Agony's Best Friend

Break These Bones

When Dick finally felt a blurry sense of alertness, four voices all started speaking at the same time. He couldn't understand them nor could he remember whose voices they were. All he could feel was the dizzying sense of his own pain that he was still subconsciously keeping from his siblings and the odd numbness in his limbs. Faintly, he let it all come back to him. All of it.

Dick! Exclaimed the now recognizable voice of Stephanie, his little sister. Are you okay?

What happened? Demanded the youngest, Damian, whose voice had a small, almost unnoticeable feeling of worry and fear.

Nothing. Dick stated easily, taking a shallow breath as he felt his ribs ache from the small motion.

It didn't look like nothing. Stated Jason's voice, obviously very unhappy with the situation.

Really, it was just an old injury that bothers me from time to time. He stated, trying to play it off easily to his sibling's horror. He didn't want them worrying, even if they were creations of his own mind as it tried desperately to remember them for who they were.

How often? Questioned Tim quietly, his voice soft with the known, yet unspoken truth.

Dick didn't reply. There was no satisfactory answer that would calm them. Honestly, the truth might even scare them as it did him. It wasn't pleasant, the pain. But he didn't want to use the pills, not if they would disorient him or blur his senses when it happened.

Dick, don't you trust us? We've seen it before in your mind and memory, but do you not trust us with the times that we don't know about? Stephanie asked, voice broken from the pain that made her big brother cry out.

He still didn't reply. He didn't want to.

Dick- Jason began, but was interrupted by a voice that wasn't in the boy's head.

"Dick, I know you are awake." The oily voice spoke. A frown etched into Dick's face as he realized that Slade was near him, watching him. He sighed and pried open his eyes to the familiar sight of Slade sitting next to his bed, hands sitting peacefully in his lap.

Dick was careful not to speak, simply listen to the manipulative monster in front of him. As well as that, he took a hold of his own mind, creating a solid wall between himself and the other Robins so they couldn't interrupt or change the subject or even reveal something simple about his or their feelings. Robin had already recognized that the elder man had been trying to figure them out. What made them tick? What made who angry? What made who afraid?

Well, Dick would not let this tactician mess with his mind.

"I see you don't want to talk." Slade spoke. His tone was neutral. It neither tried for anger or sadness. All it was was a conversation starter.

But Dick knew that if he let the conversation continue, someone in his mind was bound to get angry or upset, and he wasn't willing to get to that point. Therefore he would let Slade do all the talking. There was no need for him to do any of it.

"Well, then, I will cut to the chase." Slade stated, and Dick's cobalt eyes narrowed dangerously. "I know that your punishment did not cause that extreme attack of pain you felt earlier. I want answers. What happened and why?"

Dick rose an eyebrow tauntingly.

Don't play around with him, idiot! Damian exclaimed. He'll hurt you worse! Despite the boy's angry words toward the monster, he wouldn't say them to Slade's face. Not if Dick were hurt because of it.

It's okay. Dick stated. Just don't watch. It'll be better.

No! Jason disagreed. We won't leave you alone with this guy!

I am alone with this guy. Dick stated. He knew it was a bit harsh to say to Jason, but he didn't want any of them there to watch his pain or be manipulated by this madman. The more time spent with him, the more time that they were winded up and had their emotions tossed around.

A pang of guilt hit Dick as a small, betrayed and sad feeling slapped him. Though he had no chance to dwell on it as Slade stood, anger rising to his one eye.

"Explain now. Or is more pain necessary?" The sharp glint to his eye made Dick sure that the threat was entirely serious.

Dick . . . .

He ignored the worried tone in Stephanie's voice as Slade stood, obviously trying to make Dick feel small and as if he should tell the man why he had been in such pain. But Dick just snorted. "I don't have to explain anything to you."

Grayson! Stop! Yelled Damian, fear in his voice.

But Dick didn't stop. He had already gone much too far. Far enough to make Slade put an obvious warning into his voice. "Yes, you do. And do it now."


Too far.

With one of his gloved hands, Slade reached down and pressed his hand against one of Dick's unbroken ribs. But with a little pressure, it was no longer unbroken. Dick bit his lip, closing his eyes and letting his eyes as to accept the pain. He wouldn't cry out.

