Robin: I thought you said you didn't like to play the hero.
Red X: Doesn't mean I can't.
Raven, Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Starfire all exchanged worried looks.
The news had come in a couple of hours ago that Red X had been sighted in one of the old abandoned warehouses on the waterfront by a couple of teenagers. Robin had not been present when the chief of police contacted the Titans to tell them about the sighting; instead, he had been chasing a futile lead on Slade.
They didn't want to keep anything from their leader, but Robin had a tendency of obsessing over the criminals he needed to catch. Red X had been pushed out of his thoughts several weeks ago by reports of new activity from Slade, back from the dead, and the Titans had no intention of bringing X to his attention again. That was why they were gathered surreptitiously just outside of the Tower. If one of them could track down Red X before Robin found out, they would save both Robin and themselves a lot of grief.
Cyborg glanced up at the stormy gray clouds amassing in the evening sky. Rain was on the forecast and that meant danger—slippery roads and blinding water were not what they had hoped for. Their first area would be the warehouse where the report said Red X was seen. The second was old Chang's place where the zynothium was last found. From then on, they had only straws to grasp at.
"When will Robin return?" asked Starfire, feeling queasy. If Robin found out that they had kept a 'secret,' he would be terribly angry with them.
"He said around nine," replied Raven. "We'd better get going."
Starfire lifted up Cyborg and started off, crossing the water. A wind was picking up, whipping the waves into a frenzy and crashing them onto the rocks around Titans' Tower. The signs were ominous—this was not going to be an easy capture. Perhaps they would not capture Red X at all.
"Hey Raven?" asked Beast Boy just as the empath was about to lift from the ground.
"What?" she asked, turning slightly to regard him out of the corner of her eye.
"Uh... are you ok? You seem sort of absent-minded..."
Beast Boy's words couldn't be truer. It was only a while since Malchior had used and hurt her, and Raven was still suffering from a withdrawal. The temptation to use the dark magic he taught her was almost impossible to resist at times and it took all her willpower to keep the dark side at bay. She promised herself not to look through the book at the bottom of her trunk. She told herself her friends were enough. But the dreams told her she was wrong.
"I'm fine," she said through her teeth. "The important thing is to find Red X."
Beast Boy still looked suspicious as he followed her off the island.
The warehouse was old and moldy. The door creaked as they entered, making Cyborg and Beast Boy jump in fright. Raven went through the walls, giving the two an annoyed look, pulling Starfire with her. This was the perfect hiding place for Red X not just because he knew they would make a racket coming in, but also because the shadows stretching into corners and playing about the ceilings provided appropriate hiding spaces.
Raven scowled. She should have known some one like Red X would choose this kind of place. The five Titans together found it extremely difficult to subdue him. Being only four now, especially without Robin's experience and dynamic, they would find it next to impossible. Not for the first time that night, she wondered why she was even trying. Then she looked at Starfire's determined countenance and knew the answer. It was for Robin that they were doing this—for Robin's peace of mind, for Robin's contentment, for Robin's welfare... it was all for Robin.
Something above them moved, a shadow in the shadows.
Raven looked up sharply. "Did you see it?" she whispered.
Beast Boy nodded, though Cyborg and Starfire seemed confused.
"Get ready..." Raven said, wrapping her power against an old steel bar.
The shadow descended on them, body in a spread-eagle form. It kicked Cyborg around the face, blocked Beast Boy's head-on charge, deflected Starfire's starbolts, and leapt out of the way of Raven's bar to kick her in the stomach.
Raven remembered him well—the strong legs, tattered clothing, the red-tainted chest, the skull mask... it was Red X all right. This time, he had the belt. Stupid Robin didn't destroy it; he had kept it and locked it up, making it easy for Red X to come and steal it again. Robin should have known better. Red X was a master thief... he could easily penetrate the Tower security and steal the belt again.
Red X leaned close to Starfire. "Hey, cutie," he said. Raven could feel the leer underneath the mask like a disease. "What do you say you and I spend some quality time getting to know each other better?"
Starfire answered that question very aptly: with a fist in his face.
Cyborg prepared his cannon. "Dude, you're going down," he said, aiming it at Red X. The instant before he fired, Red X fell flat against the floor and the beam passed ahead of him. He rolled out and wrapped a X-shaped adhesive around Raven's legs. Then he used sharp X-shaped blades to cut away the iron pillars to the side of her. The ceiling above came crashing down on Raven as she tried to get the X off, crushing her with its weight.
