Mens rea

Catharsis

Maura and Egyed left Robin alone in her room to talk quietly out in the hall. Keeping the door slightly open to keep an eye on the boy, Maura shook her head. "All is out in the open, Egyed."

"Well there is still the mutation issue to answer," sighed the doctor. "I looked at the samples more closely and so far Slade's meddling is the only viable reason, If he did any. But I can't find proof."

"The proof rests in Robin's mind," replied Maura. "Either way, I have a new leash on him."

The questioning look from Egyed made Maura smirk. "You saw how desperate he was when he asked if you could stop the dust."

"Yes," strained the doctor quietly, not quite seeing her point.

"Robin doesn't want to go down that road again. We provided a cure, but it won't get rid of the permanent dust..."

Egyed remembered his words, enlightenment dawning on his face. "Our expertise will tie Robin to us."

"Exactly," nodded Maura abruptly.

"But," drumming his fingers on his chin, Egyed paused, "How will Slade react? I mean the fake one of course. If he can still harm Robin, he might kill him or something for he probably heard everything we just said."

Maura narrowed her eyes at the doctor, "I thought you were an optimist. Look, I'll deal with 'Slade'."

"How?"

Swallowing, the boss opened her door wider. "By winning the boy's trust, of course." Closing the door behind her, Maura rested her eyes on the sleeping boy. "Mother routine take two."


All Robin felt was the pain and drowning sea of sweat and nightmares. The withdrawal sent bright flashes of pain and colors throughout his mind. Sometimes the colors would merge and form images of past friends and enemies: all withering in pain because he failed them. When he thought he couldn't bear the glares from those closest to him, a small ice-cold touch parted the seas.

The calculating, gray eyes of Maura fell upon his face as her rough hands wiped a cold towel on his forehead. Robin's mind clutched to those small movements. They became his anchor to reality. Her words would be quiet songs sang in what he might have guessed was Italian, but it didn't matter. They made him relax and gave his weary mind a much needed rest. When she was done, Robin would find himself moaning as she pulled away and he was swept away back into the sea.

The only other time the sea would part was when red-hot pokers stabbed at his temples, burning away his existence. When the heat died, Slade would be staring down at him, standing like a statue next to the bed. Instead of administrating the cooling towel, Slade would press his hand down on the boy's chest or stomach making the boy scream as the fading bruises bloomed back to life. And his words were the same dark purr laced with an impatient tone, telling him to get better fast so that the plan could begin.

And thus this was Robin's existence. Sometimes, he found himself dressed in his old uniform but the moment he thought of doing something, the colors burned him and he found himself reliving the memories of the prison. Soon, in the nightmares, he found himself trembling in fear before his uniform, seeking a twisted comfort within the confines of a dark box. And trapped behind four walls, Robin knew that he could never go back, that his life as a hero was a dream amongst the nightmares. Even if he did escape, he had no where to go, no reason not to answer their questions except his pride still injected him with a stubborn will to say no.

Lacking in sleep, plagued by nightmares and his body aching from the black hole of the withdrawal, Robin felt the tide draw back. Feeling his chance to escape was now, Robin began to swim towards the shore, hoping to make landfall before the sea reclaimed him.

Maura sat at her desk, writing a report on the day's events. A whimper from her bed drew away her attention away from the screen. Robin had been in and out of for the past few days. The boy had been stripped of his tunic, leaving only the thin blanket to keep him warm. Shivering, the boy's feet lashed out, kicking down the blanket.

Robin began to mutter as he started to toss and turn. Maura frowned and quickly got up and placed the trash can underneath Robin's head just as the boy jerked up and vomited over the side into the metal canister.

Coughing, blurry eyes took in the contents for a couple minute as reality seeped in. Finally, they pushed themselves upwards into her frowning face. "Sorry," hacked a dry voice.

"Yes, well this isn't the first and last time, so stop apologizing," responded Maura.

Robin wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, "Everything's a blur…how long?"

Maura rose up and walked over to the microwave, punching a button, "Does it matter? You need to gain your strength and get over the withdrawal." The microwave beeped and the woman popped the door open, pulling out a small bowl. "I want you to try and eat this."

Robin scooted back till his back pressed up against the cold wall. His vision faded to black and another wave of nausea swept through him. Coughing, he shook his head and found himself staring at a warm bowl of broth, which Maura held before him. Blinking, the pale shivering boy took a moment to stare into the tan liquid that was speckled with tiny pieces of what seemed to be carrots and celery. Taking in a deep breath, he couldn't help but lick his lips as the familiar scent of chicken warmed his body.

