Author's Notes: I don't even know what to say. I am so horribly late, it's NAUSEATING!

Well, combine tons of schoolwork, getting a new dog (named Titan!), hanging out with friends, softball conditioning, and the list never ends. The really pathetic part is that despite the fact that it looks like I "forgot" about this story, nothing could be farther from the truth. As I told a couple of people I've been talking to, I wrote about not-being-able-to-write in my journal probably every day since I last updated. Yeah. How sad is that?

Anyway, I was also furious with myself. I MISSED "Calling All Titans!" I'm working on downloading it now… hopefully I can get it to work. I taped the other two episodes after it so I'll be able to watch them as soon as I get the episode to download. So this leads me to my next thought:

ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS WHEN YOU REVIEW!

I have no way of knowing what you say in a review until I read it, and if you've included some spoilers, I won't figure it out until it's too late. So let me say that again: NO SPOILING IT FOR ME! I'm trying desperately to get the episode (if you know where I can find it, let me know!), but until then, just hold off on mentioning anything! Thanks!

OK, the first Slade bit for this chapter was inspired by M.E. Pal, and the next one by both M.E. Pal and Ami-chan. Credit goes out to them! Thanks guys!

Also, huge thanks and credit go out to Anime Kitty Café, who beta read this chapter for me. She got it to me so quickly too!

Hmm, I'm betting since it's been so long, you all really don't wanna hear me gab. Thus, this chapter!

-----

Chapter 15: Circus of Horrors

Lieutenant Jeremy Cook was reclining in his office chair. He had had a busy night, and his hair was damp with perspiration. He had removed his helmet so he could breathe more easily, and his feet were propped up on the corner of his desk. He tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling. The chief of police was still out on patrol, so Cook was required to remain in the office.

A shrill beep cut through the still air like a knife. Cook lifted his head wearily, staring blankly at the small black box that sat on his desk. But it was only for an instant, and he was already moving towards the phone. He lifted his official lieutenant communicator to his ear. "Cook here," he said into it with a drained voice. But as he listened to the crackling that came through, his eyes grew wide. All the exhaustion disappeared from his body as he sat upright in his chair, staring straight ahead. "Got it," he said briskly, then hung up. He put his head in his hands. It was going to be a long night. But he knew what to do. He turned to his right where a small control panel sat on his desk. There was one red button on it. He pushed it down, then turned to face the front of the room, where a screen had dropped down from the ceiling. He was making the call.

---

"Man, no. You're just wrong." Cyborg rolled his eyes at his leader. "I mean, we all make mistakes, but you have completely outdone yourself this time."

"What? No way! You know I'm right, you're just too ashamed to admit it. You wish you'd thought of it first!"

"Definitely not. You've got it totally backwards."

"Oh, you think so?" Robin demanded, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Absolutely."

Robin and Cyborg were engaged in an argument over which fictional movie character could beat up the other. They'd been at it for a good forty-five minutes, having already driven Raven from the room, nearly tearing out her hair at the pointlessness of the conversation. But the boys were still at it, and in full force.

"Clearly, Ohio Smith is the best explorer/martial artist symbologist in all of moviedom. He'd flatten Neon."

"Not a chance!" cried the cybernetic teen. "Neon has mind-control powers and an energy beam sword. It's not even a contest. Neon is definitely stronger."

Robin opened his mouth to retort, but there was a beep from behind him, and he turned to face the giant monitor. The face of a young man filled the screen. His hair was tousled, and he had bright blue eyes. Robin immediately recognized him as the lieutenant police officer. He sprang to his feet and ran over to the main computer. "Report!" he said, suddenly all business. "What's the problem?"

"We just received a call," the man said equally as professional. "Apparently there's some trouble down by the water, by our other shore. Not in your bay. There's a large yacht under siege there. We don't know exactly who's doing the attacking, but from the information we have so far, this guy is trouble. Can I ask you to check it out? We've been having a busy night, and my men are tired. We'll provide you with back up, obviously, but we could use more manpower-"

"Not a problem," Robin said quickly. "We'll be there. What's the name of the boat?"

"She's called the H.M.S. Highwind." He shrugged. "I don't know anything about it, but it needs our protection. That's good enough for me."

"Good enough for the Titans, too," said Robin with a grin. "We're on our way." He severed the connection, then slammed his fist down onto a button on the keyboard. Cyborg had listened in from behind the Boy Wonder, and so had no response to the alarm sounding throughout the Tower now.

Starfire was the first to arrive on the scene. She looked slightly surprised, as if she had been preoccupied when the alert had gone off, but she now clenched her fists, nodding in a determined fashion at her teammates. Raven came next, phasing through the roof to stand next to Cyborg. She was pulling her hood up in the process. Finally, Beast Boy appeared, a comb stuck in his hair. He was panting. "You were trying to style your hair again, weren't you?" Cyborg asked. Beast Boy only glared at him, confirming the thought.

"Titans, we're needed at the opposite shoreline. We're looking for the H.M.S. Highwind. Let's move!" Robin shouted. Starfire and Raven zipped to the door while Cyborg and Robin followed on foot. Beast Boy transformed into a large hawk, then flew after them.

---

An elderly woman tried to run away, but she was entangled in the evening dress she wore, and she fell hard on the deck of the ship. The breath was knocked out of her, and it took a few moments for her to regain enough air to hoist her slightly overweight form off the ground. She was on her hands and knees when she looked over her shoulder and gasped in fright.

Two creatures were closing in on her. She wasn't going to make it. It was all over. Today was supposed to be one of the greatest days she ever had, and here it would be her last. She screamed and braced herself for the inevitable, covering her head with her arms.

But it never came. The two creatures shrieked from behind her, and as she looked up, she saw them thrown off to the left by a beam of white and blue light.

