A/N: I finally came back to fix the glaring errors of this chapter (mostly spelling/grammar, though a few continuity things). I'll eventually get around to revising the next few chapters retro-actively, since it's clear that my writing only improved over time (and that I started paying much more attention in the proof-reading process later on), but this chapter was so bad I couldn't leave it any longer.
Oh, and I had to add the disclaimer: My name is TwistedPremise, and I write fanfiction about things over which I hold no ownership... namely the Teen Titans.
It started out as a simple patrol.
Beast Boy and Raven were each patrolling opposite ends of town, maintaining a public presence that reminded everyone- civilian or villain- that the Titans were watching over Jump City. They'd long since ceased patrolling in pairs, their communicators and individual developments made communication and self-defense more than sufficient to keep themselves safe until backup arrived, if backup was even necessary. It had been four years since defeating the brotherhood of evil in Paris, and The Titans (Teen no longer applying to any of the founding members) had grown.
Well, most of them had, at least. Raven was now the shortest on the team, much to Beast B- sorry, Changeling's good humor. Of course, she still threw him into the bay on occasion, mostly to remind him that she still could, but they'd mostly settled into a comfortable antagonism that consisted of him pestering her to stretch her comfort zone, her dry humor at his expense (which he took with good, if sometimes pouty, humor), and her eye-rolling tolerance of his light flirtatiousness. If it were anyone but Changeling it would probably come across as annoying, but his lighthearted nature (and her quick one-liners) ensured that it was simply, as he put it, "part of his charm."
Cyborg hadn't changed much, mostly just technological advances. Recent military and cellular advancements equipped him with greater range, firepower, and a jump literally capable of entering a skyscraper on the 80th floor, but his personality never wavered from the big-brother to all, boss-to-none enthusiasm. He'd lost his trademark "booyah," in public when the internet decided it belonged in the 80's and made a meme of photoshopped pictures of him with an afro and disco pants, but he would still use the phrase every now and then among Titans.
Robi- sorry again, Nightwing and Starfire were the ultimate yo-yo of a relationship. Had Nightwing been the type to spend their rough periods in a bar they'd have graced TMZ with more material than even the Titan's fanbase could stomach, but considering the start, middle, and end to all their drama took place in the either evidence room or Nightwing's office, the public remained blissfully unaware of it all.
With his new persona, Nightwing had also grown to just over 6', and maintained the physique of an acrobat. Even Changeling sported more muscle mass, though he was still on the slender side of the spectrum. He'd gotten comparisons to an MMA fighter before, middle-class or lighter. Cyborg, made up for them both, looking for all the world like a Champion Heavyweight Boxer when he used the Holo-rings to disguise his cybernetic parts.
The Girls had changed physically, as well. Starfire opted for purple shorts instead of her younger mini-skirts (possibly robin's influence, since she still seemed naïve enough not to have noticed the amateur photographers hoping for an upskirt shot), and her crop-top was filled out in a way that made Robin the envy of many, many men. She stood at 5'11" in heels and/or her platform boots, and her favorite thing to do was enjoy the "perfection of height differences" between her and Robin by going dancing.
Raven snorted with the thought. "As though height matters all that much when you're grinding."
So distracted was Raven by her reflections that she missed the shot of electricity launched from the roof of a media building until it seared her side, knocking her out of flight onto a gravel rooftop.
Raven groaned, checking for vital damage. Finding none, she reached for her communicator. That's either Overload, or someone just as strong. Better call for backup.
"Shit" she thought, as her communicator had been destroyed by the blast. She weighed her options: fight, run, or defend until help arrived. Screams from the street made her mind up for her.
Rising from the rooftop, she surveyed the scene. It was indeed overload, targeting a small concert in the park. "He must have been attracted by the electric lights and speakers," she reasoned, and prepared to engage the energy being. Before she could engage, however, Overload seemed to direct his (its?) attention to a young girl and her mother, most likely attracted to the concert from the nearby playground.
Without thinking, Raven phased in front of the two bystanders and raised a shield of obsidian energy. Not a moment later, a powerful and sustained bolt of energy danced across the dome, intent on frying the three protected women. Raven grunted and focused intently on the shield.
Overload had learned from his past defeat at Raven's hands, and gave her not a moment to rest or direct her attentions on the offensive. The energy spike danced across the protective bubble, fast, thin, and wickedly strong, forcing Raven to rapidly fluctuate the strength of her barrier to prevent weakening in one place.
I need backup, she thought, I can't risk dropping my defenses to attack him, and this park doesn't have any large fountains or sprinklers to use against him if I did. Without my communicator, there's no way to reach the tower. I have to contact Changeling…
Searching for a solution, Raven's mind flashed back to a conversation she'd had with the green young man a few weeks prior, when Changeling had taken to engaging Raven in little trivia games, particularly when she attempted meditating in the common room.
"Hey Raven," the resident shape-changer called out from his place on the couch. "You know how wolves howl at the moon, right?"
He continued without getting a response "Actually, that's a common misconception. We actually howl to gather the pack for a hunt, normally."
He'd also taken to talking about animals he formed frequently in first-person. She wasn't sure what to think about that.
"It's actually a lot like Robin's whole 'Titan's GO' thing, really. And that makes us a pack! Nightwing's the alpha, the bad guys are the prey, and our communicators are like the wolf call! They've even got a similar range, about 10 miles, without cell service!"
"Fascinating." Raven deadpanned, and returned to her mantra…. "Azerath Metrion Zinthos….
Okay, maybe "conversation" was too strong of a word. Nonetheless, it brought up a possible solution out of her predicament.
