Chapter 27: Bats and Birds
The worst of the storm had passed, but the battle wasn't over, and everybody knew this.
They had almost been too late.
It had been four days, yet the boy still had not awoken. An IV drip had been hooked up to the teen, and an oxygen mask was still desperately needed. The antidote might have stopped the poison from killing him, but he wasn't out of deep water. The poison had left him incredibly weak, almost too weak to pump air into his lungs.
His fever still ran high, but thankfully not as life threatening. His breathing was almost as ragged and shaky as before, but he could at least pull oxygen into his body, which was more than they could say before. Flash had run another scan over his body, showing that the poison had left his muscles weak, and his chest and lungs severely damaged, but not unhealable. Still, it would take a while before the boy would be able to do even the simplest of tasks.
This is was made Batman furious.
His son had already been through enough, and now they were telling him it wasn't over for the boy yet? Unacceptable! Nevertheless, he did what he could to make the boy as comfortable as possible in his condition. He kept a bowl of ice water close to the bed. The wet rag that sat in the liquid was placed on his head whenever his fever began to run high, and the pile of blankets sitting by the corner of the bed were always ready.
The caped crusader had barely left the teen's room, sleeping next to the bed, ready and waiting for when his son woke up. He no longer had anymore doubt to the fact that he considered the teen his son. After almost losing the boy, he realized just how much he would be crushed if the child ever left him.
He could only hope Dick felt the same.
That was all he could feel.
Well, that wasn't entirely true.
He also felt sweltering heat...Great.
Something wasn't right. Something was definitely wrong.
No. That wasn't right. It wasn't wrong. It was...different. Yeah, everything felt different.
It was almost as if a thick fog had been cleared from his eyes, the same fog that had been filling his head, making his thoughts heavy and hazy, clouding everything he thought about. The same fog that made him want to scream and curl up.
Well...maybe it wasn't the fog. Maybe it was the pain that made him want to scream and curl up.
Yep. That was it.
His body felt heavy, like he had just run a marathon. Scratch that. Make it ten marathons...on Jupiter. His bones ached and his muscles screamed at him. It felt as though his blood was bubbling under his skin as it swirled around him. But all of that was nothing compared to the white hot flames he felt in his chest.
It was as if raging red claws had dug into his body, cracking every rib as it grabbed his lungs and ripped at everything, leaving nothing but fire and ash in its path. He could feel the shot of agony every time his chest rose, the air that allowed him to live making him want to die.
His eyes slowly cracked open, the bright lights in the room quickly making him shut his eyelids again. After a few seconds, he tried again, squinting as he slowly adjusted to the luminescent lights in the room. At first, all he could make out was fuzzy shapes and blurred colors. After a few blinks, everything began to take shape.
The first thing he noticed was that his mask wasn't on his face. He narrowed his eyes, but found he was too tired to worry about it, even though he felt severely exposed without it.
He was in a large white room, bright lights shining down from overhead his bed, the other lights in the room shut off, creating a spotlight effect over him. The sound of a soft constant beeping at his side made him slowly turn his head, an action that made pain ripple down his body. His eyes landed on a heart monitor and an IV bag that stood next to the bed, wires sticking out of the machines before disappearing under the covers.
He also noticed an oxygen tank that led to a mask, which he realized was on his face. He also began to note that he had gauze wrapped around his chest and arms. He grunted softly as he twitched his fingers, pouring all his strength into raising his hand up.
Even though the limb was shaking severely, he noticed the outline of veins, which seemed redder than their usual color. Granted, the color was beginning to fade, but he could tell they were bright and vivid at one point. He also noticed they were all around his body, faded, but there. He let his arm fall weakly to the bed once more as he furrowed his brows, trying to understand why he was in what he could only assume was The Watchtower's medical wing, if memory served right. He shut his eyes and tried to remember what had happened.
But he was forced to pop his eyes open once more when he heard movement on his other side. Turning his head, he saw the figure of a man, his head turned away from the bed. But the sight of the costume he was in, as well as the build of his body was enough for him to know who it was.
He also took notice of the fact that the man had his cowl down as his chest rose and fell softly. His eyes widened as he gazed at the figure, the walls in his head crashing down as memories began to flood his vision.
The cold, damp feeling of a cell as he tried to find a way out.
Jolts of fear as he watched the needle move closer to his body, the green liquid swirling in the syringe.
A strong desire to help Vlad.
Searing rage as he thought of the Titans.
