A/N Don't blink, faithful reader. The series so far has unfolded slowly over the course of roughly a year and a half. The story is going to precede very rapidly from here... the rest of the series takes place in 48 hours. This chapter won't be all that long, but it would have made the last chapter too long to put it in there.
Oh, and by the way... for some reason, the lines aren't working, so I had to improvise. You'll forgive me, won't you?
Disclaimer - Think about it. If I owned Teen Titans, I wouldn't need to be rewriting the show, now would I?
Fragile Dreams Chapter 24 - Destiny
"You are making this much more difficult than this needs to be," Slade shouted in frustration as Raven dodged his fire and burst out the side door. Slade rushed after her, knocking the door off its hinges as he pushed it out of his way. Raven was running down the alley, so Slade dropped a wall of fire in her path.
Raven didn't even slow down, she just brought her soul self out to surround her like a cloak and ran through, becoming ethereal as she did. Slade sighed to himself as he watched her propel herself into the air.
"I have a message for you, Raven!" He shouted after her rapidly retreating form. "And it will be delivered, whether you like it or not." He took off after her.
'What does it take to stop this son of a bitch?' Raven thought to herself as he cut the fourth car in half. She threw a fifth and a sixth at him as she flew, just to slow him down. 'Nothing I do seems to be able to touch him!'
In a flash of inspiration, Raven reached out with her soulself and grabbed a bus Slade had already passed. While he was busy destroying the cars, the bus struck him from below and behind with such force that the bus actually bent a little to wrap around the villain. The aura of fire surrounding Slade set the gas tank on fire, and the entire bus exploded into a brilliant fireball, momentarily turning night to day.
Raven stopped flying, hovering in place as she watched the shrapnel begin to slow from the direction the explosion pushed it, and eventually stopping as time caught up with it. 'Did I get him?'
Slade came rushing at her rapidly from inside the fireball, his long white hair ablaze. He tackled her, both of them soaring towards the ground. Raven could feel an ache in her shoulder where Slade was touching her: the rune there was awakening as well.
Raven hit the ground and went tumbling, out of control. Her momentum kept her spinning until she impacted with the side of a building with nauseating force. Raven gasped as she felt her wind knocked out. Breathing rapidly, Raven turned her head from side to side, trying to focus her vision and find Slade.
Slade slowly walked towards her, putting out his hair with one gloved hand while he walked. His armor wasn't even scratched. "Are you ready to stop and listen now?" In response, Raven rose unsteadily to her feet, taking two awkward and painful steps towards Slade. He sighed. "I thought not."
As Raven looked on, Slade was consumed by a fire traveling rapidly up his body. She looked frantically around for him, only to feel burning agony as two hands rested lightly on her shoulders from behind, Slade's head coming forward to lean over her shoulder in a fatherly manner. "You should be careful, Raven. It would be a pity you were to hurt yourself and damage your father's precious gem."
Raven's shoulders burned as her birthmarks started pulsing with energy under Slade's gentle touch, but she spun, collecting energy into her hands as she slashed at the space behind her… but Slade was already gone.
Raven wobbled, trying to keep her balance from the missed swipe as she saw Slade reappear in front of her, leading casually against a car, looking off into the distance at nothing. "Your destiny has been sealed for a long time, Raven. There's nothing you can do." Slade turned his face so he was staring right into her purple eyes. "I've seen it, you know. It's beautiful. And today, so will you."
"No…" Raven managed to gasp out between heavy breaths, leaving hard against the streetlight in front of her.
"Yesss," Slade hissed out, managing to make the word as sinister sounding as possible. "The sky will burn. Flesh will become stone. The sun will set on your world, never to rise again."
"NO!" Raven shouted, reaching out with her soul self to take hold of anything mobile in the immediate area. As she took to the sky again, she threw it all at Slade.
Slade didn't even bother to dodge; he just let it all hit him. None of it hurt. He couldn't even feel any of it… he suspected pain was not a sensation Trigon had given him back.
Slade hook his head, clearing the thoughts… they were irrelevant. "Must we do everything the hard way, Raven?" With a roar, Slade sent two torrents of flame roaring after her, resolving quickly into grasping hands.