"Booyah!" came a voice from the woman's right. She turned to see a group of five teenagers standing on the outside rail of the ship. The woman had never felt more relieved in her life.

The Titans were perched on the rail, trying to get a sense of what was going on. From the few moments they had already been there, they could see the cause of the panic. The well-dressed men and women on deck were being terrorized by creatures unknown to any of the Titans. They were about two feet tall, and they had large wings sprouting from their backs. Their eyes were a gruesome sight, bright red with cat-like pupils. They had gaping jaws with rows of sharp teeth. Their arms were long and almost out of place, for they seemed to flow and bend easily, unlike the rest of the creature, which was stocky, but these arms ended in wicked yellow claws. They had short, stubby legs that ended in bird-like talons. Their entire bodies were covered tiny feathers spaced close together.

One of the creatures dove after a young girl, letting out an ear-piercing shriek as it swooped down. Robin tossed a smoke bomb, and it went off a few feet from the scene. The girl was able to escape in the clouds produced from the bomb.

"Titans, go!" shouted Robin, but they had only gotten a few feet when they saw him.

"What's going on over here?" a low, smooth voice said. A man came into view. He had black hair that hung down into his eyes, and he had to shake his head so he could see. The man appeared to be floating in midair, but on closer inspection, the Titans saw he was actually standing on a small disk. He wore a long black trench coat and a curious expression on his face.

"Who are you?" demanded Robin. Starfire powered up a small starbolt behind her back, just in case.

The man smirked. "My name is unimportant, but you can call me the Ringmaster. This is my maniacal menagerie," he said with a laugh. "You like 'em?"

"What are these things?" asked Cyborg, glaring at the man hovering overhead.

The man looked thoughtful for a moment. "You know, I don't know what to call them anymore. I started with simple strands of DNA from different animals, but as you can see, I've warped them beyond recognition. What you're looking at is the final product of a very long project. I think these guys are attempt number 29. The other 28 were failures and had to be disposed of."

"You mean you manipulated live animals for your sick enjoyment?" cried Beast Boy, clenching his fists. Starfire poured a little more energy into the hidden starbolt.

"Not for enjoyment," the Ringmaster said silkily. "For my circus."

Starfire could take it no longer. With a grunt, she flung the starbolt at the Ringmaster. His eyes widened in surprise momentarily, but the disk he stood on swerved out of the way. He watched the green energy ball fly off into the distance over the harbor, then turned his smug gaze back to the Titans.

"I'm impressed. That blast was more powerful than I expected. I guess you're the one they call Starfire." She only narrowed her eyes at him. The Ringmaster scratched his chin with mild interest, as if they were discussing politics over coffee. "Yes, I believe they say you're an alien? Very interesting. You must have all sorts of unique animals living on your planet. If only there was-"

Raven concentrated, and a chair a few feet away from the Titans took to the air and flew at the man. He lazily flicked his wrist at it, and four creatures leapt on it. In mere seconds, it was reduced to wood shavings.

The Ringmaster chuckled. "That's gotta be Raven. A pleasure. Your powers are quite remarkable. I must say, from the few clips on TV I've seen, you're the most amusing Titan to watch." Raven sneered at him. The Ringmaster turned his gaze on Beast Boy. "You seemed most offended by my minions. You must be Beast Boy. I don't know how you came to be in your current situation, but I can only imagine how extraordinary that story is. I'd love to run some tests and see if there's any way to reproduce your symptoms."

"You are seriously messed up!" Cyborg cried vehemently. The Ringmaster smiled at him.

"You're the cybernetic one. Well, I have to admit, I was getting discouraged with my failed experiments earlier, and I considered manufacturing my little circus instead. But I decided against it. Cybernetic technology is never as powerful as flesh and blood." Cyborg felt a surge of hatred for the man above him. He growled under his breath. Robin put a hand on his arm to let him know to wait for the signal.

"Ah, Robin! The famous leader!" the Ringmaster said. "The gang's all here. Charming, charming. This should be very entertaining. Possibly my best show yet." And with that, he waved his arms with a flourish. Five of the creatures swooped down on the Titans.

"Titans, go!" Robin cried, and his teammates leapt into action. Raven quickly summoned up dark energy to her palms. She enshrouded one of the beasts in it, but it let out a horrible screech and snapped its arms out, freeing itself. Raven gulped inwardly. This was going to be tough.

Starfire was already experiencing problems. She had fired off multiple rounds of starbolts, but the warped animals easily dodged them. One had even swallowed a starbolt. Its stomach had expanded and stretched as the starbolt sat in it, but then the creature seemed to belch and smoke issued from between its teeth. The Ringmaster had witnessed this and laughed.

"Stomach of a vulture," he said in a tone that could have been used to describe the weather. "They have to digest just about everything when they eat. Bones, diseased meat, everything. I figured it would be useful."

"I'll show you useful," muttered Beast Boy under his breath. He transformed into a pterodactyl and took to the air. He flapped until he'd gained some altitude, then dove straight for the Ringmaster's head. But before he could come within ten feet of the man, Beast Boy was swarmed by the creatures, all of them shrieking in his ears. The green pterodactyl cried out as he felt what seemed like hundreds of claws digging into his flesh. Beast Boy changed himself into a turtle and withdrew into his shell. He fell from the air, hurtling down into the arms of a certain dark Titan. Raven carefully plucked the turtle from the air and set her teammate down on a table.

Cyborg punched a beast from the air, grunting. He had refrained from using his Sonic Cannon thus far. He wasn't sure if the vile things attacking him could be counted as animals, but he didn't want to start blasting them unless he was sure. Cyborg had his morals; besides, Starfire's attacks seemed to have little effect.

The Ringmaster faked a yawn. "Listen, guys, you gotta come up with some new moves. Do you know how many times I've seen you fight this same way on TV? My minions are a new model, and I'd like to see what they're really capable of. You have to put up more of a fight."