Fingers clenching when his eyes fell on the superpowered teens in front of him.
The sound of cracking and a grunt of pain as his staff made contact with one of his friends' shoulders.
Starfire pinned under him as he raised his staff over his head, intent on striking her in the heart.
Fighting Batman and the League, eyes burning in hatred.
Searing pain, sweat, fire, tears...
He gasped as his consciousness returned to the room he was in. He felt the cold grip of fear that clenched around his heart, freezing his throat. He quickly tried to sit up, only to cry out in pain as the cold feeling was replaced with a fiery one. A hot knife stabbed into his chest, burning his insides, his heart, his lungs. He quickly understood the need for the oxygen mask as he struggled for breath.
A bead of sweat rolled down his temple as he noticed for the first time that he was hot...yet cold at the same time.
Fever. He thought vaguely as he collapsed back into the comforter. It was then when he realized the noise of his distress had awoken the man next to him. His eyes were quickly open, scanning the room for danger. When they landed on the panting boy in the bed, he was quickly on his feet.
Bruce rushed over to the bed, placing his hand on Dick's cheek as he turned the boy's head to look at him. "Dick?" He whispered quietly.
As the teen's eyes fell on the man's face, more images began to flash in his mind.
"Spare us the lies!" He shouted, his eyes narrowing in hate as he stared at the group of heroes, Danny standing next to him. His eyes then drifted over to Batman, the man staring at him, a neutral expression on his face, hiding his concern.
"Robin, they are not lies. They are truths. Please come with us. You are not well." Diana pleaded with them, her gaze full of hesitation.
"Robin, listen to me. You have to fight this!" Batman said to him, his knee placed firmly on the boy's chest as he pressed the teen's back into the soggy ground.
"The only thing I have to fight is you!"
"Robin, enough of this! You need to snap out of it! Batman screamed at him.
"And you need to stop talking to me!" He roared.
Bruce recoiled back in shock was he watched Dick's eyes glaze over and his breathing quicken. For a moment, he thought the boy was in pain before he noticed the tears that were beginning to roll down his face. "B-Bruce, I-I-I'm so s-sorry." He cried out as all his mental barriers fell down, not having the strength to keep up the act anymore.
Bruce took a seat on the edge of the bed and wrapped his arms around the crying teen, the sobs rattling his small body. "I-I could see everything I w-was doing, but...b-but..." He body shook as he began to release everything he had been holding in. "But I c-couldn't stop."
His mind flashed to the blood he had seen on the Leaguers, on the Titans, on his father.
It only made the tears fall faster.
"God, it was s-so horrible, tati." He wept. "I w-was so angry. I-I was so s-scared." He cried, the mask over his face fogging up as he shut his eyes tightly, his cheeks shining as they glistened in the light. Bruce gently reached up and removed the oxygen mask from the teen's face as he pulled him closer, the boy's sobs shuddering through him. "Shh...mica mea pasăre. It's alright." He hushed gently, stroking the boy's hair. "Just breathe."
Dick curled his head into the man's chest, fingers gripping the black Kevlar of his suit tightly. Bruce wrapped his cape around himself and the shivering boy in his arms as he tried to calm the crying teen. "It's not your fault, Dick. Alright? It's not your fault." He whispered.
Dick shook his head. "No, it-it is. I-I wasn't s-strong enough. I wasn't a-able to fight it. I-I was weak, and m-my friends were h-hurt because of it. Y-you were hurt." He sobbed. "Because I wasn't strong enough!"
Bruce narrowed his eyes and gently placed his hand under the boy's chin, lifting his tear-stained face to look up at him. "Dick, listen to me right now. This is not your fault. Nobody could have fought that serum. Nobody. Not Diana, not Superman, not even me." He explained, the child's shimmering blue eyes staring up at him. "You are not weak. You've never been weak. You're the strongest kid I know. In some ways, I think you're even stronger than me."
"And if anyone should be sorry, it's me, Dick." He revealed. The boy furrowed his brow in confusion as the man continued. "I-I'm sorry I couldn't stop it sooner, Dick. I let Vlad control you. I let him use you because I wasn't able to help you. I let him poison you because I couldn't help you." He growled out, tightening his hold on the child in his arms. "I'm sorry, fiul. I'm sorry for putting you through that." He said quietly. "But I need you to understand. This wasn't your fault, alright? It wasn't your fault." He sighed as he pulled the child closer, enveloping him in the safety of his hold.
