Raven sat bolt upright. She didn't need a clock to tell her she was up early, back in Azarath she'd been taught how to rely on her own body rhythms and her internal clock had never let her down. Quietly she brushed her bed covers aside and walked over to her wardrobe. Without bothering to turn on the light she picked out a fresh cloak and fastened it over a clean leotard before she pulled on her knee high boots. Not making a sound she instinctively fell into her soul state of a large raven and phased to in front of a seemingly abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of town.
She barely spared a glance at the neglected building as she walked in through the open side door and stood still for a moment, allowing her eyes to adjust from the darkness to the semi-lit inside. Her smile lasted for only an instant as she walked over to the plain wooden table in the centre of the floor and sat down on the closest of the medically clean, metal chairs. Her smile reappeared as she picked up the still hot cup of chamomile tea and sipped it. Perfect. She studied the chessboard in front of her. This time it was an elegant glass set, she had chosen the white pieces.
"Punctual as always Raven," commented a coldly emotionless voice as a figure detached itself from the shadows and sat opposite her. She nodded once to acknowledge his presence before her graceful hand reached out and moved one of the pawns, her cloak rustling in the silence before her opponent made his move. As they played Raven thought back to when this started two weeks ago…
Robin was slightly crouched in a battle stance with his bo-staff outstretched and his team behind him. He glared at the masked man in front of him.
"Slade… what do you want!" Behind the dual protection of his army of robots and his mask Slade smiled, he never got tired of the hatred in Robins voice as he asked that favourite question. In response to an unseen signal Slades robots attacked the Titans. With barely enough time to say his catch phrase of "Titans GO!" Robin leapt into action, his staff twirling as he disposed of every foe to come his way. Slade watched for a few seconds. The boy was improving… but then what else could he expect from the only one worthy of becoming his apprentice.
Robins cry of rage alerted the others as he watched his nemesis walk out of the large hall but with the robots demanding all his attention he couldn't do anything. Raven immediately reacted. Leaving Cyborg to cover her with his canon she stopped fighting and rose a few feet into the air. With her familiar chant of "Azarath Metrion Zinthos," and a sweep of her arms all of the robots were encased in black and white energy and thrown against the walls, allowing her and her team-mates to pursue the worst criminal they had ever encountered… and the one they could never capture.
Too caught in the moment to compliment the young sorceress, Robin led his team to the hallway Slade had disappeared down. Only to find it divided into five different paths. Without a word the team split up, Raven taking the furthest corridor to the left as her friends ran, or flew, down the others. Raven levitated to gain speed but she couldn't hear or see any one ahead of her in the brightly lit, white hallway, although it did turn a corner every ten metres. She sighed to herself, she was sure Slade hadn't taken this path but she'd follow it to the end nonetheless.
As she turned yet another corner in this single pathed labyrinth she stopped and stared at what lay ahead. So much for no choice, she muttered to herself as she looked at the two corridors facing her. Which way… wait. Raven swung to face the right hand one. She could've sworn she'd felt a glimmer of emotion from down that way… maybe she had picked the right corridor, she thought as she quickly flew down her choice. Robin would hate that, she smiled as she slowed down slightly. There was no use flying into a trap, she'd rather let Slade escape again than kill herself by not showing enough caution. After all this was one of Slades hideouts, there was no telling what were in these halls.
Raven came to a halt as the corridor ended in a wall of white. That was odd, she'd been sure… she let herself drop to the ground and slowly walked over to the wall, her hands outstretched. As her pale grey fingers touched the wall she heard a click and hastily backed away. More clicking, all of it coming from the wall… this wasn't good… Raven had the feeling she'd just activated a trap. Suddenly a black form emerged from the adjacent wall and shoved her towards the opposite one. She gasped in surprise as instead of slamming against a solid surface she was pushed into a room. She fell to the floor as Slade slammed the door shut before an explosion filled the corridor. Slade sighed before turning to face the teenager still lying on the floor where he had thrown her.
"Did you have to do that?" Raven thought she detected a hint of annoyance in his voice. In that instant Raven stood up and prepared for battle. Instead of imitating her move Slade sighed once more.
