Terra swung at me. I ducked, her fist barely missing the top of my head."Terra, I don't want to fight you!" I exclaimed. This couldn't be happening again... could it? I hoped not. Terra was standing with her back to the door; perfect. Cyborg burst through, wrapping his arms around her neck.
"One twist and it's all over, Terra. Don't make me do it." He threatened. She smirked.
"You wouldn't do it anyway." She tried to flip Cy off of her, but he held on.
"Any time now, Raven!" Cyborg exclaimed.
"That's not Terra." Raven replied from just outside the door. "Unless you implanted psychic dampeners in her head." I grabbed the person that, until now, I believed was Terra, and slammed her against the wall.
"Who are you, and where's Terra?!" I shouted remorselessly. She laughed.
"You don't actually expect me to tell you that, do you?" She asked. "All you need to know is that Terra, the girl you all hold so close to your hearts, will soon leave this plane of existance. Her demise will occur where it all begins again."
"Enough of this bullshit!" I yelled. I grabbed a pair of scissors from a nearby table, shut my eyes, and drove the metal straight into the imposters heart. Only, there was no blood. All I heard was the resonating sound of metal scraping metal. "It's a robot, a fucking robot! Cy, you do the honors."
"With pleasure." Cy responded calmly, the electric hum of his arm cannon powering up reverberating in my ears. There was a flash of light, and the thing I held against the wall was gone. A small container fell to the ground, resting on the carpet that cushioned it's fall.
"What's this?" I asked, handing the jar over to Cy.
"A genetic sample... from Terra." He replied. "Wait... where are Robin and Star?"
"They're in the other room, trying to track Slade down. At least, now they are." Raven replied, entering the room. "Beast Boy, you just proved that if you had to, you would kill Terra." I dropped the scissors. She was right. I shuddered. I didn't even want to think about that. There was an uneasy silence in the room. I sighed.
"What do you think that robot meant?" I asked. "I mean, all that 'where it all begins again' stuff." More silence. Cy and Raven were thinking. It came to me first. Where it all begins again... is where it began in the first place. Slade's underground hideout. Terra's resting place for the last four months. "I know where he's keeping her. We probably don't have much time. Come on." The sound of footsteps behind me followed.
I gasped. I felt like there was something stuck in my throat. Slade had turned everything he was using to imprison me here off, but why? More importantly, what did he want me for? God, more questions than answers. It hurt my head. There was a fast, high-pitched beeping. I started breathing normally, and the speed of the tone leveled off. Why was I the one caught up in all this? Why me? My mind went back to something Beast Boy said to me. He told me I'm more powerful than I'd ever know. It relieved me and frightened me at the same time. I told myself to calm down. I just needed to be calm and everything around me would be clearer. Rather than fear for my life like any sane person, I began wondering about the rent for an apartment in Gotham. I was still trapped; I was awake, but I couldn't move. I didn't know where I was; everything around me was dark. My back pain hadn't gone away, and I was a bit concerned. No matter, though. I could just ask Cyborg to take a look at it when they came to save me. Save me. I once said to Robin that I wasn't some sad little girl that needed saving, but that was a long time ago. I questioned how I could still be alive; four months without any food or water or oxygen. Was I even awake when I was entombed? I couldn't remember. It all seemed so blurry, so distant. A creak of metal in the darkness. My heart skipped a beat; the tone recorded it. It was driving me crazy with its monotony. I shivered. I was cold. I extended a finger to touch my leg; it stung. I thought I was going to freeze. I thought of my warm bed back at the tower; of course, it wouldn't be mine for much longer if I was going to leave. Should I leave? There's so much I could... no, I shook the thought from my head. I needed to leave, I needed to go to Gotham, Metropolis, anywhere, as long as I could get away from Jump City for a while. I needed to do it for myself. A crash, now. It was so sudden that if I were standing, I would probably jump. A light flickered on above me. It blinded me.
"Terra!" A familiar voice. "X'Hal, Terra, are you all right?"
"Starfire?" I squinted into the darkness. I couldn't see who it was. It was her, all right. She flew up to me.
"Yes, it is I, friend. You do not look comfortable."
"I don't want her to be." Slade. He lunged at Starfire, but she barely had time to react before he was on her. He readied a knife to go in for the kill, but it was shot out of his hand.
"That's it, Slade. It's the end." Robin. There were others.
"Robin, fool. You should know by now that it's not the end. It's just the beginning." Slade slipped back into darkness. My heart was pounding; it was hard to hear anything else over its steady beat. Pain washed over my body. I didn't know what was happening. I screamed. I could almost smell my burning flesh. The world was getting darker. I was about to pass out.