Dick's shuddering breaths filled the air as Bruce continued to gently rock him back and forth, the scene reminding him of similar situations years ago, although he never knew they could ever happen again. Yet here he was, comforting a sobbing child in his arms as he gently whispered encouraging words while rocking him back and forth.
As the boy curled tighter into the man's grip, the warmth wrapped around him. For the first time in weeks, he could finally breath (even if he really couldn't). He finally wasn't afraid. Wrapped in the man's arms, he knew he was safe.
After what seemed like hours, Bruce could feel the boy's sobs slowly quieting into soft hiccups before he began to fall asleep, the exhaustion of the last few days finally registering in the teen's mind as he began to drift off in the man's warm arms.
Bruce noticed the boy go limp in his grip and held him for a few more moments before gently placing him back down onto the bed. He pulled the sheets over his shivering form and placed the oxygen mask back onto his face. But right as he began to move away, he felt a small hand weakly wrap around his own.
Dick gazed up at him with tired eyes. "Y-you'll stay, right? Y-you won't leave me?."
Bruce grabbed the boy's hand as he sat down once more, brushing his fingers through the teen's hair with his free hand. He let a small smile slip onto his face.
"I will never leave you, Dick. I'll always be right here."
Two days later
To say the least, the Titans were pissed.
It had been two days since Robin had woken up, since they were finally able to breath in relief, yet Batman still refused to let them see him. He claimed the boy wasn't strong enough for visitors, yet the Titans suspected that wasn't the whole truth. Still, they didn't disobey the orders.
After all...it was Batman.
So, while Sam, Tucker and Jazz worked with the Leaguers in researching more on Blood Blossoms and Zyphius Antigen, the others resorted to "relaxing" in the common room, which was basically just the room the Leaguers worked the least in.
Beastboy yawned in his chair, his tired eyes awake enough to hold annoyance. "How long are we going to wait out here?" He groaned to the others. "I can't take it anymore! I want to see Robin!"
Cyborg sighed. "And you think we don't?" He asked, his voice revealing how exhausted he really was, his mental condition similar to the others in the room.
Raven lowered her hood. "You heard what Batman said. Robin isn't strong enough to see us." She tried explaining, only for Beastboy to huff loudly. "Okay, then how come he gets to see him?" He asked, remembering watching Batman's form disappearing into the room on several occasions.
Raven rolled her eyes. "Robin and Batman obviously have something special. Besides, do you really want to be the one to tell Batman he can't see his son?" She asked them, the others falling silent. Starfire lifted her head, the alien staying quiet for most of the debate. "Son?" She asked quietly.
Cyborg gave a small smile. "Yeah, Star. Batman might not show much, but it's pretty obvious just how much he cares for Robin. Just look at this week. He barely leaves Robin's room." He chuckled quietly. "Those two are the Dynamic Duo. Robin might have been what sparked all the other heroes out there to take apprentices, but he's always going to be the original." He explained to the alien, the others around her already aware of the teen's status.
The Tameranian furrowed her brow. "So the Batman is Robin's...father?"
The Titans paused at this before Cyborg shrugged his shoulders. "I guess that's really up to Robin." He finally said.
Beastboy furrowed his brow as he stared at the floor, finally dragging his gaze up to look at his teammates. "R-Robin's going to be okay,...right?" He asked quietly.
The Titans fell into silence, unsure of how to answer their youngest member. Finally, Raven let out a sigh as she brushed a strand of lavender hair out of her face. "I-I don't know, Beastboy. That serum...it did something." She tried explaining in a way for the boy to understand. "Batman says it drained Robin of everything."
The changeling scurried to his feet as he gazed at the others with wide, worried eyes. "But he'll get better, right? He has to. He's Robin! He-He always gets better." He exclaimed.
Starfire turned away and lowered her gaze, shutting her eyes tightly. Cyborg folded his arms and slumped against the wall. "Honestly, I don't even know if Robin wants to see us." He exclaimed. "He might not even remember us. Who knows what side effects that serum has on him?" He explained to them.
Starfire shut her eyes tighter before quickly rising to her feet, startling the others. "I do not care." She said firmly. "Robin is our friend. And whether he wants to see us or not, we will be here for him when he is ready for us." She stated, leaving no room for argument.
The others glanced at each other for a moment before nodding their heads in agreement.
The sound of metal clattering onto the floor and a loud yelp of pain was what greeted Dick as he cracked his eyes open and turned his head. He noticed Flash rubbing his elbow in pain, a syringe filled with blood in between his fingers, the metal pan on the floor bouncing around before silencing.
