Well folks, let it never be said that I don't love the underdogs.
However, if I just did it the same old way everyone else did, it wouldn't be fun for me, or you. Nope nope nope, I have to go about this in typical convoluted DT style, and so we have What Evil Lurks... a sort of AU Neil Gaimen's The Sandman/Teen Titans crossover. The crossover won't IMMEDIATELY be clear, but rest assured, the Dreaming is a vital part of the story, and not all of our beloved Titan's are as they appear to be. Those of you familiar with The Sandman might figure out exactly what's going on round about chapter two or so... and believe me, it's a doozy.
With that being said, I hope this entertains. Please forgive my artistic license... I have much planned, indeed I do.
"So ya... Thought ya... Might like to... go to the show. To feel the warm thrill of confusion. That space cadet glow. Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see? If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes. You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise. Lights! Turn on the sound effects! Action!" -Pink Floyd, In the Flesh
It wasn't so much his manner that made her suspicious.
On the surface he was just like any of them... a young, cocky, exuberant example of energetic youth. Morally uplifted perhaps, perhaps even noble, but young nonetheless. For a long time, the surface was all she saw. She had fallen out of the practice of reading people, a practice she hadn't needed since the fall of Azarath. For a long time, the surface had been all there was to see of people, even her friends.
Especially her friends.
She wasn't being cruel, she wasn't being arrogant in her assumption... it wasn't assumption at all, to an empath as powerful as she. Each of her friends, Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg... were exactly what they appeared to be on the surface. They had no illusions, no unseen, murky depths.
They were what they were. As simple as that. There was comfort in that simplicity.
It made her weary to look at them, sometimes. They moved, they FELT, too fast for her, in her surprised, egg-shell fragile state, to keep up with them. She reacted with the same old emotional barriers, sarcasm and quiet, unblinking coldness. They were young, and she... she felt so very very old. Physical age meant nothing in this perception. Her battle was timeless, her battlefield far removed from the waking eye. It would never end, had never ceased, and days blurred and ran into nights with increasing regularity.
She couldn't remember the last time she'd slept a full night.
Of course she didn't feel frail. She didn't feel on her last legs, in need of surcease. She wasn't on the brink of defeat. Far from it. This life, this state, was all she'd ever known, and she'd long accepted it as part and parcel of her existence. Better to live on the edge than not to live at all.
Only he couldn't be read. Only he was at all a mystery. It wasn't just the mask he wore... such a thing was no barrier to her mind. Oh how she wished such a thing WOULD be a barrier to her, and that all she met wore such masks. All too often people's emotions invaded her space, leaving swirls of chaos in the well ordered, expertly tended sterility that was her mindscape. No, his feelings, his mind, were a blank to her. All she saw when she looked into him was the calm quietude of her own heart.
This in and of itself was no reason to be alarmed. Deeply centered, highly self controlled men exuded the same calm that she was capable of. Monks... Priests... Indeed, of any of them, he SHOULD have been the least easy to read. Unlike the others, he had no superpower crutch to lean upon. Training honed to a razor's edge, unbeatable iron-willed determination was his power. He was all that he was, and only rigid self discipline and inhuman calm could possibly have seen him to the place he was today.
Robin was quite possibly the most centered human being she had ever met. Despite the joking and social face he put on for their friends, inside these things, he was always that calm center of the storm.
Watching over them all.
Their fearless leader, a stranger bird.
To Beast Boy he was like an older brother, providing guidance and gentle, well meant teasing in equal measure, with just a measure of steel. To Cyborg he was a friendly rival, a yardstick to measure against, and a wall to put one's back against when the world turned hard. To Starfire...
Ah, Starfire. SHE was certainly no closed book. Her feelings toward him were like a blazing sun. Sometimes, Raven had to look away to avoid being burnt by them. To Starfire, he was gentle understanding. A teacher with infinite patience.
He was quite literally the glue that held the team together. Without him, they wouldn't have BEEN a team.
Still, that he fulfilled all of these roles was a startling thing, in one so young. He seemed to keep no time to himself. She found herself watching him out of morbid curiousity, wondering when he would slip in one of the roles that had been forced upon him, dreading that event.
It never happened.
What was he to her? His calm in the center of the worst sort of calamity was an anchor. Too often they found themselves in the midst of panic and chaos, surrounded by pain and despair... sometimes even blood and death. On these times, when the sudden strike of emotion was too great for her to weather, she looked to him, and there was shelter.
