Oy. This would be the third time that I have posted this chapter, and I'm sorry once again. I was thinking though, that I didn't like the whole Raven and crucifixion thing, so I've altered the ending (Insanity 101: I'm Christian too, and I started to realize that the idea didn't sit well with me.) Apologies to all of you that reviewed earlier on; if you feel like reading the new, edited version (again) I will greatly appreciate it. It's just a quick modification, so if you skip right to the last part with Raven's POV, you'll see the change.
Intense, burning agony rushed through his veins and flooded his body—the pain scorched his lungs and overtook his limbs in blissful numbness. It felt as if he had been tied up and thrown into the center of a bonfire, there to be consumed by the flames for eternity.
Was he in Hell?
A voice…a voice was laughing and taunting him through the fog, mocking him in his weak state…the needle's point removing itself from where it had been buried in his flesh, and the hands that held him upright gone as well…
He was falling…falling deeper into his inner torment—
Blood flowed into his mouth and through the tiny spaces in between his teeth, as his face was driven into the hard steel floor. Crimson liquid trickled from his broken nose, soaked his lips, and made him swallow the coppery flavor. He was so worn, so unwilling to fight…
Don't fight it. Please…just don't fight it—it will all be over soon.
If there was one thing about him, it was the frequent battles he had with himself; somewhere inside his soul, he tapped into his last resource of strength and stubbornness.
I will not let this take me. Whatever he's put in me, I won't give into it without a fight.
The voice was speaking again, whispering through the mist, riding on pearly swirls of white, and to his ears. And all he could do was listen.
"You hate yourself…don't you?"
At first, there was nothing; but soon, the answer, and the words that it consisted of, began bubbling up his throat. The bitter truth of them make him want to choke on them, gag them back down and throttle whatever he might accidentally say—in his weak condition, though, he had no other options.
"Yes…I do…" His voice croaked and cracked painfully, yet he pressed on. "I hate who I am, and h—how I came to be this way. I h—hate my life, a—and Batman, the one who m—made m—me this way…I h—hate my…mistakes…I loathe ev—everything a—about me…because I'm so sc—screwed u—up…"
Why am I telling him this! It isn't true! …Is it?
"…And tell me…"
A hand closed on his scalp and dragged his head up, so that the voice was closer; it made it easier for its smooth tone to seep into his brain and weave twisted spells around his thoughts, manipulating and corrupting every idea that came to him.
"…Are you in pain?"
He was going to die—he knew it. His internal suffering was eating him up from the inside out like a foreboding illness.
I won't let you bring me down.
His head was released, and he limply flopped back to the ground, drowning once more in his blood and terror.
Slade was still talking in a soothing manner, and it disoriented what conscious thought process Robin still had left in the delirious realm within his head.
"Immortality's not that bad."
But he didn't even register the full effect of these newest words; he had finally been pushed over the edge of the cliff, and was plummeting deep into the depths and despair of his mind.
Thunderheads rumbled in the night sky, like a lion prowling its domain of black clouds as it paced back and forth above mankind's doings; sleet from previous winter storms still slicked the streets in puddles and streams, and heaps of dirty gray snow lined the edges of the sidewalks.
All the population of Jump City was indoors, fast asleep, and oblivious to the furious winter storm that was approaching… None saw the girl sprinting down the deserted streets, nor heard the slap of her frantic footsteps against the concrete.
Tara flung herself down the nearest alleyway, short hair pasted to her pale white forehead and the back of her neck with sweat. She was out of air, and she had the sense that her pursuer knew it—after all, she'd wasted all of it back at the coastline screaming her head off, when Brian had been…been…the teenage girl shivered in revulsion, and felt the salt of tears sting her eyes. His death had been so brutal, and the killer heartless—she'd watched from her hiding place between the boulders on the beach, but when she'd tried to call the police, she'd been found, and forced to flee.
Oh god…she didn't want to die like that…
"Help!" She cried hoarsely, speeding up as best as she could. "Somebody please help me!"
It shouldn't have surprised her, that there would be no one out to help her: Everyone these days didn't stay out past dusk…not since the continuous slaughter of people had taken place earlier in the season. Everyone was still scared—pinned inside the walls of their homes by their fear. Even if the people here weren't cruel in their behavior, they were too stricken and terrified by possibilities of what could happen to risk their life for her benefit.
Urging herself on, Tara ducked and wove her way through the alley; her hands, blurred from her running (thank goodness she was on track team at school), reached for any trash cans nearby, knocking them over to create obstacles for her faceless attacker. She had to fight, like Brian had told her, right before he'd sent her away.
