Author's Notes: Ten years ago today, I posted the first chapter of this fic. From that day to this, I have always wanted to finish this story. It was something that I thought about often for the past decade, something that I knew I wanted to do, even when it was painful to read my old writing, even when I found problematic language and issues in my previous stuff, even when I knew no one was left to read it. But to celebrate hitting this incredible and mind-blowing milestone, I finished this story. This is, almost precisely, how I imagined it would end ten years ago, down to the last scene. I don't know if anyone might read this, but either way, I am pleased that I have finally finished this very important something that I set out to do. I've grown and changed a lot over the years, but I still have a lot of love in my heart for Teen Titans and this fic. It's pretty incredible to be here at the end of a ten year long venture, but I am happy I made the journey.
The phone rang shrilly.
Cyborg reached for it, cradling it to his ear as he stirred the bowl in his arms. "Hello?"
"Cyborg! Oh I'm so glad I caught you."
"That you did," he said. "Hi Alanna."
"I need to tell you something."
Something in her voice made him slow his stirring. "What is it?"
"We did more research on the professor who originally discovered the Sangrian Crystal." There was a rustling of papers over the phone. "He never officially published any papers on the topic, but he did put a small article in a research journal almost twenty years ago. It was about the culture of the people who he believed originally carved the Crystal."
"Why is that important?"
"It's important," came the voice of Ivy, who seemed to have taken the phone, "because he talks about the god that the Crystal was dedicated to, and you're not gonna believe it."
Heart sinking like a stone, Cyborg swallowed. "What is it?"
"He talked about how these gods were often dualities, two sides of the same coin," said Alanna this time, grabbing the phone back. "This god, the one whose temple he discovered, was the god of healing. Which means he's also the god of-"
"Destroying," Cyborg finished.
"And all the artifacts in the temple expressed that same duality," Ivy interjected. "Except the crystal, which he said he never got to figure out."
"Damn," said Cyborg, putting his bowl down and leaning over the counter.
"There's something else. There were some unusual circumstances surrounding the professor's death. The coroner's report is not public information, but there was actually a trial. Apparently a man named Stephen Stalwart was arrested, but those records are sealed too. There's nothing in any of the major newspapers, no information about the trial at all. The only thing we could find was an article written in a tiny local paper. We sent you the link to the email you gave us."
Cyborg stood up straight. The monitor on his arm lit up and he touched the screen to direct himself to his email. He opened the first email he saw and swore.
Robin stood poring over a number of open case files when the door to the room opened with a hiss. He looked up as Cyborg strode over to him. "Got something you need to see." He slid a piece of paper across the table and Robin stopped it with his fingertips. It was still warm from the printer.
"Stephen Stalwart's trial," Cyborg said by way of explanation.
Robin lifted it to closely examine the picture. The man was sneering as he was directed into a police cruiser, and his body was turned in such a way that it almost obscured the thin man behind him. But Michael Stalwart was still identifiable behind his father.
Robin crumpled the paper in his hands. "Let's move," he said venomously.
The Titans dropped through the small portal leading into the underground hideout. Straightening, Robin unsheathed his bo staff. "Light," he commanded, and Cyborg and Starfire obliged. The room was shrouded in darkness, the corners stretching into dark maws by the feeble light of Cyborg's flashlight and Starfire's starbolt. "Any movement, attack without hesitation." The Titans nodded and spread out across the steel floor.
Cyborg felt something cold clench around his heart. The warehouse appeared to be empty. But his tracking bug had indicated the machine he had inspected was still here...
"Got something," Beast Boy said. Everyone turned to him. By the pulsing green light of the starbolt, the machine Stalwart had first shown them came into view.
"Why is this still here?" Cyborg wondered aloud. "If he's already left this place, why didn't he take it with him?"
"Because I have no use for it," came a voice from behind them. The Titans spun around, but the room was suddenly illuminated by blinding white lights. Blinking stars out of their eyes, they looked up to where they had heard the voice.
Stalwart stood on a balcony above them, hands gripping the railing tightly. There was a mad glint in his eyes, his thin frame bent over and a grin plastered on his face.
"It's so easy to ask a team of scientists to work on something for the betterment of humanity," he said, a mocking tone making it clear what he thought of that idea. "And it's also easy to ask another team to reverse engineer everything they've done, thinking they are working on something that will help people."