Diverting as little attention away from her current task as she could, Raven invoked one of her simpler spells: "Vocalon Endium Desheeray!"
At first, nothing happened, and Raven prepared to try another, more complicated version. Before she could, though, the howl of a majestic, proud grey wolf echoed through the park, calling- demanding- the presence of its pack.
Overload paused, then redoubled his efforts to penetrate the dark shell protecting Raven and the two women. Azar, I hope that worked. Raven thought, as she focused everything she had to blocking that erratic lightning pounding away at her defenses.
Just as she felt her energy reserves begin to drain, however, she heard the howl again: deeper this time, and growing stronger. Out of a grove of trees came great Wolf, easily five feet at the shoulder, with fangs bared and barreling toward Overload. A green blur in the open field, it-no, HE- covered half the distance before Overload redirected his attentions away from the girls.
Raven released the protective dome and collapsed, maintaining only enough energy to watch as Overload fired bolt after bolt at the grey wolf, none able to match the wolf's agility as Changeling closed the distance between them.
The wolf leaped and shifted just before making contact-taking the form of a large pacific ray, one of the many members of the Ray family which use electricity to hunt. Though Overload was a being of energy and silicon, it had largely exhausted itself with its sustained assault on Raven, and Changeling's rapid transformations between electric eels and rays eventually drained it of its embodied energy.
Changeling finally reverted back to human form.
"Friend Changeling! Friend Raven!" Starfire called out, coming in hot from a clearly panicked flight. "Are you unharmed?" Raven saw the T-car pull up moments later.
"Yeah Star, we're good," Changeling wheezed, offering a weak thumbs-up from his position on his hands and knees.
"Yo, what happened here?" Cyborg had his arm cannon charged as he ran to the field.
"Overload," Raven deadpanned, holding up his master chip by way of explanation.
"And he did this to you two?" Cyborg was flabbergasted.
"Yeah, he just came from that giant HD-TV display on main street, I passed in on the way here" Changeling offered, patting down his singed hair, which was still smoking at its points.
"Factor in the absence of water, and that he got the first hit while I was distracted, and you've got the whole picture," Raven finished, rising to her feet.
"I'm sorry guys, we came as soon as you called, Changeling" Nightwing completed. He glanced quickly between them, putting pieces together and finding some information missing. "If Raven's communicator was destroyed without a distress call, how did you know she needed help, anyway?"
Of course Nightwing noticed the communicator dust on her hip. "I called him" Raven supplied. "I remembered him telling me that some animals, particularly wolves, can communicate long distances. So I used a simple charm to produce a wolf howl, hoping he would get the message and find me. Clearly he did."
Changeling surprised her by blushing and looking away. "Yeah, uh, about that. You probably don't want to use that one again, if you can help it. Or maybe just practice your Wolf or something…"
Raven raised an eyebrow. "And why is that? It worked, didn't it?"
"Well, yeah," Changeling seemed to look anywhere but at Raven. "But you didn't use a hunting call…"
"I do not understand," interjected Starfire. "Earth Wolves have different howls for different occasions? If not the call of hunting or distress, what howl did friend Raven use?"
"Um, well, it's kinda embarrassing…" Changeling muttered.
Raven however, was getting frustrated. Maybe it was Overload, maybe it was Changeling's accidental dismissal of her possibly life-saving solution, all she knew was she got sarcastic. "No, Garfield, please, tell us exactly what it was about my howl that was so wrong. I wouldn't want to embarrass you again. "
"No, it's not that," Changeling was almost pleading, looking for an escape…
"Then what was it?"
"IT WAS A MATING CALL, OKAY?" Changeling blurted out, shifting into a turtle in preparation for an obsidian-energy punting into the bay.
Except it didn't happen.
Raven just stood there, frozen, as her friends processed the idea.
"Friend Raven… propositioned… friend Changeling?" Starfire queried.
"No Star," Nightwing tried to clarify, "it's more like, well… yes, but, it was an accident."
With that, Raven seemed to shake herself out of her stupor. "Of course." She clarified. "My spell manifested a re-creation of what I understood a wolf call to sound like. The only time I've heard a wolf was national geographic, so that must have been what my subconscious manifested when emulating a wolf call."
She blinked twice, and looked at the green turtle, who was reluctantly daring to stick his head out of his shell. "Thank you for responding regardless, and for your help with Overload. Also, thank you for contacting the others; that was a good move, given the circumstances."
Changeling shifted back to his human form, still sitting on the ground as he scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Yeah, well, uh, you're welcome. Sorry about the wolf mix-up thing, I know you don't speak wolf." He visibly brightened with an idea. "Oh, next time there's a full moon out, I'll do a real wolf hunting call, that way if you ever need to do that spell-thingy again, you'll have the right howl to base it off of!"
Raven only nodded in response, her mind elsewhere.
"Well, Rae's gonna need some time to recover from that electricity burn, and BB just took a live wire to the head, so I'm gonna drive these two back to the tower," Cyborg announced.
"Good Idea Cyborg," Nightwing agreed. "Star and I will cover the rest of their patrol. We'll see you in a couple hours."
As soon as the on-again-off-again couple (who were currently on) were out of earshot, Cyborg and Changeling started betting how far into the patrol route they'd get before they stopped to make out. Raven interrupted with "I'll see you both at the tower, I need to meditate" and phased away.
The boys just shrugged, and went back to debating how long it would take before some lucky paparazzi got a picture of Nightwing and Starfire in a compromising position.
Meanwhile, Raven emerged from a black pool into the shadows of her bedroom, reaching immediately for her Nevermore mirror.
"Now," she whispered, "let's figure out how a spell for summoning something of need or desire inadvertently turns into a booty-call."