Robin gritted his teeth. As much as he hated to admit it, the Ringmaster had a point. The Titans were not faring very well against these creatures. The Ringmaster could have built them specifically to deflect the Titans' attacks. "Regroup!" Robin called out. His teammates obeyed.

"We have to destroy these monsters!" hissed Beast Boy. "They're freaks of nature and shouldn't be alive!" Raven turned to look at the green Titan with surprise. "Seriously," continued Beast Boy vehemently. "There are some things that are just not meant to exist in the natural world. These guys gotta go."

Robin spoke up. "What we need to focus on is getting at the Ringmaster. Once he's out of the way, those things won't stand a chance. We'll send them away for testing; maybe they can be restored. If not, we'll let them be euphemized peacefully." Beast Boy nodded in agreement, still looking angry.

For a brief moment, Raven allowed herself to be amazed at Beast Boy's passion. He truly seemed offended and infuriated at the Ringmaster for his experiments. True, they were highly unethical, but Raven had never really seen Beast Boy display any passion for a cause before. Now that she thought about it, however, it fit. What calling could there be that would be more appropriate than animal rights for someone like Beast Boy?

"You know, I'm not going to wait forever," the Ringmaster stated calmly. He continued to hover over the deck, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Titans, just get to the Ringmaster. Do whatever it takes," said Robin. He smacked his fist into his open palm, and the Titans leapt away in all different directions. Starfire and Raven took to the sky, high above the battle below. Cyborg gritted his teeth as he aimed his right arm at the man. He charged up his Sonic Cannon, then let loose a powerful beam. The Ringmaster narrowed his eyes, and waved a hand in front of his body. A creature zoomed into view, blocking the way. It screamed as Cyborg's blast tore its body to pieces. It fell to the deck in a crumpled heap.

Passengers were ducking behind tables, trying to crouch down as low as they could in their formal evening wear. But when they saw the vile thing fall lifeless to the floor, panic broke loose. Some of the younger men grabbed chairs and ran out towards the body of the creature. They used the chairs to maneuver the animal over the side and into the water with a splash. It quickly sank beneath the waves.

"Hmm," the Ringmaster said thoughtfully. "I'll have to fix that in the next model."

"There won't be a next model!" cried Robin as he swung his bo staff around in rapid circles over his head. He soared into the air, bringing the staff down as hard as he could in the process. The Ringmaster clenched his fists. He swerved, narrowly missing crashing into Robin's swing. Robin fell into the midst of the creatures, and they were on him in a flash.

"Robin!" yelled Starfire. She concentrated, and twin jets of green energy sparked from her eyes. Six of the monsters cried out, taking to the air. The rest of them were flung backwards as Robin swung his bo staff around his body. He lifted one arm into the air, and Starfire swooped in to grab hold.

Beast Boy had transformed himself into a stegosaurus, and was currently parading around the deck of the boat, swinging his deadly tail at the animals. They were much swifter than he was, making it difficult for him to actually hit them. In a way, he was grateful for that fact. Even though they were hideous freaks of nature now, they had once been native inhabitants of Earth. Well, their DNA was natural, anyway. All of it had been manipulated by a human to create something that should never exist. Beast Boy's blood boiled when he thought of it.

Raven meanwhile had her hands full with protecting the passengers on board. The creatures seemed to know the Titans were there to guard the humans, and they were using it to their advantage. Raven felt a bead of sweat roll down her face as she hit what must have been the hundredth creature with a stray table.

Cyborg let out a loud yell as one of the mutants raked him with its claws. It left gaping gashes in his cybernetic parts. Cyborg clutched at his arm, sinking to one knee. It would take him hours to fix the circuitry! He swore under his breath, then stood up again, growling as he threw rapid punches at the creatures.

"You guys are a riot to watch!" the Ringmaster gloated. "I can't get enough of this!"

"Why are you here?" demanded Robin as he threw smoke bombs at the creatures from the safety of Starfire's grasp. "Why this ship?"

"No reason. It was here. I was here. It was just a perfect opportunity," the Ringmaster said, shrugging. "I don't even know what this boat is for, truth be told. I'm just here to let my creations have a bit of fun before we get down to business. I've got big plans for these guys once we've taken care of you." The Ringmaster crossed his arms over his chest again. "I'll get the respect I deserve," he murmured to himself. "No one will ever tell me what to do again."

But the Ringmaster's momentary lapse in concentration cost him. He grunted as he felt something whiz by his ear. He clasped a hand to it, and found it bloody. A small chunk of a chair's leg was hovering in front of the Ringmaster, covered in dark energy. Raven was levitating over him, glowering down at the man.

"Whoops," she said sarcastically. "Did I hit you?"

But the creatures would not stand for an attack on their master. With shrieks that could wake the dead, they congregated around the dark Titan, encircling her in a whirlwind of fangs, claws, and their strange furry feathers.

"Raven!" yelled Beast Boy. He caught a tiny glimpse of her frightened expression before the creatures had entirely blocked her from view.

---

"I can't believe we're doing this on a Friday night!" whined a teenage girl, running her perfectly manicured nails through her platinum blonde hair. "Why can't we just wait until next week sometime?"

"We need a replacement for Melinda now so we can figure out a new routine. We don't have the time to wait until next week," snapped another girl, this one with red hair.

The girls were sitting at a long table situated in their school's gymnasium. The blonde moaned, wrinkling her nose in an unattractive way and turned her gaze away, bored. The red haired girl folded her hands in front of her face, resting her elbows on the table. She sighed. The girl was captain of the cheerleading squad, and she was holding tryouts to try to replace a girl who had broken her leg a week ago. Melinda had been a fairly good cheerleader, but she'd been fooling around with a bunch of her friends in the woods (probably drinking) and had tripped over a root. The red head, Nanette, had been furious when she'd found out. She was the exact opposite of the stereotypical cheerleader; she was determined, intelligent, and poised. She refused the football captain's multiple requests for a date, knowing where it would lead by the end of the night. She kept up in school and didn't partake in any sorts of drugs or alcohol. The reason? Nanette was extremely competitive. When she decided to do something, she didn't just want to accomplish it; she wanted to be the best.