Raven dodged quickly to the right, barely avoiding one of Slade's tendrils of fire as she dipped down and banked. Her blue cloak was singed by the near miss. It was only a matter of time before they got her.
'Ok, new strategy.' When the next tendril predictably came after her, she shot straight up, as she quickly headed past all but the highest rooftops of Bludhaven. She turned as she flew and blasted one of the tendrils out of existence with dark energy. She was about to do the same to the second when it suddenly disappeared. Raven spun back around to face upwards again, and too late she saw Slade flying down towards her.
She brought up a shield just as he slammed both flaming fists down at her, protecting her from harm but doing nothing to protect her from sailing rapidly downward and smashing into the roof of a costal building. She rolled when she hit to absorb as much of the impact as possible, but almost choked from the force around her neck; Slade had grabbed her cloak. Raven craned her head back to look at him.
"What you have concealed, you will become, child!" He leered down at her, smiling infernally. "You have no other choice.
Raven moved her hand backward and at an angle, gathering her soul self in her right hand to make a talon as she slashed at her own cloak. The cloak ripped as she cut through it, freeing her from Slade's hold and exposing the extent of her runes so far. Raven could feel that she was practically glowing, but thinking about it was a distraction she couldn't afford. Spinning completely around, she lunged at Slade, taloned hand leading.
Slade ducked, parrying the arm with a sideways swipe of his forearm. Raven felt her pain flair as more runes awakened, but she didn't have time to worry about that right now. She jabbed with her other hand, going for Slade's exposed eye, but he twisted away, feeding the turn into a kick to her abdomen.
Raven lowered her right hand back into the path of the kick, letting her claw dissipate as she used her soul self to shield herself from the impact, directing its angle slightly away from her. As she let the kick deflect to the side, she grabbed the boot with her powers and pushed as hard as she could. She felt Slade's balance slip.
'NOW!' she shouted in her own head as she twisted her waist around a jumped, rapidly uncoiling herself in the air to turn into a devastating roundhouse kick that caught Slade on the side of his chin. Raven heard his neck snap with a sickening crack.
To her horror, however, that wasn't the end of the fight. As she came back down from the kick, Slade's right arm snapped up and gripped her by the throat. He squeezed just enough to get her attention through lack of air. He smiled, and then reached up with his left hand and slowly, loudly, moved his neck back into place.
"The message shall be delivered," Slade intoned over the crack of his neck realigning with the rest of his body. "Your destiny will be fulfilled." And he gently brushed her forehead with his gloved left hand.
Raven's forehead burned as the mark of Scath ripped its way to the surface of her skin, and then her entire body roared with white hot agony as the power of her birthmarks raced through her, awakening each and every rune. Slade dropped her, but it didn't matter… neither the pain of her knees impacting the roof nor the thought of escape crossed her mind through the pain. Raven vaguely registered her outfit being burned away completely by the power of the glyphs as energy poured through them for the first time since her birth.
Raven screamed, and malevolent energy shot from her eyes and mouth as the power growing within her erupted outwards. Raven's entire soul self collapsed back into her.
Robin came to with a groan, feeling the agony of his torment limbs as he pushed himself to his feet. Where was Slade! Where was Raven!
Robin took a look around the desolated church, and followed the burn patterns of Slade's fire blasts as they went towards the side exit. Robin rushed out, determined to follow the warpath towards the pair, when suddenly time started moving again.
'Shit, that can't be good.' Robin doubled his pace.
Cyborg, Changeling, and Starfire unfroze, running out of the clock tower just as it came crashing down on behind them.
"Robin!" Starfire cried out, flying up to look around the building for wherever else he could have escaped from. "Friend Raven!"
'C'mon buddy, you can't be dead,' Cyborg thought to himself as he checked the locator built into his wrist. Surprised barely began to cover his reaction. "Woah!"
Changeling looked up hopefully. "What is it, Cy? Do you have them?"
"How the hell did they get on the other side of the city?" Cyborg said, tapping the device with his finger, expecting it to be some kind of technical error.
Starfire swooped down towards him. "Where are our friends?"
"Raven's by the ocean side, and Robin's headed in that direction. Titans, GO!"
Starfire was already flying before the order was out of his mouth.