If she didn't make it, she'd never see her parents again, or her friends…and her boyfriend's warning would have been entirely in vain.
Tara was dimly aware that her stalker's footsteps had come to a halt, and she skidded to a halt in bewilderment; from somewhere above her head, a rushing sound cut through the air, and she looked up just in time to scream once more—
Before silence fell over the town again like a final curtain, concealing the finished performance behind its many folds.
Policemen swarmed the scene, blocking off the alleyway from the inquiring eyes of the media and a few people who lived nearby, as the Titans dutifully arrived to examine the body; all of them appeared to be appalled beyond words by his handiwork.
Robin smiled thinly from where he crouched on a rooftop, examining his former friends' responses play out openly on their features: They may not have realized it entirely yet, but deep in their hearts, they knew he'd murdered the stupid girl—just to tempt them out of that hole he had once entitled as his home.
His eyes, hidden behind a new mask that mimicked his master's, roved over the three that were present with callous amusement…
Raven was ill. He could see it from the way her skin had grayed even more severely than usual, and the shadows beneath her drained amethyst gaze—she was haunted by empathetic nightmares of his death, he guessed.
Good. Let them remember who I was…
Cyborg was tired too, with his shoulders drooping, and his movement sluggish; but it was not from lack of sleep like his Gothic companion…no… He'd probably taken to the workout room, overexerting himself in endless combat practices to keep his mind occupied…lest it creep back to the unforgiving thought that he was now a killer—a hypocrite! Robin noted smugly—, that he had become one of the very people the Titans fought to take down.
He'd shot his best friend without a doubt in his mind.
Somewhere in his gut, Robin felt a twinge of regret, and anger that so much had come between them now…however, it vanished from his mind as he turned to face the final Titan that had arrived at the gruesome crime scene: Starfire.
The alien girl wasn't even trying to conceal what was happening inside of her (unlike the other two who seemed to be trying their best to forget he'd ever even existed). It was apparent from how she edged away from the other two when they tried to speak with her; how she flinched when Raven touched her shoulder in a consoling gesture; the way that her bright green eyes burned with accusation whenever she had to turn herself towards Cyborg.
Personally, he found it hysterical that he could even affect her this deeply.
Perhaps he could use that to his advantage…
Robin considered how, while waiting in anticipation as the three other teens marched towards the corpse.
Raven had only to glance at the dead body, and knew she'd be in for a hell of a night just examining it.
The young stranger had been slain with some sort of blade—that was concluded from the slash marks in her stomach and limbs. The bizarre part was that she'd been pulled up, her wrists tied to the nearest building's fire escapes in spread-eagled fashion. What was the purpose of that?
Raven sighed, made sure Star and Cy were busy in their task of interviewing police officers, and started to process the victim.
The coroner had announced her time of death being around 11:00 PM…there had been, at least, a two hour gap between this girl's death and their arrival…that gave the killer plenty of time to return and tie the girl to the fire escape. But to what purpose? The Goth girl frowned and tried to concentrate a list of motives; yet her weary, guilt-ridden mind refused to do such.
It's been a month, Raven attempted to reason with her head. He was a traitor—a lowly traitor—, athief, a mindless murderer…and he was insane. He deserved, no, had to die.
…But whether or not we took responsibility for that task was our choice…
"It's been a month," the demoness repeated. "I won't waste my pity on his memory."
Robin listened, with his acute senses, to the sound of Starfire's heartbeat pounding in his eardrums as it pumped blood through her body. It was an odd experience, though not one that he didn't fully appreciate. His master had given him the ability to perceive things in a way that no human being could ever possibly hope to achieve. And hearing the swish of liquid that was right beneath her skin…it filled his nose with a deliciously sickening aroma, and made his mouth water.
But now was not the time to focus on the red-headed girl. With reluctance, he ignored the overpowering emotions of his new experience and watched Raven intensely, as she prodded the body.
The ocean—a deep, mournful blue in the dark morning's lack of light—was restless, the waves crashing on the shore and rocking back and forth: The picture of chaos.Beast Boy, from his viewpoint on the beach, stared out over the water, nose wrinkled his disgust and annoyance.
"I don't know why I'm the one that has to be stuck out alone on the creepy beach…" he growled beneath his breath. "I hate this kind of work."
While the other three had received a call about a girl that had turned up dead somewhere in the city, he'd been sent to check out another deceased kid on the beach; while the area where he'd been discovered (two Coast Guard men who were watching Beast Boy from the comfort of their boat had spotted the body starting to go out in the tide) was closer to home, he still was unhappy with the fact that he had absolutely no help.