Beast Boy lunged at Red X, this time in the form of a tyrannosaurus. Red X blocked a few of his blows, feinting and baiting Beast Boy until the green changeling ran into a particularly low iron beam. He fell to the floor, back in his original form and passed out cold. Starfire sent another volley of starbolts at Red X, who performed a somersault and deftly leap out of the way. Cyborg caught him and wrapped his large arms around Red X. "Oh, no you don't," he said, holding him.
Red X struggled for a while, looking for a way to defeat the man with superhuman strength. He grabbed onto a small crate with his legs and swung it upwards so that it met Cyborg's face. Cyborg batted it away with one arm, which allowed Red X to twist around and pop a disabling mechanism onto Cyborg's back. "Night-night," he said smugly as Cyborg dropped down, unable to move, with a curse a sailor would blush at.
Starfire came at him, swinging a beam she'd pried from the ceiling. "You will not hurt my friends any longer!" she yelled, swinging it down with astonishing speed, throwing Red X against a mountain of crates. Starfire flew over and caught his shirt as he fell. She punched him two times and flung him in the other direction, out of the window. Her eyes glowing with righteous fury, she unleashed her final shower of starbolts at him, making smoke and dust rise up into the air.
Then the haze finally cleared, Red X was not lying where he was supposed to be. Starfire looked around in bafflement and spotted Red X standing on the roof of the structure. She rushed up towards him again but just as she was about to reach eye level, he brought his knee up and landed a hit onto her stomach. Choking, she fell through the roof to land on some empty canisters, crushing the metal with her momentum. When Red X peered over the edge to see Starfire, she was lying perfectly still.
"You should have brought your little leader with you," said Red X, scoffing at the Titans. As he turned to go, a great metal rod hit him across the head and he tumbled off the roof to fall into the harbor. He came up a minute later, gasping for breath amid the rocky waves, to see Raven levitating above him.
"Did you really think I would go down that easily?" she asked. She was breathing heavily, her foot was hanging limply, and there were a number of bruises on her face, but her eyes shone with white anger.
A wave of black power crashed down onto his head, forcing him into the water again. He swallowed the salty ocean, slightly polluted, and choked in disgust. Struggling to get out, he suddenly broke the surface, rushing upwards, his clothing caught by her dark power. He was thrown this way and that in the air, making him incoherent and dizzy. Finally, he was dropped from sixty feet in the air to fall into the water again. Knowing that crashing into water at high speed could equal crashing into concrete, he pressed the button on his belt and teleported behind Raven.
"No, but I sure hoped so," he whispered venomously, cuffing her around the neck.
Raven fell from the air and rushed towards the ground, but caught herself at the last moment. Muttering spell words that he had never heard before, dark power rushed out of her mouth and eyes to trap him and slowly overwhelm him. She grinned, reminding him of the devils painted in old paintings, and suddenly he became afraid. The black power covered his mask and with a sinking feeling, he noticed that he couldn't breathe.
With the last of his strength and will, he struggled against Raven's hold and sent an X-shaped blade down to catch her shoulder. Her power suddenly receded and he panted, taking in oxygen. Something wasn't right about the witch now. She was much more powerful—as if some inner room that had been locked away was now open and the power inside was pouring through her.
Thunder cackled in the sky and a bolt of lightning flashed. Heavy rain began to pour down on them, distorting their vision.
Raven sent a beam of pure ebony power at Red X. He teleported out of the way, watching Raven destroy the top of the warehouse. He saw suddenly that she was losing herself in the power. The wise thing to do now was to run—and that was exactly what he did. The Titans can deal with their insane teammate—she was not his business.
But some part of Raven, still conscious of the task at hand, told her to follow Red X. He ran through alleyways and hid in houses, but Raven was always there, destruction in her path. She kept muttering the spell over and over and the city kept crumbling, house by house.
Finally, he used the teleportation module in his belt to escape.
Arriving in Central Park, he sighed and calmed his pounding heart. What the hell was Raven doing? It was like she didn't care about all the civilians that could get hurt on her rampage.
He didn't realize he had spoken aloud until a voice replied, "You're right, I don't."
Raven stood there, smirking, her hands glowing with power. Red X clenched his fists.
"How the hell did you know where I was?"
"The trail of zynothium ore was easy enough to sense. Besides, I can track teleportation in any and all of its forms."
Hell, he thought. Good mother of...
