Greetings, this is an attempt at a "What if Request"
Fellow author Balance in the Dark requested from me a "what if one shot" but you all know me and I can't just do single short writing pieces. So I can honestly say without a doubt that this was the hardest thing ever to write. Not just the time and effort I had to find while finishing up Cat and Mouse in order to get it done, but the research "can you actually believe I forgot what my own story said…LOL "its true."
Time placement was tough too, a (what if / what would change in Cat and Mouse) should I mess around with the story at this point, or getting back into character role was a bit tricky. Not to mention I had to rewrite a whole chapter premise.
BITD you so owe me for this…lol No, not really I had fun….it was a lot of fun actually.
BUT ….just so you all know how hard I had to work to get this right, here's BITD's request: (criteria)
A 'what' would happen if Slade 'did' as he had threatened; to the Titans, and because they did not come find him; or as instructed, were not clearly where Slade could find them, he dragged Robin out of bed (from chapter 50) in his condition? Sick!
(With) how might it all be connected back in so it all fits back into place for the very next chapter and make since? (now that one got me…(pulling my hair out)
Questions as well as some food for thought: Why would the titans not show up? How would Slade treat Robin; his 'work in progress,' and/or would Slade take care of Robin in his ill state or would he be mean to him?
So you guys be the judges for yourselves….
Background first: Previous chapters spoke of how Robin and the Titans had failed Slade's test against the Gnats, Robin discovering that there really never was a race to prevent the launch and spread of the Gnats but that it was all a way for Slade to test Robin's expansion; his mental growth and thinking capacity. Seems old one eye was trying to see if Robin would wrap up all ties regarding his current life and if pushed far enough; prepare himself to be Slade's apprentice, join Slade willingly in his new life enslaved to Slade for all of eternity. (An Acceptance issue to say the least)
Slade having officially devastated Jump City, the Justice League arrived; Robin tired to outwit Slade by blowing up the power plant; who with the help of Superman, could then seek out and shut down all of Slade's listening devices, cameras, and other monitoring tools through out Titan's tower; poor Sally had to be killed off, Cyborg ignorant to the fact that it was Robin who did the deed (instead thinking it was the gnats).
Slade pulled rank though and forced the Justice League back and out of the city. Forcing them to leave so that cities world wide could be saved; as his mighty empire was attacking, Slade also making it look to Batman as if poor Robin had just 'save them all' by agreeing with Slade to something. Everyone involved now feel's badly and Robin in tremendous pain just barely making it back to the tower before passing out.
Those were the first signs' that something was seriously wrong with Robin, shortly after that; in his attempt to rebuild trust back between him and his teammates; having been demoted as leader, Robin is found coughing up blood. Beast Boy rushes Robin; almost near death, back to the Tower where Raven begins taking care of him. Her own personal fears and uncertainties; even doubt's, over what 'being immortal' really means for Robin (from Slade's definition anyway) casting worry as to Robin's recovery from his current condition.
Now laying currently in bed sick and feeling only slightly better, Robin comes to understand that strange things are happening all over Jump City, the Tower too has been experiencing phantom phone calls, unnecessary alarm bursts and Cyborg and Raven although they've tried to keep him unaware of all this, have been battling Slade; as he incessantly keeps calling, requesting 'he will only speak with his Apprentice.
So here it is: chapter 50's rewrite… "Augusts' challenge; a What if request of Balance in the Dark. I present you…with:
"Motivation?" for Slade the issue was all about Control. Control for those who were associated with and dragged into this twisted little game of 'Cat and Mouse' a stacked deck or as Robin liked to call it a rigged game:
Slade had lost control of his ability to watch and monitor Robin after the boy had removed all the camera's and listening devices from there Tower. He'd been forced to contentedly just sit back and watch the comings and goings of the Titans from his monitoring robotic camera's, city wide supply of stream-line video feed' and robotic spies reporting to him current events and updates. (Number one being there had been no Robin along with his team) no Robin? Now that was something note worthy.
But Slade hadn't been content or happy to just sit back and wonder why Robin had been absent, or what he had been up to while he'd been missing those last couple silent alarm's Slade himself had purposefully set off.
Or why it seemed a couple of times 'so had the teams other winged dark bird been missing. Slade knowing full well that nothing short of death kept Robin tied down or held back from completing a mission. It was one thing that both trilled and annoyed Slade at the same time.
So when it was decided that Robin wasn't gone, but just simply missing missions Slade's attention shifted from 'Where is Robin?' to 'what's happening to him?'
Calling up the titans so that he might discover for himself what his little bird was up to behind those yellow walls of theirs…
Beast Boy sitting at the counter tofu vegi pizza steaming and ready to be devoured, the sudden whistle before a click; as Slade's face popped up on the screen did nothing but ruin a perfectly healthy appetite, "Dude?"
"Where is Robin?"
