A/N: I probably wrote and rewrote sections of this chapter more than any other chapter in this damn story. It isn't as long as I intended it to be, and the last part of it didn't turn out the way I expected it to. Sometimes I find my writing taking on a life of its own. It's sort of like a kid that way. One minute precocious and charming, you turn around and all of the sudden junior has a barbell in his lip and like five earrings, and is dating some guy named Dante.

Still, regardless of the unexpected changes they undergo, you can't stop loving them.

They're a part of you.

My writing is like that for me. Corny and sappy sounding, I know, but hey... it's true. Special thanks go to Emaniahilel, for helping me make this a better chapter. Let's just say that she helped to dispell any lingering doubts that I wasn't on the right path.

In any case, this is a surprisingly important chapter, not so much for the revelations as to what's really going on, but rather for the personal realizations that the characters come to but for the I've decided that I will play this story like a good poker hand... close to the chest and stony faced. The speculations as to what's going on in the review section fly furiously with each new chapter, but suffice to say, I don't think ANYONE is expecting what I have planned.

Starfire has a rather extended appearance in this chapter, and the plot, of course, thickens.
I particularly like the way that Star came out, I think I have a good handle on her character,
and at some point in time I might explore her a bit better... there's depth there that hasn't been explored in the fandom... alot of Starfire involved fanfiction is trite and shallow. No one has come forward with a recommendation for a good Starfire fic, so I'm forced to assume that either the Raven/Robin fandom is the wrong crowd to be asking (probable) or that there ARE no good Starfire fics (unlikely).

It's not a betrayal to explore other relationships among the Titans. My preference will always be Robin/Raven,
but writing fanfiction other than that isn't a betrayal. I will NEVER understand the flame wars about pairings. If you don't like the idea about a particular pairing, don't read it. There's enough intolerance in the world, we don't need something so petty to be added.

So I'm a civilian now. It's weird. Florida is gonna take some adjustment, but the weather is surprisingly similar to Japan's so at least THAT'S not a problem.

Oh, and Pirates of the Carribean II was bad ass.

Yo ho.

"Love is born with lightning bolts, electro-magnetic force. Burning skin and fireworks, a storm on a raging course. Like a force of nature, love can fade with the stars at dawn. Sometimes it takes all your strength, just to keep holding on. At the speed of love, a radiance that travels. At the speed of love, my heart goes out to you. Love is born with solar flares, from two magnetic poles. It moves towards a higher plane, where two halves make two wholes. Like a force of nature, love shines in many forms. One night we are bathed in light, one day carried away in the storms. At the speed of love, nothing changes faster. Than the speed of love, my heart goes out to you. We don't have to talk, we don't even have to touch. I can feel your presence in the silence that we share. Got to keep moving at the speed of love. Nothing changes faster, than the speed of love. Got to keep on shining, at the speed of love. Nothing changes faster, than the speed of love, my heart goes out to you..." -The Speed of Love, Rush

Still, that's something for a later date.

She wasn't as naive as everyone thought she was.

Many people, sadly even her teammates, made the assumption that just because Starfire could not express herself as eloquently as her comrades that she was naive and more than a little childish. Certainly she had been unaware of how much growing up she had to do when she came to this planet, but she was not a child. She had eyes and a heart. She could see, and she knew what she felt when she felt it.

There were drawbacks to learning a language from mind to mind contact. Tamaranians hadn't used this method when dealing with aliens for a long time. She'd been so sure, her need to understand had been so great, however, that she'd attempted it.

Despite the drawbacks, it was still the most effective method for quick assimilation of a foreign language. Regretfully, it translated the words but not the full connotations behind them. For example, it had taken Starfire some time to figure out that the word "cool" didn't just refer to the relative temperature of something. It could also mean that something was interesting or good. The word hot could have the exact same connotation as cool, depending on the context. Hence, something could be cool, hot, and warm at the same time. Robin was a good example of something that was cool, hot, and warm, though she'd never quite figured out how that worked. She had been embarrassed and confused many times. Such was a regrettable necessity.

Of course the biggest drawback was that the mind you touched, however fleeting,
left an impression on you. This was why it was so dangerous. One had to be sure the person one was in contact with wasn't a deviant.

Having one's mind torn asunder by a violent and consuming personality was a terrible way to end one's existence.

Of course, touching a mind so filled with integrity, with compassion and honor,
and yet at the same time tinged with guilt, sadness, and the beat of an inescapable duty had its own drawbacks.

From the moment she had touched his mind with that single hasty, if necessary, touch of lips, she had been lost. In many ways he made her the person she was today. You couldn't become so intimate with such a mysterious, frightening and wonderful mind without losing a part of yourself forever. She would always consider Earth her home now, even though she had not been born here.

The reason was simple. Home is where the heart is.

She wished sometimes that she could speak to Robin in the manner she would speak to her own people. It was so much easier to express love in Tamaranian than it was to try and use English. When she had remarked to Robin once that he was a ball of gas in whose emanations she wished to linger, he'd given her a look that was both slightly alarmed and vaguely confused. In an effort to spare her feelings he had nodded, smiled, and thanked her... but she could tell that what she meant, what she had REALLY meant, hadn't come through.