"What do you want from me?"
"Funny... now that I'm here, I don't know. Oh well, guess I'll just kill you anyway," she said.
Her eyes narrowed as she chanted the unfamiliar spell again, uprooting a nearby maple tree and sending it his way. Red X cut through the tree with the blades, leaping away. What was he going to do about her? He was a thief, not a killer. Opting for the safest way, he dodged another attack and got close enough to send out the X-shaped adhesive aimed for her mouth. She sliced through it with a tiny burst of her powers.
"Did you really think that could hold me?" she asked. A black staff materialized out of her power and she leaned down into battle position. "I'll enjoy killing you."
Red X frowned. What could he do? As he wasted time on that thought, Raven pressed forward and landed several hits on his knees, his chin, and his stomach. Before she could bring it down onto her head, Red X reached out and stopped the staff with the Xs on the back of his hand. "Dammit!" he said. "One chick like you shouldn't have so much power." He kicked her on her knees, bringing her down to kneel at the same level as him, and punched her across the cheek.
"Chick?" Raven laughed, cupping her cheek. She caught Red X's throat and squeezed. "Don't you dare use that revolting word on me ever again. I'm not a chick. I'm your nightmares come true."
Red X grasped at her wrist with one hand. With the other, he hit her on her breast bone, causing her to drop him and clutch at her chest, coughing and wheezing.
"Nightmares, huh?" he asked, kicking a trash can towards her. "Some nightmare you are."
She caught the trash can, lifting her hand, and pushed it towards him. "Just be glad that when you're six feet under, bastard, you won't be able to have any more nightmares like me."
He deflected the trash can only to be hit by an uprooted bush. Flying into a tree, he crumbled to the ground, struggling to stand. The battle had taken a lot out of him—Beast Boy, Starfire, and Cyborg were difficult enough, but Raven, now in her strange, crazy state? He had to end this here and now, or else suffer being ripped apart limb by limb. Taking out the blades, he waited as Raven approached, then sent them out to cut through the trunk of a tree. The tree wobbled for a bit, then toppled, crushing Raven under its branches.
Red X heard a pained moan from underneath the leaves. Then, nothing.
Raven awoke. Her head pounded painfully and her limbs ached. Her lips were dried and cracked and it took a while before she could distinctly make out her room. Except that it wasn't her room.
She found herself in a dimly-lit place, sparsely furnished, with horrible taste, too. Dust covered the chairs at the other side of the room, the lightbulb swung from the ceiling with only a little electrical line and the tv was ten years old. She was most definitely not in the Tower anymore. She looked at her hand to find it covered with bruises. Logic told her that her face and her legs were in the same condition. She groaned as she move herself. The mattress was hard and the fuzzy blanket did not cover her toes. Where the world was she?
Little by little, the events before played across her mind—getting the information about Red X, going to the warehouse, waging war, giving into the dark magic...
This, then, was Red X's place. That was why there were no photographs on the walls. That was why it seemed so unused. But what the hell was she doing here? She noticed her cloak draped across the back of a chair and levitated it towards her. It was bloody and torn, but it was still her cloak. She grasped it with her hand and closed her eyes. Her muscles hurt just moving them.
Early daylight streamed through cracks in the shabby curtains. Outside, a crow called and the roar of an engine sounded. She wondered if the Titans knew where she was—she highly doubted it, of course. She also wondered if they had gotten back to the Tower in time to catch Robin and explain away their absence.
Raven coughed, her shoulders and chest shaking. Never in her life did she feel so weak and helpless as she did paralyzed on Red X's bed. She wanted to walk away, but her legs wouldn't obey her and the most she could move was her fingers, her eyes, and her neck. An appalling thought suddenly occurred to her—what if Red X had taken advantage of her?
No, she assured herself. Both she and Red X were too hurt to be able to have done it. Besides, the only sexual interest Red X had displayed was towards Starfire, not her. She was safe. That, in turn, made her wonder where Red X was. He certainly wasn't in the drabby room that he probably called home and he was much to hurt to have gone on a trip to steal other items.
The door rattled and Raven twitched. Centering her attention onto the door, she waited for it to open, wrapping her power around a chair. The door opened and Red X walked in, holding a cup in his hand. The chair flew towards him, but he blocked it and smashed it easily. "You shouldn't be exerting yourself, woman," he said, shoving the cup in her face. "You have barely healed."
Raven scowled. "I wasn't exerting myself," she said. "It was fine. I have power to spare."