"Slade, why are you doing this?!" Robin asked. Slade chuckled.
"Her powers demanded perfection." He retorted.
"The only perfect thing you gave her was a perfect hell!" Beast Boy. He was there. I wanted to see his face just one more time before I died. "All you've been doing is toying with us!"
"Game's over, Slade." Cyborg. "You lose." That's everyone except... Raven, the one I was most like. I couldn't see her, but I could hear her voice.
"Hang on, Terra. It's almost over." She comforted me. The ground was beginning to shake; I was past my tolerance point. Slade was sending me into a dark abyss, one from which I could never hope to escape from. I felt weak; weaker than I ever had. Slade had set me up; he counted on me losing control of my powers, there being an earthquake, the volcano erupting again. It was Slade's second chance, and he used it a lot better than I had used mine. Another emotional beginning, another tragic end. Beast Boy was right. I'm in a perfect hell. I heard them fighting my battle. The pain stopped, but my body was numb. I couldn't feel any part of my body. I was going to faint. My fate was in their hands now. I breathed the last bit of air I could feel and passed out.
So this was it: the final battle. With Slade, though, it was never final. He always came back for more. It was anticlimactic, but I had to take him down to ensure that there wasn't a bitter ending to this. I fought as hard as I could. I was standing face-to-face with everything I feared: the city being destroyed, the death of the traveler whom, on one sunny morning over four months ago, I'd met for the first time, and I haven't been the same since. I liked the entire experience to nothing more than a bad dream for Terra. She had been beaten, bruised, bloodied, tampered with, manipulated, and it was all the fault of this... fucker. We all sometimes like to think that our actions have no consequences or repercussions. However, when we open our eyes, we understand that everything has consequences, whether it's real or not. Terra taught me that. We all have a quest to be more human, but it's easy to cross the line. We think it'll be easy, but it's not. It's one of the hardest things we ever have to do. Terra might have been knocked out, but her powers were still active, moving and shaking the ground. The volcano would activate any time now. We just had to make sure that everything would be alright. I could feel concern for her later; if Raven's not freaking out, then she's probably fine. Raven joined the battle, tossing some of Slade's equipment at him. We all make mistakes, but the mistake Slade made was unforgivable. This past week and a bit, it's just been like we've been running in circles, and it's been true every step of the way. Slade got us, but that didn't mean we were going to let him win. The shaking of the ground stopped; Slade stumbled. Just the opening Cyborg needed, blasting him with his arm cannon. We were going to win, but it's better not to get too cocky about these situations. If Terra wants to get out, I'll let her. A rock fell on Cyborg, Raven and Robin. What was Terra doing? I looked over. Terra was still knocked out, so it couldn't have been her. Slade's hands were glowing with a yellow aura.
"Why did you do it, Slade? Why did you give yourself her powers?" I asked angrily.
"Who said anything about her giving them to me?" Slade laughed. "All I needed to harness them was a genetic sample." I chuckled. That was the stupidest mistake Slade could have made. "What are you laughing at?"
"You screwed up, big time. Your body won't accept Terra's DNA. It'll end up killing you."
"It's not in my body, fool." Starfire had managed to lift the rock off our comrades. She threw it at Slade, who stopped it in midair and threw it back at her.
"Did anyone ever tell you that yellow's not your colour?" Cyborg asked, before lunging at Slade. Slade flew up into the air on a rock, and crashed down on Cyborg. Cyborg barely got out of the way. Slade threw his hands up into the air, and rocks came crashing down from the ceiling. In three minutes, Slade had managed to turn the tide of battle in his favor. Terra sat up, clutching her head. She had that vacant look in her eyes, but she shook it off. Slade was doing it to her. Doing it to her by using her powers.
"Terra!" I yelled. "The only way to fight it is to use your powers! Do it!" She glanced at me and nodded. Her body was engulfed in a yellow aura. It looked like she was on fire.
"Are you ready for the end, Slade?" Terra asked ominously.
"Child, you know nothing of the end." Slade replied. The final battle wasn't Slade taking on the Teen Titans. The final battle was Slade versus Terra, a battle four months in the making. The ending was closer than I expected; I just didn't know what would happen... or who would be the winner. In that moment, I just hoped that everything would be alright. For everyone. There was an odd silence. It felt like it was a standoff; everyone anticipating the first move, but it never coming. It felt like time was standing still.
"Stand down, guys. He's mine." Terra broke the silence. I could hear her heavy breathing, even thought I was ten feet away. "This is what happens when you screw with me, Slade. I beat you once, and now I'm going to beat you again."
