Agony's Best Friend

Take It or Leave It

Barbara couldn't help it as she paced, ignoring the gazes of the quiet Titans. Her heart was pounding in her ears, and she was desperate to push open the doors to the private room and see with her own two eyes that Dick was back.

Unfortunately, she had been knocked out during the rescue mission as well as when they brought him back, therefore meaning that she had been one of the only ones left that hadn't seen him. A part of her, though, was afraid to see him.

Really, that fear was within her all along, but she only noticed it when the Titans had joined her outside of the operating room. It had been the look in their eyes, that of raw, undying fear and anxiety that had made her hands tremble. Then she had noticed Beast Boy.

The small, green boy had looked completely horrified and as if his world had just crashed down. His eyes were puffy and red from crying and there were streaks running down his face. That fear in his eyes had been increased tenfold from that of his teammates, and his hands kept going to his neck where there were two messy hand prints in blood as if someone-as if someone . . . .

Raven had suddenly stared at her then before her eyes moved to the shaken changeling. Slowly, she moved forward and whispered in his ear. Then they were gone, back only when the bloodstain at his neck were gone.

In a way, Barbara was both thankful and felt . . . wrong. As a bat, no one was supposed to see through her. They weren't supposed to know what was bothering her. The fact that the girl was an empath made the knowledge that she had seen through her facade a bit more bearable, but she still felt that same sense of wrongness.

Barbara shook her head, red hair spilling around her messily as she pulled herself back to reality, staring at the door.

Bruce was in there with Dick whom, they had been informed, had a hunk of Kryptonite inside of him among his other extreme injuries. At the knowledge, Barbara felt bile rise in the back of her throat. She couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if Conner had been around more after Tim's funeral. Maybe he would have caught on, and they could have found out earlier . . . .

Babs shook herself again, eyes darting up to the door as a murmur of voices sounded. Immediately, her heartbeat picked up. Was he awake after all this time? Her hands trembled as she froze in her pacing, staring at the door. She waited for it to open and Bruce to invite them in, but after a minute, she realized it wasn't going to happen.

Her eyes turned to Cyborg hesitantly before she snapped into focus. "Can your tech pick up what's going on in there?"

He paused, his one human eye widening shortly before he nodded. However, before he activated the tech, he spoke. "Why do you want it?"

"Something is going on in there, and I want to-need to know what." She stated, desperation creeping into her voice before she bit it back. "We need to know."

He paused before his eyes wandered over to the dark girl who looked like a deer caught in the headlights. A short sigh slid through his lips before he pressed a button on his arm computer, causing what looked like sound waves to appear to be measured on the screen. After a moment, they caught Robin's-Dick's voice loud and clear.

"Tell me the truth." His voice was short and sounded weak, but his next sentence came out as strong as it normally did. "Is there or is there not a piece of Kryptonite inside of me?"

. . .

The next time that Dick tasted consciousness, he knew that it was for real. He was going to be fully awake, not just a sleeping figure with ears. Slowly, he exhaled, wincing only slightly at the dull ache in his chest. He must have been on serious drugs.

Dick? Spoke a hesitant voice. Dick winced again, thinking. The voice-Tim was in the back of his mind as in actually in his mind. He sighed in relief, a smile coming to his face. It was Tim, not the doctor or Bruce or anyone else on the outside. It was his little brother.

Hey. He said softly back, voice sounding rather pitiful in his mind.

Dick! Exclaimed Stephanie, sounding more than happy. She sounded overjoyed and relieved, and like if she had a body, she'd hug him. He was fairly glad that she didn't have a body at that moment, though the pain in his heart, not physically but psychologically, immediately made him regret the stray thought. He made sure not to let it be shared with his personalities.

You've been gone for so long! Jason moaned, relief clear in his voice. It was starting to freak us out.

There was a light scoffing sound, and Dick felt a smile slide onto his face. Damian might not admit it, but Dick could feel the worry radiating off of him.

How long was I out? He asked, mental voice a bit stronger than before.

Probably not really long, but it felt like ages in here. Jason complained, voice sounding as young as he had died. The news really shocked you, ya know?