"Right..." said Red X sarcastically, "that's why you can't move."
Raven, finding herself speechless, allowed him to raise her into a sitting position and press the cup to her lips. She had no choice but to down the mixture he gave her, a bitter, sour liquid that burned her throat and made her nauseous. "What is this thing?" she asked when he had forced down the last drop.
"It undos the drug paralyzing you."
It took all of Raven's will not to pound him into the creaky floor.
"You can't blame me, you see. You were the one who went crazy and started to make death threats. I paralyzed you to see if you would be the same way when you woke up. I was outside the door when you finally did, so I went and made of the cure now that I know you're not going to attempt to take my life. Jeez, woman, you've got a lot of anger in you." He sat down on one of the chairs and propped his feet up.
"Why did you help me?" asked Raven, lifting her arm to see the bandages wrapped around it.
"I'm a thief, but I still have some morals," he replied nonchalantly. "I couldn't just leave you under the tree because you could have died there. No one would have found you until it was too late. So I took you with me. Oh, and just so you know, this isn't my base. It's the home of Nathan Ywalts."
Nathan Ywalts was one of the most obscene and low-handed drug dealers in Jump City. He managed to slip the Titans last year, having had a deal with Mumbo, and had disappeared from the radar ever since. To find his apartment was to find a jackpot.
"So you're one of his friends?" asked Raven suspiciously.
"Nah. I pilfer his stuff, like that antique Ming vase over there that I'm gonna take as soon as you leave," said Red X, shrugging.
"How long have you been a thief?"
"Hah! Years. How long have you been a titan?"
"One year," she replied stiffly. She did not want to go into the reasons she had brought the team together—she hated to talk about Trigon and his influence over her.
"Do you like it?"
"...most of the time," she replied, remembering Terra. "Do you like being a thief?"
"It pays well," he laughed. "Especially if I do special cases."
"They call me up and ask me to steal for them. I get tens of thousands for those jobs." Red X crossed his arms over his chest and Raven couldn't help but glance at his muscles. He was older and stronger than Robin, that was for sure, but he didn't seem much older than twenty-two. How he could fit into the costume when his physique was so much different from Robin's was beyond her.
"Why did you become a thief in the first place?" Raven asked. His talents could be used for so many other occupations instead stealing.
"What is this? 60 minutes?" asked Red X, beginning to become defensive. Apparently, he hadn't expected the conversation to carry on so long. He stood up abruptly and went to the door. "You can stay for a while longer if you want. You're still pretty weak, and if you try to capture me, I won't go easy." With that, he exited and closed the door rather forcefully.
Raven rolled her eyes and laid back onto the hard bed for some rest, despite the questions pounding into her head. Why was he being so nice to her? Why did he save her when she tried to kill him? And why was he moving with all those injuries?
"Where's Raven?" asked Beast Boy quietly at the breakfast table. Robin was shifting through the blue, moldy food in the fridge and it left the three at the table open for discussion.
"I thought she had come back early when I woke up," said Cyborg.
Later that night, at around ten, the three Titans returned to the Tower bruised and tired to find Robin waiting for them. They had explained away Raven's absence by saying that she had come back already and was probably cooped up in her room and that the bruises were from the movie theater—Beast Boy tripped and Cyborg fell on top and Starfire afterwards, then they were trampled by crazy fangirls rushing to see the new megastar's hit movie. Later on, they had assembled, anxiety clouding their minds, after attempting to find Raven with little success.
"She was not in her room, nor is she on the roof. I cannot find her anywhere." Starfire poked her blueberry waffle, her shoulders hunched.
"Do you think Robin will notice?" Cyborg asked, glancing over at the leader.
"Not right now. Later, duh," said Beast Boy.
Starfire bit her lip and leaned over the table. "I saw several signs of a great battle when I was watching the reporting of the news this morning. It seems there was a fight through the park of pleasurable activities and a weapon from Red X was found in the ground. Do you think that Raven could have possibly followed Red X, fought him, and then was taken by him?"
"That's probably what happened," said Beast Boy, his eyes growing wide.
"Don't worry. Our girl Raven can handle herself," said Cyborg, trying to sound reassuring.
"What are you talking about? Raven can handle herself with what?"
The Titans froze with horror.
Robin had returned.
Robin had overheard.
Disclaimer: Teen Titans do not belong to me. Eh, too bad.
This is the first part of a two-part featuring the Raven/Red X relationship.