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It Never Ends

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Muffled voices surround him… Laughter… Hushed whispers… 

Are they touching him? There's something running up his arm — his exposed, naked arm. Where else were they—

Dick starts awake with a gasp, close to hyperventilating already as panic floods his veins. He wants to leave, go far away! But just as he begins to scramble up the bed, a firm hand on his chest presses him down. 

"No! Not again — please!", he begs immediately, struggling against the hold, though it remains in place. 

"Hey, Dick, calm down." A voice. Too high. Young. And most importantly, not him

Sweat drips down his face as he frantically searches the room and finds the faces of Tim and Bruce. They share the same concerned expression, with their brows drawn together and lips in a thin line. Bruce sits the closest, right on the edge of the bed and Dick follows the muscles on his outstretched arm, landing on his chest. 

Dick hates how familiar that weight feels and the memory makes his breath hitch and eyes tear up. He thought he escaped this, and now Bruce is using the same force on him. He pries at the hand, trying to push it away. 

"Don't! Please, let me go!", he begs again, but Bruce's hand just wouldn't move. 

"Dick," the low baritone makes him freeze and stare up at him with wide, fearful eyes. "I can't let you go. You'll be a harm to yourself and others in your state." 

It's a trick. It has to be! He's tried it before and he stupidly fell for it. 

"I — I need to — Slade, he will—" 

"He is not here, Dick. You're at the manor, you're home and you're safe. He won't get to you," Bruce reassures him, but it falls on deaf ears. 

"You can't know that! You're in on it, right? Right! Not this time, please, I… I just wanna go home." Dick's hands slip from Bruce's wrist, just as tears make their way down his cheeks after a sob. 

Dick misses the dark look flashing over Bruce's face. He turns to Tim. 

"Get another dose of the antidote and sedation. Scarecrow must've worked on his formula." 

"I'm on it—" 

"What's going on? Is Grayson awake?" A new voice! One Dick knows too well and the fear returned tenfold. With terrified eyes he sees Damian standing in the doorway, small and insecure, vulnerable. A perfect target for Slade, and if Damian's here, that means—

Dick's trashing almost dislocates the hand pinning him to the bed. "Robin, you have to flee! Run! Before he gets you!" 

"Take Damian with you! He doesn't have to see this." 

Tim puts a hand on Damian's back and gently pushes him out of the room under slight protests that nearly get drowned by Dick's panicked screams. 

"No! Stop! Don't hurt him! Leave him alone, take me! Please, don't hurt him!" Dick's cries echo through the halls and Bruce has to stay strong. Working through the fear toxin is never easy and never will be. It's a horror trip every time, being reminded of your biggest fears and worst memories. It doesn't surprise Bruce that Dick's subconscious picked his imprisonment by Deathstroke. A lot of unspeakable things must've happened to Dick, though the young hero chose to never talk about it. 

So hearing the implications of what Deathstroke did to him, makes Bruce's blood boil. 

"I can't do this anymore!", Dick whines, utterly in despair. His hands returned to his wrist, but move up to push at his shoulders. Dick is currently too weak to actually make a difference. "Don't you have enough? I'm — I can't."

"Listen to me, Dick. You haven't been with Deathstroke for years. You escaped him and you're with your family now," Bruce presses, but his heart drops the moment he sees Dick's empty eyes. For the first time he seems lucid, like he's finally back. 

Bruce nearly misses the breathed words. 

"You can't escape Deathstroke — not truly."