Mens rea

Waiting for the inevitable

Robin burst into his room, with one shift jerk the black cape flew off his shoulders falling like a battered, defeated flag onto the soft floor. Kicking off his steel boots, he knew that he had little time before the Titans came rushing back for a major explanation. Wiggling out of the tight pants and top, Robin threw them down onto the cape creating a small pile. Slipping on the sweats, he stepped before two wooden doors. Silence filled the air before the doors were ripped opened, crashing into the wall. The metal rod barely had any time to stop vibrating from the shock waves before Robin grabbed three colorful uniforms and sent them flying over his shoulder, landing them right onto the pile.

This was insane. Yet, as Robin grabbed onto the next victims, he knew that it was necessary. It only took three seconds to leave behind an empty closet, all its' precious contents spilled out onto the floor. Except, like in life, there was an exception. In the back, there hanged a black and orange uniform with a torn hole above the heart where a metal S should be.

Slade settled next to him, peering into the closet. "I'll shut up and leave you alone if you put that on." He was getting a bit tired in coaxing Robin. The whole incident was a perfect situation in pushing Robin back to the darkness. Yet, nothing had worked. He still wanted the boy to do it willingly, not wanting to resort to beatings to emphasize his point. Not only would physical force shove the boy into another role he did not want, but it would shatter the shaky trust that the two had for each other.

The ghost turned his back slightly to the boy and massaged his forehead. This was getting too much.

Robin reached inside and grabbed the black and orange uniform. "I may not be Robin anymore but I'm going forward not backwards." With a snap of his wrist, he threw the piece of clothing into the trash can.

Slade hissed quietly behind his mask, his eye zeroing in on the uniform. Shivering, he turned to eye the mess on the floor. "A bit disrespectful, don't you think?" He wasn't only referring to the Robin uniforms as those words left his mouth.

"It is but only to you and Batman. Those colors were my parents at the circus. I'm dishonoring their name but I think…they'd want me to do this, to finally let go."

"You're murdering them in short."

Grief and self-loathing stabbed at his heart but it was no longer as drowning as it used to be in the past. "I've already murdered them once, now I'm just burying them…and letting them rest in peace finally."

Walking away from the closet, Robin kneeled in front of the box and began toss the prison uniforms into the pile. "Wonder why she sent them?"

"Well there is that letter," Slade paused. "Can I ask you a question?" Humiliation bubbled in him. This was degrading but if it helped in making Robin fear him less than it was worth it, he supposed.

Robin paused as he pulled out the solid green uniform. His eyebrow rose up as he glanced slowly at Slade, "This is strange, you asking. But ask away."

Slade bit the inside of cheek before continuing, "Why did you apologize to the crowd? You were able to ignore your discomfort to capture the criminal and save your friends. You also were able to fight with everything I've taught you and learned from experience at the prison. The apology seemed-"

"Spur of the moment? It was." Robin lowered his head, staring deeply into the green, "When the crowd appeared, I realized that it wasn't just the Titans that saw the old me. Yet unlike them, the city doesn't know what happened and I felt that before I leave again I would apologize for everything."

"Leave?"

Robin nodded, pulling out the cloth, "I'm still not used to life outside and staying here is just putting on more pressure. So, I figured why not go somewhere where I can be me, Richard, and not Robin."

"Gotham," stated Slade bluntly.

"Bingo-" Robin's voice trailed off. Reaching back into the box, he tenderly lifted out a black uniform with a striking blue V on the chest. "She didn't…"

"Ah, the one uniform you felt…"

"Powerful in…" Robin couldn't believe. Rising off of the floor, he held it out slightly eyeing every crevice, crease and paint flake. He thought it would be gone forever when he had woken up on the jungle prison.

"Throw it away."

"What? No!"

"Please, that uniform is from the prison. You didn't even have a say in how it was created."

"I did to!"

"Don't be delusional."

Dropping the piece of clothing over his chair, he stalked over to the man. Face to face, he stabbed a finger into the Slade's chest, feeling pride swell in him. "I picked the color and painted the sides!"

"Wow, what a lot."

The ghost was bringing up a valid point in why out of all the uniforms, the black and blue was so special. Even Robin didn't know what attracted him to it. It just-

"Called to you?" sneered Slade.

"Yes," growled back Robin. "I have fond memories in that uniform: finding my center and let's not forget that little incident of beating up Katarou."

But Slade didn't answer him. Robin frowned and was about to continue when he heard a soft cough. Turning, his cheeks began to flush red as his eyes locked onto four familiar people.

Cyborg lowered his hand from his mouth, "So…who you talking to?"

Beastboy leaned a bit forward, "And what does Katarou have to do with this?"

Robin gulped, "N-nothing. How m-much did you guys hear?"

Starfire stepped into the room, halting in front of the pile of uniforms. Raven sighed and floated into the doorway, "You were saying that you picked the colors of that uniform." To emphasize her point, she pointed over at the draped black and blue piece of cloth.

"Oh." Robin reached up and began to scratch his head. He should have mind-talked with Slade, but he figured it was safe in his room to do it out loud.

"So," drawled out Cyborg.

"Right!" Robin tucked his hands behind his back to hide the fact that his fingers were playing with each other. "I was talking to an old friend from Gotham."

"Really?" The cold look from the older boy almost made Robin fidget. Almost.

Beastboy waved his hand, "And Katarou?"

"I was just reminiscing with my friend about the fight I had with him." Robin scanned the group of judges and knew that they weren't buying his story. Sighing, he sagged his shoulders. He walked over to his desk, spotting a tape recorder. "Fine, you guys caught me. I was talking to myself." Grabbing the tape recorder, he pressed the stop button, "I thought that I would do a little audio diary when I came back to help deal with what I went through. I was just talking about my uniforms, actually."