So here she was, having said no to yet another date (this one from the captain of the basketball team) just so she could try to fill up her roster once more. Their school had been invited to a very prestigious competition for cheerleading, and Nanette wanted to win first place. But that idiot Melinda jeopardized their chances! "Next," called Nanette, feeling frustrated. How could she possibly find a replacement with such short notice?

Someone appeared at the other end of the large room, emerging from the locker rooms. But instead of a scantily clad teenager, it was a man covered in spandex and armor. He wore a wig over a mask, giving him an oddly shaped head. The blonde girl lifted her head up, gawking at the strange man. Nanette blinked for a few moments before clearing her throat.

"Um… do you go to this school?"

Slade flicked his eyes back and forth, only one visible from under his mask. "Of course," he said evasively. "I, uh, just don't want to reveal my true identity… yet."

"Then what's with the wig?" drawled the blonde girl.

"You know what? At this point, I don't care. Begin your cheer," said Nanette forcefully. 'This should be… interesting, at least. But if he wastes my time, he's going to pay.'

Slade clapped his hands excitedly. "OK!" he cried, lifting one arm above his head. "Let's go!"

He swung his arms around his head in a poor imitation of a clock. "What time is it?"

The girls blinked at him.

"Go time!" he screeched. Slade flung himself into the air, performing multiple back flips and twirls. He landed neatly and began to twist his body into different letters. Unfortunately for him, Slade had forgotten the name of the school he was now in, so he just spelled out random words.

He finished his routine, wig askew. Nanette stared at him. She scribbled something down on her paper. "Best one we've seen yet," she said grudgingly. "What is this world coming to?"

"How did you learn how to do that?" asked another blonde-haired girl.

Slade scratched his chin thoughtfully. He began to twitch. "Um… I'll be right back," he said, running towards the exit.

"Wait!" cried the first blonde girl. "We don't even know your name!"

Slade burst through the front doors and stepped into the cool night air. The sun was just setting below the horizon. Slade could see it sparkling over the bay as it dipped down, casting pink and orange rays over the peaceful town. 'Peaceful,' the villain thought to himself. 'Interesting…'

He reached into a pocket and pulled out a cell phone, real this time. He quickly dialed in a number, then put the phone to his ear and waited. Finally, someone picked up. "Yes, it's me. I want you to meet me at the usual hideout for a new mission." There was a pause, then Slade chuckled evilly. "Yes. I have a new plan."

---

Raven couldn't breathe. The creatures had closed off all of her air supply before she'd had the chance to move. She tried to concentrate on phasing herself out of the tight mass of animals, but she felt a sharp bite on her leg, which made her lose her focus. Before she could even respond to that, she felt another nip on her elbow. The creatures were then whipped into a frenzy, nibbling on any part of her they could find. Raven thrashed, but to no avail. The dark Titan froze. She had to use her head. None of the injuries she was receiving were very painful. The creatures were trying to distract her - but from what?

With a deep breath, Raven closed her eyes and concentrated on creating a large shield around her body. It formed, and the beasts were repelled. Raven's eyes shot open and the shield expanded, throwing the creatures in every direction. Relief swept over Raven as she dropped the shield and floated slowly to ground. She would have to heal herself a bit before she could continue fighting. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned around. It was Robin.

"Are you all right?" he asked. She nodded. "Good." With that, he grabbed a Bird-a-rang from his belt and flung it over her head, slicing a creature's stomach open. It squealed and fell.

"Nasty," commented Raven, as she stared at the beast at her feet. She clasped a hand to her arm over her wound and let the healing energy flow into it. It was cured instantly. She smirked. 'Those things aren't so tough,' she thought. As she got to work healing the rest of her body, she looked up at the ensuing battle. Beast Boy landed a few yards in front of her as a hawk, turning back into a human as his feet touched the ground. He turned around to look at her. Their eyes met.

It only lasted for a second, but Raven felt what seemed to be an electric jolt run through her entire body. Her muscles tensed under her skin, and she felt a blush creep up around her neck. How was it possible that a single look could express so much? Beast Boy's gaze seemed to penetrate every corner of her being, all in one instant. Raven felt as if she were a Picasso painting, an object being viewed from all sides at once. It sent a chill down her spine. In that moment, she felt completely exposed.

But the green Titan turned around again, transforming himself again into a stegosaurus. The boat sunk into the water another few feet because of the added weight. The cosmic moment, or whatever it was, was over.

The Ringmaster surveyed the scene below him with him disinterest. "This battle is so very ordinary," he yawned. "I wish they would put up more of a fight."

Starfire flew around behind a group of the creatures and fired her starbolts at them. Some of them escaped the blast, but she managed to knock down most of them. Down below on the water, another fight was taking place. A few men of the police force had showed up in small boats, and were battling more of the creatures. There seemed to be an unlimited amount of them. Starfire narrowed her eyes as she glanced upwards at the Ringmaster. He smirked down at her, pointing, and five more of the beasts were upon her. She grunted as she flung them to the side.

Beast Boy appeared at her side, knocking another creature away as a ram. Starfire turned to look at her companion. "I believe," she panted, "we need to try a different approach." Beast Boy gazed at her, nonplused. "We need just one plan." The green Titan understood.

Cyborg let out a loud yell as he flung a creature over his shoulder. "Man, these things are annoying!" he cried. Robin chuckled, swinging his bo staff.

"Couldn't agree with you more."

