Teen Titans is the property of its creators and producers as are the characters of Raven and Robin, and any other mentioned or who appear in the story, and they do not belong to me. Notes: The story picks up shortly after where the previous story 'Something Wicked" left off.

"By the Pricking of Her Thumbs" by Karen

Obsessing over much about what has gone before is actually beneficial in the long run, most often it helps clarify all of the variables that contribute to the choices she has made in the past, and how she will carry on. Raven doesn't like to dwell on the fact that or his avatar, whatever you care to call it is back and he knows about the prophecy concerning the anniversary of her birth.

Raven knows her friends, once they learned the truth, each member of the Titans dealt with it in their own way, and she should be content with that and put the past behind her. The only problem with that solution is that eventually the past will crawl out its dark corner where she has been hiding her secrets and come back to bite them. Prophecy or no, Raven decided a long time ago that she is the master of her own destiny.

Robin, whom she considers more of a kindred spirit than a friend, although he is both, shares that sentiment. He comes from the school of being in control, carving out one's own destiny. A man or a woman determines thier own destiny. And that should be enough for her, too, right?

Being a member of the Teen Titans has meant much more to her than an adventure, it has meant friendship, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging to something better than she has ever known. That knowledge should do more than sustain her.

Her friends surprised her; they went out of the way to do what they could to prevent the prophecy from coming to pass. More importantly they did what they could to protect her. If Raven's body is the portal then it stands to reason that if Slade cannot reach her then she would be safe. It's good logic; too bad it's not enough. She tried to smile and she appreciates the gesture of friendship for what its worth.

Elsewhere

Far removed from the Teen Titans tower a man clad in red and black armor kneels

at the edge of deep abyss, his face upturned to the glowing fires of at the earth's core.

Since the man is technically not alive and not yet dead the heat and the light does

not scald or blind him. His name is Slade and when he was still alive and walking on the surface he rightfully considered himself the Titans preeminent nemesis.

He briefly savors the ego stroking thought that his foes should consider themselves honored that he had devoted so much of his time, energy and resources in hunting them down and attempting to destroy them.

Slade has come to terms with his ill-fated attempts to reach a satisfying conclusion that particular endeavor is not due to any fault of his own, but in employing flawed tools. He would rather not think of his primary tool, Terra, for that hits too close to home and is rather personal.

Now, as he waits here at the edge of abyss Slade thinks of old statement made by a dead philosopher, 'the longer a man stares into the abyss, sooner or later the abyss starts to stare back." Slade ponders this while he waits to be acknowledged by the entity he has come to call Master, no matter how galling that is to his pride, Trigon is not an entity to be trifled with. "The Titans will never know what hit them, once I am, correction 'we', are through with them."

"All will proceed as planned," the deep throbbing voice billowed up from the depths reeking of sulfur." "Trigon will not suffer fools or failures to live, remember that Slade."

"Consider it done, My Master," Slade mumbled humble and sincerely enough to convince Trigon of the sincerity of their alliance. In the silence of Slade's mind, it grated on his nerves to call anyone or anything 'master,' but in his current predicament he had little choice in the matter. Give Trigon what he wanted, freedom to run rampant in the mortal plane, freedom from his limbo existence, and Slade his revenge on the Teen Titans.

Interlude

Never has she ever felt so out of control. It is like she is caught inside an invisible vortex or a wind tunnel as she struggles to maintain her equilibrium, but the sheer force of the wind coursing through the tunnel that is her body and it keeps pushing her forward and down.

Unable to stop the inexorable slide Raven cannot even take comfort in her customary familiar mantra; it's her magical powers that are causing the problem in the first place.

It occurs to her that that is not the most pressing need; its Slade and his obsession with power more destructive than the next that lies at the root of the problem. Raven realizes that it her power/curse is merely a convenient opportunity for Slade to tap into, he doesn't really care what happens to her or the Titans as long as Slade gets exactly what he wants.

At this late date it does no one any good to dwell on what has already happened, it cannot be changed, the only thing to do now is to press forward, take what she has learned and rely on the aid of her friends to stand by her.

Its hard, she does not want to see the image staring back at her in the mirror, the hair is longer, no longer falling in a gentle wave to her shoulders, instead its almost to down to the middle of her back.

This is not the first time this happened, when Slade returned from the dead, she returned to the Titan's home in their tower and cut off in handfuls; tears she is too proud to let her friends witness. She spent the entire day before nightfall trying to pretend that everything was normal, that she could do ordinary, every day fun things with her friends and somehow the prophecy uttered on the day she was born would somehow become negated. Wishful thinking, yes, but it had been nice while it lasted.

If this keeps up, she thinks with a just a bit of gallows humor, and my hair grows back faster than I can chop it off, I certainly will not need to worry about going bald. I wonder if Beast Boy ever has to worry about that."