Raven raised her eyebrow, "You were not talking about the one over your chair?"

"No," stated Robin in a tone that suggested that the very idea was crazy, "I'm talking about my Robin ones."

Starfire bent down and held up the tattered Robin uniform he had on before entering the prison, "Then why are all the Robin uniforms on the floor?"

"Spring cleaning," smiled Robin.

"The cleaning of spring? But your room is not clean and it is not even spring," continued Star with those innocent green eyes focusing on him.

Raven hammered home, "Where did you get the new uniform then?"

Robin reached out and grabbed the uniform, "This old thing? It was hidden in my closet. Prototype, actually."

He bounded the clothing into a ball. "See no biggie."

On the Titans' faces disbelief was spelled out clearly. Cyborg's lips thinned, "You don't want to tell us fine. But we're having a conference in ten minutes on how you want restate your presence in Jump. The citizens were pretty baffled by your apology and truth be told, so where we."

"I guessed as much," muttered Robin.

Starfire ran her hand over the uniforms once more before rejoining the others in the doorway.

"See you in ten," Raven mentioned once more quietly.

"We'll leave you with your spring cleaning," added on Beastboy in a rather sharp tone that made Robin widen his eyes in suprise.

With that said the four Titans turned and left, closing the door behind them. Robin sighed in relief.

Slade couldn't help but chuckle, "Nice thinking with the lie."

"But they didn't buy it," shot back Robin, keeping his lips tightly sealed.

"Guess we'll need to work on that." Slade watched as Robin walked up to the closet, pulling down a small duffel bag from the shelf.

Placing the bag on the desk, Robin tossed in the blue and black uniform. Following shortly after was a utility belt, wallet, toothbrush, toothpaste, some extra clothes, socks and underwear. Zipping up, he lifted it slightly and grinned to find that it was nice and light, perfect for motorcycle travelling. Turning, he redressed himself in jeans, a black shirt and a cheap leather jacket. Tying on his boots, he eyed the costume pile. "What should I do with them?"

Slade shrugged, "Toss them in the trash can?"

"Very funny."

Not knowing what to do know, Robin shot a glance at the clock. Eight more minutes till the meeting he knew that he couldn't exactly flee from. He owned his friends some semblance of truth. They needed that for what they had to go through to find him.

A small smile graced his lips. From what he heard from Raven, they had never stopped looking for him despite having to finish off Daizo and joining up with Slade still left him a bit dazed. "But what did they do in exchange?"

Not wanting to think on that dark subject, Robin hopped onto his desk, swinging his legs lightly over the edge. Picking up the envelope, he opened it and pulled out a crisp letter, the black typewriter letters halting any hopes of tracing the writer's style.

Hello again Robin,

You are probably surprised by this unsuspected package and its contents. The simple truth is that we have no need for such clothing and figured out of anyone, you would benefit from them the most. Surly, those memories of your time in them have not faded just yet.


Maura paused in typing, eyes flickering over to the open box where the uniforms were neatly folded in.

But our time together has hopefully made you think about underlying tones. Why would she send these? Why, indeed is the greatest question of all. One can say that it is my guilt in drugging you. But it was the only way to safely transport you to the outside. I had received word that your friends were close and decided that despite your rarity and significance owning you was becoming a bit too troublesome and costly.

You are not that special, dear boy. You lost that value when we found the dust within you.

Leaning back, Maura could almost picture the snarl that would resonant from the boy's throat. To go through the torture and breaking and find out that all was for naught would damage any remaining pride in him. Yet that motherly side of her that she was trying to silence told her it was for a different reason: tough love. Digging two fingernails into her thumb, Maura refocused her attention on the letter. She didn't have a lot of time to deal with emotional baggage.

To be brief, just remember what you swore before we parted ways. The dust is both your worst enemy and your best ally as well as other people out there in the world.

And do try and stay out of trouble. I hate to see you back in my prison.

Maura sighed as she pulled out the letter. Folding it up, she placed it in the envelope. The whole confession of Robin changing her was a once in a lifetime revelation. If he didn't hear it the first time too bad. The time for games and acts was over. It was time to get serious.

Sealing the box, Maura took one look around her room. Bending down, she pulled out the picture of her and her mom. Maybe she could ask Robin to…no, the temptation would be too great and he would do research on her. Sliding the picture into the chest pocket underneath the jacket, Maura patted it once before picking up the box.

The walk down to the exit was quiet. All the prisoners were asleep except for the few who found the blissful state of mind hard to obtain. Reaching the corridor, she spotted Carl doing a finishing inspection on the small boat. The guard with Ben, Egyed and Fumio had arrived a few hours ago back from the small jungle prison known as "Green Pastures" a few miles away.

"Boss," Carl gave a brief nod. "All set."

"Thank you, Carl. Can you mail this off for me priority mail?" Maura handed the guard the box.

"Sure thing."

"And Carl…"

The large guard tucked the box under his arm. His forehead furrowed at the dark tone from his superior officer. "Yeah?" he asked hesitantly

Maura unpinned a small star from her uniform. Reaching out, she attached to his jacket. "You're in charge now."

Carl felt blood drain his face, "W-what?"

"It was either you or Ben who have the capacity to run a fully operational prison," answered Maura, "And well, Ben doesn't talk at all anymore."

"I don't know what…to say." Carl couldn't help but glance down at the star and run a finger over it. "Thanks, I guess."

Maura smiled tightly, "Welcome." Tugging herself from the vicelike grip of dread, Maura stepped onto the boat. Sitting down, she fired up the engine and began her trip to the other prison.

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