The Job

Red-X stood on the edge of the building, looking into the darkened alley below as the noise from the night pounded his eardrums with a relentless cacophony of sounds. Horns, sirens, screams of fear and delight; it was all familiar white noise to him now. Like classical music at the dentist's office: he blocked it out and simply waited for the deed to be done.

A warm, summer wind threaded around him like fine silk, and there was the faint scent of curry that curled from the Indian restaraunt far below him on the street. There, in the shadows that lined the sidewalks and restaurants, were people oblivious to his existence. Content to carry on with their urban lives, and blissfully unaware of him, or choosing to simply ignore the shadow of the thief that stood above them. After all, the Titans were there to protect them from him. He snorted at that thought. What would the citizens of the city think if they knew that one of their protectors and saviors was contractracting his services?

He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back on his heels, staring off into the city skyline as he turned over one, singular question in his mind: would she come? It was obvious that she had received his message, but would she actually come to see him? Her desire for the item she requested ran deep enough to contact him and his... business, but there had been times when she chose not to face him and the sins she had committed. Like she was trying to atone for her behavior by ignoring his requests and updates.

Red-X felt something twist in his chest, and he had a sudden urge to smoke a cigarette to calm himself down. The truth was that at the heart of his pondering, he knew there was something deeper he needed to face, something more about his own desires than hers.

Did he want her to come to him tonight? And if so, why?

"You called?"

A red, X-shaped shuriken sliced through his vision and disappeared into the space behind him. He jumped, surprised that she had snuck up on him of all people. Gathering his poise quickly, he hooked his thumbs in his belt and leaned back on his heels, smiling behind the mask. He knew she couldn't see his face, but "something, something empathic powers" made him realize he had to guard his thoughts and emotions around her (or whatever bullshit she babbled off to him before - he wasn't always the best listener). She could not be trusted to not read him, and so he needed to protect himself first.

"I see you got my calling card, Sunshine."

Raven crossed her arms over her chest and stared at him as the air and space became darker and thicker around the two of them. If Red-X didn't know any better, he would have thought the shadows were crawling towards her, weaving slowly on the ground as if looking for their master to harness and control them. It was like the girl exuded darkness from her pores, and the world reacted accordingly.

Creepy.

Also, kinda hot.

"Of course." She placed one hand on her hip, flashing her bright yellow communicator in warning. He knew the rules of their secretive talks, and if he deviated from the path they had both agreed on, she would call her teammates in without hesitation. Pity. They always sucked the fun out of any situation, especially their resident Bird Brain.

"Good. I want to make sure you're on point here, Princess."

"I am no one's princess, least of all yours. And, I'm always on point, more so than you anyway." Her eyes narrowed and glowed red under the influence of her powers, subtly telling Red-X that he should keep his sass in check (yeah, right). It was just another way she tried to keep her control over the situation, and he would let her win this round. But, he knew that eventually her resolve would crumble, and he would emerge the victor of this battle.

A minute passed between them, and her eyes returned to normal. She brushed her hands down the front of her cloak, smoothing out invisible wrinkles, and continued to stare at him. "I hope you have some kind of update, and you didn't drag me out here in the middle of the night for no reason other than to talk about your insufferable nicknames for me."

"Awe come now, Sunshine. You love my nick names... they're fun." He teased her carefully, making sure not to push his luck too much. If he crossed the line she drew, he might end up alone and desperate, and that was certainly no way to end any night of his.

"Hardly. If I could kill you without getting caught, or that small iota of remorse I might feel, I would. But, unfortunately... I can't. And, I would still have to contend with the fact that I have not yet received my book." She motioned towards him. "And I hope that there is some actual information you can give me in regards to that." The inflection in her voice reminded him that he was already treading on thin ice with her.

"I do." He tilted his head to the side and gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Sort of."

"Great. A 'sort of' wasn't exactly what I had in mind. " She pinched the bridge of her nose before letting her hands fall to the side and leaning back on her heels. She continued to stare at him, her eyes narrowing under the weight on their exchange. "Look, our meetings are getting more frequent, X, and that is a serious problem. My teammates are going to get suspicious if we keep meeting like this and I have to keep creating excuses. Right now, I'm apparently on a second date, and if I have a third one, they're going to start asking to meet this phantom love interest."

Red-X fought against a wave of laughter that rippled down his sides. "So, we're dating then?" There was something inside him that flared to life at the thought, but he squashed it quickly before he could determine what it was. He didn't need to be distracted by any rogue emotions tonight. "I can imagine that will go over like a lead balloon with your leader."