Maura found herself chuckling, as she picked up a spoon, "You're in for a treat, Robin. It is very rare that we can afford this type of food." Dipping the spoon in the broth, she leaned forward and brought the steaming spoon to the boy's mouth. "Now come on and at least take a few sips before it gets cold."

Robin frowned, "Not like this. I'm not a baby."

"Would you rather spill the broth onto yourself?" Cool gray eyes flickered down at Robin's shaking hands. Robin followed her gaze and when the sight greeted him, he tried to will the hands to stop but they ignored him.

"Fine," muttered Robin as he locked his blue eyes on her desk. Opening his mouth, Robin felt the spoon touch his lips and blissful broth trickled down his throat. Closing his eyes, Robin submerged himself in the warm, soothing feeling. Licking his lips, he watched through slits as Maura continued to spoon-fed him, the embarrassment corroding away as his stomach seemed to finally settle. If he had learned anything so far of value, it was that pride was going to be his downfall, thus he had to learn to let go of it from time to time.

The Boy Wonder continued to sip from the spoon, his mind falling into a carefree zone. Yet the peace did not last long when his parted lips were not greeted by the course feeling of the spoon. Blinking his gaze held an unspoken question at Maura.

Maura sent him a small smirk, "Half the bowl is gone. I think that should be enough for today, wouldn't want to upset your stomach."

As if on cue, his stomach twisted and Robin lurched forward in time to prevent a mess. Pulling back, Robin sighed.

"Exactly," quipped the woman. The matter-of-fact tone spurred Robin's pride to roar its' ugly head.

Fatigue began to cut away the rope leash, grinning as his pride barked through cracked lips."Shut up."

Before he could continue, a whip-like slap knocked away his breath and the pains and aches from the withdrawal, leaving behind supernovas blasting before his eyes. Shifting back, Robin touched the pulsing red cheek and ignored the small tears of pain that made his skin moist. The woman before him lowered her hand, a glacier anger carving her features into marble. In the haziness of time, Robin had grown use to Maura's tender touches but now he was fully reminded who she truly was: the Boss to a prison that rivaled Arkham.

A growing part that had been savagely taught to back down to such a stare by both Slades and the personnel here forced Robin to shrink back further into the sheets. But even the harsh beatings could do noting as his pride broke free of it's leash, the withdrawal symptoms biting at its' heels.

"What was that for?" snapped Robin.

"For being rude, didn't your mother teach you any manners?"

The nausea, shivering and tiredness from the withdrawal washed away any logic, letting words burst free from his mouth without restraint. "Don't even speak about my mom!"

"Ro-"

"No!" The boy was determined to have their conversation be one-way. "You have no right to talk about my mom. She was a wonderful woman. They both were!"

Maura leaned forward and locked eyes with the raging boy in front of her. The strain was evident on his sweating face, where the dark hair was plastered to his forehead blue eyes dialated in a turmoil of emotions. The small chest continued to heave and the tapping of his cast fingers drummed against the sheets.

"It was merely an expression," replied the woman.

"I don't care! I won't let you ruin them too! Their memories are all I have left and I'll protect them. I won't fail, not again!" Lunging forward, he swiped at her face. Maura was caught off-guard by the fast move. Raising her hand, she dabbed her cheek discovering that her fingertips were stained red.

Seeing the scratch on her face, Robin felt something in him stir. Curling up to strike again, he clawed out but Maura was ready and grabbed both wrists, pushing his arms to the side, locking them.

Kicking, Robin continued to rant. "Let go! You've taken everything from me, my uniform…I can't even dream about it anymore without reliving those days." Spitting at her, his blue eyes blazed in unrestrained glory. "I hate you! I hate everything about this place! I hate what you're doing to me!"

Maura struggled to keep the boy's arms locked while trying to avoid the feet that kicked behind her. "Why?"

"Because you're making me remember!"

"Remember what?"

"Everything, just everything!" screamed Robin. Something chocked up the boy's throat and the anger rushed out of the boy in broken sobs. The struggle ceased and Maura saw a fatigue too great for the teenage boy sag the young shoulders down.

"You make me remember that I fail in everything I touch and say. Nothing I do is good enough…" A sob racked the boy's chest and new tears sprang up to dose the fire in the boy's eyes. "I've failed too many times…that's why I can't answer your stupid questions! Don't you understand I'm not hero! I can't stop the villains, I can't rescue innocent souls…I'm not special!"