Robin clenched his fists.
"Did they not know how it worked?" Starfire asked indignantly.
"They did after I showed them," Stalwart said silkily. "I did have to make sure it worked."
Raven felt her stomach turn over. She saw out of the corner of her eye her fellow Titans reacting similarly.
"I do apologize for not having given you your reward before now," he said as the walls of the warehouse slid down to reveal automaton after automaton, guns at the ready. "Let me make it up to you."
The robots attacked at once and the Titans were forced to scatter. Raven phased into the ether to reform behind one. She summoned her strength and focused on a nearby crate. It was encased in her dark energy and she sent it hurtling towards one of the automatons. It shattered against its metal hull; the thing didn't seem fazed at all. Raven felt her heart rate spike.
The battle broke out in earnest, each Titan dodging blasts and calling out "On your left!" as needed. Raven found herself back into a corner when one of the robots was slammed out of the way by meaty green gorilla fists.
Beast Boy transformed back quickly to look at her. "Think there's some kind of villain warehouse where they keep all the robot armies?"
"Beast Boy-" she growled, but he transformed into a pterodactyl and disappeared above the chaos and Raven turned back to the enemies around her.
Cyborg punched the automaton in front of him and watched as the metal plates of the robot caved in as it went flying. He felt a ripple through his arm and cursed silently. The machines were hard, and each punch was weakening his own armor.
Starfire threw starbolt after starbolt, taking special care to make sure every one hit their target. A stray one might hurt a friend, and she would not let that happen. Two robotic arms encircled her waist and crushed her, but she reacted immediately. Lifting her arms against the restraints, Starfire broke free of its grip and grabbed the head of the thing from behind. She swung it over her head, sending it flying into some of its brethren.
Robin swung his bo staff with precision, capitalizing on the structural weak points of the automatons and aiming for their joints. His movements were lithe, nimble, but his eyes were trained on the upper catwalk, desperately searching for a sign of the madman through the tangled forest of robotic limbs.
With a shouted "Azerath Metrion Zinthos!" Raven sent a robot to its knees, the beam she had found sweeping under its feet. She then brought the thing straight down onto the automaton's head, and it crumpled, lifeless. A flash of green beside her told her Beast Boy had landed near her. She felt him press against her back, breathing heavily as he held his hands up defensively. Summoning a shield to protect them by bringing her hands to her heart, Raven glanced backwards.
"You okay?" she asked.
"Little winded," he panted, wincing as the robots pounded on the shield with their thick arms. "And one grazed my wing with a bullet. I'm fine, but I may not be able to fly again, at least as something that big." Beast Boy looked up. "I think I can do hawk no problem."
"Do you need me to heal you?" she asked, glancing down to see his arm hanging limply by his side.
"No time, I'm fine," he insisted. "Y'know, if they really do have a warehouse with robot armies, we should really think about getting one for ourselves."
"Here it comes, we gotta do this!" he shouted as one of the automatons managed to break through the shield. Raven winced, feeling the connection to the energy snap, and clenched her fists. A green hawk showered her in a whirlwind of feathers.
A few feet away, Robin let out a strangled cry as he noticed where Stalwart was. The young man had disappeared into the shadows, but now emerged, perched at the helm of another machine that was hidden in the top left corner of the building. He was grinning maliciously as the device slid forward, gears whirring.
"Titans-!" he shouted, but was cut off by being forced to dodge another blow. He gripped his staff with two hands and twisted it forward to slide through the neck joint of one of the automatons. Its severed head dropped to the floor, sparks flying from the exposed wires, but Robin leapt over the body and launched himself upwards onto another crate and towards a row of small metal ladder rungs. He clambered up them quickly, but Stalwart turned the device even as he did so.
The end of the beam, outfitted with the gleaming Sangrian Crystal, shone ominously as it was leveled into the crowd of battling Titans and machines. Robin pounded across the balcony towards the device as Stalwart's fists clenched around the controls and a red cannon of energy shot out across the battlefield.
A gaping, sizzling hole was all that was left of the floor where the beam had connected. A surge of panic washed over Raven, but she steeled herself as she made another small shield in front of her to block the attack of a robot.
