Disclaimer: I don't own Teen Titans.
Author's Note: Not much to say, just to say happy birthday to a great artist and a friend of mine, Fragilest Solace. Here is your present. May you have many happy ones during the years…now give me those cookies!
Timeline: Interlaced throughout Masks.
Forgive any mistakes as my betas have life to deal with first.
He jumped rooftop to rooftop, going above society and their petty concerns. His peripheral vision caught his reflection in the window glasses as the death's head mask stared right back. He almost thought that the mask mocked him: the lifeless stare and the frightened visage was the true extension of him anymore. All he'd ever be anymore.
He jumped another rooftop, but he knew the Titans were far out of distance and wouldn't follow. But then without his leadership, he knew they weren't much of anything.
'No wonder Slade won't show his face. What does he have to worry about? The tofu eater? The obsessive mechanic? The happy go everywhere foreign exchange student or the "life is"…is…' He was trying to think of Raven, the moody, gothic empath and yet couldn't think of a derogatory description to say.
'It doesn't matter, all that matters right now is this.' He jumped as high as he can and stared at his reflection and noticing how loose and limber he is now.
And then as he fell, Robin wondered if this was literally what they meant when they say "a fall from grace".
Raven kept trying to remove the X stuck on her mouth with her powers but to no avail. How was he able to incapacitate her by cutting off her chant? How did he know?
"Star! You're doing it wrong!" Beast Boy's complaints cut off her ruminating as Starfire was trying to release him from the dissolved X. That crimson slime just wouldn't leave no matter what. She turned around to see the damage with the other Titans. She went over and reactivated Cyborg's controls.
"Don't you have the golden touch?" The synthetic teen grinned. Raven just glared and rolled her eyes.
"I hope Robin had better luck than we did." He cut in. Raven just tensed. What about Robin? As far as she was concerned, he was a non entity. Merely her boss and to her: a bad one at times, especially now with all this idling around with Slade lately and leaving they alone while he went off and played obsessive good cop.
She understands obsession but even Robin takes the fun out of it.
'Why bother with him? It's pointless to be concerned with someone who'd rather worry about a man with a god complex than anyone else.' She then turned to see Starfire still trying to get Beast Boy out of the blood red soup.
'Or supposed girlfriends.' She glowered and tried to remove the X again.
Robin hid away the Red X gear after his initial communiqué with Slade, which had quite the turnabout.
Slade slithered behind the shadows of his transmission. "Partnership? My, my, we are ambitious. But an alliance can not be forged from one small chip. If you're going to win my trust, I'll require more."
Red X tried to stare more into the camera and nodded. "Just tell me what you want."
"Very well then, but first things first, I must mull over your…brazen proposal and your gift offering. Now don't call me, I'll call you." The Terminator cut off the connection. 'Not much on phone etiquette.'
He grasped the ruby chip and stared at it. 'Wish I knew why he wanted it. I hate being in the dark.' He gave off a sigh and locked it in a drawer. 'At least I got his attention. Now just to keep it.'
He stared out in the window, daylight was coming and then the charade would begin in earnest. 'I hate lying to them but then to catch him, what choice is there?' He stared at the chip again and remembered that drone that nearly got away…and nearly killed Starfire.
'How could that clodlike collection of condensers get the better of me? It's…' He suddenly wished he had a punching bag around. He then locked away the chip in a dresser drawer.
'Best not damage the merchandise. Have to return them when I'm done.'
He wondered how the others' reaction to Red X will be. 'No doubt I'll be hearing expletive deleted this and expletive deleted that. Hope this isn't all for nothing.' The Boy Wonder suddenly felt a pang of guilt, and stared back at his workbench with all his Slade paraphernalia.
'For the good of the outfit.' He trudged out of the room.
Robin entered the living room and found them in the kitchen, Starfire cutting Beast Boy's hair, Raven with still that 'X' on her mouth.
"I take you all had a rough night." Robin felt the tension could be cut with a chainsaw.
"You could say that, just had our butts kicked by some goth boy with a skull on his face called Red X." Cyborg chimed in.
"Red X?" Robin suppressed a slight feeling of bemusement, as far as he knew. Raven arched an eyebrow.
'Why he is feeling…amused?'
"Yeah, never heard of em before either, as far as I know. Gothic wannabe punk." Cyborg spat out.
"Indeed." Robin sighed. "I had no idea 'Red X' would pose such a threat. I should have been there."
"You bet you should have been there. Look at what he did to my do! I'm looking at two months of bad hair days!" Beast Boy raged and gestured at his 'X' crusted hair. "Mmm! Mmm!" Raven murmured loudly and pointed to the 'X' on her mouth.
"I don't know, Raven. That's kind of a good look for you." Beast Boy quipped.
Raven gave a death glare in response. "Hold still." Cyborg came and ripped off the X.
"Ahh!" Beast Boy and Starfire shrieked and cringed while waiting for her reaction. Raven stood glowering in pain responding only with a deadpan "Ow."
"Even if you had been there, it wouldn't have made any difference." She rubbed her chin.
"Dude knew exactly how to bring each of us down. I guarantee he had a gadget with your name on it." Cyborg just held the X as it drooped down.
Robin just went to his usual defensive position. 'I have my work cut out for me. If they couldn't even form some kind of counter to a few unknown toys, Slade will annihilate them in a heartbeat.'
Raven sensed a wave of disappointment coming from the Boy Wonder. 'And what is this?'
"Agreed. You need not feel guilt. We are undamaged." Starfire tried to assuage the Boy Wonder, Beast Boy pointed to his hair. "Hello!"
"Mostly undamaged, and we are all eager to learn what you have discovered about Slade."
'I best get back to work planning the next phase. I can't afford to lollygag with them right now.'
"Nothing. Lead was a dead end. I should get back to work." Robin walked out of the door. The Titans just stood there, in silence.
"That was…abrupt." Raven cut in into the tension.
"Yeah, you know Robin, 'Hurry up and wait.'" Cyborg chimed in.
"Like it matters, not like he could have saved my hair anyway." Beast Boy just sulked.
"Oh, please. It's just hair. It would grow back." Raven dismissed the changeling's complaining. Beast Boy nearly fainted.
"Just hair? You know, you can tell a lot about a person by their hair."
"According to who? A hairdresser?"
"Well, yeah but that's how it goes. Maybe if you did something with those dyed locks, you could…" The changeling stopped as he saw how intense Raven's glower was.
"One) This conversation isn't helping us dealing with Robin and his growing problem with Slade. And two) My hair isn't dyed, it's natural."
He nearly choked on his own spit. "Really? Wow…" The dark empath gave off a sigh.
"Anyway. Back to the problem at hand."
"Yeah but how? We can't exactly make him spend time with us." Cyborg observed.
"Perhaps I shall attempt to coax him out again." Starfire tried to cut out a nasty chunk of the ruby gelatin.
"Again?" Raven asked.
"Last night, when we did the movie night he was still being a squirrel away in his room. Worrying about Slade." The alien's voice took a forlorn turn. "I tried to coax him to have the movie riffing with us but he could not bring himself away."
"That's squirreled away. But yes, he seems to be…fixated."
"So how do we distract him from all this? Can't use work, he'll just use it as an excuse to go back to Slade." Cyborg mused.
"No, I suppose we can try to talk to him or dare I say…interact with him? What does he do for fun?" Raven was surprised she was actually concerned about him. What did he ever do for her? At least the others interacted with her but then…it was not like she wanted them to. And he left her alone and gave her space: what she wanted in the first place.
'Just kick the Tower from under me.'
"I do not know. Beyond his physical training and perhaps his searching for leads for Slade, that's all I've seen." Starfire noted.
"Searching for leads, a byproduct from his time with Batman. Detective work."
"Maybe give him a bunch of riddles? Like that guy in the green with the bowler hat and tie?" Beast Boy cut in.
"How about something less…obvious?" Raven just rolled her eyes.
"C'mon, we can think something better than this." Cyborg said, frustrated.
"The floor is open for nominations." Raven's deadpan was looming out.
"We'll just give him a good workout. Out in the training field."
"Exhaust him until he gives up with Slade? Works for me." 'It may not be healthy but it will have to do until he can learn to moderate.'
"Can it wait until my hair's fixed?" Beast Boy interrupted.
"Star, just give the pretty boy a buzzcut and let's get going. We'll get Robin, and we'll meet you there." Cyborg ordered and he and Raven left the room.
"I shall need a buzzsaw blade." Starfire ruminated.
Beast Boy was ready to jump out of his skin and jump out of the window.
Cyborg and Raven headed out the corridor. "You think if this will work?" He cut in the silence.
"I do not know. When it comes to Robin and, I daresay, his crush on Slade anything goes."
"Yeah but now he's shutting us off and this Red X…"
"Makes the cheese a little more binding doesn't it?" She interrupted.
"Something like that. The sad part is Robin isn't like Batman, I heard of that guy's obsessions."
"Indeed but I'm sure he has his reasons for it."
"Yeah. I noticed that of all of us, you're the only one that doesn't have an issue with Robin acting like this with Slade."
Raven was silent for a minute. "Let's just say I can understand a thing or two about obsessions and fixations."
"Perhaps you should talk to him." Raven halted.
"Wait a minute. I said I understood him, I never said I was his best friend. I…"
"It would make a good icebreaker for you two. Or just help him be up to date with Red X. Either way it would be nice to get a dialogue started between you two. I've never seen you two talk."
