed, puts the knife back. Th silence continues as Alfred pours him some tea and Dick just keeps staring at the scone, not looking intent on actually eating it. Holding back a sigh the butler sits down and prepares one for himself, the tea is steaming and --

''So, as you see, it wasn't my fault that they withdrew my medical license. People just can't accept a true genius, you know? Sure, I may be a bit eccentric about my methods but... clearly, they weilded results, so why treat me so unfairly?''

The man has been talking incessantly for hours and he knows he should take all the information in as it can prove useful later, but honestly he's not so sure there will even be a later. Robin - well, Dick now, he supposes - is trying hard to keep hope alive but the more time that stretches and the more blood he loses that objective is proving hard to uphold. He feels fine, physically, but his mind is tired and worn and he feels unable to even focus briefly. He's drifting in and out of conciousness but never enough to disappear completely. Primrose keeps healing him - his right eye has been poked and stabbed and prodded and opened so many times he's lost count now - and every time he feels like death is finally nearing him, she heals him up again.

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