But they did.

Dick! Tim cried in horror.

It's okay. His voice, strained in even his mind, tried to reassure them. I'm-

Not okay! Yelled Stephanie. Stop it! Stop messing with him! He'll only hurt you worse!

Stephanie. Dick began, but found he couldn't continue.

You freaking-

Dick opened his eyes, working to tune out the voices in his head. He glared at Slade, breathing even more shallowly as his ribs added new fire. "You think one more bad rib is going to-to get me to talk?"

"No." Stated Slade as his eye narrowed cunningly at his forced pupil. "I expect you to sing like a bird."

Dick smirked. "I don't sing. Not for you, anyways."

This is dangerous, Dick! Stephanie warned. If she had a body, she would be shaking. Or maybe she would have intervened by then so that this situation wouldn't exist. Either way, it didn't make a difference.

His hand moved down. Another rib. Dick grunted as the fire in his chest began to spread.

Grayson! Damian's voice yelled and Dick had to remind himself that of everyone in his mind, Damian was the youngest, whether or not he seemed it. Watching Dick get tortured . . . .

Did it remind him of when Dick and he were tortured when in Scarecrow's grasp? Locking away the thought so no one could realize it crossed his mind, Dick's frown secured it's place. This couldn't go on much longer. He had to find an aggravating way to stop Slade without making it seem as if it were him stopping Slade. Of course, he also had to hide it from his alternate personalities . . . .


And here was his chance.

"You really want to know that badly, Slade?" His eyes darkened at the anger in his master's eyes. He was through playing by the manipulator's rules. "I'll tell you then. You stole damaged goods. I come with infrequent spells of pain. I could collapse any moment just because my body isn't perfect." The look in Slade's eye showed shock. It must have been the first time that the man had shown that emotion to Dick ever. "You lost, Slade." He whispered dramatically. "I'm not the apprentice you want me to be."

Slade's eye showed with anger. It was then that Dick realized that he just brought on a world of pain. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips.


The anger in Slade's eye was enough to cause Tim to go silent in Dick's mind before he could even think something in horror. Dick took a shallow breath. Look away.

Even at the authoritative tone in his voice, none of them turned away or left him alone when Slade's full anger unleashed itself upon their older brother.

. . .

Diane kept herself busy in the kitchen, humming. Her robotic hands were sturdy as she cleaned dishes, but if they had been human, they would be shaking. She knew what was going down in the bedroom.

She always knew.

And she also knew that someone had entered the tower some time ago and was just now watching her. They were waiting to knock her out so she couldn't warn Slade. Of course, she had an obligation to inform Slade, but her programing had a key loophole that she knew very well.

It never said when she had to warn her uncle.

Therefore she waited. Of course, she prayed that they really were going to knock her out, because if Slade were in a fight, she had no choice but to fight.

And fight on his side she would. So long as she was awake.

Why wouldn't they knock her out already? She was getting desperate. She could hear the grunts of the boy down the hall. No. He wasn't the boy. He was Dick Grayson. Robin. Her friend. Diane took a steadying breath and dropped the now clean knife in her hand back into the sink where she would just have to wash it again later.

Slowly, Diane turned to come face to face with a majority of the Justice League. Superman. Wonder Woman. The Green Lanterns. And in the lead-


Before anyone made a move, Diane spoke. "Knock me out."

Shock registered on all of their faces except her friend's mentor. Most of them looked at each other, eyebrows furrowed and confusion clouding their minds. She was an enemy. She was giving them the chance to take her out of the equation. They needed to do as she said!

She met the stare of the Batman as he inspected her calmly. She let him read her desperation and worry. "Knock me out." She repeated.

He didn't hesitate this time. If she weren't half-machine, she would have missed the batarang as it went flying toward the human half of her face, hitting her square in the temple. She smiled in thanks.

On her way down to the hard floor, she faintly realized that Slade would see this later on as he checked the security cameras and punish her. But she didn't care. Her friend needed her. And there was nothing that could stop her from helping him in his time of need.

She didn't know that Batman had hacked them already so that Slade would never see the tape.

As Diane fell into unconsciousness, she could feel her friend's release from his own personal nightmare.

He deserved it.

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