The Red Masque, Part One

Disclaimer: All the characters are property of their respective owners, like Warner Brothers, DC Comics, et cetera. I'm not planning to use any originals at this point, although if I do, I'll be sure to warn you. Also, all the quotes from Poe are copyright to him, or his estate, or whoever has the rights to his works at the moment. Hope you enjoy the story, as it's my first offering in a while. Reviews are always appreciated, naturally, especially if there's a mistake that needs to be called to my attention. And compliments are, of course, highly welcome as well. Thank you muchly!

--Manny PenPen

Chapter 1

"From childhood's hour I have not been As others were; I have not seen As others saw; I could not bring My passions from a common spring."

--Edgar Allen Poe, "Alone"


Raven loved the quiet, that delicate peace which settled so seldomly over the Titan's Tower. Normally, the place was practically a hive of frenzied activity, but today. . .there was quiet. After briefly flicking her gaze about the empty common room, the slim young woman sank into the softest, most comfortable corner of the couch. There. Almost perfect. Only her book was out of place; the small, leather-bound tome rested on the end table near her, just out of physical reach.

Let it lie there, Raven thought. She was too tired at the moment to do much besides bask in the silence. Already her eyelids were drooping, with each eyelash seemingly weighted by a pound of sand. But she couldn't sleep. Hadn't been able to sleep. Every time the Titan closed her own eyes, she could feel four more burning into the back of her head. And her dreams. . .well, the last time she had slept, her room looked like it had been hit by a cyclone come morning.

Calm, whispered the Titan, even as a tremor of fear shivered through her. I am calm. With a murmured word and a quick exertion of energy, the blue-robed empathy levitated her book into her out-stretched palm. The black leather cover was soothing, and she took comfort in the book's reassuring presence. At least the other Titans weren't here. Starfire and Robin had gone out. . .together somewhere, and the other two boys had said something about visiting the basketball courts. A wry traced itself across Raven's face as she thought of Starfire and Robin. Apparently, an alien and a fearless leader could get along together quite nicely.

Not that Raven minded. If nothing else, it got Starfire away from her and into someone else's care for a while. Ever since that body- switching episode, the young woman from Tamaraan had been particularly insistent on keeping up her end of their friendship. Again, it was something Raven could appreciate, but after losing several weekends to Star's various "hanging outs", she was beginning to wonder whether her friendship would be at the cost of her sanity. As Raven thumbed through the pages of her book, she chanced a quick glance at the clock. Only two o'clock? Good; she had at least a couple hours before the rest of the team was due to return. If she planned her time wisely, she'd have enough to--

"Yo, anybody home?"

Raven winced sharply at the sudden intrusion on her thoughts. She didn't just hear that. She couldn't have. What could they be doing back so early? Trying to recompose her thoughts, the young woman got to her feet slowly and peered over the back of the couch.

More scuffling and noises from the hallway, and some muffled voices. That confirmed it; at least two of the Titans had returned far too early for Raven't tastes. Heaving a long and rather irritated sigh, she resettled herself into the couch, then picked up her book again. Perhaps, if she looked involved enough in Poe, they would take the hint and let her alone. Raven could hear them coming up behind her, the sound of a basketball bouncing mixing in with their voices.

"Dude, I so totally won that game!" Beast Boy. Great, the boys were home. Out of the corner of her eye, Raven could see the green shape bouncing a basketball against the tiled floor. Then he shape shifted, and a green monkey vaulted over the couch to land on the low table in front and to the left of her.

"That's just 'cause you cheated," returned Cyborg, who had come up behind the couch and was now resting his mechanical arm on the back. "I thought we 'greed on the no superpowers rule!"

With a chitter, the monkey shifted back into Beast Boy. "You used 'em first, Mr. Roboto. You're just jealous I'm so smooth on the court." That said, the green teen sent the basketball rolling smoothly down his arm, then caught it neatly on the tip of one finger.

Cyborg, however, only gave his friend an incredulous look. "Right. Smooth. Like when you tripped and fell into that blond on the sidelines?" he queried, voice dripping with sarcasm.

At that, Beast Boy grimaced. "That's just 'cause you tripped me, dude. I was just about to show her my Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon basketball shot." As he spoke, he gestured articulately with his free hand.

"Pretty damn ridiculous name for trippin' with style." Though his words were harsh, Cyborg's tone betrayed a far more friendly mindset.

"It wasn't tripping! You," he punctuated this with a prideful look, "just don't know what true art looks like."

"Least I know art from jus' plain bein' stupid."



Morons, added Raven silently.

As if in response to her thought, Beast Boy pointed towards the empath. "Betcha Raven'll think it's art. She's a girl."

"What does that have to do with it?" replied Raven, not taking her eyes off her book. She was in the middle of her favorite poem; petty arguments could hardly hold a candle to Poe's genius.