Robin threw himself forward, but Stalwart held up his hands just in time to grab the bo staff. They struggled, and Robin saw the frothing madness in the man's eyes up close.
Raven gasped as one of the robots sliced downwards onto her shoulder. It was blunt but painful, and she dropped to a knee. She looked up, clutching at her injury, when a grizzly bear swiped a giant paw across the chest of the automaton. Raven nodded her thanks, but something glinted overhead.
The Crystal swung wildly through space as Robin and Stalwart grappled, the machine turning this way and that as each gained and lost the upper hand. Robin stepped forward, but Stalwart kicked out at him and his foot connected squarely with Robin's kneecap. The Boy Wonder grunted as he stumbled, and Stalwart took advantage of it to reach a hand behind him and mash at the controls. They lit up, a sudden glow of colors, and another beam of energy shot out from the cannon.
Below, the green grizzly bear turned just in time to get hit in the chest with the beam.
"Beast Boy!" Raven shrieked, blood pounding in her ears. She watched as if in slow motion his huge hairy body fall backwards, slowing transforming into a black and purple uniform. Black tendrils of energy spiked away from her, slicing through the metallic hulls of the automatons caught in their paths. She stumbled forward in a daze, her vision tunneling as she felt a rage course through her, but the dark pool surrounding her teammate caused the feeling to recede and leaving her hollow and sick. Falling to her knees beside him, Raven pressed her hands against his chest, ignoring the warm sensation of blood and focusing her energy into the healing light.
"You!" Robin shouted, and Stalwart turned back to the Titan to receive a punch to the jaw. Robin felt the bone shatter under his hand. Stalwart fell to the ground, screaming.
"No, no, no," Raven chanted as she poured her strength into Beast Boy, ignoring the way his ruined flesh felt under her fingertips. It wasn't a spell, but it was the only word she could conjure, and she whispered it over and over again as the robots advanced, even as Cyborg and Starfire attacked them mercilessly.
A blaring alarm sounded throughout the lab, and Robin watched with wide eyes as a large red light began to turn. He saw the light of the Crystal begin to pulse.
"Cyborg!" he shouted, and within moments, the cybernetic Titan was beside him.
Cyborg took one look at it and over the sound of the alarm called out, "It's gonna blow!"
Starfire was suddenly there, her eyes darting back and forth between the robots on the ground and the machine in front of them. She reached out and grabbed at the machine, feeling the metal give way under her fingers.
"Cyborg!" she called, looking up. He understood and aimed his hand at the ceiling of the warehouse.
She turned her glowing green gaze on him, and Robin knew there was nothing he could do, so he nodded. Cyborg shot a Sonic Cannon towards the center of the ceiling. It connected, great cracks spiraling out from the point of impact, and Cyborg shot beam after beam. Finally with a bone-shuddering crunch, the ceiling collapsed under the weight pressing down, and they could see the stars.
Starfire gave a cry as she pulled hard at the machine, feeling it strain against the heavy bolts that nailed it to the balcony. She tugged and it loosened. With a final shout, she broke free and flew into the gaping hole towards the heavens.
The ceiling had fallen around Raven, but she had summoned a shield around her and Beast Boy without moving, the black aura encasing them like a protective cocoon. She could hear her mantra of "no, no, no" echoing off the walls of the barrier. Her hands were covered in his blood, but she concentrated on calcifying the bone, stitching the muscles back together, every molecule in her body focused on fixing his. She focused on making him better, because he couldn't be dead, that wasn't an option, he couldn't be-
Starfire flew as fast as she could, the weight of the machine weighing down on her as she felt the atmosphere grow colder and thinner around her. She had to make it higher, had to get the device out of radius of the city-
Blue and red flashing lights surrounded the hole in the street. Dark shapes were moving against the backdrop of the starry sky. "Get a medic down here now!" Robin bellowed, but Raven kept chanting, praying, begging, pouring her energy into Beast Boy.
She felt gentle hands take her shoulders and try to move her away, but she shook her head, weakness suddenly overcoming her as she realized how much of her life force she had given away. Raven struggled against the hands holding her until she felt one wrap around her wrist. Her eyes flew open and met Beast Boy's as he smiled wanly up at her.