More importantly however, was the quiet understanding. He seemed to know the brink on which she walked. He seemed to bear silent witness to the war within. Rather than make her paranoid, rather than make her second guess her every movement, she took a morbid sort of comfort from the scrutiny. He was reassurance, a silent, never spoken understanding, a suicide pill.
If she ever fell, if she ever lost her way and turned to the poison her father would have her be, he would be there.
He would be there to end the threat.
She found herself almost believing he'd pull it off, too.
In any case, it was the little things that drew her attention to him. Little incidents, little quirks that pattered on the endlessly patient surface of her consciousness, until she began to feel, not know really, but FEEL, that there was something... WRONG about him.
It all came to a head one, in a rather cliched sort of way, "dark stormy night". Her father and her emotions had left her in a fragile state, and sleep... calm, restful sleep at least, had eluded her. She had climbed out of bed in her customary sweats and teeshirt, and padded her way to the kitchen to get some herbal tea in preparation for what she was rapidly coming to realize was going to be a long, sleepless night.
Of course, with her, she brought the customary horror novel. It seemed so much of her life's enjoyment she stole vicariously from the accounts of others. It was no cheap attempt to appear more gothic that made her read the novels she did. At it's most basic level, the horror genre was about cheating death, defeating the monsters within and without.
There is no sweeter draught then the avoidance of a certain death.
Even a certain Fate.
She heated the teapot, carefully watching it for the moment steam began to escape, lest the whistle awaken one of her teammates. She poured out the hot water into her cup, and set the bag in it to steep. Picking up the cup carefully, she turned.
A sudden flash of silent fire, and she found herself staring into her own reflection. She jumped, not so much scared as startled, and the movement sent hot, half steeped tea lapping onto her hand. With a hiss and a jerk she dropped the tea cup.
A hand snapped down so fast it seemed to stretch in front of her and caught the rim by the fingertips.
She watched, numb with fascination, as those nimble hands set the cup with nary a drop spilled onto the countertop.
For a moment neither of them spoke. The reflection she'd seen had been the white glass of his mask, the sudden illumination of an ill timed lightning strike muted by the soundproof walls of the titan tower and his own natural grace and calm presence catching her unawares. He was dressed in a similar outfit as she was, more appropriately male of course, but even in the solitude of the tower at 3 am he was still masked.
He grinned very slightly then, breaking the moment.
"Sorry about that, Rae. Are you alright?"
She blinked, then settled the weight of her cold mantle more firmly on her shoulders. The nickname was one she only tolerated from him, and even then, only just. "I'm fine. What are you doing up so late, Boy Wonder?"
A trick of the light twisted his grin strangely... was it her imagination, was he just grinning sheepishly, or was it an expression that spoke of hidden, secretive amusement?
"Nightmare." He said.
Her lips tightened. Nightmares were something she was infinitely familiar with. "You too, huh?"
He gave her no answer, merely arched one eyebrow.
Somewhat disturbed, she picked up her tea and turned away from him, towards the couch. Lightning illuminated the room again and for a split second she could swear his gaze had followed her speculatively. She settled in and turned on the small lamp near the couch she had set up for other sleepless nights. Still slightly unnerved, she forced herself to calm down and began to read.
"They only have as much power over you as you let them, you know."
She almost started again when his voice cut into the gloom. He was still in the kitchen, and the sound echoed strangely off the kitchen tiles. She set the book down and glared in his direction. He'd left the light off, moving about the kitchen in darkness.
"What are you doing, aside from annoying me?"
He was suddenly illuminated by the light from the refrigerator. He removed a wrapped plate and a couple of jars. He grinned.
"Roast beef sandwich. Only time I can eat like this without getting a guilt trip from the elf. Want one?"
She blinked, then narrowed her eyes slightly. "No-"
"You're missing out. There is an artistry to making a sandwich, you know. I am an artiste."
She cocked her head and gave him a dry look. "Sandwich artist, huh? I think Subway might have a trademark on that statement."
He never missed a beat. "They stole it from me."
She sighed. Truth be told, she WAS a little hungry. She decided to humor him. "Sure... I'll have-"
He grinned. "You don't get to tell the artist what paints he has to use. You will take what I give you and like it."
She narrowed her eyes again. "Suddenly I find my appetite for ALL things bull going away."
His grin turned into an almost smirk. "Trust me."