A gulp before Beast Boy's head turned left then right; reality setting in, Beast Boy realized he was alone (panic) and a none too discrete discovery that he was alone with Slade's giant head looking down upon him helped even less Rationalizing that to get up now; bolt for the nearest exit like he really wanted to, he might anger the scary monster more. The thought of being a coward not at all bothersome to Beast Boy as much as (did he mention a very frightening scary eye looking down on him) did, another gulp "ah" Beast Boy thought of Robin, what would Robin do in this kind of situation… not quite up to speed, or even ready for what Robin would do, ok so how about what Robin's private training lessons had taught him then, nope 'sorry Robin' the relish kid chicken just held no hope.
"He's sick" Raven entering the room just as the words erupted in terrified fright from Beast Boy's mouth. Worry and an angry back lashing look the only means she had for expressing to him how very upset that answer was to her, Beast Boy seizing his opportunity grabbed his pizza and coke and bolting threw the door.
Sighing Raven looked up more at the screen, she was afraid that with Robin extremely sick as he was; did she mention how he'd been coughing up blood, (how he seemed to be unable to be moved from the room they'd set him up in, one near the hospital ward) Slade could easily just walk in and take him forcibly away from them.
"So is that right, is Robin sick?" Raven unable to judge for herself if Slade's asking had been spoken out of concern or if he was just not sure if trusting Beast Boy was be such a sure thing.
Irritation; his asking for Robin was not so much an issue of seeing him, as it was being able to judge for himself what might be happening to him, lest something in his treatment be affecting the boy in ways' Slade might not have been able to predict.
Raven tried to think fast, deciding on an offensive approach rather then trying to defend their fallen leader "and what if it is!"
"That doesn't matter to you anyway Slade, Robin's no longer our leader so whatever you called to warn us about will have to be discussed with either myself or Cyborg from now on."
"Besides Robin's busy at the moment anyway." Yeah she thought, coughing up blood, chest convulsions and pain; lots of pain I can barely stand watching him in, and an extremely tiered body. Robin wouldn't be able to fight back if it came down to it, I've got to ensure Slade doesn't choose to come after him.
Slade's suspicion was then, that the young changeling had not been mistaken but that Robin was apparently sick. Not surprising diagnosis since that was how Slade had conditioned Robin's treatments to make him look; but could he be dieing wondered Slade? Loosing his Apprentice was not really an option. His one true chance at victory was that boy (things were not as simple or stable in the least as Slade thought about them) All of his plans sat teetering back and forth on the slightest correction that might be necessary to make. Upon a tipping of the scales in favor of victory, not defeat, but also finding balance out of the many corrections for which might be needed to be made. Slade could not just wait around and see how things turned out. No, he would see Robin now!
Damn that child and his finding every single camera! It wasn't like Slade could just stroll into the Tower and place more of them at his leisure you know.
That was it then. Slade's reason why it became necessary to see and speak with Robin, to be able to see for himself how bad the child was "I will speak to my Apprentice now Raven or else," Raven not showing on the outside at least, that she was all to intimidated by his threats.
"I'm telling you man, you can't talk to him. Robin's sick, and besides he's no longer the Titan's leader, I keep telling you that!"
"If you have something you want to discuss, or wish to talk to us about, then you're just going to have to accept either Raven or myself to tell it to." How many times do I have to tell this guy?
Cyborg's resolve was wearing thin. His mind was tired, his body seriously complaining that a much needed rest was needed.
Even Raven's attempts at telling Slade hadn't worked, nor had his own five phone conversations with the mad man. All Slade did was keep calling, calling and calling back, Cyborg would just be happy to turn the damn thing off except he had a heroes job to do and they couldn't very well remain unavailable if someone needed them, so he'd heard nothing else but "I want to speak to Robin" 'So why don't you just let him?'
Cyborg signed, his head coming up, chin cradled in his hands, face strained with the unspoken question 'why?' it really was a good pondering, Cy was so scared Slade would blow up the city just because he couldn't speak to Robin.
He'd already threatened Raven twice; the poor girl'd cried her eyes out the last time they'd talked. Cyborg wondered what other types of things Slade was capable of doing (frightening man) getting Raven to cry like that, it was something pretty high up there on Cyborg's list of 'almost impossible things to do' but, the Titan's ex-leader really was sick, so how was he supposed to speak with Slade anyway? He'd been sick for the last week now.
Slade's voice held an insistence that he would not hear the same answer again. If he called back a second time; Cyborg rooted to the spot…pleading in his voice this time, Cyborg's only hope was that he wasn't doing what Slade had threatened 'mustn't be heard again'…but it was all Cyborg had to give him. The truth was truth not matter how hard it was to hear.