"Why do I put up with you?" She sighed and continued to stare at him, her expression a mixture of annoyance and exhaustion. "I wish you would take this seriously. I can't keep doing this whenever you call me, and you're going to have to be more careful, or both of us will get caught in the crossfire."

"Calm down, little bird. We're fine and safe. Bird Brain puts you so damn high up on a pedestal, I doubt he'll ever even question your disappearances. I just wanted to see your pretty face." He leaned back on his heels and grinned behind his mask. It was just too much fun to tease her sometimes, and she always played right into his games. "I can't complete my day without you next to me."

"Enough." She stopped him with a wave of her hand, a faint blush staining her cheeks. That was his favorite part of their exchanges, that pale red that ran across her face and down her neck as her eyes widened slightly. It made him only want to tease her more, just to see what other reactions he could get out of her. His favorite tick was when she chewed on her lower lip, the plump, red flesh swelling between her white teeth. But she only did that when she was pensive, and he made her think, not when she was angry with him.

She cleared her throat and forced her expression to remain calm. "Update."

Ah. A command. Okay, he'd play along. Red-X sighed and sat down on the edge of an AC condenser unit, staring at her as he pretended to fiddle with his boot. Of course she'd staunch his fun, after all that was her only goal in life. "Book's been moved."

"To where?"

"Don't know. I'm tracking it down."

She continued to glare at him. Somewhere behind her something exploded, sending a shower of shrapnel down into the dark alleyway, tinkling like broken bells. She pushed her hood down as she ran a hand through her hair, trying to keep control over her emotions.

For a moment suspended in time, Red-X watched the fevered expression race across her eyes, the way her breath came in short, heated gasps, and the clenching of her fists at her sides. It was all so fascinating. And as he continued to watch her reactions, he had to fight against that strange emotion welling in the pit of his stomach and pooling even lower. She looked both frightened and frustrated, and something about pulling down her cool facade excited him. The surge of arousal came so suddenly that he couldn't shield it from her, and Raven turned to look at him with even more anger in her eyes.

"Stop that."

Red-X played it off. "Stop what, Princess?"

"You know what." Her eyes narrowed and her pacing stopped. "That."

He dropped what was left of his control and pushed the full strength of his emotions at her, knowing it would rile her up. "This?" He shrugged and smiled. "I can't help it sometimes. You know, I am just a guy."

She paled and tried to desperately throw up a mental barrier, but it was too late, his thoughts and feelings had already taken full root in her own mind. She swayed slightly on her feet, eyes glazing over while her body became too weak to hold its own weight, and she collapsed on the edge of the roof.

Red-X watched her with a deep feeling of satisfaction. It excited him to know that even after all their weeks of playing this game, she could still react in the ways that she did. He walked up to where she was sitting, trying to find her breath and sanity. "Okay there, Princess?"

"You're doing this on purpose." She somehow managed to glare up at him.

"I do a lot of things of purpose." He smiled back at her. "You should be used to it by now."

"I'm never used to the onslaught of your emotions." Raven snarled.

"Really?" He chuckled and squatted down on his haunches to look into her almost fevered eyes. "Maybe you shouldn't be so weak then."

There was the flare to her eyes. That spark of anger that burned across his skin as she stood up. He loved that look of control racing through her; the need to prove her worth and dominate him.

She snarled at him and threw a bolt of black magic at his chest, which threw him halfway across the roof and onto his back. As his spine hit the tar and pebble, he felt his breath leave him in a flurry of curses, and he lay there for a full five minutes trying to catch his breath as the rocks cut into his back.

Raven walked over to him and stood next to his head, tapping the toe of her left boot. Annoying. Groaning, he sat up and stared into her face with a mixture of a sneer and a smirk lining his lips. She was going to get what she deserved, he just had to be patient.

"Excuse me. I must have been mistaken, you're not weak." His fingers tangled in the edge of her cloak and he yanked, throwing her body off balance and forcing her onto the roof with him. Her hands became tangled in the extra folds of fabric, and Red-X rolled her under him, placing one hand over her mouth as he pinned her legs under his ankles. She glared up at him, hissing and spitting behind his gloved hand.

"You're just oblivious to your surroundings." He loved the feeling of her round hips between his thighs, and he unconsciously ground his hips against her own. She was so damn soft everywhere on her body. "Now, Raven, if I remove my hand do you promise to be good?" He dropped his lips to her ear, blowing gently on the flesh. He felt her heart quicken under his touch, and it only excited him more. "Because if you continue to be bad, I might just have to punish you… and we both know how creative my mind can be."