She blinked. Then reasoned that whatever he put in front of her, she didn't HAVE to eat it if she didn't like it.
She settled back into her book and continued to read. With anyone else in the room, she might have packed up and left, but his presence (though she would have never told him this) had a soothing effect on her. She was quite immersed in her book when a quiet cough brought her attention back to the real world. A quiet clink brought her attention to the roast beef sandwich sitting next to her on the couch. Robin, in typical defiance of gravity and the norms our society places on the proper way to sit down, was perched on the other arm of the couch, plate in one hand, glass of milk on the table next to him. He wasn't looking at her, in fact, he was watching the storm through the heavy plate windows.
Like a gargoyle. A very sexy, well built gargoyle...
She shook off the image and picked up the sandwich, taking a bite with some trepidation.
It evaporated instantly under the assault on her tastebuds. This was quite possibly the best goddamn sandwich she'd ever had in her life.
"How is it?" He never moved his gaze from the storm.
"It'll do." She said grudgingly.
He grinned slightly. "Alfred would have been happy to hear something approaching a complement about his sandwich making technique coming from you."
She took another bite. "Who?"
He shook his head slightly. They spent the next several minutes in companionable silence. She was content to go back to her book, and he, he just ate his sandwich and watched the grey sky. Anyone else might have been tempted to fill up the emptiness with meaningless noise, but her companion seemed to understand the beauty of a quiet moment. She found herself, without really meaning to, staring at him in profile. Whatever mystery he contemplated, whatever mystery he represented, it was hidden behind his calm, quiet surface.
"Why do you do it?" She whispered, shocked at herself for breaking the silence.
He never looked her way. "Why do I look out for all of them?"
She nodded, not quite sure how he knew what she had been thinking. She expected some sort of rote answer, like, they are my friends, that's what friends do. Or, I'm the leader of the team, they're my responsibility.
She was surprised, therefore, at his answer.
He turned his gaze to her, and without changing his neutral facial expression, answered tonelessly. "It's what is expected of me."
She found herself disliking his answer. It broke the routine, it invited further inquiry. It made her focus on him, made her take a stand.
"Aren't they your friends?"
He grinned at her then, but it was not a mocking grin. It was almost... gentle. "People in my position can't afford the luxury of friends, Raven."
Her eyes widened. He was quoting HER!
"How dare you." She hissed.
He raised an eyebrow.
"You think I LIKE being like this? You think I-"
He set down the empty plate. "You want to know what I think, Rae?" He didn't look at her, not yet. He was staring hard at the plate. Or perhaps through it.
Perhaps not seeing it at all.
She blinked. Her tirade died stillborn on her astonished lips. He took her hesitation as acceptance and pressed on.
"I think you use your father as an excuse to seperate yourself from humanity. I think the thought of opening yourself up to other people, to be exposed to the elements of humanity so terrifies you, that you'd rather face HELL alone."
Her mouth drifted open, a thousand startled rebukes on the tip of her tongue. How did he know about Trigon? How did he know about the Prophecy?
Now he looked up. She couldn't see his eyes but she felt his gaze on her, staring through her, burning away all of her secrets.
"I THINK, Raven, that your father is going to win one day because despite the rightness of your cause and the purity and nobility of your soul... you have nothing. You are nothing, because you will allow yourself nothing, and you have no one to fight for."
His words came at her not in a mocking, stinging torrent but a gentle, calm, soothing rain. He wasn't admonishing her. He wasn't berating her.
He was saddened at the prospect.
It cut her so much more deeply than anger would have. She felt her tight control slipping. The plate next to him vibrated for a moment, then exploded in a quiet shower of shards.
He never so much as jumped or started at the sound, even though one shard sliced his cheek, leaving a line of slowly dripping red on his face. He just watched her. She couldn't see his eyes but she knew what she'd see if she could see them.
That definately made it worse.
She forced herself back into that state of calm, closed her eyes and forced herself to meditate. "Azarath, Metrion, Xinthos, Azarath, Metrion, Xinthos, Azarath..."
When she opened her eyes he was gone. She scowled. Her appetite for reading suddenly gone, she stood up. The shards of the plate were scattered everywhere, there was simply no way she could gather them all up tonight. She suddenly felt exhausted. Exhausted and heartsick. For her the plate represented her life... the moment she lost control it shattered beyond repair, turning to sharp, dagger-like little pieces that cut and rent the lives of those around her. She knew she should pick them up, but she just couldn't bring herself to extend the effort. Floating herself over the mess and down the hall was almost an insurmountable task, but somehow she got herself into her room. She collapsed on her bed and drifted into a deathlike slumber.