"That's the girl I know. The merciless monster who craves death and destruction. I told you humanity was useless. Give me everything you have, Terra!" Slade yelled. Terra's arms dropped to her sides. "That's what I thought." Slade sent Terra flying backwards with a wave of his hand. Terra stood back up, seemingly uninjured.
"I may have to lose my humanity to fight you, but I will beat you, and it will come back. You ruined my life, Slade. You killed me at 14. I may have regrets, I may have humanity, but what you did was unforgivable, and as long as I'm breathing, you will never be forgiven." Terra spoke with a roughness I had never heard before in her voice. "I'm conflicted, but I'm going to do what I think is the right thing. I'm sorry, guys." Terra's aura began burning more brightly, as she catapulted herself up to where Slade was standing. "I'm not afraid of you any more, Slade. You've broken my body. You've tampered with my mind. You made me break my heart..." She looked at me, softly. "But if there is just one thing I can do, one thing at all to redeem myself for all the horrible things I did of my own accord with your direction, it would be to take you down and make sure you stay down. After I'm through with you, you will NEVER MESS WITH THE TITANS AGAIN!" Terra threw a hard right to his jaw, but Slade grabbed her arm and twisted it. There was a cracking sound, but Terra was able to fight out. Terra forced the stone they were standing on to the ground, where it shot dirt out of the ground. The two fought, and it was hard to watch. My heart was heavy in my chest.
"She's not holding back." Raven observed. "Physically or emotionally." It was an all too familiar setting; it was beginning again, but was it a new beginning, or the beginning of the end?
"Terra, remember not to overuse your power!" Robin yelled. "Don't set off the volcano!"
"Just because she doesn't want to doesn't mean I can't." Slade replied.
"You can't anyway!" Terra yelled. "Next to me, you have no power/"
"This is not how it ends, girl/"
"Isn't it?" Terra lept backwards, just as a giant stone fell from the ceiling and landed on Slade. The rock glowed and shattered. Slade clutched his shoudler, hurt but unbeaten. "You're right, it's not where it ends. It's just the beginning." I couldn't watch. The girl I loved against the man I hated for what he had done to her. One last time, for her freedom. She would never be the same. None of us would, but somehow, never knowing the outcome, I knew that we were going to be just fine. I just worried that fine wasn't good enough. I was reminded of a song I had once heard. It seemed ironically appropriate now.
"There's more to me then you ever will know.
Down here where the rest of us fell.
Waste away, nothing left to show.
I'm in a perfect hell."
I gave Slade everything I had. My fists were numb from fighting. He struck me hard in the face. My vision grew foggy; my eye was swelling. Damn blood vessels. I punched Slade hard in the temple, sending him backwards. I had given up on using my powers; I only needed to use them to negate the numbness, the comotose feel I had when Slade used them. This was the battle, the last one, and I was losing. I was losing a lot lately. Losing everything, while my life spun out of control again. Maybe I was destined to complete the cycle. Living over and over again, the same life with only slight variations. It could drive a person crazy. It had already gotten to me. Slade wrestled with me, wanting the control he already had of the scuffle. He broke my arm; I could feel the pain, the bone shattering, but I didn't cry. I couldn't feel that way anymore. Slade had taken that away from me. He knocked me to my feet. This was a familiar situation, all too common these days. These days of life, running together like rapids before a waterfall. A thought came to my mind. It was a meager thought, but it's hope shone through the darkness of my mind. I wanted to survive this. I wanted to kick Slade's ass. I wanted to live. Like a beam through the darkness, I too began to light up, my power charging itself. I blasted Slade, knocking him off his guard.
"You won't survive this, Terra!" He shouted. I saw right through him. An empty threat. I had one thing that Slade didn't, that would give me the sheer hope, determination, and willpower to defeat him. For the first time in my life, I realized I had friends. They would always be there for me, no matter what I did. No matter what.
"I can survive this! I will survive this! I have people waiting for me, and I can't let them down!" I shouted back. Slade's eye widened, in horror, realizing a weakness, I don't know. He went on the defensive.
"You can do it, Terra!" Beast Boy shouted from the ground, the other Titans around him. Even Raven, apathetic as she may seem, was breaking down the barriers that I had set up around myself. I no longer felt like I couldn't escape. This was my escape. I couldn't resist any longer; rocks crumbled down around me from the ceiling.
"Fool, you'll kill us all!" Slade shouted, horrified. It was horror. I was myself again. Slade would tremble before me. The sadistic pleasure I had before was gone, for it was now overwhelmed by a sense of rightousness, a sense of meaning. A sense of belonging.