The Ringmaster grinned as he heard Cyborg's cry. He squatted on his flying disk to get a closer view of the battle. "I guess my minions are putting up more of a fight than you expected, huh?" He straightened up. "As they should be. I've got them hardwired to present you with a challenge."

"Stop talking to yourself, dude," a harsh voice said from above. The Ringmaster gasped as he looked up just in time to see a transforming Beast Boy fall from the sky. The man had been concentrating on the fight below, he hadn't noticed the green Titan disappear from view. Then he hadn't noticed the small, green fly buzzing above him… until it was too late. The Ringmaster grunted as he felt hard nails dig into his shoulders. He hurtled through the air with a green wolf perched on his chest, growling in his face.

As their master fell from the sky, the creatures froze. The police officers below, spotting an opening, fired at the ones around their heads, shooting them from the air. The men began to scale the side of the larger boat by using makeshift ladders they'd erected when they first arrived.

"Yes!" Starfire cried joyfully, as the monsters she had been battling froze in the air. Without direction from their leader, they were only empty shells. Raven, who had joined the fray again, wrapped the creatures in her dark energy individually, securing them. There was a crash as the Ringmaster fell to the ground on his back, Beast Boy still on top of him.

"I hope you've learned your lesson," Robin said, extending his arm so that his bo staff could shrink in size. The Ringmaster only glared at him. With a grunt, a policeman hoisted himself over the rail of the boat and held his gun in front of him.

"You're under arrest," he said, removing his helmet. "I hope your time in jail will serve as a little lesson to you in two ways; not to control innocent creatures, and not to mess with the Teen Titans."

The Ringmaster flicked his eyes towards his captors. "Oh yes. I'm sure I will learn my lesson. I shall emerge from prison as a changed man." But he snapped his fingers, his arm still pinned down by the green wolf. A creature let out a howl and charged towards Beast Boy. His slanting wolf's eyes widened in surprise. He couldn't get up to defend himself, because the Ringmaster would escape, and he would be badly injured if he remained where he was. He braced himself for the inevitable-

But suddenly, someone let out a shout and pounced on the creature from nowhere. It was a young woman wearing a long white dress. She had ripped off one of her high heeled shoes, and knocked it across the back of the creature's head. She smacked it with enough force to knock the creature out of the air, and Starfire took advantage of the creature's plight and blasted it with a starbolt.

"No one is ruining my wedding!" the woman in white screeched. Everyone stared at her with surprise.

"Yes… well… we're just going to apprehend this man and be on our way, then," the police officer stated warily. More policemen had joined the group on the boat, and were now gathering up the carcasses of the creatures strewn about on the deck. Beast Boy snorted one last time in the Ringmaster's face, then got up. Two policemen immediately grabbed him by the arms. He didn't even bother to struggle.

"Don't try anything stupid," ordered the policeman escorting the hostage to the edge of the boat. The Ringmaster didn't reply; he only swung his legs over the railing and clambered down the ladder. The Titans watched him go, ready to step in if necessary.

"Thank you so much," a voice said from behind them, and they turned. It was the woman from before. She appeared to have calmed down. Next to her stood a young man wearing a tuxedo. "We're so grateful for all you've done." The man extended his hand to shake the Titans'.

"Our pleasure," Robin said, meeting the man's hand with his own gloved one. "We didn't realize this was a wedding. Are you…?"

"Name's Danny," the man said smiling. "Yeah, I'm the lucky man today." The young woman put a hand on his arm, smiling up at him. Then she turned towards the Titans.

"I'm Sam. I just can't express how thankful we are to you. Is there any way we can repay you?"

"That's really not necessary," Cyborg said from over Robin's shoulder. "We don't ask for any reward."

"You guys are just amazing," said Sam appreciatively. "You save our city every other day. We're all totally in your debt."

"You know, you got in a pretty good hit yourself," Danny teased. He pretended to look thoughtful. "Should I be a little scared?"

"You better be!" retorted the young woman. She poked him in the arm. "Just don't forget what you saw tonight, and don't get me that angry." Danny laughed. Then Sam grinned. "Would you guys like to stay for a little while? If you're not too busy?"

"Us? Really?" asked Robin.

"Absolutely! It's the least we can offer you. Feel free to help yourself to the buffet or to dance. I just hope you won't mind signing a few autographs!" Sam said excitedly.

"We don't want to crash your wedding," said Cyborg slowly, his eyes already roving around to spot the bridesmaids.

"It's already been crashed," Danny said. "You guys are more than welcome."

"Please?" said Sam, smiling. Robin nodded, chuckling slightly.

"OK!" cried the DJ, climbing out from under the table he'd been hiding under. "Let's get back on track, folks." He popped in another CD, turning the volume up to its loudest pitch. All of a sudden, the dance floor was crowded with people again, the guests emerging from their hiding places instantly. Everyone was swaying to the music, young and old alike. Danny and Sam clasped their hands together, and joined everyone else. Danny waved a hand over his shoulder, motioning for the Titans to join them. Robin and Starfire followed, mingling with the guests in formal attire. Cyborg made a beeline for a group of young women in matching dresses. Beast Boy disappeared into the crowd. Raven drifted over to the food table. She gracefully popped a pig-in-a-blanket into her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. This really wasn't her thing. She might as well just stay out of the way.

Raven felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to find a pair of startling green eyes.

"Can I have this dance?"

---

"You see? This is possibly the best plan I've come up with yet." Slade folded his hands into a tent as he stared at his companions. "Wouldn't you agree?"

Plasmus and Cinderblock exchanged a look while Overload fizzled in a confused manner. They knew they were to follow all of Slade's orders at all times, no questions asked. None of them were really capable of forming coherent questions in the first place, so that wasn't the issue. The problem with this mission was its… oddness.