Collapsing Robin coughed, spit dripping onto the blanket, mingling now with the tear stains. Maura released her grip on Robin's arms. "Robin…"

But the boy didn't hear her, he continued onwards in his confession lost in his world of pain and guilt. "Slade…he blackmailed me…I was a criminal…Red X…created him…The Titans think I did it for them, but I loved being on the other side…the adrenaline was addictive." A gulp of air, "Psycho Tech, he was just made me mad…people thought I was losing my mind. That it was the dust again and I had to prove them wrong. So I killed…I killed him."

"And that is how a hero falls," whispered Maura.

"Terra, she was me and I couldn't save her. I couldn't save none of the Titans with the Brotherhood of Evil…it's always a close call with the Titans…so many close calls…if I lose them…" Robin paused as if fearing of following that train of thought, "All the secrets I have to keep from them. They trust me entirely, but it's one way…" Shivering, Robin curled in on himself, pulling himself around Maura. "I can't lose them, not again…"

Maura pulled the boy upwards and tilted his face to look up at her. "Mens rae."

The Latin words seemed to pull Robin a little out of his guilt, "What?" he croaked.

"A guilty mind." Maura soaked in the frowning face of the boy in front of her. "It was easy to see that you are the type of person who tends to lock away the guilt that accompanies any action, specifically the guilt of actions you know were wrong."

"Easy?" Robin whispered.

"The short temper, the ferocity behind your actions and," tapping a finger lightly on his forehead, Maura smiled, "the severeness of your withdrawal are the results of burying your guilt."

"Huh?"

"If left unattended, guilt builds up and manifests itself physically. You have to confront your guilt…all of it."

"Nooo," moaned Robin as he began struggle weakly.

But Maura knew that this was the time for the answer she sought for would reveal itself. Robin was a mess in both body and mind. The mere fact that he had confessed himself this much meant that he was ripe for the taking. "Robin, why are you hero? Is it because of some guilt? A guilt that is ten times worse than your betrayal with Slade?"

"Stop it!"

Maura slide her hands down and gripped the boy's shoulders. Her voice continued to push the boy further down his personal hell with the precise shooting of an assassin. "It is guilt isn't? Guilt defines you, I know it does. Guilt is the line, the switch that makes you either become a hero or a villain."

"Shut up! Let me go!" The struggling continued but Maura kept her eyes on the blue eyes that darted everywhere except on her own face.

"I've been to Gotham, Robin. I know how people live there in fear…I know the rumors of the Batman. I know your guilt with Slade did not push you to be a hero. Something happened, something that made you channel your guilt into becoming a hero, the sidekick to Batman. What happened?"

"No!" Desperation tore out of the boy's throat in indiscernible sounds.

Maura pushed onwards, her mind racing on any information her research into Robin's history had revealed to Fumio's little lessons into psychology. "Robin, what happened to your mother?"

A cry burst forth and Robin hung his head downwards in defeat. Maura felt a twist in her gut and forced the bile that came from new revelation down. "Your mother…"

She barely heard the weak protest. "Your Mom…"

"Dad…Mom…"

Maura leaned her head down to pick up the small voice. "What happened to your parents?"

"No, please, no."

"Parents, Robin. What happened?"

"Leave me alone…" Pause. Nothing but restrained sobs.

"…Robin…"

A whimper and a small tug.

"What happened?" Anger was boiling in her. She was so close and the boy was still avoiding her questions.

"They-no, I-"

"Robin."

A whimper was her response. Curling her lip, Maura dug her fingers into his small shoulders earning a yelp of pain. "Robin."

"Stop, I-"

"I'll stop when you tell me."

"No."

"Robin."

"No." Robin hide his face deeper into the shadows and raven locks.

"Robin." Maura could no longer hold back and yelled into his ear. "Robin!"

"I killed them!" screamed Robin back, pure pain etching each syllable.

The three words hung in the air freezing the two occupants on the bed. Maura's hands released their death grip on the sobbing boy causing him to collapse against her chest. The gray eyes were wide with shock. For the first time since she arrived in the prison, Maura felt sick and wanted to rewind time so she didn't have to hear those words come forth from another child's mouth.

Gathering the weeping child in her arms, Maura held the boy close to her chest and began to rock him back and forth. Her maternal side pushed her out of her shock and all she knew was that shad had to comfort the hero. "That's it, Robin. Just let it all out, let it all go."

Robin didn't respond with words, only clutched hard to Maura and pressed himself deep into her embrace crying out all the guilt he kept under lock and key since he took up the mantle of Robin the Boy Wonder.

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