Robin could feel the leathery material of the couch in between his fingers as he gazed uncaringly at the coffee table. The sun shone through the window in bright streaks of warmth, landing all along the room and Robin's skin. One ray was directly in line with his eyes, but he didn't move, he didn't care enough to move… His chest rose and fell steadily with his breath and his eyes were unfocused.
Suddenly, the door opened and a man walked in. He surveyed the room, taking note of the young man sitting on the couch, leaning forward with his arms on his knees and his hands gently caressing the edges of the couch. He seemed so calm, so unnervingly at ease for someone in his situation. His jet black hair lay flat against his head, shiny from the obvious use of product. The man walked a little further into the room, moving out of the way of the door and leaving it ajar. The young man hadn't looked up since he entered the room; in fact, it almost seemed as if he hadn't noticed the older man's presence. This shocked him slightly; normally, men jumped at the sound of the door opening alone, but for him not to even acknowledge the man's presence, it was almost disrespectful.
"The Boss is waiting for you." The man's voice was musky and deep. Robin took in a breath and slowly lifted his head up. A very tall, burly man stood across the room from him, holding out his arm so as to indicate that he could enter the next room. Robin looked at him for a while, his eyes passing over every inch of the man's body, almost as if he was looking for something. They stopped at his face, at the scar that marred the left half of his jaw. The man shifted his weight, unease settling across his chest at the look that the young man was giving him. Robin saw his jaw tense slightly and rose from the couch, ready to begin.
He walked across the floor, rounding the coffee table and heading towards the door. The man approached him from behind, following him to the next room and stopping at the entryway. Robin entered the room and casually took a seat in one of the chairs at the front of the desk. A tall, slim man nodded towards his assistant who in turn shut the door, leaving the two alone in the office.
"I see that you found my office fine," the man said with his back turned away from Robin, observing some artifact on one of his shelves. Robin did not answer, but merely remained seated, staring fixedly at the desk in front of him. "I was glad to hear that we could come to some mutual agreement," the man said as he put the object back onto the shelf. His voice was very composed and smooth; he caressed each word as if it was a fine silk. "I know how difficult it can be with your boss." The man turned around to look at Robin, curiosity in his eyes; he had never seen the young man before, yet had heard so much about him.
Robin was now looking at the man with expressionless eyes, imploring him to continue. The man took a step forward and sat down in the plush chair behind the desk, folding his hands in front of him. He surveyed Robin a few moments longer, studying his face, his eyes. The man's eyes squinted slightly and Robin felt a shift in the atmosphere. "Shall we get started? I know that you and your boss are not pleased with what happened last week, and let me just assure that I was not aware that the target had been yours. Or surely I would not have taken the job." The man studied Robin, trying to find a change in his expression… to much avail. "I find that this can be easily remedied with a simple contract for the future, to make sure that nothing like this happens again." He swallowed and scratched his scalp lightly, leaving streaks on his bald head from his fingernails.
Robin observed the man, noticing him becoming paler as he put his hands back onto the desk, his thumbs fiddling with each other. "It would be most beneficial to the both of our parties if we kept an open communication system about future jobs so as to… keep….the," the man swallowed, "peace." He looked at Robin nervously, his breathing becoming shallow. He stood up abruptly and walked back to the shelf, his back once again to Robin. He picked up an object from one of the shelves and looked at it, his eyes sorrowful. In that moment, he felt a certain twinge at his heart; he could not quite place it. It was neither happy nor sad, it was almost acceptance.
"I notice that you are not wearing your mask... Highly unusual, at least from what I have heard." He stroked the object with his index finger, looking at it one more time before lifting his head up. "I have only heard of one circumstance in which you are seen without your mask." He felt a change in the air, as if it had been moved, shuffled around. He placed the object back upon the shelf, angling it so that it was facing his desk and took a deep breath, turning to face Robin. The air changed, it became tense with anticipation.
Rays of sunshine shone through the blinds just as they had in the previous room and small dust particles could be seen dancing around in them. Robin was now standing directly in front of him, having stood up whilst he had his back turned. He knew the purpose of this visit; he could tell from the moment he saw Robin enter the room. He had held out hope that maybe the matter could be settled, but deep inside he knew. He knew the true nature of the visit, which was why he had stayed so late the previous night…. He had to say goodbye, just in case. He wanted their last memory of him to be fond, before they learned the truth about him. He just hoped that they would remember the good things about him and focus on the man, not the criminal.
He looked at Robin, eyes knowing, and placed his hands forward, palms up, signaling that he was ready. The metal was shining in the sunlight, reflecting one of the beams back towards the window. It had been freshly polished, not a single fingerprint blemishing the surface. The man observed the eerie beauty of it; he couldn't explain quite what he found so beautiful about it, but he didn't care enough to try. His eyes shifted from the object in Robin's hand up to his eyes, taking note of the dead emptiness in them. He looked deep into Robin's eyes and for that one moment in time, he felt sorry for him. He drew one last breath, waiting.
Robin lifted his arm, his gaze landing on the man's face, and pulled the trigger.
Robin was lying face down on the cold, stone floor. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and onto the floor as he coughed. He could taste the iron, so bitter on his tongue, mixing with the dirty taste of the floor. He continued coughing until a foot wedged itself under his stomach and flipped him over onto his back with a swift kick. The steel on the boot felt cold against Robin's smoldering hot skin and Robin gasped in a quick and painful breath. His lungs were on fire and every time he breathed he felt a stabbing pain in his ribs. Yet, he still hadn't given up; he would continue to fight, even if it killed him.