She was silent, she couldn't refute that. "I don't know, I'm sure…"
"You're just stalling. Try to make an effort. Even if it won't take. You'd be surprised how much the effort itself makes an impact."
Raven remembered he and Beast Boy entered the mirror and while it was an act of stupidity, she did appreciate the effort the two made to get to know her, same with switching bodies with Starfire recently.
"I suppose." She barely whispered.
"There you go, you talk to him and I'll set up the training course." Cyborg was about to walk away when he placed his hand on her shoulder.
"Don't be so afraid. I think you'll find that you and he are quite similar." Raven sighed as he left.
'This was better when I shut off everyone. Stupid emotional attachments.'
Robin was busying analyzing the data from the chip. 'Lexcorp defense specs? What are you? At least I know where to go and what to do.' A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.
"Who is it?"
'Raven? That's a surprise.' He turned off the computer. "Coming." He opened the door and came face to face to the dulled face of Raven.
"Well, this is a treat, though an unexpected one." Robin gave a lop-sided grin. Raven tried to stare inside and was almost taken back by all the clippings.
"Yes, we decided to conduct a little practice. We'll need the training to try to handle Red X. I'm sure you'll need it if…" Raven realized her faux pas.
"Oh. I can see that but right now I'm busy working on an internet tip about Slade. I'll practice later."
Raven caught a glimpse of his deactivated monitor. "You like to research without seeing what you're doing?" She nodded to it.
"Uh, I'm just waiting for the computer to cool."
"Right. But I'm sure you could make use of the…'Think, Roth, think.'…fresh air and the exercise." 'Fresh air? Ugh.'
Robin was about to cut her off but considering Raven is asking him to go outside, he knew better than to pass this up. Their 'relationship' is tenuous at best.
"Well…I guess I shouldn't be cooped up here. Don't want all this detective work to give me atrophy with my conditioning."
"Glad to hear it."
"Give me a few minutes to clean up." Raven simply nodded as the Boy Wonder put away items from his workbench into his dresser drawers. Raven just waited by the doorframe and glimpsed all the clippings' headlines. She zeroed in on how many Slade clippings plastered all over the place.
"You certainly have no use for wallpaper do you?" She deadpanned.
"Hm? Oh, these, well, have to keep abreast of the past so we don't repeat the same mistakes." Raven particularly noted one article of Dr. Light and his capture and suddenly felt a wave of regret.
"I'm not proud of having them up if that's what you're getting at. It's a necessity for right now." Raven felt his defensiveness.
"No, I wasn't implying that. Just…curious. You don't need to explain yourself."
Robin almost had his jaw hit the floor. "I…don't?"
"Let's just say I can understand a thing or two about obsession. Leave it at that?"
He was curious why Raven never got on his case about Slade. He cracked a small smile. "Fair enough."
She felt her own guard loosened slightly as well. "Shall we go then?"
"Sure." And he escorted her out of the room and walked down the hall and to the elevator in silence. Both the two Titans were trying to think of a topic to say. Raven was about to speak when Robin cut in.
"So how are you getting along with everyone?"
The question cut Raven to the quick. What could she say? A few months ago, she would have called them immature pinheads, left, and never looked back. But now with the intrusion into the mirror and the soul swap and now Robin's disappearing act, she realized things are changing with them.
"I'm fine. We're good." She said in her monotone.
"Just being honest."
"I'm sure. I've seen Beast Boy hang around with you. And Starfire as of late, she's professed nonstop how glad she is you two have solidified things."
"Really?" Raven thought her ego was starting to lurk about.
"Yes, she was hoping that you would speak to her eventually. She was worried that you might…hate her."
She was surprised by his verb choice. With the sole exception of her father, Raven didn't hate anyone. However, she does have limited patience for imbeciles. "Hate her? That's a new one on me."
"Well, when you don't talk to anyone or acknowledge their existence, people rather assume you don't have much use for them."
"I don't think I care for your tone." Raven was starting to get angry. Who was he to tell her how she should be interacting?
"I'm just being honest. I can see why you act the way that you do given from I know about you and the image you show." She started to loosen up. "But…sometimes, you have to see how your way about things affects others. They can't always just infer. You understand?"
She was beginning to see his point. Raven had no use for social skills and just preferred doing things her own way and not be dependent on anyone. Despite the fact she was in a team now. "I suppose so. Is these an "official" reprimand on my lack of social skills?"
"Now don't get that way. I'm not being the boss here. I'm just saying be aware of it, and be aware of how others might see you. Avoid these habits before they become truly rooted. Just some advice from someone who's been there with the same thing. You know what they say about a book and its cover."
She arched an eyebrow. "I didn't think you'd take to such a cliché but message received. I take it the Bat wasn't much on social skills either?"
The question cut Robin to the quick. "Something to that effect. All business." Raven felt his defensiveness, she thought about a different route.
"You don't seem to be like that. You did try to have fun with the picnic and the warehouse party."
"Yeah, just now, can't afford to, not when Slade is upping the ante." Robin's frustration was returning.
Raven felt her barriers being pushed. "Indeed and this Red X isn't helping much." She hoped he'd take the bait.
"Yeah. From what you all said. Any personal thoughts about him?" He was curious how such a gothic villain would play on her and also wanted to digress.
"I'm not sure. Not much on words. Although…not a bad dresser."
"Yes, the death's head look is rather bemusing."
"You into that?"
"No, it's pointless to dwell on fashion. But it's bemusing nonetheless."
"I'm sure that 'X' stamped on you wasn't." Raven glowered for a minute.
"No. I have a score to settle with that. His Xs won't save him then."
"Raven, with you, I can believe that threat." And he was right. Raven's powers weren't anything to be trifled with and if she was angry enough? God help him and everyone else. "And after all that, I wonder how well I'd do against him." Robin hid his amusement.
"Hand to hand, you should be alright. But he's agile and uses his gadgets to do all the work." The dark empath gave off a bemused smirk.
"You trying to tell me something?" The Boy Wonder hid his true feelings and returned the smirk.
"No, just making an observation."
"It's your choice to believe me or not."
"I think with you, I best to believe."
"Smart answer." They both got to the elevator and pressed the down button.
"So any particular training we're doing today?"
"Just more…keep things loose."
"Loose? I don't mind that but Red X seems to be a great threat. I don't know if that would be…"
"Robin, as my meditation has shown me, constant work makes the mind and body burned out, and that won't do yourself or anyone any good. And as of late, you're getting there rather quickly."
"Is this an "official" reprimand?" He returned with Raven's previous statement.
"Don't get cute. Our team is still in its infancy and the last thing we need is our mighty leader get fried with his issues with another mystery man. Just don't forget how your actions affect others as well. More so as you're our example." He felt like a 5 year old being yelled at by his mother.
"Message received. Just…wishing this whole thing with Slade would reach some kind of closure. Stop waiting for surprises. Never been like this before." He was surprised himself by his admission but she didn't think him so differently like the others, she could understand where he's coming from.
"No. Never had anyone like him before."
"I had few that really got under my skin like this."
"And just dig under and lay eggs eh?"
"How wonderfully disgusting but as you say, yeah."
"Apologies, Beast Boy's analogies are a bit…infectious. I wish I can make it stop."
"Bad enough to go get a surfboard and crack my head on some coral reef and knock out those jokes of his that way."
"I never thought you'd be one for a surfing analogy."
"First time for everything. And we do live in the bay."
"You got me there. As long as you don't talk the valley girl talk and show up in a metal bikini, I'll be happy."
"Metal bikini? Your mind is in the gutter right now isn't it?" 'Boys.'
"Sorry. Blame Starfire and her wardrobe and the fashions and dialects around here. Going down?" The elevator door opened.
'Metal bikinis? Oh, what has he gotten himself into with her?' "As far as I like to."
"I think this is the longest talk we've ever had." Robin noted as he pressed the proper floor button. He has a sense of accomplishment.
"Will wonders ever cease?"
Robin quickly soured. "No. I suppose not."
She felt his disappointment. "But…it doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be a miracle if we do."
Robin perked up a bit after hearing that. "No, it doesn't."
The two achieved a comfortable silence as they went down the floors. Raven was trying to think of a new topic.
"And…I hope Slade or Red X won't make a move for a few days. One migraine at a time. And maybe…try another conversation?" Raven dropped that down the well to see if it would make a splash.
The doors opened. "C'mon." Robin ushered her out.
It's still in freefall.
"Today, I think a level three course should be enough to start with." Cyborg was setting the training course at the control panel. The sea air made the metal most pungent.
"Two teams of two. Robin, Raven, you go first. Countdown initiated." The digital timer got set off.
'I hope this isn't going to be a recurring theme with him.' Raven became soured by the announcement. Robin just acted smirked.
"I can take it if you can."
"You're getting cocky again. I don't like…"
The two ran out into an empty clearing. "I wonder what surprises Cyborg or you cooked up for us." Raven was paranoid over where a countermeasure would jump out.
"I haven't had the time to make some new ones. It's all him." Then a giant mechanical fist burst from the ground.
"Like that." Robin jumped back.
"It's somewhat inventive." Raven was about to chant when another one popped up.
"How about a real challenge? No powers or weapons. Think you can handle it?" He smirked.