"Okay," he croaked, and she let out a strangled sob, finally allowing herself to fall backwards into the arms of the EMTs. They hoisted her expertly upright, wrapping her in a blanket and moving her away from Beast Boy so they could get in closer. Robin and Cyborg were there, hands on her arms, asking if she was all right.
A sudden flash of light came from above, and everyone was knocked flat as the shockwave rolled over them. The emergency responders looked bewildered, but Robin was already on his feet, searching the sky.
A thin green light hurtled to earth, growing brighter and brighter as it came closer. The EMTs threw themselves out of the way as the green blur slammed into the floor of the ruined lab, showering them in debris. Starfire stood slowly. She had never looked more like an alien princess than in that moment, disheveled and covered in soot, thin lacerations crisscrossing her skin, eyes burning as she stood against the backdrop of an exploding sky.
It took some time to move everyone out of the large hole and up to where the ambulances waited. The police were arguing about whether they should handcuff Stalwart before or after they made him climb out of the hole; it was typical incompetency and blustering, but Robin ignored it in favor of slipping his fingers between Starfire's and watching from the sidelines.
Beast Boy sat shivering on the bumper of one of the ambulances, emergency blanket draped over his shoulders. He sipped slowly at a Gatorade that one of the EMTs had handed him, feeling weak and cold.
Out of the shadows stepped Raven, and he smiled. She was supposed to be recovering in another ambulance, but she had ditched it in favor of coming to see him.
"Hey," he said tiredly.
"Hey," she said, watching his face carefully.
Beast Boy felt oddly at peace, despite the strange look his teammate was giving him. As she approached, he cleared his throat.
"Thanks," he murmured, "for saving my life. They said I lost a lot of blood, but you must have healed me pretty fast that I'm still even here."
She stepped forward and lifted her hands to gently cup his face. He leaned imperceptibly into her touch. After everything, it didn't feel weird.
"Never," she said lowly, "give me a reason to need to save your life like that again."
He smiled a little sadly. "I can't promise that."
Raven leaned forward slightly, pressing her forehead to his. His skin was cold and clammy, but she brushed her thumbs lightly across his cheeks. "Then I will," she murmured.
Light as a feather, she turned her head and brushed her lips against his. They ghosted over his, delicate but warm, and Beast Boy pressed forward to meet her. Despite his weakness, he felt a surge of electricity shoot through him. Raven met his movements.
"Yo Beast Boy!" shouted Cyborg genially from the other side of the truck. Raven stepped away in a swirl of her cloak, but she met his gaze, a slight smile across her pale features as the other Titans came into view. Slightly dazed, Beast Boy looked up at his friends as they drew nearer. "I'm thinking we could all use a good meal after this. You need a lot of iron, so I'm thinking hamburgers."
Beast Boy rolled his eyes, grinning. "Ha ha. Tofu burgers."
"Nah man, we need you to get your strength back, it's red meat for a week for you."
"No way dude, no amount of blood I could lose would ever make me eat meat-"
"Maybe," said Robin, holding his hands up in his customary peacekeeping salute, "we should just go out for pizza."
In a dark, hidden lab across the city, a man sat across a chessboard from his shoe.
"It is your move," Slade said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as he stared at the board. "I have to say, you've proved an admirable opponent, but I believe I have you trapped."
One of the large screens to his left lit up, a news broadcasting automatically tuning in to the latest story.
"-by the Teen Titans, this madman has been apprehended and is currently in police custody. Son of the business tycoon Stephen Stalwart, whose company went under after his arrest, Michael Stalwart will be facing charges for endangering the lives of countless citizens. But our heroes, the Teen Titans, stepped in-"
"The Titans!" Slade shouted, jumping to his feet.
He seemed to freeze in place, struggling internally, when he reached up and peeled the front of his mask up enough to expose his mouth. Reaching into the back of his jaw, Slade wrenched something free with a grunt of pain.
A small chip lay in his palm, fizzling out. Slade crushed it and readjusted his mask, breathing heavily.
"Finally," he growled in a voice much more like his own, "this accursed thing has been overridden. A foolish attempt to invent a method to increase strength has left me at the whim of the most insane urges. But now I am free of the madness, and I can finally begin again on my plans to overthrow the Titans," he said, narrowing his exposed eye at the screen, watching the five superheroes.
"But first!" he cried, flinging himself back to the floor. "I must finish this ga- how did you get checkmate?!"