"Tsk, tsk Robin. I expected more of a fight from you," Slade's voice drawled. Oh how Robin hated that smooth, drawling voice. Robin coughed once more and attempted to sit up. He could still feel Slade's steel toed boot pressing lightly on his skin. Noticing his feeble attempt to get up, Slade pressed his boot harder into Robin's ribs, pushing him back onto the floor and making him cough even more violently, blood oozing from the corners of his mouth. Slade squatted down and leaned closer to Robin's face, his expression dangerous.
"Next time I give you an order, you follow it!" Slade barked. He pushed his boot into Robin's ribs with the entirety of his weight one more time before standing up and putting his foot back onto the ground. One could distinctly hear a loud crack amidst Robin's howl of pain and Slade was certain that he had broken a rib this time. Robin's head was spinning, perhaps from the loss of blood, perhaps from his inability to understand why he was where he is now. All that he knew was that he had to get up and fight, he could not, would not give up.
Slade walked around Robin's small form and stopped in front of his head, his boots lightly brushing against Robin's hair. Robin felt a very powerful shiver run down his spine at the sudden sensation of cold steel against his scalp. He looked up at Slade's towering form above him, his vision blurring. Slade squatted down, his face now directly above Robin's, and gently caressed a lock of his hair. Something about the gentleness of the act scared Robin beyond all reason. Slade was not a man that caressed or was gentle in any way, and it was rather terrifying. "You aremine Robin," Slade growled and his grip began to tighten. Slade began pulling Robin into a sitting position by the clutches of his hair, forcing him to comply. Robin's hands flew to Slade's, frantically attempting to loosen his grip, but no matter how hard he pulled or scratched at Slade's hands, he could not get him to let go. Slade dragged Robin several feet by his hair before throwing him headfirst into a wall. Robin was now borderline unconscious, dizziness overwhelming him.
Slade looked down at the young boy lying on the ground below him, annoyance in his eye. The boy had barely put up a fight, far less than is to be expected from his apprentice. He was going to have to teach him a lesson, Robin had far more to learn than he had initially thought. He had gone soft after all those years with the Titans. After all that time that Slade had spent away from Jump. Apparently Robin needed Slade to challenge him, well now he would get all of the challenge that he would ever need.
Robin rolled over onto his side, taking in deep breaths, preparing to get up and fight. This did not go unnoticed by Slade as he started to circle the young boy. His will to keep going is what initially attracted him to Robin; it is what made him want him as an apprentice in the first place. There were many things that he admired in the boy, many things that reminded him of himself; they were after all, so alike.
Robin squeezed his eyes shut and rolled onto his hands and knees, continuing to take in sharp breaths. He could hear Slade's boots thudding as he circled him and knew that Slade could easily kick him back to the ground at any moment. His entire body ached, his lungs burned, his head spun, and blood poured from an open wound in his head, but he didn't care. He had to fight, because if he didn't, that would mean accepting that he was Slade's apprentice, and he would never let that happen. He opened his eyes, took in another breath, and stood up, albeit shakily. Slade stopped right in front of him and stood still, beckoning for Robin to throw a punch. The entirety of his demeanor was mocking and he knew that that would rub Robin in just the right way.
Robin felt the rage build up inside of him, every inch of his body hated this man, every fiber of his being loathed his existence. As rage started to consume him, the edges of his vision began to blacken, his peripherals no longer functional. Robin threw a punch, despite his failing vision, which Slade easily blocked. He stumbled back and fell to his knees, his legs giving in and his body shaking. The darkness started to close in, engulfing Robin's vision until he could no longer see at all.
In just one moment, the man was gone, never to return, when just a few seconds ago he was living and breathing. How fragile life can be, one second here and the next gone. How easily life can be taken, stolen from a person and without a moment's thought. At least for some…
Robin lowered his arm and looked down at the man slumped upon the floor, lifeless, covered in blood. The clash of rushing feet sounded behind Robin and the door behind him suddenly slammed open. The now dead man's assistant was standing in the doorway, shock flowing through his body in waves. Before he could even reach for his holster, Robin lifted his arm behind him and with a slight turn of his head shot the man square in the face. The man collapsed to the ground, blood flowing steadily from the gunshot wound in his head and pooling onto the floor.
Robin hadn't even blinked, in fact he had barely moved at all. He slowly turned his head back towards the desk, placing his gun back into his thigh holster, and walked to the filing cabinet. He stopped for just a moment, looking at the small frame pointing towards the desk. The man, now dead on the floor near his desk, was pictured with his two daughters. Robin's eyes lingered on the blood spattered frame for just one more second before he continued towards the filing cabinet as if he had never stopped.
Outside, two shots could be heard echoing through the small, suburban neighborhood. It would be only a matter of time before the police were alerted and on their way. Yet, even with the travesty going on inside the small dental office, daily life went on. Birds were chirping, the occasional car drove down the street, and the trees rustled in the wind. You see, no matter what happens… no matter how horrible it may be, life still moves on. People still move on. Nobody truly cares, so long as it doesn't affect them. And even then, they get over it eventually. At least that is what Robin has come to learn in the past two years: that nobody cares.