For once she didn't dream of four red eyes.
The next morning she arose feeling better than she had in a long time. Her dreams had been untroubled and calm for once, as though her expenditure of emotional turbulence had left her too drained to scare. She stretched a moment, when her hand touched something cold that clinked.
She started, then sat up and looked.
A plate sat on the bed beside her, a plate with thousands and thousands of hair fine cracks littering its surface. She picked it up tentatively, half expecting it to crumble in her hands. It was solid, slightly cool. She turned it over in her hands but could find no missing pieces, not a single one.
She blinked again. It was inconceivable to her how much time it must have taken to find every single piece that had come off of this. Even more impossible the task of assembling the thousands upon thousands of shards into the whole. Simply impossible. Even she might have been unable to do so, and she could have done it much easier with her telekinesis and psychometry powers. He must have been up ALL night...
Her gaze caught a note on her bed. She blinked and looked down. It must have detached from the bottom of the plate and fluttered to the bedspread without her noticing it.
She picked it up with a trembling hand.
It had a single sentence written on it in plain, no nonsense script.
"Broken things can be mended."
It was unsigned, but there was no need for a signature.
She knew who had done it.
She stood up suddenly, her expression unreadable, and walked over to her dresser. Carefully, perhaps reverantly, she set the plate on top of it. Then she turned and, with purpose in her stride, left her room.
Garfield Logan was a curious sort.
Part of the reason he was such a joking, lackadaisical individual was because he found humour was a great disarming tactic. Of course, BB was disingenious enough not to realize that his sense of humour was a manipulation tactic, he just reasoned that he liked it when people laughed at his antics.
He never explored the reasons WHY he liked it.
Of course, this is not to speak badly of BB's character, on the contrary, he honestly wanted to help his friends. Which was why the two most mysterious members of their group, two birds of a feather, as they had often been called, were such a contant source of fascination and frustration for him. He honestly liked and respected their leader, but the Boy Wonder held everyone at a courteous, but distinct distance. He gave all the signals and signs of a man who truely cared about his place as Team Leader, laughed and joked, taught and pushed for excellence in all of them, but despite this, Beast Boy couldn't help but feel that he held some part of himself apart from them.
He sometimes wondered why that was the case.
Raven, on the other hand, gave no indication of wanted to be a part of the team, indeed, of the human race for that matter. Of course, after the incident with her mirror BB understood why that was. Such an act of self sacrifice and nobility shocked BB to his very core. He'd never thought such suffering in service of humanity was possible. Despite this, some ineffable thing told him that Raven cared about them, in her fashion.
Even IF he annoyed the living shit out of her.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the events which transpired on that fateful Thursday morning damn near gave poor Beast Boy a stroke from the speed at which his speculations flew.
It started normally enough. Beast Boy was having his customary tofu versus eggs argument with Cyborg, an arguement grown so familiar that both of them slipped into the roles of tormentor and tormentee with equal practiced ease, like a well worn glove. There was comfort there, well meant teasing on both sides, even though for his part, it was NOT just an idle argument. He honestly didn't understand how anyone could eat the flesh of animals, although in his defense, Cyborg probably felt more empathy towards a toaster than a rooster.
Hmm... that was a good one... might have to remember that.
In any case, the first indicator that anything might be wrong was when the Boy Wonder left the elevator. Oh for the most part he was every inch his implacable, confident self. Uniform well pressed and presented, unruly hair in customary position, everpresent mask hiding his eyes from the world.
What drew BB's gaze as well as his speculation, was the inch and a half long scabbed over gash high on his cheekbone, just under his eye.
He snagged a plate of food and seated himself across from the feuding pair, opening the daily newspaper and reading quietly.
Beast Boy's imagination began to run wild.
"Hey Cyborg..." He sniffled theatrically. "Ain't it a shame how quickly the kids grow up?"
Cyborg blinked, pausing in mid-tirade. He eyed Beast Boy suspiciously. "Huh? What the hell're you talkin' about, B?"
BB took up a half Shakespearean pose of lament, gesturing towards the Boy Wonder, who for his part took a bite of his toast and ignored the green elf's antics.