She glared and nodded slowly.

"There's a good girl." He removed his hand and Raven threw him off her, cursing under her own breath.

"You're a terrible person."

He laughed. "I never claimed to be otherwise."

"Stop this. There's no point in it and you know it, so stop teasing me." Raven pulled herself to her feet and continued to glare at him as she brushed her hands down the front of her body again. She was trying to compose herself and bring the conversation back to the topic at hand. Cute. Terribly ineffective, but cute.

She pushed at her hair again. "I am putting a whole lot of faith in you that I shouldn't be, and I'm putting my job and my reputation on the line. The least you can do is hold up your end of the bargain we agreed upon, and your job was to find the book." She tapped the toe of her boot again. "And every time we meet you always give me the same damn excuse: it's missing. It's been moved. You lost the trail. I'm beginning to think you haven't even started in the first place."

"I'm looking for it, Princess. Don't insult me because I can't make results appear out of thin air. I'm not a magician." He rolled his eyes and continued to stare at her, a weird pit forming in his stomach at his own words. If she only knew the truth... "The point is that I got close to finding it, and then the owner moved it, and now I have to find it all over again. Not my fault that there are moments of random intervention in the world. I certainly didn't create them."

"I understand that... but you haven't been able to give me any concrete evidence in a month. I just need proof you're not playing with me."

"I'm not." He held up his hand to keep her from talking any more. "I know you need that book for your creepy, weird hoo-doo-voo-doo shit. Here, I took this right before it was moved. " He dug around in his belt and pulled out a small, folded photograph of the book in question.

Her eyes lit up with excitement and she snatched the photograph from his hand, desperate to look at it. There was an almost childlike wonder to her eyes and her fingers traced the shape of its cover. "This is it. This is what I've been looking for."

"I know." He took the photograph back and tucked it into his belt again. "I told you it's close. It's out here, somewhere in the city, and I will find it for you. But you need to give me and little more time and you need to learn how to trust me."

"I know better than to trust you, Red-X." Raven pinched the bridge of her nose and mumbled under her breath. "I should have hired Mumbo. At least he would have been faster... although not so discreet."

"Ouch, Sunshine." He put a hand over his chest in mock-pain, smirking under his mask. He knew better than to take her words to heart; he was the best, after all. "If I had known you felt that way, I would have never taken your offer in the first place."

Raven scoffed and rolled her eyes. "Don't joke. You needed the job, and you know it."

"I need your dirty money?" He grinned and stared down at her blushing face. She always hated that he pointed out her faults, specifically her desperation in finding this rare book. The actual truth was that her money wasn't necessarily dirty, but giving it to a thief was certain to taint any perceived or real cleanliness. And he couldn't complain too much about what she paid him with... this job came with a few extra perks that weren't always on the normal bill. "I didn't think you were so ignoble as to search out my help to steal this book. I would have never pegged you as the desperate type."

"You know nothing about me."

"I know enough." He held out his hand, palm-up as if asking for an offering from her. "Come on, Sunshine. I gave you the update you wanted."

"That wasn't an update. That was a cheap excuse for information... but a deal is a deal. You showed me proof it's close and I thank you for that at least." She rolled her eyes and slid a few hundred dollars into his outstretched hand. "Payment."

A weight settled over his heart. He knew, logically, that he needed the money. His fridge was empty and his rent was due soon. But he didn't want her money right now, he wasn't that desperate for it yet. No, he wanted something much more from her than a finder's fee. He handed the bills back to her. "I don't want your money tonight."

Color filled her face. "You didn't give me an update."

"I told you the truth."

She glared at him from beneath her hood. "I don't want to."

"Lies." He rested his hand over her sternum, feeling the frantic rhythm of her heart fluttering against his touch. "I know the truth, Raven. I can feel it under your skin."

"Mm." She glared up at him and pushed his hand off her. "Just because you're… good at what you do doesn't mean that I'm going to fold under your advances every time you push them on me. I'm smarter than that."

"Good at what I do?" He lifted an eyebrow, laughing. That was certainly almost a compliment. "With the thieving or…" He trailed off, letting her fill in the blank of his words.

Raven turned around and started for the edge of the roof. "Enough of this. I'm going home."

