Agony's Best Friend

Bleeding Hands Around My Neck

When Dr. Leslie Thompkins was woken in the middle of the night-no, actually, two in the morning, she was not happy. She was irritated and somewhat hostile from lack of sleep, but she tried to rub the tiredness out of her eyes and picked up her phone. She hoped her voice came out neutral when her voice could be heard. "Doctor Thompkins."

"Leslie," A very familiar voice exclaimed, sounding very distraught, "it's Dick."

Immediately, she was out of bed, hurriedly digging through drawers for clothes and other essentials. Her lips moved at the speed of light, not letting her emotions come into play. She couldn't let her emotions take hold in her job otherwise she would lose a patient and be ruined by it, possibly for the rest of her life. "What's the damage?"

"Alfred isn't sure. It's too extensive to just poke around." Her breath caught for just a moment before she freed it, listening to the voice on the other end of the phone. "Leslie, we might just lose him this time."

At those words, her heart was dragged back in. Darn it, Bruce! She just couldn't escape her own pained emotions as she tried desperately to get a reign on them. She was a doctor. As a doctor, she had to be able to keep her mind clear of all emotion so that she could do her best. She gritted her teeth.

"Leslie?" His voice was hard, yet still soft when it came back over the intercom, obviously expecting her to say something after her silence.

"I'm on my way." Those were the only words she could find to say. Quickly, she hung up and tossed the phone away, rushing to get dressed.

She was too emotionally involved.

Everyone was.

. . .

The Titans were all quiet. At the moment, they were the only ones sitting around his bed in the dark room. The curtains were drawn, making the room seem eerily dark. The lamp next to his large mahogany bed, barely lighting the room. The room's walls were painted a dark crimson, like blood. The team couldn't take in anything else as their eyes were trained to the figure on the bed.

His face was as white as the sheets underneath the large, dark red blankets and nearly the color of the small, necessary bandages on his face. The blankets had been pulled around him when he had first arrived, shivering and chilled. Pillows had been added to cushion his head as well. The boy had been barely touched, obviously awaiting the touch of one experienced enough to treat him.

His teammates gazed at him almost as if they were in a trace. Each were in their own worlds, horrified and quietly relived, though that was slowly disappearing as they took in his disturbing state.

Finally, after the silence seemed like it was too much, Cyborg's voice lowly rang out. "This should have never happened."

Raven, shaken though obviously trying to control it, closed her eyes, fists clenched tightly. She worked to pull herself under control as not to break anything. "No, it shouldn't have."

Beast Boy somehow found himself collapsing at the side of the bed, hands resting next to his leader's head. He wanted to touch him so much but at the same time he couldn't risk hurting him more. His shoulders shook with silent sobs. He couldn't loose another family. He just couldn't do it! He didn't want to loose one more person! He just-He just couldn't handle it!

Starfire's teary emerald eyes were pained as they locked on him, fighting the raging emotions within herself. "F-Friends, we cannot . . . . We can't focus on the past." Her voice came out a whisper as she tried to force her mind into a happier state. "We-We-I . . . . He's back. We have him back now."

Raven's heart felt pained, but at the soft-spoken words, her dark eyes drifted up to the other alien girl. She chose to believe that she couldn't feel emotion and she would deny it if anyone brought it up, but she felt a small glimmer of . . . hope?

It made the moment just a little bit more bearable. Not much, but something was better than nothing.

However, Beast Boy's shoulders only shook harder and Cyborg tensed to the point where one would think that he couldn't be breathing anymore.

Cyborg swallowed, eye harsh and pained. There was worry there that no one could quite recognize. It was the worry of a friend and more. A brother? Family? That of a student? No one really could place it, but it burned them almost as if it were a real flame licking at their limbs. "This shouldn't have happened." He repeated, voice slowly growing from apathy to a dangerously emotional exclamation. "This shouldn't have happened. I shouldn't have let this happen! It's all my fault. I shouldn't have left him. I should have taken out the probes before we left so that he wouldn't have had to go. I shouldn't have let this happen!"

Starfire stared at him, voice trembling slightly. "Cyborg, you coul-could not have-"

"Darn it!" He yelled, not caring that anyone on that floor and probably every person in the house could probably hear him. "I played leader! I called the shots! I should have helped him! I should have saved him!"

After that, his shoulders slumped in defeat, metal hands shaking after all his suppressed emotions finally released themselves. He looked so completely defeated and lost that it was hard to see him as the fun-loving prankster, best friend to Beast Boy, and somewhat calm, clearheaded teen they knew.

He was broken.

They all were.