"Oh how quickly time passes, from sunrise to sunset. Our dear leader, our first titan, is showing his age."
Cyborg blinked, looking at Robin, then back at Beast Boy. "What're you babbling about?"
"Cy, our little boy is growing up. Robin... if you needed help learning how to shave, you should have ASKED."
Robin never spared him a glance, continuing to eat his toast. In between bites he turned the pages of the newspaper and spoke without looking up. "Why would I ask you about something you have no experience with, BB?"
Cyborg grinned at this, then got into the game. "Oh I dunno, Rob... I mean, shaving with a machete is dangerous, bro. Maybe you should just let it grow out... You might look pretty stylin' with a goatee... maybe some sideburns. Hey I know... you could go the Rob Zombie route, you know? Psychological warfare and all that, SCARE the criminals into giving up, right?"
Beast Boy winced. "Ohh... BURN." He and Cyborg shared a high five.
Robin drank some orange juice. "Why don't we make a team effort of it. You might look pretty scary yourself, Cy... you know, half an afro and all."
Cyborg winced. "Ouch... that's hitting blow the belt, Rob."
"Don't dish it out if you can't take it, bro." Robin remarked calmly, flipping the page.
"Seriously... how did you get the cut, Rob?" BB asked curiously.
Any answer Robin might have given was lost in the chaos following the incident which took place next.
Raven entered the room suddenly, her usually bland expression strangely tense. Beast Boy blinked and looked in her direction, as did Cyborg after a moment's confusion. Raven's amethyst eyes slowly panned over the room, taking in all of her friends, then locking on the tranquil Boy Wonder. He seemed to sense her gaze on him and lowered his paper, cocking one eyebrow upward in a questioning expression.
She resolutely walked up to him, only a couple of feet away. Cyborg and Beast Boy watched, the unmistakable tension making them spellbound waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Robin." She said quietly, although whether it was to insure she had his full attention or just a greeting they weren't sure.
"Raven." He acknowledged, his answer also hovering between a confirmation of his attention and a morning greeting.
Then she slapped him.
To further make the scene as disturbingly surreal as possible, he turned back to her calmly, red mark blooming on his cheek, like he was EXPECTING something like that.
"THAT," She said quietly, but slightly hoarsely. "Was for coming into my room uninvited."
He nodded quietly. "I'm sorry."
Beast Boy and Cyborg gaped. Cyborg looked like he was going to pass out, half chewed eggs dropping out of his open mouth, and Beast Boy hammered his chest in a vain attempt to restart his furiously overworked heart.
Then she reached up hesitantly, then cupped his cut cheek gently. Her eyes glowed for a moment.
When she removed her hand, the cut was gone as though it had never been.
He raised his eyebrow again. "What was that for?" He asked curiously.
She didn't answer him, she simply took her customary mug of tea and left the room.
Cyborg and Beast Boy looked at him in goggle eyed surprise. He followed her exit and then, once she had left the room, picked up his paper and started reading again.
"Dude, WHEN were you in her room! what the HELL were you DOING in her room! What the HELL was that all about?" Beast Boys questions flowed out, intersparsing with Cyborgs own sputtered queries.
Robin finished his breakfast and set his cutlery on top of the plate, folding the paper under his arm. Setting his empty glass on it, he picked it up and looked at them both squarely.
"To answer your questions... I was in her room last night... What I was doing there is none of your damn business..."
He carried the plate over to the sink and set it inside, walking towards the elevator. "As for what that was all about..."
He stepped inside. "Making a stand."
The door shut resolutely, silencing any further outcry.
Starfire drifted into the room at that point, cheerfully humming to herself. "Joyous greetings, friend Cyborg, friend Beast Boy. Has the ritual fast breaking begun?" She faltered to a halt, blinking in confusion.
"What has transpired? You both look as though you'd seen a goose."
Cyborg just shook his head, and Beast Boy continued to stare at the elevator, his mouth open.
"That's ghost, Star." BB corrected dazedly.
The Tameranian began to worry. "Please... what has happened, friends? Where is friend Raven?" She paused, blushing slightly. "Friend Robin as well?"
Beast Boy closed his mouth with a snap and looked at her, as though noticing her for the first time. He turned his gaze to Cyborg, and the two of them spoke at exactly the same time.
"The Twilight Zone."
Starfire blinked rapidly. As usual, the answer she received had only confused her further.