Dick felt his eyebrows furrow for a moment in confusion. What news? There was a pause in his mind, a beat of silence. Not one voice spoke up to explain, and that was when the memory hit him. For a moment, he couldn't think-couldn't breathe, but he found his voice quickly enough. Right. That news.

He could practically feel their worry through the mental link, but he pushed it away quickly. Thankfully, he wasn't subjected to any worrying comments as right then a voice from outside seemed to call him from his slowly darkening unconsciousness. "Dick?"

Dick slid his eyes open, noting how his other personalities quieted down. He flinched at the bright lights before squinting and trying to get his eyes to readjust. He wet his dry lips, turning his face to the side to see none other than Bruce Wayne at his bedside, eyes watching him overbearingly. "Bruce?"

Bruce smiled lightly. "You're awake."

Dick quirked an eyebrow. "Uh, yeah. I am."

And for a moment, they just sat there in silence. Dick didn't try to sit up, just stared at his mentor. He couldn't help but think about the shard of Kryptonite. To tell the complete truth, he was somewhat afraid to ask about it.

Bruce broke their stare, standing. "I should let your friends in. They've been waiting quite a while to see you."

Dick almost smiled. However, he quickly cut this course off from his mind. He didn't want them in the room, not quite yet. He just needed a moment. "Wait." Bruce seemed to freeze automatically, standing just a few feet from the door. He turned back, an almost blank look on his face. "Bruce . . . ." Dick couldn't help it as he trailed off. A part of him, a large part of him, was scared. A part of him didn't want confirmation that the nightmare was real and still continuing. A part of him wanted to stay in the dark.

But Dick couldn't spend his life in the dark.

"Yes?" He asked, voice much lighter as Bruce Wayne instead of Batman. Dick still tensed, despite the aches and pains of his beaten and battered body.

"Tell me the truth." Dick took a shallow breath, trying to regain some strength as to insert a bit of confidence into his tired voice. "Is there or is there not a piece of Kryptonite inside me?"

Bruce didn't need to say a word. The truth was in the way his body, always ready for duty-for attack and ambush, tensed as if Slade himself had entered the room covered in Dick's blood. Dick felt his lips purse, and he tiredly moved his gaze elsewhere. He listened closely as Batman's tired footsteps went back to the chair and the chair made a loud, completely intentional scraping noise as it was scooted forward to the bed. Dick only looked at his mentor after he spoke a grim "Yes" into the air.

Dick took a shaky breath, choosing to answer Batman's unspoken question. "I heard you and Doc talking about it earlier."

"I see." Bats stated, voice quiet before it seemed to revert into Bruce Wayne's voice. "Dick, we should get this out of the way as soon as possible. The shard-it's in your system."

"Yeah. I noticed." Dick replied, his comment seemingly much sharper than his actual intended bite.

"You can either have it removed or leave it." Bruce stated, voice somehow calm and sturdy. "If you take it out, the surgery is more than dangerous. Dr. Leslie doesn't know how dangerous yet, but she knows that you could lose your life from it." Bruce paused before continuing. "The procedure would have to take place after you're back to full health, though."

Dick nodded, thinking. He wanted the Kryptonite gone. He wanted it out of his system. And this procedure sounded great to him, but at the same time . . . .

"What if it was left in?" He heard his dark voice mumble. He noted the put off look on Bruce's face and had to pull back on a smirk. Bruce obviously liked the idea of living with Kryptonite in Dick's body for the rest of his life about as much as Dick did.

"You would live the rest of your life with the bursts of pain whenever it sends out pulses or when you moved wrong." Batman began, eyes hard. "It would cut your lifespan down at an estimate of fifteen years according to Dr. Leslie. It's possible that it could have more unknown side-effects besides the bursts of pain. We can't be sure, but we do know that it's slowly killing you."

Dick frowned, closing his eyes due to dreariness but letting his eyebrows furrow in concentration to show Bruce that he was awake, just thinking. Somehow, Dick found it horribly ironic that the very thing that was killing him was the reason he had escaped in the end.

"Dick?" Bruce questioned gently.

