Well, it looks like Dusty is back in business! Thanks to everybody who reviewed the epilogue of Aftereffects, I really appreciate you comments. Oh, and Darth Nat, if you are by any chance reading this, I never said that Slade died, EVER. In fact, I implied that he did not. So before you point out a weakness in my story, make sure it is there. Also, thanks to those of you who reviewed my poem Sacrifice, and yes, it was inspired by Chapter 16 of Aftereffects. Hope you like this. Italicsmemory flashbacks, boldpoem...if you couldn't figure that out on your own. I DO NOT OWN THE POEM ANNABEL LEE, BY EDGAR ALLEN POE.

The reign of superheroes had come to an end. Everyone knew that the Titans were history, nothing more than a faded memory, unimportant and irrelevant.

That is, everyone except him.

Against all odds, Titans Tower had managed to stay standing, but it was a shadowy wreck of its former self. The security features and surveilance technology had died out long ago. No one in their right mind would choose to live there.

The plaster was crumbled, the furniture was either broken on the floor or so decrepid that it was clear no one had dared to use it in many, many years. There were holes in the walls, ceilings, and floors, perhaps the result of some long-forgotten battle, the casualties of which no one could ever have guessed. The once-grand Tower was now choked with the dust and decay of the ages, and ghosts of time flitted through the darkened hallways, blind to the destruction around them.

One such ghost was the main reason that people steared clear of the tower. Rumor had it that a shadow creature, black as night save for eerie white eyes, lurked in the deepest, darkest corners of the tower, waiting to reach out and snatch anyone foolish enough to intrude on its domain. Some believed in the shadow creature, some didn't, but all avoided the island like the plague.

That was just fine with him.

A chill October wind made its way across the water, past the rocky shore, and up to the tower, taking advantage of its complete lack of protection and forcing its way inside. The wind whistled down the hallways, its icy blast filling every room, relentless and determined, as though looking for something...The wind danced around him, taunting and teasing, trying to force a reaction out of him, but to no avail. He remained still, hardly even noticing it.Things like cold and hunger didn't matter anymore...they were ever-present, and therefore, insignificant.

If someone had been there and able to fall under his gaze, they would have shivered, seeing the empty, tortured look in his eyes. It was the look of someone who had been beaten into submission with blow after painful blow until, having no strength left, they surrender, lying down at their enemy's feet and taking whatever is thrown at them. What terrible events could have caused the agony etched in his young face? For he was young, undoubtedly; no more than nineteen or twenty at the most. What cruel hand had fate dealt him, to leave him in such a half-state?

The answers were known, on this side, by only one soul, and he had not spoken to anyone in the flesh for what seemed an eternity. For him, there was no one. His someone had been ripped from his grasp long ago.

His heart ached painfully within him, but the tears would no longer come, They had all been spent, an ocean spilt over the ages, and for what? What good had they done? No amount of tears could change the past. Crying would not bring her back.

Time is cruel. It flies away, dancing just out of your reach in time of crisis, and then, when you want it the least, returns to lodge itself heavily in your heart and mind, giving you plenty of its company in which to suffer for those actions that you failed to prevent. You may hate time, curse time, spit on time, but it will merely laugh carelessly and continue with its vicious and destructive ways. Time cannot be escaped.

His hands were limp and weary, barely able to grasp the open book in his frozen fingers.He stared down at the words on the page, though he didn't need to. They were etched into his heart, as though carved there with a scalpel. Slowly, in a voice harsh and rusted from long years of silence, he began to read.

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

The tears came now, blurring the words, but he read on.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs in heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kindsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes-that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and kill-

He stopped, shutting the book with a bang that echoed through the empty room, but the poem went on in his mind, try as he might to shut it out.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

He could never read that poem without seeing her face, her smile, her eyes... He both loved and hated it, just as he loved and hated her.

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

"You could have prevented this, Robin. If you had not been so stubborn, her life would have been spared. Too late for that now."