The three minions were squatting uncomfortably in a tiny room. It was furnished with a large bed where Slade sat cross-legged and a few dressers, all of which were covered in pink frills. There was a pink carpet on the floor and posters of boy bands adorning the walls. Plasmus, Cinderblock, and Overload had no idea why this room was in Slade's hideout, but they were not about to say anything. There also seemed to be a large number of My Little Ponies scattered around the room, and when Plasmus had accidentally dripped ooze on it, Slade had screamed at him. Now the subordinates were afraid to make any more moves that would land them in trouble.

"Yes, this plan is most excellent. We are going to have… a sleepover party," Slade whispered dramatically.

Cinderblock mumbled something that might have been translated to, "Why?"

Slade smiled behind his mask. "Because… I say so."

Cinderblock relaxed slightly. If Slade said so, it must be done. No more thinking required.

Overload and Plasmus were still a bit leery, but were not about to risk the wrath of the villain, so they did not protest. Slade leaned over the side of the bed to rummage around beneath it. "We're not only going to have a sleepover party, but we're going to do it right. I do not accept failure. This will be a successful party, or you will regret it." The minions gulped. They had no idea what they were supposed to do!

"Which is why," Slade continued, "we will be using this!" He straightened up, pulling out a box with him. It was a metallic silver color, with picture of giggling girls plastered over the front. It was a nail polish box.

Overload almost cried out loud.

"Cinderblock!" barked Slade. "You're first!" Cinderblock reluctantly sidled over carefully. Slade dug through the package, its contents clinking as he moved them around. Then Slade held his hand triumphantly aloft. In his hand was a small vial of shimmering gold nail polish. "Hold out your hand," Slade commanded the large subordinate. Cinderblock hesitated, but Slade's death glare made him quickly stick out his hand. Slade carefully unscrewed the top part of the bottle, and pulled out the brush with great precision. Cinderblock winced, but did not remove his hand.

"This task takes great patience, skill, and concentration," Slade said in a mysterious voice. Cinderblock shut his eyes. This was not going to end well. "To complete this job, I must be at one with the brush. I must feel the brush as if it were an extension of my body." He ran his finger carefully over the small bristles. "I must taste the brush as if it were merely part of my body." He lifted his mask slightly and licked the brush slowly. Overload felt slightly ill. "I must smell the brush as if I have been smelling it my whole life." Slade lifted his mask a little bit more and inhaled deeply. "Whoa!" he cried, pushing him mask back down and covering his face with his hands.

The minions drew closer, concerned for their master. Plasmus screeched something, but no one understood what he was trying to say. When Slade removed his hands, his visible eye was dilated and watering slightly. "Ooh. Maybe that was a bad idea," Slade said in a woozy voice.

Cinderblock peered down at the villain. Slade looked up to meet his gaze. "Ha!" he cried. "You're made of rock! Heehee!" Cinderblock snorted indignantly. "Ooh, I'm gonna paint your nails!" Slade said happily. He slapped the brush across Cinderblock's hand, leaving a gold streak. "Whee!" said Slade as he dabbed the brush inside the bottle again. He pulled it out, then wiped more gold nail polish all over Cinderblock's arm.

Then Slade seemed to be hit with sudden inspiration. He overturned the silver box into his lap and grabbed handfuls of nail polish bottles. He leapt off the bed, then started to dance around Cinderblock waving his arms and splattering the minion with brilliant, shiny hues. "Look at me, I'm an artist!" he sang. Cinderblock only sat there, unwilling to speak up against his master. "There! Don't you look gorgeous?" Slade asked in a slurred voice. Plasmus let out a snort of laughter at his companion's plight. Slade turned to look at the oozing creature. "Hey, you're pretty funky lookin' too." He leaned closer to Plasmus. "Whew! You smell pretty funky too!"

Plasmus look perplexed. Slade slid off the bed, but lost his balance and wavered. His minions moved towards him, but he regained himself. The villain hobbled over to one of the dressers and began pawing through the drawers. He pulled out a skinny bottle filled with dark pink liquid. Next, a bottle with light green. Magenta. Orange. Neon red. Dark blue. Clear. Pale yellow.

"I found 'em!" Slade drawled. "Looky!" Plasmus gulped. "These are perfumes," Slade explained. He tried to walk back over to the bed, but tripped on the fringe of the circular rug on the floor and fell flat on his face. "I'm OK, I'm OK," he assured Overload, who helped him to his feet. "Anyway, you smell real bad. I think you should try some of these." He began spraying the first bottle of perfume in Plasmus' direction. Plasmus whimpered as the smell wafted over him. "Not enough yet!" giggled Slade, and he sprayed the rest of the perfumes onto Plasmus. The sheer amount of scent radiating off the creature was enough to make Cinderblock's eyes water, but Slade only clapped his hands excitedly.

Overload was suddenly thankful he couldn't smell anything.

But apparently, he must have fizzled slightly louder than was wise, for Slade turned his attention to him. "Hey! You're naked!" he cried. He covered his lone eye with his hands. "Ew! Let's find you some clothes to wear!"

Overload held up an electric arm in halfhearted protest, but Slade paid him no mind. He raced over to the tall dresser. Whipping open the doors, he revealed a rack of several frilly dresses. They were designed to be worn by five-year-old girls, but Slade had such a mad glint in his eye, Overload decided not to point out this bit of logic. The villain picked out a neon pink dress with yellow ruffles along the sleeves and hemline. Cinderblock had to suppress a laugh.

Neither Plasmus nor Cinderblock were able to figure out exactly what happened, but one moment, Slade was standing up straight with the hideous dress in his hands, and the next he was pouncing on Overload, wrestling him into the dress. Somehow, Slade managed to accomplish this task, and Overload was now clad in the pink dress.