The dude that had been discovered was African-American, and his body was covered in angry burn marks and blisters; his eyes were wide open and the misted pupils still showed his fear and shock…it led the green Titan to assume that he'd been alive during the entire burning…whoever had killed him had obviously had some practice in torture methods.
A familiar tune rang from his belt, and Beast Boy retrieved his communicator.
"Yo," he muttered. Usually, all he could manage these days were one-word sentences with his friends. It pretty much sickened him, the way the people of Jump thought their heroes were perfect, almighty beings…when really, all they were was a couple of kids with super powers and a dirty secret about their leader that was hidden between the four of them.
"How's the body?" Raven's monotone voice rang out at him. The changeling shrugged noncommittally at the miniature screen where she was watching him, and evaded her stern head-on stare.
"It's…disgusting," he admitted finally. "To me, it looks like he was lit on fire, or blasted by a blow torch."
"Any leads on who he might be?"
Beast Boy frowned, grunted for her to hang on, and searched the young man's pockets.
"Yeah…driver's license says that his name's Brian Wallace. He's African-American. He might be our age…"
The hero leaned toward the dead teen's face. He'd probably been here with friends, or something, and was hanging out when…
"Hey! What the hell are yo—? What—? NO! PLEASE, NO—"
The past reenacted itself before the changeling's eyes, and then faded from view; Beast Boy returned to Raven, who seemed to be comparing what leads they might have.
"He has a driver's license…and he was on the beach…that means that, unless he walked, a car's got to be around there somewhere. If you find it and search it, you might find something about how he was killed."
Beast Boy nodded, a question lingering on the tip of his tongue. Raven must have guessed it was there, for she raised an eyebrow.
"What? What is it?"
"I dunno," he murmured, and scuffed his foot nervously. "Maybe…do…do you think that these new murders are connected to what happened before with…?"
The demon girl's expression darkened.
"No. He's dead—end of story. People don't come back to life, it's impossible."
Beast Boy sighed quietly.
"Yeah, yeah…I know. Send the coroner to me when you can."
He snapped the communicator shut and sat down next to the mutilated boy, peering anxiously at the face.
It was funny…but he could have sworn that the guy looked a lot like Cyborg…
"So, you gonna leave her up there all night or what?"
Raven glanced over her shoulder at Cy, who was regarding her with a half smile. She didn't return it.
"I want her to stay this way, until I can understand why the killer posed her this way."
The half-human, half-machine chewed on his bottom lip under her heavy stare and strode off in another direction; the Goth let him go, and began searching the girl's pockets.
She couldn't blame Cyborg for what had taken place: It wasn't fair, seeing as they had all agreed to it before Robin had come home…it was her fault as much as it was his.
Just stop thinking about it—PERIOD! It's over! Why won't this go away?
Her fingers closed around a wallet, and she pulled it out and flipped it open.
A library card informed her that their victim was a Tara Malcolm, a seventeen year old girl from the suburban part of the city.
So what was she doing on the edge of town, near the coastline?
There was a picture by the card as well; Tara was waving at a camera enthusiastically, while an African-American boy laughed, a muscular arm wrapped around her slim shoulders.
The Goth demon almost had to wonder if the two cases were somehow connected…
Raven groaned softly and took a step back to observe the body; the female was evidently a punk kind of person—the heroine could tell from short locks of hair, dyed a hue of unique purple; in the way that she'd been tied, with her arms horizontal to her vertical body, she looked rather like she was ready to take off into the air…
Nah. That wasn't it…
Just then, Raven caught sight of the red markings on Tara's palms, carved by the dagger that had slain her no doubt. But it held more meaning for her; the Titan stumbled back, constantly hissing "no, no, this can't be right," under her breath.
Whoever had killed her had inscribed the marks of Scath on the poor girl's hands, and then lifted, and tied her body upwards…as if she were a bird, posed for flight.
It was Raven herself.
"…Do you think that these new murders are connected to what happened before with…?"
For the first time that day, the heroine began to contemplate Beast Boy's remark with a seriousness she hadn't anticipated.
To be Continued…
Told you it was quick. If any of you are annoyed by my frequent revisions (Example: "If I'm going to post it, I might as well have the decency to look over everything and make sure that I'm happy with the way it is, instead of going back and altering all this stuff") but once I got down to thinking about the old version…I dunno. Anyway: Please review if you already have, and for everyone else that has, you don't need to.
Thank you, and goodnight/good day,