"Your bravado is not infectious." She dodged another.
"But you got some kind of an ego. You don't like to be shown up at times or maybe I should say have that image you've built up dashed and knocked down a peg or least of all, mocked." Robin jumped off another fist.
"And where did you base that on?" She jumped before the fist burst out of the ground.
"Well in terms of the former, back in the elevator with your threat because the X on your mouth for starters. As I saw in the kitchen, he knocked down on your image with the others with that. And I saw both, with that gothic witch Jinx, when you were fighting her at the Pizza Point and your complaint after she went into your room. Looked like a pissing contest to me and mocked your image to boot." Another fist popped out of the ground underneath him, surprising him.
"I only acted like that because…" Raven couldn't think of a comeback to satisfy. 'Damn it. Damn it! Damn it!'
"Because you hate being shown up or mocked?" He made a perfect landing.
They both ran out of the rising fists and to the laser turrets. "No. And I don't know where you've gotten those theories."
"I'm a detective. I observe, I watch, I…" They were dodging the laser blasts, where an unsuspecting Robin was about to get hit by a stray laser when Raven shoved him out of the way.
"Have no peripheral vision?" She said in her monotone.
"Maybe but the mask still stays." Robin jumped out of the path as the laser disintegrated the earth below.
"Because it keeps your head warm?" She really wished she could levitate: if she believed in such indulgence.
"That too. But as I was saying, I am an observer of people, you may not actively show behavior, but that doesn't mean others can't pick up on what you hide." They ran out of the laser blasts and hurdles rose out of the ground now.
"And how would you know? We've never talked about anything beyond shop before." She spat as they both ran through a hurdle before it would close down on them.
"So let's start: what's your favorite color?" They ran through another one.
"Black." 'I'm such a good liar.' "For you, it would be red? Right?"
The hurdle's opening was about to close when Robin grabbed Raven and slid under it.
"Red or green. Haven't decided. Your turn."
'He better not cop a feel on me.' "Favorite meal?"
He let her go and they both ran out into another clearing. "Breakfast. Love ham and eggs. My turn. Any hobbies?" The boulders rose to reveal mechanical turrets and shot out 50 discs per minute.
"Reading poetry and meditating. Favorite quote from a superhero or supervillain?" They jumped and danced out of the discs' range.
"Interesting, um, not sure yet."
"You can tell me if it's a Slade quote." She agilely moved out of the way again.
"I thought you wanted me to get off this crush about Slade." He back flipped out of the way.
"You do what you want but he must be interesting if you're consumed about him."
"I'll get back to you on that." He spun himself like a top past them.
"Now I know you're lying. You had a little chat with him yesterday. Nothing?" Raven jumped again and headed to the finish line.
"When he talks something more…philosophical, I'll tell you. Fair enough?" He made another jump and jumped over her and hit the finish line.
'Cocky little…' "Fine, then I'll…"
"Robin, I am most joyous you decided to…" Starfire came out of nowhere and squeezed the stuffing out of Robin and went about her litany of how joyous she was that Robin decided to train with them and if the alien had her way, would have recited the newfound Poem of Happiness if Cyborg didn't announce her to train next. And Robin just stood staring at the departing alien.
"Go shoot myself for bringing this up." Raven stormed off.
"Raven, wait." Robin caught up with her.
"I wanted to say…I rather enjoyed our talk and getting to know each other. At least a bit. And…can't wait for the next one. Free tonight or tomorrow?" Robin forgot about his previous plans for the night. Raven mumbled something.
"Maybe tonight at 11. Your room."
Raven remembered her analogy as the whole thing was still falling down a well.
It finally made a splash.
Robin was about finished analyzing the data from the chip when he realized he had an hour away to seeing Raven.
If it were anyone else he would have put them off until he got more headway into his scheme but given how antisocial Raven is, he couldn't pass this up.
'I didn't think she'd be that…receptive. I guess I underestimated her. More than I thought.' He suddenly felt a pang of guilt, about how he never talked to her at all and got to know her at least a little like the others. Granted, she would cut off those who would try but he didn't make things easier by ignoring her. He wasn't going out of his way to but…he had other priorities, Slade, his new team forming, breaking free of the Bat's shadow.
He left the computer idle and lied down on the bed. He stared at the ceiling and memorized all spots made by the paint.
'Guess I got what I deserved with all that, everyone else knows her but me.' He suddenly remembered Beast Boy and Cyborg in Raven's room and that blush gracing her face around the emerald changeling.
'Why do I suddenly feel off putted by that? It's not like I want Raven or anything. Why would I? I don't need anyone. Although…Starfire has been around me a lot lately. And…she is nice.'
He started to get a warm feeling all over. 'Focus. You're thinking about Raven, not her. Despite the fact, Star is a good distraction from all this.' Robin then remembered her visiting his room after the Slade raid of the ruby chip and then shut her out.
'At least Raven isn't the only one I completely ignored. Wish Slade would fall for this already so I can capture him and get back on track with my friends.'
He felt another pang of guilt over his deception with the other Titans. 'No, I can't think about them and what I'm doing to them now. It's for the good of the mission. If they know, then Slade would know.'
He closed his eyes. 'No wonder Bruce works alone. All these attachments rather impede everything and unravel the mystique you've built yourself up on and all that hard work. Such is the life of a mystery man…or should I include mystery woman?' His thoughts began to swarm to Raven.
'Maybe that's why Raven acts just as mysterious. Maybe she's going through the same thing? Wonder what she has hidden away under that hood of hers.' Robin began to ruminate.
'Maybe it's connected to her powers, her disposition, her…past.' Robin suddenly felt excited.
'The possibilities. I wish I can put aside some free time for her. It would be nice to use my detective work for something good for once.'
He stared at the clock. '50 minutes. Why not?' He got up and dug around for a notepad and pencil and sat on the bed. He was beginning to scribble down notes.
-Item One: She has high defense mechanisms. She's hiding something major no doubt. She never talks about anything about her past. Could be that. Issues with the past as a possibility.
-Item Two: I don't know what she told Starfire when they swapped bodies and Star made her stance clear about not divulging, so probing Star about her is out.
-Item Three: Hobbies: meditates, by her attire and the archetypal personality, possibly into the goth scene with the cafés and poetry. 'God, me in a goth café. What a silly thought.' Seen her read books. Maybe can talk shop there.
-Item Four: her personality: has ego, standoffish. Built up major image for herself. Hates having that challenged. Focused on the field. Seems…experienced in the ways of human nature (as witnessed with Starfire's body).Understands the darker emotions like…obsession. Highly intelligent, an encyclopedia (as witnessed by all those books she reads). Sarcastic and known for her deadpans. And as reiterated: well guarded about herself.
-Item Five: Powers include levitation, objects, herself, things seem to explode when she feels emotion. Like when she "exploded" on Beast Boy when he tried to get her to open up the morning after her Dr. Light attack.
-Item Six: obviously, don't get her angry, as witnessed in Dr. Light attack.
-Item Seven: Physical characteristics: abnormally pale skin color, an anja charka? (As said by Blackfire) on her forehead. May come from mystical origin or a byproduct of her meditation. Hair color… a dyed amethyst or…is it a natural hair color? Also…amethyst eyes. Which takes on shades of gray. Like her skin. Either way, quite exotic.
-Item Eight: She seems unconcerned to most of the normal teenager concerns. Boys, she doesn't care for. As witnessed by her reactions to Beast Boy's flirting. Although, she was talking to at least of that goth boy at the warehouse party and a rather obvious attraction to the telepath Aqualad.
Robin suddenly off putted by that. 'Wish she could find more…decent boys. Why is this starting to bother me? Raven can act with whoever she wants but…' Robin didn't like this line of thinking, he continued to write.
-Overall, she acts more an adult than a teenager. 'But then, so do I most of the time…hmm.'
-Item Nine: quite technical, as seen with the T-Sub. Could be a great detective with proper training.
'Maybe I can help with that.' Robin swore he felt some of the pride his former mentor had felt when he molded his protégé.
-Item Ten: He stared at the notebook for several minutes. 'What else can I find? Blocked now? Well, at least I got some of this written. Might as well take a break.' He checked the clock. 'Forty minutes left.'
'What else can I write here? I guess wait until I can talk to…' The computer chimed into the Boy Wonder's thoughts and said he had a new message.
'Now what?' He left the notebook on the workbench and scanned the file and found out it was a video file…from Slade's domain name.
'He wrote me back? Yes!' Robin noticed his mask less face. 'Damn!' He scrambled to find his Red X gear.
'C'mon. C'mon!' He found a spare jumpsuit and helmet. 'Thank you.' He broke a dressing record getting the indigo jumpsuit and helmet on. He then activated the file and Slade's shadowed visage soon appeared.
"Greetings, Red X. I hope I haven't called at a bad time." Robin wouldn't show it but Slade's voice would send chills down his spine.
"Why, not at all. I wasn't sure you'd call me back. You were rather…indecisive in whether you'd want my services or not."
"Well an unknown presents an item you need, you tend to be overcautious. That's how I still stay in this business."
"A rough competition to be sure. But at any rate, you're calling, so this seems to be a step in the right direction, yes?"
"Indeed. Your gift was too good to pass up, as well as your proposal. I thought to take you up on your offer. Can you work now?"
Robin thought of Raven but knew he couldn't pass this up. "Just tell me where and when."