'Oh no' cringed Cyborg
"I want him on this screen in one hour and I will wait no longer! Do I make my self clear?" Slade now furious
Cyborg didn't even get a chance to comment before the screen went blank…
Slade ended his conversation with Cyborg; clicking off the screen and turning to fill the hour in which he'd given the inflated self-proclaimed important acting leader till, this new addition to his and Robin's game was not something Slade was willing to put up with anymore, at first it had been funny; watching as the group took turns trying to justify themselves to him, cringing in fear and yet trying to act all grown up, pretend they were anything more then what they were, just kids. Ha thought Slade to that, those teens came no where near Robin's ability….but now it was just getting in the way of what he needed. And he needed to see how bad Robin really was!
Slade knew Robin was sick he even knew approximately where he was located inside the tower. Slade smiled, he had no doubt that Robin would be the next one on that screen, because if he wasn't, well then Slade would come in there and get him….
"I heard you wanted to talk with me." Slade relieved to finally see for him self what Robin had gone through, it wasn't as bad as they'd made it seem.
"Yes" "I heard that you were sick and I just wanted to see how you were doing, ask you a very important question," Robin's body grew serious, it was nice that Slade could see the child still held strength, not everything was as bad as Slade had been worried it had been.
"Ok, ask away, what?"
"Exactly what kind of get well flowers do you want me to send to you?"
The cybernetic man just about had a cow, Slade hearing a "What! I could have told you how he was...Raven visibly elbowing him an apparent attempt to shut him up. Her own reaction almost outspoken, but Slade wasn't paying attention to them he was more interested in his bird.
Laughter? Robin's face taking on a smile, his two friend's reactions telling Slade more still…obviously they were relived; something bad had happened, something long term and on going. Slade seeing how pale Robin looked now, the child's energy levels were way done, dropping in just the short time they had been on the video phone. Low enough that just a simple phone conversation is wearing him out.
"Actually Slade I feel terrible" Open admittance, the boy was indeed sick. Robin never told Slade anything involving weakness.
Slade covertly finding out what he knew or had suspected "I seem to have caught a cold, some flu like symptoms but I guess you wouldn't know anything about what I'm talking about now would you?" Worry, the boy too has his doubts.
"Immortality is a price that comes from understanding everything Robin," Slade conveying back understanding, even a bit of comfort in the hint/ implication.
Robin nodded "Well then, I guess I'll be feeling better soon enough" relief or was that hope, Slade was seriously going to have to consider what might have went on. "Thanks for checking up on me" remarked Robin "as for the flowers. Well you can send me whatever you want to. Although you might consider sending something Starfire can add to her garden, something that blooms or grows back year after year."
Slade smirked offering Robin a head nod, turning as Cyborg apparently had finally reached his limit. "That it!" one look and Raven dragged him from the room. Slade smiling as a sweet chuckle escaped; a silent tension he hadn't realized had been there lifted as well, 'I'm now free to unobtrusively speak with Robin'
Robin apparently feeling the same way because he now spoke up: "You really are having a lot of fun at this aren't you?"
The question 'almost' throwing Slade for a loop, but with a new smile and brightening cheer Slade replied: "what makes you think that?"
"Because I know you Slade," the words something Slade took great joy in hearing, almost as much as I love telling Robin how similar we are "I know how you think I know what strategies you employ."
"Your running them ragged, messing with their minds and keeping them just stressed out enough to keep it going on while you plan out for your next attack."
Playfully Slade replied: "I'm only doing what you never would but what you dream of doing. So, what do you think, am I getting them frustrated yet?" Slade witness to the look of settled in content-ness this conversation was offering Robin, (but Slade didn't miss the look of pain that crossed his apprentice's features either) it was something he'd expected, nothing that should have been keeping his future heir hidden away locked in that tower of theirs.
"I think you're doing a pretty good job of harassing them, yes," Richard's brow furred, Slade witness to how the boy's lips pinching themselves together, another quick spasm flashed across the boys upper chest. Slade beginning to tap into that higher brain function of his…something was indeed off about Robin. His breathing is irregular.
"But why are you doing all this? Asked the boy, "they're not really worth your time" Robin sounding tired, "and I know how really busy you truly are Slade" Slade seeing Robin's chest cave slight but not enough as the boy tried to mask taking a deep breath.
Slade's lack of reply; a pause to Robin, was caught as he stared apprising over the clues that had begun listing themselves in his mental minds eye. "My game, my rules, my choices Richard" Slade's quick reply half listening while thinking.
Robin nodding understanding…Slade watched as Robin's face grew worried, "you're not going to do anything serious to them are you Slade?"
Flabbergasted shock hit Slade first then he gave in 'annoyed' Slade's voice growing cold, how could the child be worried about his team when he was the obvious one that needed help, (Slade wanted to shake his head at the child) for being so smart the kid could be really quite dense at times.
Slade knew the tight struggle Robin fought against though "That's not any of your worry Apprentice what I do to them is my business" warned Slade his voice trailing off as he saw Robin looking out the doorway instead of at him… 'that insolent child' the thought halted 'cough' (Robin twisted and leaned over the side of the bed). Slade realizing that if it was just coughing Robin would not have moved away from the bed. Slade recalling back to his own personal experience and that of the rest of the test groups' ('blood') realized Slade, content now in the realization, patiently waiting till Robin stopped hacking. Slade just observed taking note of varying details and coming up with a solution.