They say that geology is the study of time and pressure. Time was extremely short right now, so pressure would have to do. Shrapnel littered the ground as the walls in her way simply exploded under the strain, and a dark figure in tattered clothing ran towards the ocean.
Raven shut her eyes tightly, hoping to deny the agony by hiding within herself. Raven could feel time passing. Bright light pulsed outside her eyelids as the sun rose and set. The pain alone was going to kill her, she was certain. It grew to the point where nothing else existed for her, and for an instant, she forgot all about Robin, Slade, everything.
Then she was inside her head, collapsing from the sky to fall hard to the rocky ground.
The first thing she could hear was anger laughing at her. Then courage and happiness rushed up to help her to her feet. She looked around, confused. "What am I doing here?"
Intelligence cleared her throat. "Well, if I had to guess, I would say that you sought refuge here to avoid succumbing to the pain." The yellow cloaked Raven looked around and shuddered. "I doubt it is a very good idea to stay here very long though.
When the ground suddenly trembled, Raven followed her gaze and saw Anger meditating on the side, laughing aloud the whole time. The earth shook all around her as stones ripped themselves from the ground to slowly form a sculpture that was already beginning to crackle with dark lightning as its energy grew.
A statue in the image of Trigon.
Raven looked around, desperate for any advice, and then finally figured something out. "Where is Gold?" When no one answered, she asked the question louder, more angrily. "Where. Is. GOLD!"
"Um…" Timid, the gray-cloaked Raven slowly raised her hand a little. "I saw her a little while ago. Just after you froze time."
"And…" Raven intoned impatiently.
"She said she had something important she needed to do, and left."
Something inside Raven just snapped. "What do you mean she left!" Raven roared, no longer caring effect her anger might have with the statue being pieced together right before her eyes. "Why would she leave? How could she leave? And why now!" When Intelligence shrugged, Raven just turned around and tried to calm herself. She could already feel herself being dragged back to the real world. It was a losing battle.
Raven found herself naked and on her knees, staring out into a desolate city. She quickly wrapped her arms around her torso to cover herself, looking over the deserted city with horrified attention. It was Bludhaven, but every single building that wasn't toppled over was in ruins.
Most of the once-proud skyscrapers were just burned out shells of steel, and not a window in sight remained unbroken. The city's sky was scorched an angry red, with ethereal, dark crimson clouds drifting low across the blasted landscape. The ocean churned with volcanic currents as molten stone moved like the tide across the shoreline.
Raven had completed almost a half of her circular glance of the city when she caught of glimpse of a building emerging from the fiery sea. Slowly, Raven's eyes came to rest on Titan Tower. The mighty tower was destroyed, blasted into oblivion by the extreme power of this coming apocalypse. Its glass pane windows were shattered to a million pieces, and the island flooded with the lava from the sea. The tower was already leaning precariously… in another year or two it would topple over completely, and the last monument to an age with justice would be gone forever.
Raven looked up at the sound of fluttering wings overhead, and saw a flock of four eyed ravens fly overhead, circling down to the streets of the city. The empath's eyes followed them down and were horrified at the sight that awaited them. Thousands of people, their arms up in front of their faces to protect them, petrified in an instant. Their faces were internally locked in a grimace, betraying their terror. Then she saw the Titans.
Changeling was the first one she saw, in the form of an ape as he was. He was frozen into a pose smashing at some hideous, ghoul-like aberration, while several more clawed their way up his back. Cyborg shared a similar fate, his gun arm aiming down into the mass of monsters he was being pulled down into. Starfire was frozen while trying to escape the clutches of her attackers, attempting flight while blasting down at them. Her face was locked in an uncharacteristic expression of rage.
Finally, she saw Robin. His mask was off, and his staff lay broken at his feet. Piles of ghouls lay dead around him, but eventually even Robin had fallen to the dozens of monsters clutching at his body. Together, the four stood as silent reminders of the fall of Bludhaven.
Raven started hyperventilating. "No…" she muttered.
The empath stiffened as she felt Slade's arms wrap protectively around her shoulders and neck from behind, as one would comfort a lover. "Yesss…" Slade hissed from behind. He slowly guided her head up and turned it to help her complete her circle of viewing. "Look at it. Drink it in, Raven."
"Behold the world you are destined to create."