"Good. I like a man who can rise to the occasion at a moment's notice. The where is in the tech sector." Slade's countenance was replaced by a highlighted map. "The chip's security guards and protocols will be changing shifts at 11. It would be an ample time to strike."
"I look forward to your success and expect a debriefing, successful or not." The image switched back to Slade's shadowed face.
"You do it by the book don't you?"
Slade's eye narrowed. "You don't get to stay in this business without taking meticulous records. Paperwork makes the world go round. Even in our business. And with that, good luck to you, Red X." Slade ended the transmission once again.
'35 minutes. I can do it.' And with that, Robin got to work, hacking away at his computer.
Raven was walking down the halls to Robin's room. 'Why did I agree to this?' She then began to think. 'Oh right, we didn't bother to talk at all.'
She was considering chickening out but then that would admit to fear and Raven doesn't do fear. 'I wish I didn't have to do icebreaking conversation either.'
She wondered what to say to Robin in terms of conversation. What could they talk about? 'Guess I should think. Damn.'
'What do I know about him?' The dark empath ruminated as she turned one more corner to his room.
'Well…I do know he was Batman's protégé and…issues there. Can't talk about that. If I do that, he might ask me in turn about my past.' The corridor felt like the green mile to her, she wasn't ready to brave the walk.
'And despite the fact he lived in a cave with a grown man, he's not…inclined to men, no, not with Starfire. I better think of something else.' She was getting uncomfortable.
'Anyway, he seems intelligent and looks to have experienced the darker side of human nature (i.e. his obsession with Slade), could make for some interesting intellectual conversation. But what can we talk about there? He is a detective, could talk some shop there. Ply his intellectual curiosities and a few…what are those? Red herrings about myself, just in case. But as I think about it, just as I have my mystery image behind me, he has one with that mask of his. Makes for common ground at least.' Raven felt more relieved by that.
'And what else? Can be a bit oblivious. Like with Blackfire and ignored Starfire in the process. Wonder if that is a male issue.'
She wondered about the time. 'Wish I had a watch. I left at 10:15. So I should be alright. Better early than late I suppose.'
'What else is there? He's quite agile and can fight better than most metahumans. He certainly has the legs for it.' Raven felt a tinge of a feeling she never experienced before. 'Better stop this feeling before I blow up the Tower. Wonder what color his eyes are.' Raven thought idly. 'Okay, best stop that for sure. But can't think of anything to him either. I suppose I can always…wing it.'
Raven trudged to his door and knocked. No response. "Robin?" 'Don't tell me he died in there waiting in anticipation.' She knocked on the door again. "Robin..." She morphed into the door and looked around.
"Robin? I let myself in and…you're not here are you? Figures. After I get the nerve to talk to you too." She then stared at the clock at 10:55.
"Little early. I'll wait." She finally had a look around all the wallpaper clippings. "One too many Slade clippings. And Plasmus and Cinderblock ones for third place. Quite…wait, why I am talking to myself? And more than that: why am I waiting for a reply?" She walked around and noticed his notepad. She took a glance.
'High defensive mechanisms, body swap with Starfire, don't get her angry, doesn't like image challenged...' She burned the written words to memory. 'I didn't know he observed this much about me. I can't say he's a stalker, he hardly shows up but he's quite dead on. I underestimated him. Quite.'
She sat down on his bed, still reading the notepad. 'I thought he was a detective but this…I better put this down, I don't want to obsess.' She levitated it to the workbench.
'At least he can start a conversation, the question is…what will he hit me with first? The goth scene, the books, my personality, blue? At least he has some safe topics. I can't say he's tactless.'
She remembered what he wrote about her being standoffishness. 'I can't say he's a lot of negative things. Or positive as well, just…something to work on. Like me it seems.' Raven gave off a loud sigh. 'Can't exactly be angry at truthful words brought out in quite observational sentences. Damn it. Have to meditate on this later.'
She stared at the clock again. '11:00 and no Robin.' The klaxon interrupted her thoughts, followed by Robin's voice on the loudspeaker. "Titans! Trouble!"
'Well, that explains his disappearance.' She sighed again. 'Why can't there be normal business hours for a superhero?' She took one more glance around the room and teleported.
The night air with the industrial metal created a unique stench that wafted through the alleys. Raven with the others eyed around for their mission in the tech sector.
'Wish Red X would show up so I can…' She thought about Robin and their upcoming chat. 'Focus on the work. All things come to those who…'
"I hope someone happens already. I don't want to think I got up for nothing." Beast Boy grumbled.
"You know this is normal hours." Raven chimed in.
"You have to excuse him; we had a Gamestation bender the night before Red X first showed up." Cyborg looked around.
"That device will be the death of both you."
"Video game orgasmic death is one of the better ways to go." The emerald changeling cut in.
"What kind of games do you play on that thing?" The gothic empath arched an eyebrow.
The two teens subtly panicked. "There!" Cyborg pointed out to a clearing and watched as Robin and Red X ran like bats out of hell out of a building. Robin almost caught to the gothic thief when Red X threw out a ruby net and trapped the Boy Wonder.
"Robin!" Cyborg yelled.
"I'm fine. Get X! Go!" Robin pointed out the disappearing thief. Raven couldn't feel any tinges of emotion from the trapped Boy Wonder. 'He has no emotion at all within him. I never met anyone this deadened. How is that possible? Never mind, first things first.' She ran after Red X down in the subway.
The Titans fared slightly better in the subway as they had more counters to Red X but where his gadgets failed; his marital arts picked up the slack. Raven knew that well as one good high jump kick in her chest forced into a pile of crates.
'Okay, now I'm mad.' She thought in her deadpan. She came to her senses as she watched Beast Boy about to be a splotch on an incoming subway train when he was rescued by Red X?
"Dude, did you just save me?" Beast Boy asked in shock. Red X's only response was a kick to the stomach.
'This Red X is not who he seems. Curiosity? It doesn't matter and I have a score to settle.' She was suppressing the pain from her chest and morphed into the floor and remerged on the other side as the train was passing. She checked on the fallen emerald changeling.
She saw Red X running up a flight of stairs. "I…think so." She conjured up another claw to rise from out of the steps. The claw rose from out of the ground and grabbed the thief as he almost made the stairs.
'Damn it! Damn it!' He couldn't be uncovered now, not when he's so close.
He was dragged downstairs, struggling. Cyborg and Starfire joined the two.
"Alright! Start talking! Why are you here? Are you working for Slade?" Cyborg grabbed Red X by his scruff. Red X's hand struggled free and rubbed his palm for a X. Raven eyed him.
"One: I'm here of my own volition and two: my plans reach far and wide than Wilson's little agendas. Satisfactory? If not, I shall illuminate more clearly." Raven watched as he flipped out the X and threw it on the third rail.
"Look out!" Raven's warning was unheeded as the X hit its target and electricity was flying everywhere and then all was cast into darkness, not a problem for the dark empath. However, she lost her concentration and dissipated the claw.
'No, you don't.' He started to run off into one of the tunnels, Raven ran after him. "I got him." She shouted to the other Titans.
"Raven, wait!" Cyborg yelled.
"Stop!" She yelled into the tunnel.
"It will take more than an emotionless deadpan voice to make me stop." Red X countered.
"That may be but I can see in the dark, you can't." She almost smirked. Red X stopped in his tracks.
"I don't need to see to dispatch with you. I can do it in three moves."
'Arrogant little…' "Then get on with it."
"Fine." 'She's not a physical fighter, this shall be easy.' "One." He threw his voice in the opposite direction and jumped into the air and unleashed a slew of Xs. Raven jumped out of range and charged her fists with dark energy.
"Two." He jump kicked towards her.
"Three." Raven interrupted as she dodged his foot and did an uppercut on the thief.
'An uppercut? When did she learn how to do that?' He landed on his feet, rubbing his jaw. "I underestimated you."
"Yes, I get that. But observations won't get you anywhere."
"Neither will mixing metaphors." He lunged at her; she dodged and tried to do a drop kick.
"Why don't you try fighting with your hands? Your legs aren't doing you much good but provide eye candy to some horny supervillain."
Raven withdrew the leg and began to punch, Red X caught it easily. "Not much for small talk, are we?"
"What is there to talk about?" She attempted another uppercut, he swerved.
"Oh, the usual. The whys, the who's, the what's and the occasional turn-ons and turnoffs." He flung her away.
"You're the new one in town. Why don't you start?" Raven levitated.
"Yes, but I've seen you, you're the mystery Titan. No one knows anything about you. There a reason?" Robin wasn't sure where he was going with his odd banter but if it was to reveal some accepts of Raven's character, it was worth keeping Slade on hold.
"I don't reveal anything because there is nothing to reveal about." She was concentrating silently. He wasn't about to put an X on her mouth again.
"I don't know. Your standoffish attitude in itself seems to have a story to tell." He threw a slew of Xs into the air.
"Perhaps it only seems standoffish to you." She shot a flurry of dark lightning bolts. Red X weaved and dodged.
"That may be but you need lessons of interaction. Pleasantries would go a long way. Especially with such a beautiful face." Robin was surprised himself. 'Where did that come from?'
Raven would have blushed, if it didn't come from a 'horny supervillain' as he claimed. "I wouldn't worry about my social skills if I were you. You have larger problems."
"You're right. Like this." He lobbed an X into the air and trapped the gothic empath.