Robin finally sat back against the bed frame; Slade used to Robin knew his eyes were closed, noting that the boy had stopped breathing altogether 'did the child know that?' Slade instantly understanding what had been going on now, the boy's lungs had stopped working Slade watching as Robin wiped small amounts of blood off his face onto his pajama sleeve, 'yes' something has defiantly gone wrong with his repertory system, I must take a look at him immediately, make sure for my self that the issue get's corrected.
"I'm asking, no pleading with you Slade please don't harm my friends" the boy's request like a slap to Slade face. Pure annoyance and then rage filled him; still staying calm he did not lash out though, what could he say? 'Robin are you a complete idiot" 'your sick and instead of thinking about a bunch of silly children you should start worrying about yourself' (sigh) Slade knew Robin wouldn't listen to him, the Teen barely listened to his surrogate father, why would he listen to the man he hated more then anyone else in the whole wide world 'because it seems to be only you that (when he does listen) he listens to.
Slade held no fault against Robin say that strong belief and devotion to those fellow teens of his, Robin's ending of his Apprenticeship had show Slade what a dilemma that could cost him….
"If I loose my friends you loose your Apprentice."
'And I know how much you hate to loose….."
Slade shaking his head…
"They may have upset you but they're not worth your time; or mastery of the arts, you are far superior to them to waste it on killing any of them."
Slade narrowed his eye, (an internal sigh) (a new plan forming) voice expressing a respectful sort of kindness not often did he grant to anyone else, Robin had to be really worth it he supposed, Slade reminding himself of that point even "I tolerate you more then I should Robin"
"This is your second request of me (one more sigh) three wishes is all genies grant (could I be slipping, am I getting soft here, no only a soft spot for victory) guard your third with care," Slade's eye narrowing warning to Robin, "for I will tolerate you no more after that 'Do I make myself clear?"
His Apprentice nodded showing him he understood; was there gratitude there as well, Slade further rewarded by a "Thank you."
Stroking the man's ego only went so far though, Slade grew in annoyance (Perhaps he should change his mind) Slade coming up with something better, "Your team has three hours to come find me. If they haven't by then, I'm coming looking for them," Slade already finishing up a wicked plan in his head…"and sick or not Robin. I will use you as bait to smoke them out" Slade's tone icy cold it grabbed his Apprentice's attention; internally though Slade had already decided what opportunity he could turn this into. He would teach the boy's friends to remain out of his business and at the same time get a chance to look over and patch up Robin. (His own comfort and relief beginning to settle back down now that things had come back into his hands)
Slade disengaged the two way connection, turned and walked off. He had things to do, criminals to call and a couple things to work out. Wintergreen would be arriving much too late to help him and Dr. Chang was not trustworthy enough for what Slade needed done; no, Slade would have to do much of this himself.
"Ah, why me," moaned Robin his head beginning to hurt, the pain spreading deep into his brain and eye stem.
It's not enough he subjects me to all this suffering; and Robin was suffering, terribly, none of the changes happening to him came without lots and lots of pain/or agony. And to top it all off he was now playing referee; bait as it were the case, Robin looking at the doorway where two of Slade's robots now stood. They had come storming in from the side door Robin could only assume then that Slade would walk right in threw the front. Too tired and too upset to fight, he simply laid there, besides he already knew what Slade's robots were here for. God, what have my team done now?
He knew they'd left, he'd heard the front door shut, heard Starfire's sixth 'Goodbye' to him so why then was Slade's robots standing watch; looking back at him? Robin looked over at the clock, face scrunching up in confusion, why after only one hour was Slade appearing in his doorway….
Robin's eyes widening, "hello Robin" the two bots shifting aside so that they could grant their creator entrance into Robin's suite. Internally groaning Robin wanted nothing more then to break down then and there…. soon to be my master all over again too.
Slade looked at Robin, the boy was just sitting there speechless, Slade chuckled "Nothing to say Robin?" Robin tried to take a relaxing breath but nothing happened, finding himself too tired anyway in order to stay sitting he slid back, Slade watched as Robin gave a sigh, arm over his head, he laid back down. This concerned Slade, hand gesturing to his robots they came to Robin's bedside, he moved too. Robin looked up, Slade perhaps seeing tears in the child's eyes, Robin truly was over whelmed.
"Come on Robin" two of his robots helped Robin to sit up, a third robot shifting down picked the sick teen up. Slade pulled out a needle Robin shifting apprehensively, his eyes widening in terror "calm down Robin" Slade's voice trying to lull the boy's fears away "this is only something to help you breath" "Something that might improve those flu like symptoms we spoke of earlier." It took him a while to nod giving in but Slade noted that Robin didn't resist much after he gave him the shot. Resting in the arms of Slade's robot Slade made to leave; Robin calling out, 'where are we going?' already the drug and sleep agent making Robin's eyes heavy, Slade placed a smile behind his words "to somewhere you swore you'd never visit ever again."
