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i've been known to bite

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Starfire doesn’t scream.

She’s better than that - a warrior, trained in ways only Robin out of the team can even hope to compare to. That doesn’t mean that Robin can’t see the way she gulps as the razor edge of Slade’s knife rests against her jugular or the way she shies away from his leather clad touch.

“How good to see you, Robin,” Slade says, the casual air of violence that characterizes his tones unmistakable. “Seems you’re missing someone.”

Robin knows Slade speaks of Starfire but he can’t help but curse that Raven and Cyborg split to check the other part of the base - against situations like this, Raven would be ideal.

Beast Boy takes a threatening step forward. Robin sees his brow start to recede in the typical beginnings of a change. Before he can say something, Slade does.

“Ah, ah, ah, little hero.” Fingers close around Starfire’s neck and shoulder. The knife shines against hued skin. “I’ve heard a throat is necessary for living, even with aliens like this one.”

Beast Boy growls in a particularly beast-like way, bearing pointed teeth. His feet stop, and after a pause, he looks to Robin.

Robin tries his best to quell his panic as the situation sets in - Slade. Starfire. Slade’s knife against Starfire, once again the threat of death hanging over his friends by the most competent villain in Jump City.

He steadies his voice. “What do you want, Slade?” Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Starfire’s hand start to move, out of Slade’s view.

“Many, many, things,” Slade admits. “But right now, if you would be so kind as to stay well away from me and my hostage -”

Starfire’s hand glows and Slade notices a second too late. She yells in fury, pulling herself away from him as he dodges a vicious starbolt. Robin lunges forward, Beast Boy on his heels, but they’re stopped by the opening of panels on either side, sladebots pouring out in their perfect rows. Starfire and Slade disappear behind them as they charge, still fighting.

“I’ll go after them,” Robin commands brusquely. “You take care of the ‘bots.” Beast Boy nods his approval before diving in, completing his change into a furious lion. Robin doesn’t stay to watch, confident in his friend’s abilities. He vaults over ‘bots and fights them off skillfully with his staff, catching sight of orange and black as the two people fight. He desperately pushes ‘bots aside as he draws closer, one or two landing painful hits on him in his hurry.

He passes through the lines barely in time to see Starfire keel over into Slade’s gloved arms. Robin makes brief eye contact with Slade, feels the smirk behind the mask.

Slade steps backwards into another opening compartment, dragging a half-conscious Starfire with him, and only Robin’s adrenaline lets him catch it before it closes. He stands pinned between violence and darkness, the side of the compartment that should be closing pressing down on him.

Robin sees Slade retreat as he presses with all his strength against the door. Starfire. He’s taking Starfire away to be his - apprentice? Something worse?

There is only one thing Robin knows for certain: he cannot let Slade get away with Starfire. He will not, cannot, let Kori suffer at Slade’s hands the way he has. Even if he managed to give her back he can’t take the risk, would never forgive himself.

It’s that thought that gives him the energy to slip into the darkness of the tunnel. His bo is caught inbetween, snapping with a sound like bone as the sliver of light disappears. Robin can’t be bothered to pay attention to it, running as fast as he can towards where he saw Slade leave Kori. Pale lights flicker on as he moves, revealing stark grey rock and metal.

“Starfire! STARFIRE!” His desperate yells echo off the walls. Robin spins around a corner, and there she is, blinking eyes open. He stops dead in his tracks at Slade, supporting her weight, knife held against her throat.

“Robin?” she murmurs.

“Star.” He takes a breath. “Star, look, we’re gonna get you out of this. I promise.”

Why does he feel like he’s reassuring himself instead of her?

“Really, Robin, I don’t think you’re in much of a position to be making promises,” Slade cuts in.

“What do you want with her?” Robin demands. His brain answers for him, unwanted memories dredged up - (presumably the same thing he wanted with you, a voice whispers.)

The thought makes him sick.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Slade looks down at her head condescendingly. “A chip off the block here, a sliver there - she’d make a fine apprentice, don’t you think?” Starfire struggles feebly as if in response. She must be concussed, at the very least.

“Don’t you dare.” Robin surprises himself with how steady his voice is. Fury spins through is mind as he watches Slade’s hands on her, stemming from something that he knows is pure terror.

“Empty platitudes don’t stop me, boy, as I’m sure you’re aware,” Slade sneers. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to.” He yanks Starfire back roughly, blade still glued to her jugular.

“NO!” Robin’s desperation comes through and he regrets it seconds later. He suspects he’s playing right into Slade’s hands but he can’t stop himself.

He’s never been able to stop himself, not when it comes to the lives of his friends. Slade knows that too damn well.

“‘No?’“ Slade mocks. “Well, what do you think you can do about it, Robin?”

Robin stares.

He sees the trap, sees the bait, both loud and clear as Slade’s voice. Painful anticipation rears its head and he pushes it down before it has the chance to turn to fear. Fear can’t help Starfire.

Then places his foot firmly in Slade’s perfectly designed trap with the resignation of a man going to his wall.

“It’s me you want, Slade. I’m here, you can have me. Just don’t -” his voice breaks, he presses on “- don’t take Star. She’s not the target. Don’t - “ he doesn’t have the will to finish the sentence, simply staring at Slade. Slade doesn’t reply, and he feels panic rising in him -

“Please,” he begs.

“Smart boy,” Slade says finally. His words slide like oil over Robin, clinging to him. “Smart enough to know that if you try anything stupid, your girlfriend’s short of a breathing apparatus.”

“Yes,” Robin says. He steps forward and ice cold fear almost freezes him in place; he only manages another foot by staring at Starfire’s scared eyes. Relief is the balm that flows through him as she’s pushed aside in favor of a knife now pointed at Robin’s chin.

“Robin?” Star sounds confused, afraid - Robin stares at her, pretty and safe and alive, and he can’t stop the pang in his chest.

“You have to go now, Star,” he says gently. She braces herself against the wall with one hand, still weak from Slade’s blows.

“Robin, I simply cannot -”

“Leave,” he repeats, firmer now, eyes fixed on Slade’s emotionless mask. “Come back for me later.”

He hears Slade’s soft laugh beneath his mask. His fear intensifies.

“Robin-”

“LEAVE!” Robin snarls, eyes fixed on Slade, pressure thrumming through his veins. Starfire hesitates and then her light fades down the tunnel, leaving them in near-darkness. Slade doesn’t bother to watch her leave either, the point of the knife digging into the soft skin under his chin.

(anything is better than Slade’s fingers against him)

“How … heroic,” Slade mocks. He sounds pleased with himself. Why does he always sound so goddamn pleased with himself?

“Shut up, Slade.” Something catches in his throat, makes him sound rough and choked.

“Oh, Robin, that’s no way to talk to your new master, now is it?” Slade gloats. The tip of the knife forces its way upward, forcing Robin to look up at Slade as he straightens.

Master.

And Robin the apprentice, once again.

Robin tries, shamefully, to shut his eyes against the reality. It can’t save him.

His friends - they can. They might be able to get him out of this. Drag him away before Slade can inflict too much damage.

Release a second time seems almost too much to ask of cruel fate, something he’s too goddamn unlucky for. Even so -

it’s his only hope.