Author's Notes: A huge thank you to everyone who reviewed this story—you have no idea how encouraging you all were! This was a really fun story to write, and I'm glad so many people enjoyed it!
This is the final chapter.
Terra stared at Cyborg in stunned silence for long after he had stopped speaking.
The tale that she had just heard was beyond anything she had imagined in the weeks that she had spent searching, looking for the truth. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she must have known that it would not be something she wanted to hear—after all, it involved the deaths of five young teenagers. But for some reason she had never fully stopped to think about what horrors such a thing would involve. To have such trust and friendship, and then to have that trust suddenly betrayed, the friendship thrown away like it meant nothing…it had been enough to drive one of their members into madness, so much so that he had murdered two of his comrades. Then to have one of the remaining friends turn against him in the end…
Terra squeezed her eyes shut, trying not to feel the stinging sensation of the onset of tears. "Why?" she whispered hoarsely.
Cyborg looked as though he wanted to cry, but was unable to. "I don't know. I never found out why any of it really happened. Robin said it was Raven who did it, but he was crazy. He wasn't thinking clearly. I don't know if I can believe him or not."
She sat in silence.
Cyborg leaned forward, his human eye reflecting sincere concern. "I'm sorry, Terra, I wish I knew."
Terra blinked through the tears, a strange, faint sound of determination suddenly appearing behind her voice. "I think I know someone who does."
Audrey let her in without a fuss this time, although the woman seemed even less pleased at Terra's return than she had during her first arrival. Terra did her best to look apologetic, and moved past Audrey to enter the sitting room.
The man in the chair looked up at her arrival, his face the same as she remembered: intense in its silent calmness. "So…you have returned."
Terra met his gaze, trying to mask the uneasiness that had settled on her. She remembered quite well how afraid she had been the last time she'd come here. But when she had come the first time, it had been only because of her own ignorance coupled with her insatiable curiosity. This time it was different. This time, it was far more personal.
She had been there when the Titans had been killed. It was part of the past that she couldn't remember. It was more than just a need to satisfy a desire to understand—it was the necessity to find out what she had done, who she had been.
Terra remained standing near the doorway. She knew she shouldn't have come again—she never should have gone in the first place—but she was here now, and she wasn't leaving until the final piece was in place.
"I have to know something. And I think you have the answer."
"Do you now?" The man folded his hands, looking at her expectantly.
Terra took a deep breath. "I was one of them. I was a Teen Titan. Did they die…because of me?"
If it was possible, the atmosphere around him seemed to darken. While his expression remained as always, something about his manner was more serious—more dangerous. "Ah, you have been doing more of your research, I see."
"I just need to know…"
"I believe that I distinctly discouraged you from pursuing the matter."
Terra's face closed. "So you don't want to tell me."
For the first time, she thought she saw something different in the expression he held on his face. It was barely noticeable, but it was there… "It seems the damage has already been done."
She was silent for a moment, then felt a sinking feeling as she realized what he must mean. "Then it was me…"
"No. But it should have been."
She winced, uncertain. "I don't understand…"
The familiar gaze had returned, intense, unblinking, the strange notion behind them gone. He folded his hands serenely in front of him. "When you first arrived here, I made you an offer. I needed someone to be my assistant, my operative…but you refused. Of course, your refusal forced me to modify my plans. So I found someone else."
He nodded slightly, as though in approval. "It was not the ideal method, but my needs were dire enough to require and adapt to such inconvenience."
Terra shifted on her feet, unsure of whether to feel relived or guilty. What Robin had said was true, then. She hadn't been working for Slade, she hadn't been the one to give out the information and betray her friends…but because she hadn't, Raven had.
"She was unwilling, of course, but those who are such can always be convinced otherwise. There are limitless methods and possibilities. In fact, I had used similar methods before." A note of mild amusement had entered into his voice. "The ploy that fails to trap one bird may work on another."
Terra had no idea what he was talking about, and merely remained still, waiting for him to continue.
"It worked at first, quite well actually." Now he was no longer looking at her. He had turned his attention to the small table next to him, and was reaching to open one of its side drawers. "But then she was discovered, and I'm sure your research has shown you the rest of what happened. Otherwise you would not have come back to me."
Terra stood silently, at a loss of what to say next. She had found out all she needed to know. A part of her wished that she had never started digging into the Titan's history in the first place, but another part was glad that she knew the truth. Unsure of whether to thank the man before her or just leave, she lingered for a moment.
And in the next instant, the decision was made for her.
Slade had reached into the drawer beside him and pulled out a small pistol, and was now aiming it towards her.
Terra stood, eyes wide, staring at the weapon.
"You do understand, of course, that this was your own mistake, pursuing the truth when you were advised otherwise. While you were still ignorant of the true events, you were not a threat." His eyebrows rose fractionally.
She stood rigid, her mouth suddenly dry as she tried to speak. "What are you doing?"
"Robin was right, you know. It is your fault." His voice was as calm and smooth as ever, his hand holding the gun in a relaxed manner, as though nothing had changed.
"What are you doing?" Terra repeated, trying to keep the panic from sounding in her voice.
"Had you not refused my offer, I would not have been forced to pursue other means. And had I not been forced to pursue other means, none of these events would have happened five years ago. The Titans would still be alive, Robin with them, and had Robin remained alive, I would have been able to eventually fulfill my needs and have him as my apprentice."
Terra could only stare now in fearful silence, her eyes locked on the gun.
The man kept his calm gaze steady. "And as long as we are discussing the things that 'might-have-been', I have another one for you to consider. Had you accepted my offer, your usefulness would have run out eventually, and I would have disposed of you."
Suddenly Terra saw the difference in his face again, the glint behind his eyes…and this time, she recognized it.
Like everything else about him, it was mannered, disciplined, controlled…
But it was still there.
"So you see, Terra," Slade added, cocking the hammer of the pistol, "You were supposed to die anyway."