Elinu Este tulin Este Estenan, elinu este fingwe elino.

Your light is the light of the Sun, your light completes me.

She hadn't had the courage to try again.

So while her comrades slept the sleep of the just, she stayed up far past the point of exhaustion to greet her friends when they returned from this mission his duty would not let him set aside for a better time. It was important that they realize the home fires were burning, no matter what excuses he had made about exhaustion. Robin and Raven seemed distracted and insular of late, and she would try, with her sunny disposition, to take away some of their burden. She was very strong, she knew, and though she misunderstood humanity some of the time, she understood friendship. The burden was not too much for her to bear.

Of course they were gone far later than she expected. Despite her best efforts she fell asleep waiting for them, and only awakened when the elevator passed by the main floor. Startled awake, she floated to the elevator and waited patiently for it to open.

It was a long time in doing so. She bit her lip impatiently and stared at the thing in annoyance. In a Tameranian household there was no need for such a thing, one had simply to fly to the appropriate floor and have done with it.

Poor humans. To never know the joy of flying without restraint, free in the wind. Even though she flew, Raven could never really understand that concept. Some invisible chains kept Raven bound even as she escaped the bonds of earth,
self-imposed chains, the most binding and unbreakable of them all. She viewed friend Raven with sadness, pity, and quiet respect. While she didn't understand the reasons that Raven denied herself everything, her time spent in the sorcoresses body had taught her that they were damn good ones. She respected the girl's wisdom and restraint, and trusted her all the more for it.

It only made her a little sad. She simply endeavored to show Raven all the harder that she was loved.

It took some time for the elevator to return to her floor, which puzzled the Tameranian somewhat, until it occurred to her that perhaps the two of them had lingered inside, thus preventing the elevator to return to her floor.

A slowly growing, strange feeling of alarm began to tremor in her. Puzzled, she tapped her foot impatiently.

Finally the elevator doors swung open and she entered the appropriate floor,
waiting the five seconds or so it took to get to its destination. Upon arrival she flew out of the small space, her eyes flicking down the hallway and alighting on an upset potted plant that had spilled a small amount of dirt onto the floor.

There was no sign of Robin or Raven.

She flew down the hallway to Raven's door and, though she felt a small flush of guilt at doing so, pressed her ear against the door.

Robin was speaking quietly. She had to strain to hear her words.

"-Without wings, he could see things that other people didn't want to be seen.
go places others could not. He and the knight to whom he was a squire. He had never wondered why he was able to do these things others could not. Of course,
if he thought about it, perhaps it was because people thought he could."

Starfire frowned slightly, wondering at the strangely bereft tone in Robin's voice. What was he saying?

"Little boys aren't REALLY supposed to fly, and little boys aren't really supposed to fight monsters. Fighting monsters is for knights and other monsters, not little boys. It was inevitable that he would make a mistake. One day, a beautiful Lady came to the little boy... and the little boy saw that she was sad, and asked her why."

"Your story was ending, but not because it should be that way."

"The little boy didn't understand, even though he was very very smart, so he asked what that meant."

Was he telling Raven a... what was it? A bed story? No, a bed time story. That wasn't fair! She wanted a bedtime story too! She'd thought that might be fun ever since she'd heard of the custom but hadn't considered asking Robin to do so. A momentary pang of jealousy flickered through her.

"You see, the little boy couldn't keep up with everyone's expectations, but he was a good little boy and he tried very very hard. So hard, in fact, that one day his little body couldn't keep up anymore. The Lady asked the little boy if there was anything he wished, anything at all and the little boy said..."

"The boy said..."

"I'm very tired, and I would like to sleep, but who will the people have to expect things from now? They will all be sad if there isn't a wonderful little boy to fight monsters and fly and see things people don't want him to see."

"The Lady smiled sadly and said, I'll see what I can do... don't worry. You can rest now."

"There was a fluttering of wings... And the little boy was gone."

Starfire frowned. This didn't sound like a pixie tale. Robin was telling it wrong. There didn't seem to be any princesses, or knights... not even a dragon. Perhaps he was out of practice.

"The Lady went on a journey. It was not a long journey, no journey was ever too long or too short for her, they were always just the right length. She traveled to a place you can search for your whole life and never find, though you visit it nightly. She went to her Brother and told him the story. Her brother's heart was hurt, and he asked of his realm, is there, anywhere, one that would give up his dream to tell a different story? One by one those who lived in his realm answered.

"No my Lord, for I am a Raven, not a little boy."

"No my Lord, I am a Librarian, not a little boy."

"No Boss, I've got too much damn work to do already."

"The Lady's Brother turned then to the lowest depths of his realm, to a place seldom traveled, and found one who had not answered his call."

"He lived in a closet, sometimes in a mirror, and he knew that he was a monster. Not the bad sort of monster, not the hurt people kind of monster, but the monster who shows them their faults. He wasn't always the good sort of monster though."