Hooking up with several robots in the living room, Slade stayed behind as the three robots carrying Robin left with the boy in hand, "Are the cameras in place?" the remaining bot's nodded, Slade just smiled "good" one objective down, two more to accomplish.
"Where was Slade?" The team had been about to split up, cover more ground that way; but crime it seemed had other things in mind. "Titans we've got Mad Mod robbing the bank down on 87th" Cyborg about to suggest that the other's continue the hunt for Slade while he would go get Mod and be right back, but suddenly Cyborg's alarm went off again.
"What now?" asked Beast Boy "I don't believe it" replied Cyborg with growing trepidation "Doctor Light seems to be throwing one of his usual tantrums, and Mumbo's chosen this exact same moment to go snatch himself a cage full of stage actors."
Each of the Titans groaned, Raven growing hesitant, "normally I wouldn't say this" "but maybe we should just let them all be." Her words leaving open faced mouths of shock and hesitant agreement "Are you series?" Raven couldn't tell if Beast Boy was happy or in total delirium.
"We are supposed to be hunting down Slade," she reminded them, Cyborg looking now about as hesitant as she, "he did tell us what he'd do if we didn't show up and find him," agreed Cyborg.
"Perhaps if we will only give them a short bit of time," suggested Starfire, "then we might resume looking for Slade." Her logic made since, they were heroes after all they needed to at least appear like they were concerned, but this was Slade. Not just someone they could second guess a decision on.
"I know" claimed Beast Boy, "you two" pointing to Cyborg and Starfire, "go round up the bad guys and Raven and I will continue looking for Slade" Cyborg looked at Raven, "you know that's not a bad idea, but why not me and Raven, Star you continue after Slade with Beast Boy, Raven's more equipped to handle Doctor light and Mumbo so I think she should be the one to come with me."
Unable to argue with that….the team split up, Slade not entirely pleased, but still some of what he'd planned had worked out.
Starfire had her encounter with Slade, the attack came out of no where; Slade's hand wrapping around Starfire's ankle, being gripped she landed hard on the asphalt. Slade's taunting comments about her usefulness to Robin, her failure as a friend and their removing Robin as leader hurting her more then even when he finally was pushed back into the Movie Plex sign. Sparks and screams reverberated in the air as Starfire's body got electrocuted, the large billboard crashing down overtop of her. It was an unconscious Starfire that Slade brought back with him to his hideout.
Cyborg and Raven met with a chilling realization, Slade had apparently arranged for them there distraction. It was his way of stacking the deck; his words to Robin of if they were not available how he would come hunting him down, and take poor Robin forcibly out of the tower….well Slade always was a man of his word. Even when he had to make up the situation that allowed him to keep it.
Ganging up on them when they arrived, Mad Mod, Mumbo and Doctor light overpowered Raven and Cyborg. Both wrapped up like presents inside of Mumbo's twisted dimensional hat "what are we going to do?" asked Cyborg realizing same as Raven that despite their quick efforts they were not likely to make it back in time to satisfy Slade's 'I'm coming to kick you butt' terms.
"Let's just hope Beast Boy and Starfire keep Slade busy long enough till we can get there" Raven's comment fleeting even to her own ears.
By day's end Slade had the two remaining titans delivered to his hidden base, he already had Starfire locked up in shackles; robots with stun pikes guarded her, and Robin sat safely away resting secure and snug in his makeshift medical ward. A quick retrieval of Beast Boy and Slade was able to get back to attending to his Apprentice's needs.
Garfield gave Slade more fight for his money then Slade had wanted though, having no mercy for the poor changeling; despite Beast Boy's best efforts, Slade hurt him far worse then he'd meant to. Slade vaguely wondering how Robin would react once he brought the boy's bloody body home.
Robin was in the medical wing; one of Slade's robots handing him a warm cup of herbal tea, while another kept poking and prodding him with various instruments. Slade entered the medical ward carrying a red stained Beast Boy in with him. "What the hell" Robin almost spilling hot tea all down the front of him, thank heaven for fast robotic sensors. Slade turned and regarded Robin, "don't worry the teen isn't dead. Although heaven answer me why not" Robin wasting precious strength, shifted himself off the table "because we had a deal Slade. You promised me that you wouldn't harm them."
Slade's robot holding onto the struggling teen let him go, Slade took a couple steps rolling his eye, "Slade you Bastard" that caught him in a foul mood, taking three more steps Slade reached out and gripped Robin forcefully by the chin. Eye blazing Slade's tone was dark, he shoved all the might of his patience into his words "I said I would hold off killing them, I didn't say anything about hurting them."