"Hook, line, and sinker as they say. A pity this has to be cut short but I have other things to do." 'Pity indeed. I was actually enjoying myself. I wish I didn't have to be masked like this to just talk to her.'
"I agree. Such as rotting in jail." She dissolved into the floor. Red X tried to scan the darkness. "Quite the trick. You must be quite the hit at parties."
"I'd say the same for you, dressing like the clown that you are." She sprung from the ceiling, charged hands at the ready.
"Well, people do think clowns are frightening, I might as well dress the part." He dodged as she attempted an upside down uppercut.
"You're as humorous as you are resourceful." She barbed as they crashed on the ground struggling.
"Is that an insult or a compliment?"
"What do you think?"
"I'll choose to say compliment." He tried to kick her off but she locked on to him tight.
"It's an insult, fool. You wouldn't be much of anything without your gadgets."
He tightened up. "Now you're underestimating me." He kicked her off finally.
"No, I'm not; you're nothing more than a one trick pony. Although phony wouldn't be much of a leap either."
"Phony? Nothing phony about me." He jump kicked again.
"No, because you're all man right? What is it about males and their egos?" Raven was avoiding indulging and having fun with this.
"The same thing that women have with theirs and always wanting to be in the right." He was bobbing judo chops and kicks her way.
"Normally, that would be true: if I had an ego."
"You don't? I find that hard to believe."
"Really?" She tried for a roundhouse kick, he simply spun and did a hurricane kick.
"Yes, your deadpan, your emotionless act, your standoffishness. You're hiding a secret, little girl." Robin hated to push her but this was an opportunity he couldn't afford to miss. What is she hiding within all those defense mechanisms?
Raven was trying to suppress the effect of the thief's words. "I'm not hiding anything."
"You're lying. I am an observer of people, you may not actively show behavior, but that doesn't mean others can't pick up on what you hide. Unless of course, it finally shows itself after suppressing for so long; like with your attack on Dr. Arthur Light for starters." He threw another punch. She blocked with her dark energy shields.
'How did he…?' "What makes you the authority on the subject?"
"Because of the rumors about Light's incarnation in an asylum. The Titans were the ones who brought him in and of all the reports of their respective powers, yours is the only logical one to do such physiological damage to him."
"You weren't there; you don't know all the facts." She caught his fist and jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow.
"What is there to know? You're vigilantes; you act like the law is above you and doesn't apply to you. Or your opponents. You'd all kill each other if you could. You have no empathy." He launched a rolling kick against her, she caught his leg.
"I'm an empath. I can sense other people's discomfort."
"Are you sensing any right now?" He quipped.
She was silent as she tried to punch him on his solar plexus; he grabbed her wrist in time. "And what makes you such a humanitarian?"
"I'm not but I'm in this for a different design. I'm a thief. I'm not out to hurt anyone or…cause massive property damage."
"What you call disabling the electricity in here?" They forced each other to let go. They stared off against each other.
"That was survival and in a few hours, they'll restore the power and civilization will resume quickly. Your little ventures set back the flow of progress by weeks, months, maybe years." He was getting winded, so was she.
"I didn't think you'd be such the philosopher."
"I'm not, but I observe, I watch…and of course, I act." He slung an X that expanded and dissolving. Red X jumped and drop kicked the empath into the puddle of where the X dissolved. She tried to levitate as he kicked at her with his other leg and crashed her into the crimson slime. He jumped back and watched the struggling Titan.
The digital voice synthesizer made his heavy breathing sound like scoffing. "Quite the good look for you. Although wet T-Shirt mode is always preferable."
"When I get out of here…" Raven was unlatching her cloak and beginning to rip off her leotard sleeves.
Robin admired her will. "You'll collapse in a breathless heap. Not that I blame you. For someone who heavily dependent on your powers, you give a good punch."
"I'd say the same for you. Despite your gadgets." She was finally free but feeling somewhat chilled.
"Feeling a little exposed are we?"
Raven said nothing and glowered.
"A pity we have to fight. I'd rather discuss the fine particulars in a gothic café as befits our attire." The two fighters stared off each other again, breathing heavily.
"I'm not gothic. I'm not anything."
"Please. Your attitudes, your dark colors, your mysteriousness, you're screaming 'Goth.' "
"And you? If I am one given your rationale, then you're not. You seem most arrogant."
"I still make two out of three, don't I?"
"It's irrelevant and pointless. All that matters is…"
"The great mission, stopping me. You think your mission will get any closer by wasting time with me than spending on those who deserve to be caught for all the destruction they cause? The man mountain Cinderblock, or the protoplasmic Plasmus or should I allude to what you think is my employer: Slade Wilson. They're the ones stopping your city from functioning, so do your function and stop them because you're wasting time with me."
Raven stopped to ruminate about that. "But they're not here and you are. Two birds with one stone."
"With your priorities, no wonder the Terminator has the drop on you."
"And with you running around wasting our time, no wonder we can't." She was getting tired: of him and his observations. She chanted and levitated one of the rails against him. Red X jumped and pitched a dissolving X and gummed up the rail.
"Maybe that's because you can't anyway. You're amateurish and sloppy. I'm amazed you catch anyone at all because you won't get me."
The lights began to flicker on. "And now civilization resumes and my cue to exit but I must say we must do this again, my dear. You're quite the…conservationist." He sprung to an archway, climbed up a ladder to an above manhole, and chucked another expanding X to create a barrier. Raven ran and looked above to find the X. Not to mention a draft.
'Damn it. He gives as good as he takes.' She sighed as she clutched her arms. 'But he did sound familiar. Where have I heard some of his phrases before? Think.' But the upcoming chill deterred her thoughts. 'It will have to wait.' She trudged to her slimed cloak and nearly ripped it to shreds as she plucked it from the ooze.
'Good thing I bought out the store of these things.' She deadpanned as she emerged from the tunnel, battle damaged. The other Titans ran to her.
"Raven, what were you thinking?" Cyborg asked before he noticed her tattled clothes.
"I could see in the dark, I thought I could have him. I…was wrong." She said emotionlessly as she was leaving the station.
"Raven, are you injured?" Starfire inquired.
"I'm fine, Starfire. Nothing wounded."
'Nothing but my pride.'
Red X nearly collapsed at his computer chair, Raven gave him quite the workout. 'One more thing to do before sleep.'
He made a video connection and soon patched in to see Slade and his shadowed countenance. "Impressive, Red X. I tapped into the security cameras to catch your performance. You treated the Titans to quite a show."
"Glad you enjoyed it. Is the audition over?" Red X held up his prizes: the ruby and cerulean chips.
"Patience. Trust is easy to destroy, but it takes time to build. One last test." Slade showed an image of the last chip, an emerald colored one.
"Prove yourself, and…we'll meet to discuss your future." Slade terminated the connection.
"Good." Robin took off the death's head mask. "It's about time we met face-to-face." Robin drew a hard breath. 'But that will wait. So tired.' He stared at the clock. He had enough time for a two hour nap. He didn't even bother to undress as he crawled into bed. He tossed around to stare at the ceiling.
He thought about his fight with Raven. 'She's so…I don't even what words I can say to describe her.' He removed his gloves slowly. 'Why did I…flirt? Is that the word? Why did I do that? It didn't feel like the usual: killing time.'
He then unlatched his cloak. 'I don't know, I…it's not like I'm attracted to her. Although…she is quite exotic. No one I've met before. Nothing like anyone in Gotham. Even though she and Bruce would be good pen pals.'
He then unbuckled his belt. 'But she has her own depth and way to things; she doesn't brood like he would. Or…me. She's emotionless for a reason, or in the case of Light, out of balance at times. Like I'm not.' He smirked in self deprecation.
'She's…different, yet we're…the same. Just wish we didn't have to ignore each other but….forget it, no remorse right now. As soon as I take down Slade, I'll catch up and then…who knows?' Robin removed his top garment.
'Although…I shouldn't forget Starfire. She's so warm and vibrant but…I don't know. I can't…talk to her. Can't even do a normal conversation at times. Raven…I can, just our social skills get in the way.'
He shoved everything off the bed. "Figures. One girl I can talk to but she has nothing to say and another that has a lot to say but can't talk to her. The life I lead."
'So now what? Try to take person lessons before I can try to talk to Raven? Damn it.' His eyes began to droop.
'Maybe I can be like Bruce and juggle. Nah…it didn't work for him, why it would work for me? And his don't have superhuman strength or can't crush your mind within a heartbeat. I hate multiple choice.' Robin couldn't think anymore as slumber began to overtake him.
Raven tossed her damaged cloak and leotard in the garbage can of her room. 'I'm just fortunate the others didn't see me in my disgrace.' She sat on the bed, and folded her legs.
'He certainly has his nerve doesn't he?' She began to meditate.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'Why don't you try fighting with your hands? Your legs aren't doing you much good but provide eye candy to some horny supervillain.' Her mind began to flashback to Red X's words.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'Yes, but I've seen you, you're the mystery Titan. No one knows anything about you. There a reason?'
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'That may be but you need lessons of interaction. Pleasantries would go a long way. Especially with such a beautiful face.'
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'Yes, your deadpan, your emotionless act, your standoffishness. You're hiding a secret, little girl.'