"Raven… these walls are not only bomb proof, they block all communication and are also designed to repel magic. Due to your actions we are both now trapped in an empty room. As I have no escape route I have no wish to fight you and risk Dr. lights fate," Slade slowly moved away from the door and, careful not to provoke her or make any move she could consider hostile, he walked over to the closest wall and sat down with his legs crossed. "As we may be in here for some time I suggest we make the most of it. I'll stay on my side if you stay on yours," he finished, watching her reaction. As he guessed Raven immediately attempted to phase through the floor… with no luck.
Not letting her guard down she slowly backed away from him to the opposite wall, copying his actions as she sat down.
Raven risked looking away from Slade long enough to pull out her titans communicator. Static. Apparently he'd been telling the truth, but then she already knew that. Sometimes being an empath was useful, it meant that no one could lie to her face to face. The young sorceress watched the blackly armoured warrior across from her for a few minutes before trusting herself to speak in her usual monotone.
"I thought you always had an escape plan," Slades eye opened as he looked at the young sorceress, as they were going to be here for a long time he decided to not be entirely antisocial.
"Not always. This was definitely not part of any of my plans." Raven studied Slades motionless form for a few minutes before continuing the conversation.
"Why did you push me out of the blast?"
"I was merely in a hollow covered by a hologram. You were between me and safety," Slade left it at that, not caring to explain that although he had no trouble murdering anyone in his way he rarely let anyone die if it didn't benefit him.
They allowed the silence to continue for a while before Raven decided to establish what the plan was…
"Is the plan what I think it is?"
"If you mean waiting for your friends to get fed up chasing shadows in my hideout, regroup, discover they can't find you and decide to come looking then yes, it is." Raven nodded at Slades rather sarcastic response. They were going to be here a long time…
THREE HOURS LATER… … …
Raven opened one eye slightly as she continued her chanting. She saw Slade was also in a meditative pose. She closed her eye and continued meditating a few feet off the ground, her cloak mere millimetres from the floor. Who knew Slade meditated? She supposed she shouldn't be surprised, it did explain how he could hide his presence from her and why his emotions rarely ever showed through. As her mind started to empty once more she wondered if her friends where searching for her yet…
FIVE HOURS LATER… …
Raven was bored, very bored. Despite their meditation she could feel herself getting more and more frustrated, and felt Slades annoyance at the tedium as well. She concentrated on her breathing, there was no way she was going to relent enough to try and start a conversation with Slade. No way…
ONE HOUR LATER…
"I've never heard of Azarath before…"
Raven nodded, "I'm not surprised, very few have. They left this realm many hundreds of years ago, you have to search through some very fragile scrolls to find any reference to it,"
"Is your colouring common there?"
THREE HOURS LATER… … …
Raven sighed, their conversation had drifted to a halt over an hour ago. Mostly due to neither of them wanting to reveal very much of themselves and the fact that despite rather similar tastes in literature neither of them had much to say to the other. What were you meant to say to someone whom you were sworn enemies with?
TWO HOURS LATER… …
Slade felt his eye being drawn to the only non-living thing in the otherwise featureless room. Tucked in the corner, as if it had been thrown there by some errant child, was a rather shabby cardboard box. Inside was a simple wooden chess set. He didn't even know how it had gotten into this room, he never even came to this section normally. His gaze shifted to Raven, he noted how she was also staring at the box. Her eyes met his for a second before both of them shook their heads slightly. They weren't that desperate… not yet…
ONE HOUR LATER…
"Check," came Ravens monotone voice.
By unspoken arrangement they had both stayed on their previously agreed sides of the room, the chessboard placed exactly in the centre with the two recluses sitting cross-legged. To his surprise, Slade was enjoying himself. He had swiftly realised that although she relied on magic in battle Raven was a very analytical thinker, something he had never realised before. He had thought she relied on intuition alone but she was definitely an accomplished chess player. Behind his mask Slade smiled slightly as he moved his bishop to take her castle and ending the check. If he'd looked up he would have seen an almost identical smile on her face as they both carefully examined the board, executing skilful attacks and counter attacks.