"You did your best, Cyborg." Raven murmured, her voice struggling to remain detached at such a crucial moment. "We all did." She paused, swallowing almost nervously. "We can't-We can't blame ourselves. We're only going to drive ourselves crazy. We need to focus on the future. Cy-Victor, you did a good job as a leader. You lead us as well as possible in the situation. We all did our best and-and now he's here." Her eyes sparkled with suppressed pain as she looked down at him. "We're all back together. We can be Titans again." The last whispered sentence, though, she knew was wrong.

It was a lie. How could they be the Teen Titans again? They couldn't pretend this never happened or sweep it under the rug and continue with their lives from before the incident. They may have been a team, but that didn't mean they couldn't break up-separate.

What if it was never the same again?

Raven's breath hitched and she could just feel her magic struggling to break free from her and shatter the dim lamp at his side or break the door down and listen to the rough sound of it hitting the floor.

Thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, her small drop in composure was covered up by the loud sobs that suddenly ripped through Beast Boy. He buried his face in his arms, still on his knees at Robin-Dick's side.

The entire team watched in petrified sadness as he tried to control himself and slowly turned his head to the side so that his big, sad eyes, puffy and abnormally colored, could see them all. His voice was quiet and scratchy when he finally spoke. "I just-We can't loose . . . . I can't loose another family."

At that quiet admission, each of their hearts broke and pain filled them. No one knew how to respond. After all, how would one respond? This was why they needed him! The leader! The brother! The guardian! He always knew what to say.

Even when it was wrong, he helped them.

Why couldn't he just-

Raven gasped as her eyes locked on Robin. She didn't need to say anything. Each of the other Titans gathered around his bed at the sound of a quiet gasp and the eyes slowly beginning to open.

They shouldn't have gotten so close.

. . .

Fuzzy. Everything was so fuzzy. Robin couldn't put his finger on it, but he didn't feel right. He was in pain and his head hurt! He wanted Batman and Nightwing. Or even Batgirl. Any friendly face would've been welcome.

Robin rubbed his forehead, sweat making his black gloves slide uncomfortably across his skin. His eyesight was blurry, too, though he could still read street signs (or at least he could ten minutes before) and make out shapes like his red-clad legs. However, he realized that he could no longer judge distances (something he wished he had realized before he had found out before he had used his grappling gun).

He sighed, leaning against the side of the building, out of breath. His head was light, his eyesight fuzzy, his hearing was wrong, his chest burned, his wrists ached, his legs felt weird, and the feel of the wind against his own blood marring his costume made him shiver violently despite how much it seemed to hurt. He gritted his teeth against it, though.

He knew that he had to keep going or at least get to a safe stopping point. That's what Dick and Jason would do! Though he could feel faint hums in the back of his mind, he could feel nothing else. He forced himself to keep pushing, though, telling himself that he could make it.

Every word was a lie.

He sighed, an aching hand tightening over the broken, bloodstained communicator in his hand. He didn't know why he didn't let it go, but it kept him going. He couldn't call for help, but he was determined to get where he needed to go.

Please, he begged silently, please let someone be out there! I can't do this much longer! His tired mind seemed to beg, pride lost and replaced with pitiful whispers of longing, want, and desperation. The boy couldn't seem to force to the voices in his head to be quiet, but he tried to resist them, overlaying them with something comforting.

Thankfully, it was then that he saw the dark figure in front of him. The man-it was obviously a man-was dressed in black and seemed to embody the shadows all around him. As he moved, it almost looked like the shadows clung to him like a cape and there were two points atop his head that made Robin think of a partially made crown.

His foggy mind caught on quickly.

Batman was here!

"Ba-Batman!" He exclaimed, relief in his wavering voice as he pushed off the wall and stumbled toward the man, desperate for help. "Bats!"

"Robin." The cold acknowledgement should have immediately alarmed the boy, but over the ringing in his ears, he appeared to not notice the abnormality of the greeting. He wasn't put off at all from approaching his mentor on shaky legs.

"Bats, we've got a problem." He spoke shakily, his voice wavering from pain that he refused to give in to. The older man did not respond so he continued. "It's the Riddler. He's out of Arkham early. I didn't expect him or his goons. They caught me by surprise, but I overheard what they were planning."

Batman just looked at him, staring coldly.

Though Robin couldn't see clearly and couldn't be sure of that fact, every hair on the back of his neck went up. He considered snapping his fingers in front of the man's face, but decided that that might not be a good idea. "Batman. Are you alright-"

His hand that had slowly risen toward his mentor was suddenly grasped roughly at the wrist, quickly being yanked to the side just wrong so that a loud snapping noise met Robin's wrist. Out of shock and pain, he let out a small cry. Before he knew it, he was on the ground, Batman above him.

