A/N: Bit of a shorter chapter this time around, but not by a whole lot. Anyway, here's kudos to all who are new and double kudos to my returning readers. I always love to hear comments, so if you like the story, or have a suggestion, or anything, pleasepleaseplease leave a review. I can't express to you the joy I feel to see a notification that some noble soul has deigned to comment on my story.

Anyhoo, here's to all of you. Please enjoy this chapter. n_n


Chapter Four

"Dude, this is so not cool. I look like a freaking Martha Stewart!"

"Cleaning ain't gonna poison you. Take it like a man."

Back in the common room, the three male members of the team were cleaning with more or less diligence. The room was a veritable disaster area. In the hallway, wet cherry blossoms had coated the floor and walls; the pages of Raven's book faced a similar fate on the couch. And even without those additions, the common room was naturally cluttered, as Cyborg discovered when he found several bags of radioactively rotten chips wedged between the Gamestation and Beast Boy's DVD collection. Shaking his head in disgust, the eldest Titan regarded the youngest with a mixture between amusement and irritation. "And y'know we wouldn't be cleaning now if you were better 'bout cleaning up after yourself."

"Hey, you're in here just as much as I am," retorted Beast Boy. Looking distinctly unhappy, the small green teen wrestled with a small white apron that was tied around his waist. "'Sides, I don't see why we gotta wear these girly dress-things anyway. Robin got an apron fetish or somethin'?"

"Don't look at me man," returned Cyborg, picking up yet another bag of stale chips. Against his better judgment, the young man peered inside the pouch of cellophane. "Man, these're your chips. I ain't touchin' 'em." He tossed the bag to his friend, feeling rather disgusted. Leaving it around like that.serious waste of chips, man!

The green teen caught the bag, then peered inside as well. "So that's where I put 'em!" Looking quite triumphant, Beast Boy reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of long gray socks. "Knew I'd put 'em in a safe spot." After shoving the garments into a pocket, he paused for a moment to sniff at the bag; then, carefully, he reached in and extracted a chip. "They don't look that bad, y'know," he commented. With a toss of his hand, the chip flew up and landed neatly in the changeling's mouth. "Don't taste that bad either."

Cyborg cringed in disgust. "That's jus' sick, man."

"Actually, they taste pretty good!" returned his friend, reaching once more into the bag. "Kinda like. . .chips and foot salsa." He munched on a chip thoughtfully. "Or salt and sweat."

If he gets sick, thought Cyborg, I sure ain't cleanin' up after him. Good lord. There were moments when Cyborg wondered if he were the only sane one on the entire team. "So you'll eat month-old chips and not meat? Somethin's wrong with you, man," replied the older Titan, stooping to pick up some book pages. As he looked down at one sheet, he paused, flicking the gaze of his one human eye over the pages. As Poe's words were quite ordinary (for Poe, anyway), he quickly turned his attention away from them and towards a series of sidenotes written in spidery script.

He'd never actually seen Raven's handwriting before, Cyborg realized. Said handwriting was. . .quite Raven-ly, but it had an air of delicate beauty that said much of its author. Slowly, the large teen lowered himself to the floor, unable to stop reading the pages; it was almost as if Raven were there herself, speaking in her low dulcet tones.

Suddenly, Beast Boy's hand shot out in front of him and snatched the pages out of Cyborg's clutches. "Gotcha covered, big guy," he commented, adding the pages to a small pile he held in his right hand. "Gonna take care of this myself."

Cyborg stared at Beast Boy for a moment, giving him an incredulous look. "What's the big idea? I had 'em just fine there." And I was enjoying myself, he added in annoyance. Considering it's the closest to her I'll ever get. . . Carefully, the tall Titan got to his feet, making sure to grab several pages on the way up.

Once again, the small Titan reached out for the papers; this time, however, Cyborg countered by holding the sheets high above his head. "Hey! No fair!" he yelped, leaping into the air in an attempt to retrieve them.

Grinning down at the younger teen, Cyborg waggled the pages in midair. "What's so important about 'em? Gonna put the book back together?"

Beast Boy backed off, panting a bit and holding his hurt side. ". . .well. . .I did kinda make her break it." Despite his nonchalant shrug, Cyborg could see a faint tinge of red coloring his face. "Might. . .make her feel better."

"Hnn." Now that Beast Boy mentioned it, Cyborg couldn't help but long to use that same idea himself. It would make her feel better, he thought, and it'd show her how thoughtful they could be. How thoughtful he could be. ". . .why dontcha let me do it?" he asked, keeping a firm grip on the papers he already had. "I got the equipment to put it back together."

"No! I'm gonna do it!" returned the younger man, his voice rising in alarm. "My idea, my job. End of story."

"Lemme just help, man!" yelled Cyborg in response. "Y'can't do it yourself, y'know!"

"Dude, I so totally can! Just lemme alone!"

"Look, I'm just trying to help you--"

Thunder crashed suddenly, and the lights blinked out in a heartbeat. In the darkness, he heard a muffled yelp coming from the kitchen, followed by a dozen pots crashing to the floor. "What in the hell's goin' on here?" Cyborg asked for the second time that day. After moving one hand over to the console on his wrist, the cyborg pushed a couple buttons and activated the infrared vision in his left eye. He looked just past Beast Boy and saw Robin's red silhouette coming out of the kitchen.