Dick smiled tiredly before letting a frown back onto his face, dark blues searching Bruce's exhausted features. "I don't know. I'll decide by time I'm healed." He stated softly. However, before he could continue, Batman pressed a hand to his ear-his communicator with the League.

"I'm busy." Batman growled. Dick could almost imagine the frightened look on whatever poor Leaguer's face that had been nominated to call Bats. He barely avoided an immature snicker. However, Batman suddenly snapped at it, turning his face away from the downed Dick Grayson. "You what? She's gone?" There was another short pause before Batman stiffened. "Slade took her?"

Dick closed his eyes lazily, listening halfheartedly. Though he didn't know that the League had captured one of Slade's underlings (no doubt it was Diane they were talking about), he wasn't surprised that Slade had regained her. Even if it wasn't Diane, then it was someone (or a robot) with knowledge that could lead the League to finding him or finding out more about him. It was very possible that they might even capture him. It was almost best that the League hadn't managed to keep a hold on Slade's underling. After all, Dick knew that no one was ever fully prepared for Slade.

Dick exhaled sharply, wincing at his ribs again. They hurt the worst, but he could definitely feel the rest. He almost regretted working so hard to become immune to so many drugs. He opened his eyes again, seeing Batman look at him sadly.

Dick smiled painfully, knowing that he must've looked like a bloody mess. He took a short, shallow breath before beginning. "You shouldn't worry so much about Diane's recapture." As one of Bruce's eyebrows twitched, Dick's smile grew wider. So it had been Diane. "He's not coming after me again."

Bruce's eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he leaned forward slightly in anticipation. "How do you know?"

Dick let his eyes close again as the pounding in his head suddenly jolted. He took a sharp breath before speaking hollowly. "I told him about the constant pains. He knows I'm damaged merchandise, and he's also under the impression that there's no way to fix it." He grinned lightly, knowing it was probably slightly lopsided. "He wants perfection-someone who will continue his line of criminal work. I pretty much told him that he was going to outlive me. He doesn't want an apprentice that is going to die before him. It's against the entire point of getting an apprentice."

Bruce's eyebrows arched slightly before he sighed heavily, eying Dick with serious worry. "Get some rest. You're going to need it."

Sleepily, Dick nodded. "Night, Bruce."

He was out before Bruce could even turn out the light. Bruce chuckled. "Good night, Dick."

Though Bruce slid out of the room, as he slid out of the room, he gave Barbara a meaningful glare. Soon, all five Teens were gathered to watch the leader of the Teen Titans sleep.

Surprisingly, Dick didn't toss or turn. He seemed to be smiling in the darkness.

It had been a long time since he'd slept so freely.

Too long.

. . .

"Dr. Kaol, what is the status on Subjects two through five?" Questioned an authoritative blond with dark eyes. In strong hands he held a clipboard with obviously important information. His black eyes snapped to a young Haiti woman in a lab coat.

The woman, Dr. Kaol, inclined her head before leading him across the laboratory. "Yes, sir. The subjects have remained in suspended animation with little to no damage. They appear to have no change since last check."

"Good." Murmured the man, checking his watch impatiently. His eyes snapped back almost violently to the young doctor. "Is the cloning process set up?"

"All we need is the DNA, sir." She stated with a smooth, practiced tone.

The man made a low growling noise in the back of his throat, pulling his suitcase up from it's resting place at his feet. He set his clipboard aside to open up the suitcase before depositing five vials of a dark red-brown liquid in a tray. He handed the tray to the woman who, in turn, handed it off to a man nearly twice her size. She turned back to him.

"Will there be anything else, sir?" Her eyes were as attentive as her back was rigid. It made him smile. The blond smiled a blood-chilling smile, nodding his head at her.

"Actually, the master asks that you also set up the last subject of this experiment for his death." The grin on the man's tanned face made every single hair on the back of the doctor's neck stand up, but she swallowed it down, forcing herself to focus.

"Yes, sir." She agreed in an almost dead voice.

Soon, the boy wonder would be thought to be as dead as the woman's tone of voice.

Very soon.

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