"Oh, I am so excited!" cried Slade. "We are ready for the most fun sleepover ever! Let's pop in a chick flick and relax!" Slade zoomed over to the small television set situated in the room and grabbed a DVD box off the top, but froze before he could put the DVD disc into the correct slot. "Wait," he said, sounding disappointed. "We don't have popcorn. We can't have a movie night without popcorn!" He whirled around to face the three creatures behind him, each of them having been lamenting over the loss of their dignity. "I want you to go to the super market and steal every box of popcorn there," Slade commanded, his voice growing harsh. Cinderblock opened his mouth to try to convince Slade that since he was covered in glittery nail polish from head to toe, Plasmus smelled so strong he would knock out anyone within a ten foot radius, and Overload was crammed so tightly into the pink dress he could hardly move, they would hardly be an effective team, but Slade cut him off. "Go! Now!" he yelled, and his minions jumped to attention. They inwardly sighed. This was going to be a long night.

---

"Excuse me?" It was all Raven could think to say. She had been caught completely off guard, and was fumbling to regain her footing.

"Can I have this dance?" Beast Boy repeated.

Raven blinked at him. "Well, for one thing, it's 'may'. It's a request, not a question of ability."

The green Titan rolled his eyes. "OK, if you're gonna insult my grammar, you're definitely dancing with me."

He grabbed Raven's hand, and before she could protest, he dragged her over to the dance floor. There were many other couples dancing, so they blended right in. Raven spotted Robin and Starfire swaying to the music together, but soon lost sight of them amongst the other dancers. Beast Boy took Raven's other hand and placed it on his shoulder. He then reached down to put his hand on her waist. "Beast Boy!" she hissed.

"What?"

"I don't want to do this!" she seethed quietly.

"But I do. Just consider this as something in return for me saving your life." Raven stared at him incredulously. "I must have at one point." Raven raised an eyebrow.

"I thought I was the one who saved you-"

"Oh, who keeps track? Just dance, Raven."

"Beast Boy, this is really not my thing."

"So what? Just… try to enjoy it, just this once."

Raven wanted to say something more, but a stern look from her teammate told her she should just keep quiet. She looked off to the side, muttering, "I don't like dancing."

"You sound like a five-year-old."

Raven gave him an exasperated look. "I really don't think you're one to talk about maturity." To her surprise, Beast Boy only laughed, nodding. He didn't say anything more, so she let it slide. She allowed Beast Boy to take over. Her body fell into step with his. Despite the fact that this was the first time she'd ever danced with someone else (though she had obviously witnessed it before), she wasn't faring too badly. Her feet seemed to know instinctively how to avoid treading on Beast Boy's, and her body was swaying with the music alongside Beast Boy's. They were in tune with one another, taking just the right steps at just the right time, and they were doing all this without saying a word.

Finally, Raven broke the silence. "Why are you doing all this?"

"This? Because I made a bet with myself. I wanted to see if you knew how to dance-"

"I mean all of it. Since… since we met. Since then. Since ever. I don't know, just… why?"

Beast Boy mulled over that question for a few moments. Then he said cautiously, "I like hanging out with you."

"What?"

"You don't realize it, but you're actually a fun person to be around. Well, I guess 'fun' isn't the right word. You have this… this dry humor I could never come up with in a million years. Even though most of the time it's directed at me, it's still hilarious. And you're always so calm and in control. Sometimes people just need to see that to keep themselves grounded… to keep them from losing it." He let out a soft chuckle. "You've already dealt with so much in your life… it's pretty impressive you can keep it all together all the time. Being around you, it gives me a little hope… maybe I can survive this life if I let a little of you rub off on me."

Raven was stunned. She had never heard Beast Boy say anything like this to her before. He chuckled.

"You seem surprised."

"That wasn't something I'd really expect you to say. I didn't see it coming."

"And you, Raven, are totally predictable."

"We're completely different."

"Yeah, we are," Beast Boy agreed, and the two of them lapsed into silence as they allowed the music to sweep over their bodies and take control. They were unaware of the rest of the world at that moment. To them, the dance floor wasn't covered with other swaying couples; the air wasn't filled with the chatter of young and old alike; their teammates weren't staring at them suspiciously. All they took notice of was each other and the music. They were both thinking about the same thing, something that excited them and scared them at the same time: the sentiment that opposites attract. Was that true? Could two utterly different people really forge a bond of passion between them?

Could they?

"Would you have agreed to dance if someone else had asked you?" Beast Boy queried. He tried to shake away the thoughts that had crowded into his head. He wasn't going to think about Raven in any way other than platonic when she was standing right in front of him.

"Beast Boy?"

"I'm just wondering."

Raven frowned in thought. "I don't know. Like I said, dancing really isn't my thing. I'm only here right now because you said I owed you one." She rolled her eyes. "I'm not so sure I do, but whatever. I guess at some point, I will, and I might as well pay my dues now."

Beast Boy nodded, turning his gaze to their feet. Raven watched his face, but couldn't discern what he was thinking about. Finally, she had to say something.

"You… weren't just wondering, were you?"

Beast Boy didn't meet her eye.

"Well?"

"I don't know, Raven. I guess I get kinda… jealous."

"Jealous?" she choked out.

"Yeah."

"Of what?" she queried.

"I… don't know how to put it in words. Well, I guess I do, but I don't know if it'll make much sense. Well, I guess it'll make sense, but I don't know… well," he said, smiling sheepishly at the face Raven was making at him. "I get jealous of seeing you open up to other people. I mean, I try so… well… it just makes me wonder what they're doing that I'm not. You know, like, why were they able to get you to share and I wasn't?"

"Like who?" Raven almost whispered.

Beast Boy frowned and avoided her gaze. But he felt his cheeks flush under her scrutinizing look, and he finally muttered, "Well, there was that guy at the poetry shop-"

"Him?" interrupted the dark Titan with a hint of surprise in her voice. When Beast Boy didn't answer, she assumed it meant 'yes'. "Beast Boy, I talked to him once. We had a lot in common… or so I thought," she lapsed into silence, allowing Beast Boy to mull her statement over. "I can assure you," she continued, in a small voice, "if I was going to open up to anyone, it would be someone on our team, not some random person I met once. You guys are my family and friends, all wrapped in one. No one could ever come between that." Immediately, she quieted down. "I can't believe I just said that."