To his left, Beast Boy crouched on the floor, staring out into the darkness. Whether the green teen could actually see or not, Cyborg had no idea; Beast Boy had never said whether his animal enhancements extended into his human form. "Okay, who turned out the lights? So not funny."

"Nobody did," came a new voice. Ah, Robin was back with them again. "The power's probably out. Told you it was storming out." The teen's glowing red silhouette turned a bit, and Cyborg realized that Robin had turned towards the door through which Starfire had exited earlier. "Are the girls back yet?"

As if in response to his query, the door opened to admit two floating figures. Another movement of the fingers, and Cyborg disabled his infrared. Green light from Starfire's hands filled his vision, painting the entire scene an acidic green color. "Is everyone alright?" she asked worriedly. "Raven and I were concerned--"

"You were concerned. I thought they would be just fine." Raven's monotone echoed in the eerie air of the common room. "We are all just fine."

"Easy for you to say. I'm still wearing an apron," pointed out Beast Boy. "And trying not to get attacked by zombie dust bunnies."

Raven raised one eyebrow. "Zombie. . .dust bunnies."

"Dude, they're vicious! And," he added, pointing a finger in the air, "they're good at sneaking around. Stealth ninja zombie dust bunnies!"

Cyborg rolled his eyes incredulously. "Look man, be serious for once. This ain't no laughing matter."

"Cyborg's right," agreed Robin. As he turn to look at each of his teammates, their small yet fearless leader showed nothing but a firm yet calm look on his face. "Might just be a power outage. Might be something else."

"I do not understand," came Starfire's lilting voice. "Is this common for storms?"

"Sometimes, yeah." Robin put one hand to his chin, obviously thinking. As silence settled itself over the group, Cyborg thought he could hear something in the distance. Something loud, something huge, like a train passing by. But it couldn't possibly be a train; no such thing came out this far into the bay. Lightning flashed again, and for a moment, the entire room was lit up in a blaze of white fire.

BAMF! Taptaptaptap!

Startled, the eldest of the Titans looked up. "What was that?"

The other Titans had heard it as well, and each stared at the portion of the ceiling just above their heads. "Sounds like a tap dancing llama or something. A stealth zombie ninja tap dancing--"

"It's footsteps," interrupted Raven, waving one hand to make the green teen shut up. "Like someone just landed on the roof."

Robin nodded. "That's what I thought."

"But why would someone be on our roof?" Starfire floated into the hallway and up towards the hatch leading up and out. Like moths following a flame, the other Titans trailed after her, staring up at the alien girl from the bottom of the ladder. "I do not think it would be likely," she added, pushing the metal hatch open.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck the top of the hatch, sending a startled Starfire tumbling backwards and towards all of them. "Starfire!" cried Robin, already running to catch his friend. For a few breathless moments, Cyborg thought he would miss her; then, at the last moment, he stretched out his arms and they both tumbled to the floor. "Starfire! Are you hurt? Starfire?"

Though her voice was shaking, Starfire managed a short laugh. "I am well, friend Robin. It was actually rather fun."

"Fun or not," muttered Cyborg angrily, "that ain't cool. Lemme check this time. Somethin's gotta be out there." With that, he leapt to the ladder and began to climb upwards. Admittedly, some villains played dirty, but. . .that was just too low. Especially with someone as innocent and unsuspecting as Starfire.

Meanwhile, Beast Boy clearly thought his friend had gone insane. "You crazy, dude? You're just gonna walk right out there?"

"What else?" snapped Cyborg, who was now at the top of the ladder. Slowly and carefully, he lifted the hatch and peeked out. It was utter chaos. Rain and wind pelted him the moment his head cleared the hatch, drenching the human side of his head instantly. Cold, too, attacked him; if they had to stay out here for any extended period of time, hypothermia would definitely be an issue. Still, the storm did seem normal enough, according to his scanners. After looking around carefully, the Cyborg slowly lifted himself out and onto the surface of the roof.


Cyborg whirled, nearly losing his balance due to the winds raging all about him. "What the--who the hell--?" he fumbled, staring at the figure before him. In the dim light of the maelstrom, he could see nothing but a floating shadow and a faceless red mask that hovered within the darkness. What was going on? What the hell was going on?

Although he could not see the monster's face, Cyborg got the distinct impression that the shadow was grinning at him. "Maelstrom," it whispered, and raised a hand to the heavens. Instinctively, the teen stared up, but could see nothing. "Maelstrom," it repeated. "Maelstrom comes for her, and him."

"What?" The force of the storm raged harder, making it difficult to hear even his own voice. Cyborg squinted into the chaos, but could see nothing.

A bolt of lightning thundered down from the heavens, striking him squarely in the back. For a moment, the world around him became garbled and insane; then, with the grace of a falling stone, he collapsed on the roof. There he lay, only dimly registering his surroundings. Alive? Yes. Conscious? He wasn't sure. And besides, the amount of pain that now assaulted him made him long for an unconscious bliss.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see movement. Movement of what? He couldn't remember. Everything frazzled--jumbled--chaos. And so he lay there helpless, watching the shadow of death approach like a murder of ravens gliding in for the kill.