Raven looked in terror as Slade mover her head further into downtown Bludhaven, seeing that the desolation went on and on as far as the eye could see. A roar crossed the broken city, and Raven moved her head to see its source…
One figure rose, towering above the skyscrapers of the city. The four glowing eyes of her father glared back at her.
"No!" Raven screamed, breaking away from Slade. She forgot all self-consciousness as she took her pounding head between her hands, trying to shake the destiny she saw before her out of it. "I will not do it! This is not my future." She looked over at Slade, glaring. "This is just a vision. It can not be real!"
Slade pinned her hands back to her side as she stared back at her father as though entranced. "This is the future, Raven. Your future." He turned her around, seeing the runes burning their way across her face for himself. "It began the day you were born, and nothing can stop it."
Slade laughed as his one eye found her violet orbs, wide like a dear in the headlights. "This will come to pass. It is my job to make sure of it." He turned, looking over the city himself and meeting Trigon's eyes. "You are going to destroy the world, Raven."
He paused a second, looking back at the helpless mystic. "It is written all over your face."
"NOOOO!" Raven screamed, and she could feel the vision collapsing around her.
Raven collapsed into Slade's waiting arms, her legs no longer able to support her. Slade held her while her birthmarks slowly dimmed and faded, but Raven knew they were still there. She could feel them now, clearer than ever, just waiting beneath the skin.
"We will be in touch." He said as he dropped her, letting her fall from the roof down towards the pavement below. Raven barely had time to register that she should feel terrified before she felt strong hands catch her. She looked up lethargically into the masked face she knew so very well.
"Robin…" she managed to mutter.
"Shhhh," he whispered back, not taking his eyes off the pavement as he landed.
The pair looked up just in time to see Slade disappearing into a pillar of his own fire. "Oh… and happy birthday."
Robin took off his cape and offered it to Raven, who stared at it stupidly for a few moments before remembering she wasn't wearing any clothes. She had to chuckle a little despite herself. 'It's amazing what you can forget.' She managed to wrap herself in the cloak just as Starfire arrived overhead. Then she collapsed to the sidewalk and passed out, only vaguely hearing Robin and Starfire shouting at her as she fell.
The rest of the night was a blur to Robin, as he had Starfire whisk Raven away to the infirmary at Titan tower while he met up with Cy and Changeling and setting security for the tower. Currently, Cy and Starfire were on guard duty, while he and Changeling were supposed to be sleeping.
Robin, however, couldn't sleep. He couldn't do anything but look down at the beautiful empath lying beneath the thin, sterile sheets just inches from him. Where she had always seemed so strong to him, now she just seemed frail. Robin was terrified for her as she moaned and tossed in her sleep, obviously troubled. Robin didn't know what to do. He absentmindedly ran his hands through her long, lavender hair. Sometime during the night, it had grown. He didn't know how.
Robin didn't know how long he'd be sitting there when Raven's violet eyes suddenly opened. Robin looked down at her, putting all of the comfort and confidence into his tone and face as he could as he said, "its ok, Raven… it's over now…"
Raven's eyes widened, as if remembering the events of the night all at once. "No," she said, looking back at him with terror in her eyes. "This was just the beginning."
The fear in her eyes quickly became determination as she looked at him. She pushed herself out from under the sheets, completely oblivious to her state of dress. As Robin tried to stutter a warning to her, her weak legs collapsed under her and he caught her. "We need to get to my room, right now. We need to talk."
End Chapter 24
A/N About the runes inscribing themselves all over Raven's body... I'm pretty sure it was network executives and not either Trigon or Magic that decided certain areas were sacred. So yeah, you get more fan service. Pity you can't see it.
Song Warning - Next chapter will feature 'Nobody's Home' by Avril Lavigne (Don't like the artist too much, but hey, Evanescence's Ben Moody wrote the song. How bad could it be, right?)... I suggest you get it to enhance your reading experience.
Next Time on Teen Titans - Fragile Dreams:
Rae going to tell Robin?
-Unfortunately, you don't find out next episode.
-We take a brief break from Rae and Rob (dodges thrown objects)...
-Because here's the thing: The Titans are going to need all the help they can get.
Next Episode: The Fifth Interlude: Requiem