"Huh?" Beast Boy prompted, confused.

"Look what you made me do," continued Raven quietly. "That was just me opening up, right there. I didn't even realize it before it was too late."

Beast Boy grinned. "I won't tell anyone."

"You better not."

They fell silent again. Raven felt the hand on her waist slide an inch to the left. She was suddenly very aware of herself. Feeling her body slightly pressed against Beast Boy's, she realized with a jolt that she was a girl and he was a boy. Obviously, she had always known this, but the fact now struck her across the face. The hand on her waist and the hand clasping hers were large and warm, just like an adult man's. Right now, the two Titans were the same height, but Raven knew in the not-too-distant future, the green prankster would grow taller than her. She knew that when they embraced, their bodies would fit perfectly next to each other's. It was poetic to her, but it frightened her at the same time. She had always considered herself separate from other people her age because she knew she could never express her emotions. But she had never even thought about the fact that, despite her lack of outward feelings, she still was a teenager. And it nearly knocked her over as she recognized that she was a young woman, Beast Boy was a young man, and they were dancing closely together.

"Raven?" The dark Titan turned to look at her companion.

"Yeah?"

Beast Boy held her gaze. "Are you enjoying this?"

Raven didn't answer right away, so Beast Boy plowed on ahead.

"Look, like you said, dancing isn't your thing. I mean, I wanted to dance with you so we could, you know, hang out, but I wanna know that you're enjoying yourself too. I'd feel bad if this was like a chore to you… hanging out with me, I mean. I know it's not your fault, but you never seem to have a lot of fun, and I know I get on your case about it, but it just frustrates me… seeing you unable to laugh or have fun. I guess I give you a hard time 'cause I know if you did allow yourself to have fun, which you can't, but if you did, you'd really find yourself… I don't know, someone… well… anyway, I just wanted to know, even if you can't really show it, if you were enjoying yourself… 'cause I, you know, want to help you live life to the fullest." He finished, his eyes wide with surprise at his own daring. Raven was shocked. He had yelled at her before about really "living" life, but now he was admitting that he was trying to help her? She felt so overwhelmed. She opened her mouth to speak-

"Can I cut in?"

The two Titans jumped. They turned to see Cyborg smirking at them.

"Am I interrupting?"

"No!" Beast Boy said a little too quickly. He grinned sloppily. "I just finally convinced Raven to dance."

"I can see that," Cyborg said good-naturedly. "So can I cut in?"

"Sure," Raven said simply. She disentangled herself from the green Titan, stepping back. She didn't meet his eye, and thus missed the slightly disappointed look shining in it. Cyborg held out his hand, and Raven took it. Once again, she allowed herself to be swept into closer proximity with her partner so that they could dance more easily. Beast Boy melted into the crowd, mumbling something about getting something to eat.

Cyborg chuckled. "Are you sure you guys weren't in the middle of something?"

"Yes," stated Raven firmly. "And just to let you know, it's 'may I cut in,' not 'can'."

-----

Author's Notes: Well, if it's any consolation for me taking so long, this is my longest chapter to date. I hope you all enjoyed it!

OK, before I forget: the ship is named after the raft/Gummi ship from Kingdom Hearts in honor of the fact that the next game comes out in March, which I am slightly excited about. coughOMGSOPUMPEDXDcough

Also, about the creatures… a little bit darker, I think, than anything else in this story as of yet. To get a better picture of what I had in mind, combine the Gargoyles from Kingdom Hearts (I'm not obsessed, I promise) and Vilemon from Digimon ( from Season 1, maybe in Season 3? I can't remember if they showed them there or not). So if you're that interested in seeing what I was thinking, put those two in a blender, and presto!

Oh, and if you can tell where I got the names of the married couple seen in this chapter, you win… something. Perhaps a dedication in the next chapter?

OOH! Something so cool! I was in TJMaxx a while ago, just looking around and shopping, when I spotted this little pink shirt with embroidered letters spelling out "True Love". It was this skimpy shirt I'd never have bought, but I BEGGED my mom to buy it for me, so she did. Now I even have a shirt to advertise my story with!

OK, well, now I know why didn't want anymore review replies in chapters. They have this cool new thing where you can reply to each individual one! Sweet! But, um, since this took me so long, I have some reviews that were too early and didn't get set up on that system… my bad. So I've searched through them to see if there are any general questions I could answer. shuffles papers except that the reviews are online, but we're playing pretend Here's one! Where did I come up with my screen name? Well, actually, I can't really take credit for it entirely. As I've said before, I share this account with a friend of mine. Long ago, I said to him we should make the name something to do with wolves since we both love them, and he said, "Hey, how about 'Twin-Lupus'?" Thus Twin-Lupus was born. And, as WoofBlackHayate asked, no, I don't have a deviantart account, but I wish I did! I draw here and there, but I have no scanner to upload anything. I'm trying to break my parents' printer so they're forced to get a new one with a scanner. I mean, I didn't say that…

Well, that's about it. A HUGE thanks to all those who reviewed before! I really appreciate that you took the time to review, and I apologize again for not updating in forever. To all those who submitted reviews after the new system was set in place, you can expect an answer back from me within a few days. I have midterms this week, so we'll see what happens…

Anyway, just a quick shout-out to UnOrthodox: I don't know if it's too late now, but I'm going to try to write a piece to go with that picture! Look for it soon!

Wow, this closing note is becoming very long. I'll let you all get back to your daily lives. Remember, NO SPOILERS. Please. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, I promise the next one won't take anywhere near as long, and please review!