One thing that Raven has always detested about evil doers, criminals, and an assortment of super villains of differing levels of evil; is that is that they count how big or important they are by the number of people that they have managed to trample during the climb to the top. Slade and his new ally are no exception.

Confrontation

The prelude to the final showdown can be heard before it can be seen. It's like a thunderstorm on top of a flash flood. The remaining Titans can hear the tell- tale sound of Slade's army of metal robots approaching before they see them. With Robin gone it's up to Cyborg to give the orders, take the lead, and coordinate the counter attack. He thinks that he should be feeling more nervous than he is, but it's the combined adrenaline rush and the need to make sure that even if they fail that they go down fighting that takes the edge off his anxiety. Cyborg takes a quick glance at the others, Starfire and Beast Boy are both ready, and he shrugs, turns his attention back to their enemies, and thinks 'I guess it's now or never. Once more unto the breach, folks. Aloud he shouts. "Titans! Go!" Hit em hard, hit em' low, and hit them fast."

Cyborg pauses to low his particle beam cannon, then adds, "Who knows, we might win this thing yet."

"Wishful thinking, but I'll take anything I can get," Beast Boy shouts back to him from where he has morphed into his airborne form of a pterodactyl.

Behind where they fight to hold their ground, the Tower shakes from a combined impact of energy beams, explosions and the collision of heavy bodies hitting the building. The Tower has withstood much and it is a solidly constructed, but even the most well designed building has its giving point, and with a shudder, the Tower falls. Cyborg feels like this is an almost personal blow and fights even harder. Slade's gone, and all that is left is Trigon's army.

The damn thing infernal thing literally reeks of sulfur and brimstone and Cyborg realizes that it must be worse for Beast Boy. Meanwhile Starfire tosses bolt after bolt of her laser attacks at Trigon's gigantic form and it hardly seems to faze him at all. Cyborg wonders what is taking Robin so long to find Raven, and if something does not turn around soon they might actually lose this battle.

Encounter

Robin and Slade

The only thing that does not fit into that nice elegant equation is the fact that Slade showed up actually volunteering his help. Oh, Robin is not naive enough to believe that his old nemesis and enemy of the Titans is doing so out of the kindness of his heart or anything altruistic. There has always been a hidden agenda but for the life of him Robin can not say exactly hat that agenda is in this case.

He just hopes that while the other Titans are busy fighting a delaying action against Trigon, that Slade is leading him down a less than metaphorical road to hell. It's hot down in the tunnels, hotter than it is on the surface, with the landscape painted in unrelieved shades of bright red and black. He wouldn't have trusted Slade if not for that niggling dangling tantalizing bit of hope, Raven might still be alive.

Robin does not let the increasing heat of the descent into the earth's crust bother him, even though he can feel the sweat soaking his back and leaving dark wet splotches on the red fabric of his uniform tunic. Even though he most likely would never admit to anyone else, his overpowering need to find Raven before Slade stems more from his role as leader of the Titans, more than just a friend; he loves her and he would do anything including die for her to get her back. Slade or no Slade, damn him. Robin misses a step over a crack between two jagged pieces of rock and nearly stumbles oblivious to the pools of magma flowing on either side where he pauses to get his bearings and regain his footing.

He keeps going until he comes to a ravine spanned by a rope bridge that leads to an opening on the far side. Robin's hopes rise; this must be where he will find Raven. He crosses the bridge with more speed than is probably wise and enters the rock chamber. Inside is a flickering dimly lit room that looks like the shrine he's seen in Japan. Half cloaked in shadows is a small huddled figure wearing a purple cape and a white tunic. "Raven?" he whispers.

"Who are you?"

"It's Robin, don't you remember?"

"I've come to rescue you," Robin says, "We've got to out here. Can you walk?"

"I'm afraid." The little girl, who to Robin's surprise, is a much younger version of Raven, a much more vulnerable version.

"No," she replied.

"Then I'll carry you, here climb onto my back."

"Did I know you or someone like you in another lifetime?"

"Yes, we were friends."

Conclusion

On the shore where the remains of their home, the Titans Tower has washed up in varying sizes and shapes Raven, now her normal age, Robin sit on the sand. Raven is brooding, but than that is pretty normal behavior for her. Robin shuffles his feet and digs the soles of his boots in between the grains of sand, wishing he could dig a hole and bury himself in it. Raven turns to glance at him and lets out a rare smile, "Looks like we turned out fine, I mean, look at the bright side, the world didn't come to an end."

"I guess, when you put it like that, it all does mean something, but for the life of me I can't tell you what that something is."

She leant forward and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. Her milky white skin flushing a rare bright pink from surprise and a little embarrassed awkwardness. "I can tell you what that something is. It means we've all been given a second chance. I intend to make the most of it."

"Thanks for reminding me. I think I'd forgotten after everything that just went down."

"Hey, you're welcome. I wouldn't be here now, if not for you and our other friends."