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'I am an observer of people, you may not actively show behavior, but that doesn't mean others can't pick up on what you hide. Unless of course, it finally shows itself after suppressing for so long; like with your attack on Dr. Arthur Light for starters.'
'Aware. Heard some of that phrase before.'
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'What is there to know? You're vigilantes; you act like the law is above you and doesn't apply to you. Or your opponents. You'd all kill each other if you could. You have no empathy.'
Raven sucked in her breath. 'Insightful.'
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'But I observe, I watch…and of course, I act.'
'Driven. I heard that phrase before as well. But from where?'
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'Please. Your attitudes, your dark colors, your mysteriousness, you're screaming 'Goth.''
'The great mission, stopping me. You think your mission will get any closer by wasting time with me than spending on those who deserve to be caught for all the destruction they cause? The man mountain Cinderblock, or the protoplasmic Plasmus or should I allude to what you think is my employer: Slade Wilson. They're the ones stopping your city from functioning, so do your function and stop them because you're wasting time with me.'
"Azarath…" She gave up on meditating; his digital voice kept ringing throughout her head.
'He's so…knowledgeable and insightful. His observations have…cut me to the quick. How can he read me so well? I'm so careful.' She felt a draft and realized her nudity.
'Quite the good look for you. Although wet T-Shirt mode is always preferable.' 'I'd say rather horny. Although…he's the first to…what is the word? Flirt? Flirt with me?' Raven levitated another leotard from her closet.
'Inconceivable. Someone flirting with me?' Raven held the leotard and went to her bathroom mirror. She didn't understand what Red X saw: deathly pale skin, miniature breasts, too wide hips, what was the appeal? Granted that goth boy from the warehouse party felt some kind of attraction towards her but she felt the attention was pointless: he didn't seem like he'd be the type to deal with much of anything regarding her. Beast Boy also flirted with her but she didn't see the purpose: probably sees her as a possible trophy. Just because he can and there is no one else for him to vent his sexual frustrations on.
'And on top of that, there are Robin's notes. What did he say? He wrote that I was 'quite exotic.' Why would he write that? Wouldn't he be thinking of Starfire as she's been nudging towards him? I doubt there is many aliens this side of Metropolis. I'm sure such things would catch his interest. Perhaps not.'
She slowly put on the leotard and covered herself up again. 'Either way, I fail to see their point. I'm not attractive and have no time for such games. I have Red X and Slade to deal with.' She went out of the room and looked at her clock.
'And a late Boy Wonder to deal with. I still owe him that conversation.' She sighed. 'But I doubt I'll be able to talk to him at this late hour. Unless he's an insomniac like me.' She levitated another cloak to her and left her room.
'At least the night may end on a high note after all. Especially after X's flirting. Males. Although…with Robin's observation, I wonder if he'll focus on the topic and not me. No, can't say that, if that were true, then he wouldn't have observed and written all that about the more cerebral aspects about myself.' She sighed as she rounded a corner.
'He knows more about me than I thought possible. It doesn't feel so…insufferable.' She didn't realize she was indulging her feeling of pleasant surprise.
'I should have become a nun.'
Raven knocked on Robin's door. "Robin?" 'Don't tell me you've disappeared again.'
She knocked again. "Robin?" 'No one can be that busy. Unless he's just going out of his way to avoid us.' She knocked once again. 'I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised. I do the same thing so why should I criticize him for it?' She heard her communicator sound off.
"Hey, Raven, it's Cyborg. We're trying to figure out about where Red X will strike next. We need your computer skills. You busy?"
Raven just stated at the door. "Not anymore."
"Catch you in the control room then." Cyborg cut the connection.
'Why not? I have nothing else to do. At least hunting for Red X will give me a good diversion. At least that's one thing I can say about Red X. He's consistent.'
She looked back at his door before walking away. 'Unlike some Boy Wonders. More is the pity.'
Raven trudged in the control room. "Raven, glad you cleaned yourself up. Here, I need your help inputting the new data. Since these two aren't so technical minded." Cyborg greeted her and nodded to Beast Boy and Starfire.
"Hey, I'm technical minded!" The emerald changeling challenged.
"The last time you touched a machine; there was smoke damage in three floors."
"Hey, it's not my fault someone wouldn't share his computer with me so I had to take more extreme measures. You had to hog the pong game. You know how addicted I am…" Raven just gave a loud sigh.
"I can come back you know." The two broke up their debating.
"Right. Here. The reports are right there." Cyborg pointed to a terminal next to him. Raven went over the reports, and began to type.
"You okay?" Cyborg asked softly as she tensed up.
"Raven? Don't you think we're getting past this defense game?"
She sucked in a breath and remembered as the synthetic teen was rattling inside her head and realized that the time for such things with him was soon passing.
"Later." She felt Cyborg's mood lightening.
"All right then. You got the data inputted?"
"Yes." Raven punched up a blueprint of the city, highlighting the two sites of Red X's robberies.
"Ok. That's where Red X has been. Now we just have to figure out where he's gonna strike next." Cyborg observed while Raven typed in the data. Many sites were then highlighted all over the blueprint.
"Great." Beast Boy said, exasperated. Starfire turned away, arms crossed, to see Robin walking across the room, carrying a box of materials.
"Robin, wonderful!" The alien suddenly perked up as the others turned. Raven's mood suddenly lightened for a second as well. "Our efforts to locate the Red X will benefit greatly from your help."
"It'll have to wait. I'm close to a breakthrough with Slade." Robin kept on walking.
"More wonderful! Perhaps we could be of assistance to…you." The Boy Wonder ignored her and walked out of the room.
"Let him go. Not like he's been much help lately anyway. If Robin wasn't always A.W.O.L., X would be KO'd by now." Beast Boy cut in.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but Beast Boy is right." Raven chimed in. She felt a slight pang of wishful thinking and almost wished he was wrong.
"Y'all think maybe Robin's losing his grip?" Cyborg said in rumination.
"No! Robin's grip is not lost. He works harder than any of you. He works to catch Slade before something terrible happens. He works to save us all." Raven looked at her in pity. 'I'd like to believe that, Starfire, I do, but I know there are different ways to go about it, especially as it comes to the job. Privately, he can worship bedbugs for all I care, but not when he's the leader. His obligations are to us and the work, not him and his crush on Slade. I wish she wasn't so idolized with him, so she can see that he's flawed like the rest.'
"Yeah. That's why every time we need him, he disappears." Beast Boy sniped back. Starfire wished the others could understand. Raven felt the alien's confusion.
"I shall repair to Robin's room and shall more…stronger measures to convince him that he needs our assistance." Starfire walked away.
"Star, I don't see how—" Cyborg called out to her when Raven stopped him.
"Forget it. Let her try while we focus on Red X." 'Maybe he'll stick around and actually to listen to her. Since I'm obviously not doing any good with it.'
"Yeah, alright. Wish we knew what Red X was after." He acquiesced.
"Indeed but…wait." Raven had a burst of inspiration. "Let's focus on what Red X stole. He first stole that chip from the Slade raid. And then he stole a similar chip in the tech sector." She was typing a mile a minute.
"You're thinking he'll be after a recurring theme."
"Yes. But the question is what the theme is. First I'm looking on where a similar chip would be found. There." She highlighted the lab.
"Sweet! Now we know where to go." Beast Boy cheered.
"And…interesting." She narrowed her eyes when she found the results
"What?" Cyborg asked.
"The places that have the chips…are Lexcorp labs."
"Lexcorp? That's really heavy duty. I knew Red X was a thief but…"
"But not an industrial one and if Slade wanted the first chip, then that would mean…"
"Slade's an industrial thief too. Damn, Raven, you're really sharp. I think you almost got Robin beat on the detective vibe."
She nearly blushed at that. "I try. Let's stakeout." She walked away from the terminal.
"Hold up, what about Starfire?" Cyborg stopped her.
"Can't afford to wait for her to see the truth about Robin and the fact he's not going to help us while Red X is going to stage his next crime. Leave the monitor on so she'll see where we'll be."
"Alright." The boys joined her as they were walking out of the room. Cyborg walked next to her.
"Ready to talk?"
"Not yet. Let's there first when we have some privacy." Beast Boy glowered at her.
"Oh, pardon me." He sounded in a snooty voice.
"I can not, you're inexcusable. I'll see you there." She morphed out of the room.
"I swear I'll never get that girl for as long as I live. I don't know what I see in her." Beast Boy harrumphed.
"I don't know what either but I think you best look elsewhere."
"What does that mean?"
"You're not her type."
"And you're making her a better offer?"
"Me? No. But she may be with someone else."
"Who? That goth geek from the warehouse?"
"You just don't get girls." Cyborg shook his head and walked down the corridor to the elevator.
"I don't? And just what don't I get? Cy? Cy?" Cyborg ignored his diminutive friend as he headed to the elevator.
Raven scanned around the area of the lab before resting on a nearby rooftop of a high-rise, waiting for Red X to make his move. 'Show up like you have been so far. You know you can't resist such a target.'
A screech from a bird above made Raven turned her head and see as the bird morphed to Beast Boy.
"Man, you must have a cannon in your cloak. Got here so fast. Anything?" He was soon followed by a winded Cyborg.
"That's it, I'm getting a car. I'm too old for this."
"Nothing yet, and will you stop wheezing? You'll alert our position." Raven glared.
"Hey, you didn't have to run up 52 flights of stairs. Couldn't even ride the elevator because I'm so heavy for the armor."