"This is my challenge Robin and if I wish to take out some of my anger on them I will, doing it how I see fit" Slade tossing Robin's chin away with his hand, "now I didn't intend on harming this one as badly as I did but he put up a fight. A rather fierce fight actually, and he forced me to put him in his place."
"Just as I intend on doing once your other two friends arrive."
Robin looked over at Beast Boy his eyes filled with worry and already Slade noticed Robin's color was fading (that's not good) it had been coming back, Robin growing paler by the second. Slade cursing himself for inflicting more stress on Robin when he should have been resting, scans had already told Slade that Robin's tissue memory to his lungs had short circuited some how; they'd forgotten how to function completely, unsure of how to pump out oxygen to the rest of the body.
Slade's robots had been forced to offer breather support a couple times before Slade whittled down the problem. Slowly massaging Robin's chest and lungs in hope that they would restart; a bit of XST17 injected directly into Robin's lungs, the boy had started breathing again. Slade noting Robin would be sour for a week now due to the direct needle injected directly into his chest; although, Slade countering he might not. With the four broken ribs and two slightly cracked ones Robin already had, he might not feel more or less any pain then he was already.
"Calm down Robin you're going to lock up your breathing again" sure enough, almost like a suggestion Robin started wheezing, racked by coughs seconds after that. Slade clenched his fist; picking up the drooping child he placed him back down on the medical table. "You look pale," Slade having already explained to him that the coughing fits had not been part of Slade's treatment plan, (justifiably) he'd lied about there deal and sent Raven and Cyborg off on a wild goose chase, allowing himself a loop hole through which he might bag himself a 'robin bird' and Robin already in full understanding that this was one of Slade makeshift bases had agreed to treatment.
"Can't be any worse then dying from a chest full of broken ribs, or coughing till my throat turns raw"
By this time tomorrow Slade and his robots would no longer employ this particular base so even if he brought Robin and his team here it really didn't matter. Robin began to feel better, Slade could still see a clench in the boy's chest every couple seconds when he attempted to breathe though, but that was something he'd counted on. Robin's breathing was back to sounding the level it should. (Slade wasn't going to cure the boy for Pete's sake) this was a test) the treatment; meant also as an endurance test, besides the boy needed to learn to control his new body. Slade just wanted to correct that small deviation that had gone on long enough.
"I'm still going to punish those teammates of yours, teach them a lesson you know?"
Robin wanted to cry, Slade's robot offering him again the cup of hot tea, "I don't want any" he cried hand shoving away the cup. Arm back over his face Robin laid back, body laying flat against the hard metal bed. Things were not going the way Slade had planned at all Robin was an emotional wreck; seeming to be acting like a cry baby, (What did he expect? Any teenager sick tends to be cranky and emotional)
Hearing his first ever real sigh; issued from Slade, Robin looked up. Out of habit or just plane shocked he need proof of what he'd just heard, Robin uncovered his eyes and looked at Slade; who stood over him, arms crossed over his chest "you know you really should drink the tea Robin, it will make you feel better. It's an ancient Chinese remedy I picked up shortly after I turned mercenary, and it seems to help even for me." That seemed to cross barriers between the two. Robin with Slade's help struggled to sit up, taking the cup of hot tea from the bot Slade suggested "just try and inhale the vapors for a bit, then once you feel better you can accompany my Robot to the steam bath I've prepared for you."
Robin couldn't understand why Slade was doing all this. His eyes trying to search Slade's for some kind of an answer. "What?" grumpily and with warning Slade's question caught Robin, unsure of how to breach the subject he just emptied his thoughts "You're acting nice" voice tone saying it in such a manner that even the worlds worst parent couldn't scold that child for thinking 'this is too weird'
Slade's low chuckle struck Robin as funny, "Nice Robin, is not the label I would pick for it," Slade turning around reached out and pulled a needle along with a vile from a bag. As Robin had already watched Slade inject Starfire with the same drug he didn't protest when Slade walked over to Beast Boy and stuck the needle into his bandaged and attended to body. Starfire's unconscious and burnt body had been dragging in couple hours ago after two robots with shock pikes had forcibly restrained her. Robin unsure of if they were responsible for the cuts and kick marks; they almost seemed, some of them to resemble Slade's size ten's. Stars heart nearly completely stopped, Robin had been forced to watch as the robots worked to revive her. Robin had wondered where Ariel had been threw all that. His expectation that she would pop up out of the wood works, had actually been missed and now completely forgotten in wake of current events, but funny times' when the mind decides to go off on something, the question now seemed to be coming back to him again.
"Then what would you label it Slade?"
"I'd call it taking interest in an investment, I've put a lot of time and effort into this Robin, I'm not about to let you go off and get yourself dangerously sick." Robin perking up, was there still hope, could he possibly reverse what Slade had already done to him, even perhaps die?