An earsplitting shot, a gasp of surprise...

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

Falling ever so slowly, but never reaching the ground...Held in his arms, eyes wide with shock and already fading as blood flowed from the wound...He pressed his hands to it, desperately trying to stop the blood, the life, from seeping out of her...

And so all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling-my darling-my life and my bride

"Am...am I dying?"

The weakness in her voice brought the bitter sting of tears to his masked eyes. "No...no, Raven. You're going to be fine." He silently cursed the fear that was causing him to tremble. "Just stay awake, ok?", he whispered, gently kissing her forehead...

An iron grip around his neck, choking him and dragging him backward, away from her...

"Robin?", she called weakly, eyes searching for him.

He tried to scream, tried to call out to her, tried to tell her...but the cruel hand would not permit it.

"This is a necessary part of the plan, Robin. Losing your only love is one of the best ways to break you. And you must be broken, Robin."

His eyes were wide, his mind numb with the barrage of emotions pummeling it; the more he struggled and fought, the tighter the grip became, and the farther he was dragged from his Raven...Her cries ceased, he could hear her labored breaths becoming less and less frequent...His mind cried out to her, yelling, screaming, weeping... "Raven, I love you! Don't leave me, hold on, stay awake!"

"I'm sorry, Robin...I'm sorry...Don't do anything stupid, ok? Promise you won't..." One last breath...Silence.

In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

"Stop!", he screamed, clutching his heaad in anguish. He saw her again, broken and bleeding, limp and lifeless...He did that. Sobs shook his entire body, painrushing through him...

"Crying, Robin? Did you really love her that much?"

A hatred more powerful than he had ever believed he could feel boiled inside him, bursting out in an inhuman shreik as he ripped the hand away from his throat and struck out, wanting nothing more than to brutally kill the man before him... Pain tore through him, but he ignored it, blindly striking out again and again, only to meet with thin air as his opponent dodged and hit him with blow after blow... Finally, his body could take no more.. He hit the ground with a dull thud, and everything went black...

He was breathing heavily, as though he really had just experienced it all over again. The eerie whistling of the wind made him shiver slightly, wrapping his arms around himself in an attempt at comfort. That was something that had evaded his grasp for years; a fact that didn't change now. It seemed his mind was not through torturing him yet, as more painful memories played before his eyes...

"Robin? I understand what you are feeling." A hand on his shoulder...

He jerked away from the warmth of her touch, so unlike his own. "No you don't." His voice held a tiny part of the venom sizzling and burning in his very soul.

She blinked back the tears, looking pleadingly at him. "Robin, please do not do this."

"Don't do what? Love her?", he hissed, hands balled into fists.

The tears were flowing freely down her cheeks. "Raven was not your only friend, Robin. She was not the only one who cared for you. You are my best friend, and I desperately wish to help you, but I cannot help if you will not let me."

He didn't want comfort, didn't want pity, didn't want sympathy. He began to run, legs pumping, arms flailing pointlessly...He would run away from it all, leave it behind, escape, hide, anything to avoid the truth and the pain. He was deaf to their calls, deaf to the screeching of-

He blinked, shaking his head slightly. The memory ended there, abruptly cutting off. He half-heartedly thought it over for a minute or two, but his interest soon evaporated. Nothing could hold his attention for long anymore. He glanced at the "window" in the wall of what had once been the living room. The sun had set, leaving a gloomy twilight stretched out across the city. Under cover of darkness, evil would be making its appearance, crawling out of filthy corners to prey upon the innocent. He sighed quietly, stooping to pick up his mask, which was lying limp and weak on the ground. Time to go.

I know...confusing, right? Well, it was meant to be a bit confusing. Now, there is a choice for you to make. Is this a one-shot, or shall there be a chapter 2? It's all up to you, my reviewers. So click that friendly little button and tell me what you think. Dusty