Red-X couldn't have that. Now could he? His hand wrapped around her wrist and he pulled her close to him, rolling up the edge of his mask to expose his lips. Before Raven could protest, he sealed his lips against her own, burying his gloved fingers in her hair. She struggled for a moment before her limbs stilled and she tentatively returned his kisses, tracing his lips with her tongue until he gave in and allowed her access to his mouth.

He fought a groan rising into his throat. She tasted so good. Like fresh, floral tea and plums. Every kiss he had ever stolen from her came racing to his mind and he couldn't stop his body from reacting. She was not the initial reason he took this job, but she was certainly becoming the sole reason. His mouth moved down the column of her neck, fingers fumbling with the clasp on her cloak.

"I wish it wasn't like this."

Her voice had dropped an octave, and when Red-X picked up his head, he saw the remorse lining her eyes. He saw the fear and guilt swimming around until disappearing into the depths of her unknown consciousness. He couldn't do this tonight, not when she was lost in her thoughts like this. No, he wanted her to be focused on her pleasure and the sensations building between them. He wanted her to forget for a few moments about her duties and allow him to love her. He groaned in defeat and took a step back, letting his hands fall from the clasp on her cloak.

"Go."

Raven looked up at him, surprised. "I…"

"I don't want to talk about it." He rolled his mask back down and took another step away from her, putting space between them. "Go. Just go."

Raven pulled the hood around her head tightly. Her eyes met his own as she paused at the edge of the roof. "Next time."

He sighed and fell onto an AC unit, feeling utterly dejected as he stared at her. "You always say that." He paused for a moment, trying to keep his feelings from bubbling to the surface. But it was too late, the words had already left his lips before he could stop them. "I get it, Raven. You can't do this because of what you do and who you are. You have morals and ideas of honesty and truthfulness to adhere to. I get it. I understand that this whole idea of you and me together is difficult for you… but maybe it's not just about you. Maybe I have some stake in it too."

"What stake? You haven't even made the effort to try and make it something more than what it is: an arrangement. I don't even know your name or have ever seen your face." Raven scoffed. "You want me to just let you take over my body because you want it? Because you think you've earned it?"

"No. But I'm not the only one who is aroused. You want it too."

"That's not the point."

"Then what is?"

She didn't have an answer to that.

"Thought so."

Raven reached out for him, but he pushed her hand away. "I don't want a pity fuck. Not from you and not tonight." He stood up and readjusted his clothing, his eyes never leaving her face. "Tomorrow night. Come see me here and I'll get you your stupid book."

Her face melted back into its normal facade of blank stoicism.

Red-X moved to the edge of the building. "I just want to end this. I want to be done with you."

"Fine."

With that he fell off the roof and into the darkness, and as far away from her as he could get.

Red-X sighed as he dropped his mask onto his sofa. What had he said those things? What in the world was he trying to prove to her... or to himself? He didnt know. He hadn't meant to get as involved as he did. He had never meant to felt the way he did about Raven. She was the last person he should have ever cared about, and the last person he should feel anything for, but somewhere between their stolen night together and her strange, cryptic conversations with her, he began to realize that his feelings ran deeper than he ever anticipated.

And that was a problem.

A minute ticked by before he felt the familiar feeling of guilt bubble up into his chest. He flopped down onto his sofa and stared at the intricate box on his coffee table, the carvings collecting dust for nearly a month now. It housed a weird, rare book from another dimension. The same book Raven had contracted him for. He promised himself he'd let her know he found the book soon, but that had been three weeks ago, and his conscience didn't seem ready to tell her just yet. Until tonight when she had looked at him with that stare of remorse. Just once he wanted her to look at him with the same feeling of excitement he began to look at her, but seeing her reservation tonight reminded him that they were two entirely separate people and they would never converge as one.

And that was a realization he would have to live with.

Tomorrow... tomorrow he would be done with her forever.

At least, that was what he told himself.

)O(

Hi friends! I originally posted this under another account of mine (I Pilot the Submachopter), where I was intending to move a lot of my one-shots and mini-stories. I decided that was what Tumblr was for, and decided to delete my other FFnet account.

So, with that, you may have read this before, but I edited it a little better the second time around. Also, I have been using my Tumblr a bit more with a few small stories and a writer's challenge. So, if you are so inclined, feel free to check it out. the URL is on my bio page. Thanks for being awesome, feel free to leave a review.

PS: I promise I will update more stories within 24 hours, I was just mildly distracted these past few weeks by work and SUN. Ohhh, God. SUN.