Slade witness to the hope in Robin's eyes laughed brightly, this bringing his Apprentice's attention back down to earth, "no Robin, nothing like that, but you could turn out to be a vegetable, or worse a paralyzed Apprentice." Slade witness to the response knew Robin with that one "what use would I have for an immortal yet paralyzed vegetable" nodding as he saw the boy agree. Robin was thinking hard on his options now. Unable to find anything to say, but as far as he could see it still had nothing to do with him anyway so Slade was right, he would be much better off in the man's medical bay then back by himself at the tower; but why his friends?
Robin sighed about to ask Slade when a chiming sound registered on Slade's watch, Slade smiled, "ah" they've finally arrived" Slade gesturing to the robot on Robin's left, "bring him" "come on Robin, we have two Titans to put in their place."
Robin not at all happy about being forced to take part in Slade explanation of power but tired and feeling like things would be better off if he did come Robin cooperated with the robot. Almost slipping before the robot was able to scooped him up and carry him down the long stretch of hallway.
They came out into what appeared to be the main overhang of an underground storage facility. Robin surprised to see Doctor Light, Mad Mod, and Mumbo all standing there, yet they gave no sign they noticed him, where was Raven or Cyborg. Doctor light regarded Robin with indifference assuming him another one of Slade's captives; although if pajama's a blue robe and red night slippers didn't catch his attention then something was seriously wrong. Maybe Robin was dreaming; wouldn't be the first time something strange like that would have happened to me he thought, Robin shaking his head, no, this was real, he knew it was. He was just too tired to be bothered with trying to figure it all out at the moment.
Although where were his teammates? Now that was something factual to find out, it bothered him there absence Robin looked to Slade for the answer, the man seemed pleased; quickly discovering why when Mumbo toppled Raven and Cyborg out of his hat and onto the floor, Slade's robot set Robin down. Robin unstable on his feet almost fell had it not been for Slade catching him around the shoulder; holding him there, supporting him a few seconds which did not go unnoticed by everyone. Cyborg and Raven their eyes wide, mouths open and fear evident in ways not even Robin could think or understand (cause before they had come out of the hat they hadn't just been sitting around)
"Robin I'm really sorry man," offered Cyborg in defense, something flashed into Robin's mind a vague conversation about helping Slade kick their sorry butts; should they force him to be dragged from the tower, Robin chuckled thinking Cy's apology was caused by that. "Don't worry about it Cy I'm not mad Slade dragged me from the tower."
This was apparently the wrong thing to add too, and the fact that Slade was still partially helping to support Robin upright caused Raven and Cyborg even more discomfort. Robin realizing that it wasn't just the 'kicking butt' part that had them upset, something else was cause for the pleading looks in their eyes, the apology and cowering way in which both of them were acting. Robin looked from Slade to Mad Mod, and then Mumbo for someone would surely fill him in on the explanation.
"You obviously did as I requested" commented Slade, Mad Mod smiling, "ah gov, that we did. Good old Cyber boy and foul lass got a good talking to they did." Robin realizing that it wasn't just any old hat Raven and Cyborg had apparently fallen into, Mumbo's hat had probably been one fitted with those hypno screens of Mad Mod's crazy school. Fantasy rooms that he and the others once before had been subjects to, Slade's target of 'request' regarding them Robin could only hope and wonder about.
"You didn't do anything to their brains did you," asked Robin directing his question to Mod, it did not stop just at him though. Mod only smiled, "No" answered Mumbo, "only a good old hard lesson learned, as Slade here asked us to do."
"Said you were under the weather," replied Mod, the security and concern in both his and Mumbo's voices once again made Robin wonder if he was dreaming. (No still really happening) "Told us of how that team of yours wasn't playing nice."
"Said these two here, needed to learn themselves a lesson" Mod snorting with British disgust "said they had a problem with respecting their superiors, even all use criminals see and realize Slade's place here."
This revelation shocked and surprised Robin more then anything else, although looking back on it, it shouldn't have. "So we done them right," nodded Mod, "taught them one of many lessons" Mumbo smirking as he waved his hat and turned a stage bow upon Slade, "Guess we'll be going then." Slade not having said anything addressed them now. "Thank you gentlemen, both your payments should already have arrived.
Doctor light didn't say anything, not even acknowledging 'word' of payment, just left with the rest of them. Raven her body shaking she came and took Robin away from Slade; almost hesitantly, seeming to cling to Robin as if he would be lost. A lost loved one. Offering Robin a huge hug then shuttering Raven fell back away from him, eyes terrified and locked around Slade's, "I want to go home now" her tone only adding to the mystery Robin was wondering. Watching Raven disappeared, Robin figuring to her room so she could mediate. Cyborg he too shaking, took Robin in a plea gripping hug; Robin could see sparks feel the electric current running here and there over him, Robin only able to turn and look at Slade once again a wide pleased stance radiating off of the older man. Offering what smile and reassurance he could, Robin pushed Cyborg into the hands of the two robots waiting, trotted Cyborg away and to the medical bay where Slade assured Robin that his team would be safely returned to the tower after they checked them all out.