"Enough. Go fall down somewhere while I continue to stakeout." Raven burned a glare into the rusted building.
"I'm fine. Just need to sit down." Cyborg sat down next to her. She felt his concerned gaze at her.
"Beast Boy, go make a long sweep of the place. We'll be right here if any problems."
"Alrighty then." Beast Boy morphed into a bird and flew towards the lab.
"There is your window, so if you want to talk, talk." Raven broke the silence.
"You don't need to be rude about it."
"When it comes to business, it's far more important to have the follow through than the manners."
'Oh yeah, she definitely sounds like Robin.' "Fair enough. So how are things with you and Robin? I know you two were talking at the training course."
Raven took her time answering. "That actually went reasonably well. And we were going to follow up before he turned into Claude Rains and haven't talked to him since."
"Oh. Doesn't help that Red X keeps getting in the way."
"It's a shame though. Seems you two were getting along so well too."
"Somewhat." She said, emotionless.
"C'mon Raven. Just because you want to deny something doesn't mean it's not there."
"You're the third person to point that out to me."
"Really? Who are the other two?"
"Robin and…Red X."
"Again, really? That must have been some conversation you two had."
"It was an eye opener." She wished now she meditated.
"Anything about Red X's personality we should know?"
"Yes, he's arrogant, sex driven, obsessive…" Raven drew in a hard breath. "Insightful in his own right. Very observational and knowledgeable. And can fight sans his gadgets."
"I can attest to that. From what you're talking about, sounds like…Robin."
Raven began to ruminate. "Red X seems more sociable. I can't say that for Robin."
"Any more, no. I know the guy tries but…"
"You don't have to tell me. Not that I can say I'm much better." She self deprecated.
"Well…if we're being honest…yeah. But I know why you do what you do. Robin, some ideas but he hides himself just as well as you do, if not more."
Raven wondered about that. 'More similarity. I never realized how much in common we have until now. Well, just the building from under me.'
"Again, I can't dispute that."
"Nice to know you're not alone anymore isn't it?" Cyborg said with a wink.
Raven allowed herself to feel comforted by that. "Yes. It is. Now if only I can catch him for more than a second."
"Always tie him down to the bed. Or is that later?"
"Bite your tongue." Raven rolled her eyes. 'Although…' She swore she heard a distant explosion.
"What was that?"
"Nothing." She said innocently. A few minutes pass by when Raven thought she saw a flash of black down by the roof of the lab.
"Did you see that?" Raven nodded to Cyborg.
"I did. Our skull man is at it again."
"Get Beast Boy. I'll try to intercept him." Raven was about to dive in, charging her fist when Cyborg grabbed her shoulder, holding her back.
"No, Raven. Remember the last time you did that? We'll do this together. Alright?"
Raven dissipated the charge. "Alright."
'Man, that girl can get obsessed like Robin. No wonder they gel so well.' Cyborg mused before calling Beast Boy.
Red X was slipping through the defenses so easily. 'This is easy. Far too easy.'
'I wonder if I can catch Raven tonight. I know I haven't talked to her at all lately.' He caught his reflection at an offline monitor.
'As myself. Not as this. Although…one fringe benefit from all this was actually able to see a different side of her without any real backlash to myself. But…how long do I maintain it? This can't last forever. Maybe she likes Red X more because he appeals to her dark side.'
Red X about made the final door. 'Since when did I become a third wheel to myself? God.' He saw a control panel by the door. He was working on the combination. 'Maybe I should keep Red X around as a way to talk to her. Since nothing else works.' Then he remembered his first conversation with Raven.
'I did talk to her then without severe problems. Maybe I just need person lessons. And not parading around as a thief. This was only for Slade, nothing else. Just wish I knew proper icebreakers for someone like her.'
He cracked the combination and opened the door. He saw the final disk in one of two beams of light within the empty dark hall.
'At last.' He looked around the hall. 'I got all but the backup lights down so I should be fine.'
He walked to the disk and gingerly grabbed it when a familiar voice stopped him.
"Excellent work." He turned to see a person walking in the other beam of light, clad in onyx body armor, with a mask bisected in onyx and mandarin orange colors.
'Slade.' "Honestly, I couldn't have done better myself." Slade's voice purred throughout the hall.
"So, do we have a deal?"
"Indeed. You and I are so very much alike. It seems only natural that we should be partners." Slade extended his hand to the gothic thief.
"What are they for? I need to know what we're planning, partner." Red X held out all three disks in his hand.
"Patience. You can't expect me to trust you with such sensitive information right away, can you, Robin?" Red X widened his eyes as a small metallic capsule was shot behind him, knocking the discs from his hand and wrapping them up before falling into Slade's hand. The hall was lit up with Slade's attack drones and the mechas used by the H.I.V.E. Academy as they were surrounding the thief.
'How did he know? I was so careful. It doesn't matter now.' Red X surveyed the hall and all the combative machines before taking a defensive position. The machines were ready to advance when an explosion was heard from the ceiling.
"Titans Go!" Cyborg cried as from the dust descended Raven and Beast Boy.
'Here is my chance.' Red X ran to Slade while the Titans were disposing of the mechas. Raven ran to him, chanted and made a claw from underground to snatch him. Slade used the distraction to escape.
"Ugh! Let go! Stop him!"
"First things first." Raven brought the claw closer to her.
"No! Not when I'm so close! Damn it!" He was thinking about unmasking and hoped Raven would see and call off the attack but he couldn't even do that as his arms were bound.
"Profanity isn't going to help your cause. Now let's see who is under that—" Raven was about to unmask him when a Slade drone was about to punch the dark empath.
"Look out!" Red X was rubbing his palm again for another X.
Raven turned as the Slade drone's fist was about to connect to her face when it stopped an inch to her face as it collapsed. It had an X sticking out of its side.
She craned her neck as she watched Red X running to where Slade bolted.
"I'll have to thank him, after I take him apart first." Raven levitated after him.
"Raven!" Cyborg cried as he watched her go off into the distance. "Damn it, not again." He then focused his attention to a mecha.
Red X scrambled to the roof where he saw Slade scurry off across the rooftops in the distance.
'I can make it.' He began to pursue after the Terminator when Raven morphed on the roof.
"What do you want now?" Red X's rage was palatable. He could have gotten to Slade down there if it weren't for her.
"To stop you of course."
"Sorry, but I have larger concerns than you right now, dear." He tried to run past her. He was tempted to unmask but then realized that would unleash a can of worms bigger than anything, especially given his banter with Raven, who when angry enough, would scatter his soul to the four corners of the earth. He needed to get out of here, mask unveiled.
"But it won't be much of a party without you." She launched several dark lightning bolts against the thief, blocking his path. He jumped back and watched as Slade faded from his vision.
'No! It was all for nothing!' Red X nearly growled. "You do realize that you just let Slade escape, don't you?"
"That was Slade?" Raven suddenly felt the fool.
"Yes! And your zeal to catch me, you let the one of the biggest fish go. He's a bigger headache than 10 Jokers."
"Your fishing analogies and card references aside, I'm sure you realize the position you're in. You have nowhere to go now." Raven jump kicked at the thief again.
"You sound like such a cliché. Your time with the Boy Wonder is infecting you." Red X blocked and tried to knee her.
"Really? Have I been spouting dated, 40's one liners?" She punched him in the stomach.
'That hurts.' "At least it would be a refreshing change from your deadpan. You must be real fun on a date. Speaking of which, we shall have to make one for later. I have a one eyed man to catch." He pressed a button on his belt and waited for teleport.
"Seems we'll be having that now." Raven lunged at him when Red X tried to punch the button on his belt again. No reaction.
'Now that hurts.' "Okay, plan B." Red X tried to launch a swarm of Xs when his gloves jammed.
"Now you're without your gadgets. This should be fast." Raven almost smirked. She swore both Robin's and Red X's cocky attitude was infecting her.
"How about a real challenge? No powers or weapons. Think you can handle it?" Red X dared her as he went into a defensive position.
"Since you say I'm a vigilante and thus above the law, I don't have to comply, do I?" Raven was trying and failing not to indulge in the irony.
"Fair enough but if you're trying to be a hero, takes away your credibility doesn't it?" Robin would have enjoyed himself, if he didn't have the charade or the escape of Slade undulating in his brain.
Raven mused about his words and mimicked his defensive position. "Fair enough."
Robin smirked under the mask. "Good. I can certainly take it if you can."
'That same damn smugness. They act so much alike. Almost as if they're the same…wait.' Raven was contemplating. "Getting cocky are we?"
"Why not? Powers or not, I don't need to worry about them to take down a flower child like yourself." Both of them just stared off.
"Flower child? Stick to your gadgets. They're more of a threat than your insults."
"I'd say the same with your powers. After all, can't do much of anything without them." Red X charged at her.
"Rest assured I'm full of surprises." She dodged and kneed him in the stomach.
"I'm sure. You gave it good at the subway, but only after you were away from your friends." He gave her a backhanded slap and then a roundhouse kick.
"They inhibit you? That's why you can't fight back?"
Raven got up and went into defensive position again. "I can fight with or without them. But with a certain enemy, it requires my personal attention."
"I'm flattered I've gain such interests. I'm sure the guys are beating down your door so you can beat down on them."
"Like you." Raven copied his charge and lunged at him.