"'Cause it impresses all the ladies," was Beast Boy's response. He grinned widely, and, for a moment, Raven found herself reminded of a green dolphin. "They were all lining up to see me, you know-"

"More like trying to get away," snorted Cyborg.

"-since I'm just that good," continued Beast Boy, ignoring Cyborg's comment completely. "Raven'll back me up."

At this, Raven sighed and peered irritably over the top of her book. "If it's anything like your sense of humor. . ."

"Then I'll probably have Star all over me too. Not-" he added hastily as Cyborg glared at him, "-that I wanna fool around with that. Heh." The green-skinned superhero rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

Raven lowered the book a few inches, just enough so she could get a full view of her teammate. "Fine. Get it over with."

"Just watch." With those words, he straightened up, rebalanced the ball on his finger, then leapt into the air. For a few moments, he hung there, then he hurtled down headfirst, his arms outstretched. He would have caught himself and executed a perfect handstand. . .if he had landed on the table. As it was, his hands caught the corner of the table, causing him to fall awkwardly. Before Raven had time react, he was upon her; the two of them went crashing to the floor, arms and legs all akimbo.

She was underneath him, she realized dizzily. And her book open was underneath her, she realized with a twinge of anger. While neither her nor Beast Boy were that heavy, their combined weight would be more than enough to damage that precious leather cover. "Get. . .off. . .of me," she hissed, teeth clenched in restrained fury.

Cyborg was kneeling beside them now.. "Beast Boy? Raven? You okay? What the hell just happened?"

"More like heaven," gasped Beast Boy. Despite the obvious failure of his "smooth move," the Titan was grinning from ear to ear. "Toldja it'd get the ladies all over me."

"Get OFF!"

A blanket of black energy wrapped itself around Beast Boy, and he rocketed up into the air. Below him, Raven was holding her hands out towards him and almost glowing with bloody rage. She hated, hated, HATED- goddamn him and his stupid comments! And his need to show off! He deserved what was coming, oh yes. She would enjoy tearing him apart.

"Raven? Raven? H-h-hey, this isn't funny!" stammered her captive. For the first time in a while, a look of absolute fear showed in his eyes, and he began to shapeshift in a desperate attempt to escape from his teammate. Each time he changed, however, the blackness contracted further and further, nearly suffocating him. "R-raven?!"

"Don't touch me!" she hissed, her voice now deep and husky with the force of her fury. With a flick of her wrist, she levitated her book up before his face. "Do you realize the damage you're causing?"

Beast Boy stared at the pages dizzily. With the lack of oxygen he was getting close to passing out in midair. "I. . .I. . ."

With a crack of black lightning, the book tore itself in half, its pages scattering across the floor of the room. "This! This is what you cause! Destruction!" As she spoke, the two book halves fell to the ground with a soft thud. She could feel those eyes burning into the back of her head, and she didn't care, didn't think, didn't want to do anything except to give release to her unbridled fury-


Two strong arms seized her torso, and Raven's concentration broke in a rush of energy. With a faint yelp, Beast Boy tumbled onto the couch and lay there, trying to catch his breath. Meanwhile, Cyborg kept his grip on her frail body. "Raven! What in the hell're you doing? You nearly killed him!"

What in the hell was I doing? echoed Raven mentally. She felt dizzy. Cold. Empty, as if some wildfire had just ravaged its way through her. She hadn't felt this way since her encounter with Dr. Light, and even then she'd still had some semblance of control. The part that scared her the most, however, was that glee, that sadistic glee that had reveled in her comrade's pain. . . "Don't. . .just. . .just move." God, her head hurt. The only thing she wanted to do right now was to meditate, and try to clear her mind. Peace. Calm. Calm. . .

Naturally, Cyborg hardly intended to allow her to attack Beast Boy again, so he kept one eye firmly fixed on Raven as he released her. "You. . .okay?"

"Figures nobody's asking me that. . ." Beast Boy managed to croak.

Raven ignored him. It was all she could do to keep her own mind in check. "Yes. Fine." How was she supposed to explain anything to them?

Cyborg's face was gentle. "You're sure? Last time you were like this. . ."

"I know. Let me be." Not wanting to dwell on this any further, the blue-robed Titan portalled through the floor and came out through the ceiling of her bedroom. Meditation. She needed. . .meditation. . .

Behind her, Cyborg stared at the mess of paper that now littered their common room. "You alright?" he asked, turning towards his smaller friend.

"Yeah. For nearly getting turned into mush, that is." Though he was still short on breath, the green teen had managed a sitting position on the couch. Careful not to hurt his injured sides, he lifted up a book half and stared at it. For a moment, he examined it silently, then tilted his head up towards Cyborg's face.

"What'd I do?"