"Batman," He gasped, "what are you doing?"

His mentor grinned then, a look of pure evil and insanity upon his lips. He leaned forward, placing two gloved hands on his throat. Robin's heart pounded as pressure was slowly applied, cutting off his wind pipe. He gasped, eyes screwed shut against the sight of the grin that didn't belong on Batman's face. Ever.

"Bat-Bats . . . ." He choked, struggling for air as a short, sharp laugh cut through the smoggy, dark air of the huge city. Shaking, he forced himself to remember Bruce's-not the Batman's-Bruce's smile and his deep, hearty chuckle. It didn't sound like this joyful, yearning laugh that sang of pain and future misery for all those who heard it.

Taking his last breath of air, he just managed to choke out. "You . . . aren't . . . Ba . . . t . . . man . . . ."

The man's laugh was the last thing he heard, though his breath and his finger's around Robin's throat were the last things he felt before blissful darkness took him away.

. . .

"He's waking up!" Beast Boy exclaimed, leaning forward from his place standing over their sleeping leader. His happiness and desperation seemed to keep him from noticing the tremor in the elder boy's hands. He was too happy, too glad for his family to be coming back together to see something quite so horrifying and scary yet.

"Robin? Can you hear me?" Starfire spoke hesitantly from his other side, obviously hoping for a reaction.

"Dick?" Raven chimed in, trying to get his eyes to open as well.

Cyborg's hand went to reach for his leg, though he quickly pulled back as if afraid to hurt their leader and friend any worse. After all, they were still waiting on the doctor, weren't they? They didn't want him in worse condition when she appeared.

His eyes fluttered, making everyone immediately hold their breaths.

"Dick?" Questioned Beast Boy quietly, large green eyes locked on the other's that were slowly opening. When tired, confused gray eyes met his, he grinned happily. "You're-"

Immediately, his smile was wiped off of his face. The older boy's eyes had gained emotion. It was obvious terror. His strong hands wrapped around the changeling's neck, squeezing desperately and enough so that the boy couldn't escape. Beast Boy's hands went to his neck, but he couldn't get himself to fight back when he felt fresh blood stain his green skin.

"Beast Boy!" Exclaimed Starfire in horror as Cyborg rushed to pull away their leader's hands. Shaken, the both of them fell away, collapsing to the floor nearby. The girls immediately rushed to their side, worried. After they found no marks on Beast Boys skin (only blood that didn't belong to him), they all stared at Dick as his eyes flickered between different colors in a shocking manner.

Raven could just remember Batman's haunted voice echoing through her mind. During the first moments of no longer wearing the mask, you don't know who you are. All their personalities would have been pushed inside one body. He wouldn't know who he was, his thoughts would be clouded and confusing. He wouldn't know who he really was. It could cause nausea, dizziness, and memory problems. He may remember things he never saw or did. Her hands clenched, forming fists as she tried desperately to reign in her emotions for just a few more minutes-

The door slammed open as a metal table with straps on the sides was rolled into the room by Alfred, Bruce, Wonder Woman, and another woman with sharp, focused eyes wearing a doctor's coat. They all gathered around the bed, pushing the Titans back, and the unnamed woman obviously pushed a needed beneath skin, praying for a quick unconsciousness. Swiftly, he was uncovered and strapped down to the table, revealing gruesome injuries that made Starfire's breath hitch. He was rolled out faster than the Flash could run.

However, just before Bruce left, his eyes strayed back to them. Mutual understanding crossed between them. They all cared about Dick. They wouldn't lose him. Bruce nodded before exiting, his heavy footfalls echoing down the long hallway outside.

The group, already gathered together, slowly drew even more close. They clung to each other, even Raven holding on to them as they all slowly began to break.

One of Beast Boy's hands traveled to his neck, silent tears running down his face as blood slid between his fingertips. Blood. It wasn't just Robin's blood. It was the blood of their family as it was slowly torn apart.

Starfire sobbed, unable to hold it back anymore. She couldn't take it. And she wasn't the only one.

Raven slowly felt herself crumble in the hard hold on her, holding her together yet tearing her apart. A single tear slid down her chalky face as she slowly began to shake. The lamp behind them finally exploded, the shards hitting Cyborg's back.

He didn't let any of them go from his protective hug. He couldn't protect their leader, their friend, from that monster, but he could protect them from a few simple shards of the broken lamp. He wished sadly to himself that he could just make everything better.

But he couldn't. Not for any of them.

Not for his friends.

Not for Dick.

And especially not for himself.

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