TWO HOURS LATER…
Slade stared at the board and carefully moved his Queen into position before saying the word to end the game,
Raven nodded as the both of them started to reposition their pieces. They had already played four games and so far it was a draw. Although she had been hesitant to admit it at first Raven was having more fun than she had in a very long time. There was nothing better than a contest of strategy, she could remember long nights back on Azarath playing similar games with the priests. One of the few times in her childhood when it hadn't mattered that she was so different. Slade was a worthy opponent, his attention to detail, the very thing that made him so dangerous as a criminal, made every move important. She couldn't play these games with her friends, Starfire wasn't competitive enough, Beast Boy could never think more than two moves ahead, Cyborg just had no interest and Robin… well he was too busy either training or obsessing about Slade. Rather ironic really.
Ravens grey hand paused, hovering above the board… had she heard something? She looked towards the door. There it was again… Raven ran over to the door.
"IN HERE!" her normally flat voice raised as loud as possible.
"… Raven?" She recognised that voice, faint though it was.
"Cyborg! I'm in here!" The relief in Ravens voice at being found was evident.
"Guys! She's over here!" Raven heard the rest of the group hurry over to the door. She heard Robins voice,
"Raven? Are you hurt?"
"No, I'm fine but I can't use my powers on the walls,"
"You sure you're ok?" Raven rolled her eyes at Beast Boys question.
"Beast Boy, for the last seventeen hours I've been trapped in a room with Slade…"
"Raven has he hurt you?"
For the first time Slade spoke through the door in his normal icy tone.
"Robin I'm psychotic not suicidal. There is a difference," Raven rolled her eyes at the boy wonders hiss.
"He hasn't laid a finger on me Robin. Now can you please get me out of this place?"
"Sure thing Rae!" came Cyborgs reply as he aimed his sonic canon at the door.
"I really wouldn't recommend that," commented an exasperated Slade.
"You shut up!" Robin almost growled at him.
The next thing Slade and Raven heard was four distinct yelps as Cys weapon ricocheted off the walls, only just missing the Titans as it made it's way down the blackened corridor. Slade withheld a small laugh at the sound and Raven sighed.
"Now we've established your weapons won't work let's try something else shall we?" Slade listened to Robins muttered curses for a few seconds before continuing. "Good. Now to your left of the door is a key pad…"
"There's a hologram hiding it, something I believe you're familiar with Robin," replied Slade, referring to Robins stint as Red X. Robins mutterings became more graphic. "The code is 2 9 T 1 L G F,"
Raven was getting worried at this turn of events, why was Slade being so helpful? And why was he standing at the far end of the room?
"Wait until the red light disappears and then press the enter button…" Robin did as instructed and the door separating her and her friends opened… as did the unseen one next to Slade. Without a word Slade walked out of the room as Robin charged in, almost hitting the door as it shut behind Slade.
The rest of the team turned their attention to…
"RAVEN!" Starfire gave her friend one of her more bone crushing hugs. "We are all very glad you are unharmed! We searched for many hours!" Star reluctantly let go as Cyborg pointed out Ravens need of oxygen… only to pull her into a super human hug himself. Raven smiled as he pulled away.
"Yeah girl, you had us worried,"
"I knew we'd find you,"
Robin turned from the closed door to his team-mate and grinned. Even though Slade had escaped, again, he was more than happy to find out she was ok, he would have killed Slade if anything happened to Raven. He caught her pleading look.
"Guys I think we should take Raven home, she has to be hungry by now," Raven nodded, grateful at her friends interruption as she tried to stifle a yawn.
"… and tired. I was too afraid to sleep…" the exhausted Raven fell into her surrogate big brothers arms. Cyborg smiled as he picked her up, it was good to have her back.
"Is friend Raven going to be alright?"
Robin nodded, "she'll be fine Star. She's just tired, let's get her home."
"Checkmate," Raven said as she looked up from the board and into the orange and black mask. Slade watched her stand.
"Same time tomorrow then Raven?" he asked as she faintly smiled at him.
"Of course…" her face turned back to her normal emotionless pretence as Slade also stood. "This only lasts until the next time you attack the Titans Slade," he smiled beneath the mask.
"Then I'll have to make sure our paths don't cross for a very long time. I'd hate to lose such a bewitching chess partner," Slade saw the small smile on her face as she blushed slightly and walked out the door. He watched her go before clearing away the chess set and her mug. He was having fun in their little tournaments and started to look forward to the next night. The armoured villain walked over to the pile of papers detailing every professional match of chess on public record. He was always competitive, Slade smiled to himself thinking of their last game… strangely he didn't mind when Raven won…