"Tell everyone you know, Slade, if you survive. Tell them never to mess with the Titans again, or I will personally hunt them down and give them a dose of reality!" I yelled. I felt like I was on fire again. A yellow aura consumed my flesh, making me appear like a spectre. Boulders fell from above like raindrops. I waited for the enevitable blackout. It came.
"Terra, wake up." Beast Boy said. Terra opened her eyes. Was she still alive, or had she killed them all?
"Is it over?" She asked, a hope in her heart. A hope to go back to the way things were.
"It's over, Terra." Beast Boy said, reassuringly. "We won." Tears came to their eyes, and they hugged.
"So, you're not really going, are you?" Beast Boy asked, his voice breaking.
"I have to." Terra replied. She hugged Beast Boy in a loving embrace, and then turned around to face the rest of the Titans.
"How long will you be gone for?" Starfire asked.
"A little while." Terra replied. "About five months." She brushed her hair out of her face. "Thanks, guys. For everything. If you need me, I have my communicator."
"Are you sure you want to walk?" Robin asked. "I mean, I could get Batman to..."
"No, Robin, it's alright." Terra reassured him. "I'll be fine. I've walked that far before."
"Gotham City is across the country. Are you sure?"
"I'll be fine. What about you guys? How do you know Slade won't come back?"
"We don't," Cyborg answered with hope in his voice, "but after what you did, it doesn't matter. We'll be ready for him."
"One way or another." Raven added. "You'll always have a place here, Terra. We're here for you. Don't ever forget that."
"I won't. Thanks." The light from the rising shone on Terra's face, just like what she had felt. A hope in the darkness.
"What will you be doing in Gotham?" Starfire asked enthusiastically.
"I'll be staying at Gotham General Hospital. I'll be undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, and... well, I have my fair share of battle scars to contend with. Just one more thing, though. Cyborg, about the probes..."
"Removed when you were asleep." Cyborg replied. "There won't be any more technology in your body for a while, if ever."
"What about my powers? Will Slade..."
"The genetic sample was located and destroyed." Raven responded.
"You're free, Terra. Just like you always wanted." Beast Boy added.
"I'm... free?" Tears began to trickle down Terra's cheeks. "I'm free?!" She jumped on Beast Boy, nearly knocking him to the ground.
"Enjoy it. I am sure you will be much happier." Starfire replied, beaming. The sun was in the sky now, illuminating the world with happiness and hope.
"I guess I better get going. I want to try to be at least to New Mexico by nightfall." Terra sighed. "Just... don't forget me."
"We won't." Beast Boy answered. "You better not forget us."
"You know I won't." Terra laughed. She hugged Beast Boy, and turned around, back towards the Titans. She took a deep breath. "The world really is beautiful. I'll contact you guys tonight."
"We'll be waiting." Robin replied, smiling. Terra took a step, and then another. She kept going.
"Beast Boy, arn't you coming?" Raven asked. He turned around, and she was the only one left outside.
"Yeah, I'll be there in a minute." He replied. He heard the door close behind her. He watched Terra walk off, growing smaller and eventually vanishing. The strongest force that Jump City had ever seen was gone. Beast Boy sighed. "You can cross that desert outside. I'll be waiting for you inside." He said. "I'll be waiting, Terra. I'll be waiting." Beast Boy turned around and headed toward the tower. He turned around once more. Terra might have been gone, but the hope she spoke of, the hope she held in her heart, still resonated. The wind blew gently, slighly rustling Beast Boy's hair. In his heart, he knew that he could never forget Terra. He could never forget. "You can cross that desert outside. I'll be waiting for you inside." He chuckled. "I'll be waiting for you inside. Inside my heart." Beast Boy entered the tower, knowing that he would see Terra again. He had to.
"You can cross that desert outside.
I'll be waiting for you inside."
WRITER'S NOTE: Thank you very much for reading this story. This story was originally a way to come to terms, and I believe that it's become more than that. I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now, like Terra, I, too, must take a brief sabbatical from this world, but like Terra, I will return, as well. If you enjoyed this story, tell your friends. They may enjoy it, too.
For you continuity buffs, this story takes place in "elseworlds" continuity. The writing of this story has spanned the whole of Season Three, and that season provided more twists and turns than I could keep up with. If you're a fan, you should be able to nitpick all the continuity discripancies in the story.
For you music connisuers, the "perfect hell" song is Sum 41's "Angels with Dirty Faces". The "waiting for you inside" song is Projet Orange's "Tell All Your Friends".
This, however, is not where the story ends. No, Terra will return, and she and the rest of the titans - including a new foursome - will be launched into a battle where the teams very existance is at stake. The story will be written soon, so keep a look out for it.
Matt "Doggett" Rawle
August 26, 2004 - January 30, 2005