"Who am I to turn down such a lady?" He grabbed and flung her across the rooftop.
"A typical male, I see. Always thinking with your penis." Raven fell on her back. She suppressed the pain and focused on the thief.
"Not really, not when it comes to the important things in life." Raven saw her chance.
"Like your thing with Slade? Your panicking when he fled?" She got up and stared him down.
"Wouldn't that show that I'm not working for him?" He was half tempted to flee after Slade but he knew Slade was long gone. But he could follow in Slade's direction and hopefully find some leads on to where Slade ended up. The longer he was delayed, the longer he could get to those leads and the possibility of contamination.
But to do all that, he had to get Raven out of the way first, expediently. He'd have to beat her unconscious since he couldn't incapacitate her any other way, as reasoning would delay him far too long.
"Yes, but why did you want us to stop him down there? If you were after what he wanted, then wouldn't that make you two together? Industrial thieves stick together and all that."
"You don't understand. I don't want to be with him, I want to stop him." He jump kicked at her again. She dodged and caught the leg.
"Do you now? Why?"
"Don't you realize far his ambitions are? If you knew what was on those discs…"
"I know Lexcorp made them. Heavy espionage." She finally let go.
"Yes, I wanted to entice him with something he wanted so I can get under his good graces and take him from the inside."
"What?" Raven was astonished.
"Yes. That was the plan all along. And then you came and had to do your function at the worst time. Damn it." Red X began a frenzy of judo chops at the gothic empath.
"If all you wanted to do was to stop Slade, you could have approached us." She was weaving about from him.
"It wasn't that easy. If he knew I was connected to you in any way, the whole scheme would have been blown."
"I know why we want to stop him, but what's your excuse?" She threw a punch at him.
"You couldn't understand." Robin felt her getting too close.
"Try me. I'm an observer as well. I know the darker emotions of humanity. You'd be surprised how much I've seen." She attempted a roundhouse kick, he jumped back.
Robin couldn't deny that about her but he didn't know what to do. Hint his reasons and just show his hand?
"I'm not sure if I can tell such things to a Titan, my enemy."
"You called me the mystery Titan because no one knows anything about me. Part of that is because I keep secrets. Unless you don't feel comfortable and would you be worse off if you did tell?" Raven was aware of the irony.
So was Robin. "Alright, since perhaps that will help you not get into my way anymore. You don't realize what a mastermind what he is. He schemes, he manipulates, and he'll use anyone to get what he wants. And will use them to hurt or maybe should say, kill anyone in his way. He's nothing like the penny ante villains you've seen. He's quite the big game." He tried a rolling kick.
"You should meet my father." She deadpanned as she blocked again.
"I'm not being facetious. He must be stopped before he uses someone else and create more collateral damage than you can think of in a lifetime. I may be a thief but even I have a conscience."
"That's debatable." She chucked another punch at him.
"That may be but I do, and I don't want anyone else hurt by him and if I can make a little profit…" 'Yes, maintain the image.' He zigzagged from her blows.
"So you're a bounty hunter?" Robin couldn't believe how Raven's mind was falling into his hands.
"Something like that."
"The capitalist way of life strikes again."
"God Bless America. But that's the least of it. If he continues his schemes, more children become orphans, parents without children. All part of playing in the game." He judo chopped her, she veered away at the last second.
"Sounds like you've played it for a while." She jumped to uppercut him again. They stood off to each other again.
"Oh yes, for a long time. And I'm tired of it and I know the game will keep going on if people like Wilson continue to remain in power." He launched an aerial kick on her.
"So why don't you join us?" Raven admonished herself for her optimism as they made acquaintance with the concrete.
"No, thank you. I work alone, remember? But thank you for the offer."
"So what makes Slade so tough? I haven't seen him to do anything…overt."
Robin chuckled but with the voice synthesizer made his voice sound like a taunting sound. "That's the point. He doesn't get his hands dirty. He makes everyone his pawns. Like you all will be in some capacity or like he did with the metahumans, Thunder and Lightning. And the mutant Plasmus. I have some reason to believe Slade was responsible for his awakening."
'How would he know about what Slade did with Thunder and Lightning?' "You do? What's your proof about Plasmus?"
"Cinderblock, his public enforcer went through the trouble to retrieve Plasmus and then used the protoplasmic mutant as a distraction for the Titans while he had Cinderblock engaged in another mission."
"How Machiavellian. And you know Cinderblock works for Slade how?" She jumped to do a drop kick.
"Connect the dots. Every time Cinderblock has appeared, it always has something to do with industry or money, the two things Slade thrives on. To do what he does, he needs serious money. Those robots aren't cheap, you know." He bobbed away.
"That could be anyone. It doesn't mean he's a pawn for Slade. But I'd like to know how you know what he did with Thunder and Lightning. You sound like you were there." She probed as she tried a litany of punches and kicks.
Robin was starting to panic. "Let's just say any event, no matter how private, can found out for the right price. Like your incident with Dr. Light." Robin hoped that ruse would work. Raven felt his panic. She went to a different route. "You know, you're quite different than when I first thought. I didn't believe you to be so noble."
Robin almost arched an eyebrow as he avoided Raven's fists. "You know what they say about a book and its cover."
She arched an eyebrow. "I didn't think you'd take to such a cliché but message received, Robin." She glared as her fist nearly grazed his mask.
Robin jumped away and knew he couldn't lie anymore. He sighed as he slowly removed the mask. "How did you know?"
"That doesn't matter." She used all her control mechanisms to suppress her indignation. "One question."
"Why." He sucked in a hard breath. "I was out of options, nothing I had was working. He was always ten steps ahead of me and I was getting…desperate. He has to be stopped. I remembered something Batman taught me. 'It takes a thief to catch a thief.' And I thought it would work but…he knew. Ahead of me again and I don't know what I did to tip him off. He said we're so very much alike." The Boy Wonder couldn't even look at her.
"I agree. He works alone and so did you at one point I'm sure, working with such a solitary figure but now you're not, are you?" Robin just stared at the death's head mask.
"And he didn't even know you and he figured it out; imagine if people who knew you didn't know. Not that I'm one to talk. Now if you excuse me, I have a date with several hundred drones and my…friends." She morphed into the concrete.
Robin just sighed as he scrambled to get back into the hall. He didn't look up to see a lone Slade drone with a video camera twinkling among the streetlights.
Robin just stared into the death's head mask as he leaned on a wall at his room. He burst in the hall and helped dispatch the warring machines and faced the indignation and screaming from the others as they trudged back home. Raven was conspicuously silent.
'Way to go, Grayson. Really fumbled the ball here. No wonder Bruce doesn't like to work with a team.'
A knock interrupted his thoughts.
It was Raven with her arms folded. "Hello, sunshine girl." He realized his mistake. "Sorry."
"May I come in?"
"Sure, even if you plan to murder me in my room, alone." He tried to smirk.
"Not my style and don't always go for a quip. That's Beast Boy's shtick. That's enough." She still looked at the clippings.
"I noticed you were rather silent on the way back."
"I figured the others would yell at you more than I would."
"Yeah, worst was Starfire. She acted like she was so betrayed. Not I blame her." He was sinking deeper into his despair.
"Yes, but can you blame her? She idolizes you." She joined him at the wall.
"Yes, she does but…"
"You wish she wouldn't?"
"Not with this, not it comes to him."
"That and Batman."
"I don't understand."
"Everyone sees me as a curiosity, the one who lived with Batman and just have this fascination if I'm as crazy as he is. A social experiment to see how long you've put up with me. If she was human, I'd quite expect this but I don't know anything with her."
"You think that's what she sees you as?"
"No. But I don't get what about me she idolizes so much."
"Well…you don't sink into the darkness as much as you'd like to think you do. You're fine as long as you don't have anything to obsess with. You're intelligent, floss regularly, you lean towards handsome. What's not to like?" She was afraid to look at him and stared at the Dr. Light clipping again.
Robin tried to hide his blush. "Thank you. I didn't think you be in my fan club after what I did."
"No, I'm not. But…let's just say, your alter ego revealed some sides you keep hidden. And with good reason because you don't have to feel vulnerable. I just wished I saw the correlation sooner."
"I don't know. You're quite the detective." He smiled.
"Chip of the old blockhead."
"Oh, come now."
"That may be but that doesn't mean I'm aware. And realize to my chagrin that I'm flawed like the rest."
"Oh come on."
"Like your notes said, I'm flawed, I'm standoffish, and I keep hiding with my defense mechanisms, my quest to maintain my image at all costs. Feel free to disagree with me."
"Exactly. But that doesn't mean I don't want to keep being this way. I can rise above it, like you with Slade…and this."
Robin lightened when he heard that. "Really?"
"Especially since you know me so well, and I know you. Perhaps we can…help each other rise above it all." She wondered if Robin would take her proposal.
"Well…we are a lot alike. Just wished I didn't had to be masked so much to see that. And…I have to say, I enjoy your company as we have a lot to talk about on both ends it seems. More than I thought possible."
"Will wonders ever cease?" She gave a light smirk.
"No. They don't. Care to resume now?" He said hesitantly.
"If you want." She shrugged.
She turned to gaze at his masked eyes and actually wished she could rip off that damn mask and stare into his real eyes. Without a beat she said:
"Pink. Eye color?"
Leave a review if you wish and see you in the funny papers.