Bruce cast a hard glare at the speedster, who gave a nervous smile. "Hehe, umm...I'll just..." He picked up the tray with his free hand and placed it back down onto the table before quickly zooming out of the room, not wanting to be at the receiving end of a batarang.
Bruce shook his head in annoyance before turning down to Dick, noticing the boy was now awake. The teen was gazing around groggily as he tried blinking the sleep out of his eyes. The man placed a hand on the teen's head and gently ran his fingers through his messy black hair. "Go back to sleep, Dick." He said quietly, reaching over for the iced rag, realizing the teen's head was still hot with fever.
Dick shook his head. "I've been asleep long enough." He sighed through the oxygen mask. "I should be doing something. I-I should be helping l-look for Danny." He growled out, anger coursing through him at the fact that he had left the boy in the hands of Vlad.
He tried to sit up, only to have a fiery pain stab into his chest. His eyes widened as he gasped in pain. Bruce quickly placed a hand on the teen's back and shoulder, gently pushing him back down onto the covers. "What you need to do is rest. You don't even have the strength to sit up." Bruce said gently.
Dick sighed in annoyance. Already, he was tired of being confined to the bed. Nevertheless, he knew the man was right. After all, he was barely strong enough to even move, and just attempting to sit up had made him see spots and want to throw up.
Bruce placed the rag onto the teen's forehead, Dick's fingers twitching as he let out a small groan, the fever beginning to make him shiver. Suddenly, his eyes popped open as he took a quick intake of air, which made his chest burn. Nevertheless, he turned to Bruce. "The Titans." He said quietly.
The man furrowed his brow. "What about them?"
Dick lowered his gaze before dragging it back up. "I-I want to s-see them."
Bruce's face hardened, his mind relying over the guilt the boy still harbored. "I don't think that's such a good idea, Dick. You're still weak. And-"
"Please." The boy said softly. "I-I just...I need t-to see them."
The billionaire hesitated for a moment before he nodded, removing the rag from the teen's head. Slowly, carefully, he helped the teen sit up slightly so as not to aggravate his chest or put him in anymore pain than he was already in. He placed a hand to his com unit and told the Titans to make their way towards the medical wing. He handed the teen his mask, only to watch as the boy shook his head.
Bruce tilted his head. "...Are you sure?" He asked softly, realizing just what the boy was deciding. Nevertheless, Dick nodded his head, his choice clear in his mind. "I-I'm sure." He said quietly.
Bruce nodded and placed the mask next to the teen, who had closed his eyes and rested his head on the pillow behind him. Bruce placed a comforting hand on the teen's shoulder, realizing how uncomfortable he must be.
Finally, he lifted his cowl over his head and walked over to the door. As they slid open, they revealed four teens anxiously waiting for him. Batman stared down at them for a moment of hesitation before stepping aside and stalking down the hallway, knowing the boy would be alright with the group. After all, they were family to him.
The first thing the Titans noticed was the condition of their friend. His face, though not as bad as before, was still noticeably pale. The faint outline of the fiery red veins could be seen around his neck and unwrapped arm. Different wires extended out from machines and hooked up to him from under the blankets, and a clear oxygen mask was covering his mouth and nose. His fingers were curling into the blankets and his face was scrunched slightly in pain. He looked...vulnerable, not at all like the image of their leader, of their friend.
The second thing the Titans noticed was that the teen wasn't wearing his mask. This is was made them stop in their tracks, for they knew how important Robin's identity was to him. It was something he never showed to them. At first, they wondered whether they should even be present, or if the boy realized he was mask-less. But the doubt disappeared when the teen turned his head towards them and gave a small smile from behind the clear, plastic mask.
This quickly prompted the Titans to rush towards his bed, each sporing similar looks of relief, concern and happiness as they caught sight of the smile they had all been longing to see for what seemed like lifetimes.
This was originally going to be longer, but I felt I let you guys wait for long enough already.
I'm also really stupid. I really, really shouldn't be starting a new series, especially since I have two unfinished ones left to complete, but I just couldn't resist myself. I was dying to write it. Anyway, if any of you guys are interested in Danny Phantom and Batman/Justice League, then you should check out Under The Wings! Just some food for thought.
Also, it might be a while before I post anything here because my hand is kind of messed up (stupid softball) and it kind of hurts to type.
So, stay tuned for the next installment of...
The Ghostly Titan II: The Order of Apparitions!