"Not my third wish I hope," elected Robin with mild conversation. "Not unless you're claiming that as your third wish?" Robin noting the amused tone Slade had replied back in "God I must be dreaming' replied Robin shaking his head, Slade catching with amusement Robin's reason for saying such a thing…"Fear not my dear boy, things will return back to normal shortly" "besides I made sure that hardly any of this would be recalled by anyone of your team."
"I could make it all seem like a dream to you too if you would like?" The offer caught Robin half stumbling right back into Slade's outstretched arms. "Ah thanks" offered Robin, Slade handing him into the arms of one of the robots; who would take him for his steam bath, "but I really would prefer if you kept out of my head Slade, I already have too many strange things rattling around inside of it."
"I'm just going to chock this day up to another one of my many mad moments and never think of it ever again."
"Fair enough" agreed Slade, "then once your bath is done the robots will take you home, your teammates already attended to should be put back in that tower of yours soon."
Robin nodded, halting the bot with a hand "Is there really any point in asking Cyborg to try and beef up the towers security anymore?" After all, how many times had Slade simply walked right into the tower unannounced? Robin was loosing count.
Frankly replied Slade "probably not" offering a small laugh, "although" you never know, he might some day get it right." Robin too worn out to laugh nodded instead "maybe?" Slade watched as the robot walked off. Not telling Robin that once he left the steam bath and fell back to sleep that his robots had instructions to inject him with memory repressor. Programmed thanks to a few hypnotic suggestion screens, and a relaxing steam bath; all Robin would remember, would be waking up to a day turned out completely different.
Slade of course having won, he felt content in knowing that he had gained back access and insights into the tower and that Robin was alright. He moved forward on down the hallway, with his treatments and the time for Robin's birthday on the way Slade was growing ever nearer to the surprise at the end of the tunnel. Soon this would all come full circle and Slade could lie down and finally rest. Walking off Slade smiled, "till we talk again Robin' dream well and sleep soundly, I'm expecting one of your biggest fights once we meet up again.'
Robin left the medical bay walking distractedly thoughtful into the kitchen, Slade's face up on the screen actually startling him.
"Slade." looking around, "how long have you been, when did you call?"
"Just now Robin" "Not up to standards it would seem are you?" Slade actually pleased at how the drugs' memory suppresser was working, the child seemed to remember and react as if the day had happened was; that he'd remained sleeping, all day long.
"I'm sick Slade" didn't he know it, "and I just used up what little energy I did manage to build up while patching up my teammates" "no thanks to you." Robin's anger and saddening tension from worry shone through pleased Slade, Robin's lasting energy was a lot better then it had been before, his breathing much better too Slade could see and hear it even over the connection.
"Spare me the emotional anger Richard," Slade wanted to roll his eyes, but the charade needed to play itself out, "you asked they not be killed, we made a deal and I stuck to my part of it, what I choose to do to them beyond that limit was my choosing."
"You knew before hand that you would have to stand by and watch as I returned them to you in whatever condition I saw fit, so hold that tongue of yours before I grow angry…."
Robin clenching his fists and locked his jaw, that was the spirit and energy Slade liked to see in his Apprentice. Not that baby eyed mess he'd seen earlier in the day. Here was the challenge, "Thank you for not killing them Slade" the words triumph in Slade's ears on so many different levels….feeling generous he offered praise back "They passed just so you know" Beast Boy really had impressed Slade actually, so had Starfire and his success with Raven and Cyborg made Slade in a very happy mood. So why not offer Robin a bit of reward.
Slade chuckled, his Apprentices' face twitching before passing off into that of disbelieving astonishment, "Didn't have faith in them, Richard?"
"No," retorted Robin, "I just thought that you hated them too much to accept them. I never thought….." Richard's worlds falling silent
Slade remained standing on the screen watching his young revel silence himself with his own worlds. "Get some rest Robin, you and your teammates have now proven to me that a long awaited battle is high overdue between us, when next we meet Apprentice" Slade clicking off the connection, leaving Robin standing in the empty living room. So the day had been one of twists and turns, Slade leaning back in his chair. I am god he mused, how many others could have done or pulled off what he had today….Slade stood and walked off; whistling a pleased tune, Wintergreen should be arriving momentarily, guess he should go be there when the truck came in.
A/N: So there you have it, Robin's not cured, Slade's ok with leaving him alone, reason so he can continue to the final stage and treatment, while Robin gains back the respect of his teammates not to mention 'title' as 'Leader.'
Thanks to Balance in the Dark for a great "What if" request…I hope everyone else enjoys the remaining chapters of "Cat and Mouse' and I shall see you all each Saturday night over the coming weeks.
Don't forget to PM BITD and lend your comments and thoughts her way too.