Well that at least made sense. Monsters were part of pixie... no... not pixie,
that didn't sound right. Elf tales? Boggart tales? Fairy tales, THAT was it.

Robin paused again for a very long time and Starfire strained to hear, thinking perhaps he had gone too quiet for her to hear through the door. After a moment,
however, he continued in a whisper that Starfire could barely hear.

"This made him very sad. And the king of stories asked him, why did you not answer my call?"

"The monster was silent."

"The King of Stories would not be dissuaded. He asked the Monster, Will you be the wonderful boy?"

"The monster, after a long moment of deep consideration, replied."

"I don't know how to be a little boy. I nearly don't know how to be a good monster."

And the King of Stories said... just look into his eyes, and you will have your answer."

"So he did. The end."

It was silent for a long time, then Raven's quiet, dignified voice spoke up in the silence. Starfire almost jumped at the sound, it was so unexpected.

"So which are you, Robin? Which is the real you?" She whispered.

"Both. Neither. Sometimes not even I know." He whispered back. "But I know.
what I'm trying to be."

Starfire frowned, confused. It was like they were speaking in code. She found that she lacked some vital bit of information that would make all of these riddles make sense (A/N: I'm sure some of you out there can sympathize. Hehe.).

Raven spoke again, her voice sounding tired, and strangely, almost on the verge of tears, to Starfire. "I don't want to go to sleep, Robin. I know he'll be waiting for me. After a day like today... he always is. There is... there's no mercy in him."

Who is waiting? Who would hurt her friend? Starfire wanted to shout that she would protect Raven, but she wasn't supposed to be listening. Suddenly the door clicked as they always did before opening and Starfire stumbled backwards, then flashed up and flattened herself against the ceiling, her face crimson with embarrassment and fear of discovery. Robin stepped halfway out into the hallway, then looked back into the room.

"All you ever had to do was ask, Rae." He said back into the room. He touched the button and the door closed.

Starfire wished she could see his expression but from her current angle all she could see was the top of his head. She expected to be spotted any moment, but as the Boy Wonder turned around he seemed greatly preoccupied with something. He leaned quietly against Raven's door and crossed his arms, his face in an expression of deeply troubled thought.

He stayed like this for several minutes, and Starfire nearly trembled with the urge to yell at him to go away. Finally he thrust himself from the wall and turned, walking slowly away from Raven's door towards his own quarters. He rounded the bend of the corridor and disappeared from view.

Starfire waited several minutes to ensure that he had ample time to get to his quarters, her heart hammering in her chest, then slowly eased down from the ceiling and peeked around the corner. The hallway was empty. She let out a deep sigh.

On the one hand, that Robin cared deeply enough about Raven to try to comfort her made Starfire's heart warm. It fit exactly in line with the sort of person that she perceived him to be. On the other hand, she couldn't help but feel jealous, at least a little.

It saddened her that such an unworthy feeling was inside her, but at the same time, she couldn't help but feel that way. Robin was everything she could have wanted, was exactly what she wanted in a boy. She resolved to keep a closer eye on him.

With that decided, she turned to her own quarters and quietly went to bed.

Raven twisted slightly in her sleep, a quiet murmur of dismay slipping from her lips. A tear slowly slipped down the side of her cheek, and she obliterated it by turning her face toward her pillow, as though trying to hide from whatever night terrors were tormenting her.

She sat in a plain wooden chair that was just comfortable enough to sit in rather than stand, but not comfortable enough to WANT to sit in it. Disorientation struck her and she tried to put her hand to her forehead, but she found that she could not move. Her gaze shifted slowly to the right, and she froze, one delicate eyebrow going up in confusion.

Her other selves, her emotions, were all lined up in a box of some sort,
looking, depending on the emotion being observed, cruelly triumphant, absolutely untouchable, confused, attentive and worried, proud and defiant, hopelessly optimistic, and scared completely stiff. Courage, in particular was being physically restrained somehow, Raven could see her fighting her bonds.

Of course it wasn't rope that bound her, it was shadow. No, darkness made manifest and tangible. She realized with a sudden stunned epiphany that she was in a court room.

The clump clump clump of heavy boots on a wooden floor, and Raven turned her gaze, then gasped in shock. A hateful orange and black mask leaned down close to her, one baleful dark eye transfixing both of her amethyst ones like a shark. At any moment she expected it to roll over white, and ferocious jaws to open up to swallow her whole, such was the sense of palpable cold and predatory cunning oozing from him. The mark of scath glinted faintly on that diabolical forehead,
but he seemed to take no pleasure in looming over her.

This was Slade, he took pleasure in nothing but power, and this wasn't HIS power being wielded here.

"Ah, I see our little storm crow has joined us at last. Well princess... it's been... a long time."

She scowled. "Slade. If you think-"

He leaned back and turned so that she beheld him in profile, that one eye glaring away from her now. "I don't have to think, princess. I don't have to do much of anything but caper and play the role set before me. It's a lot less painful that way. I would have thought you learned THAT by now."

He paused and turned his face to her. "But then... you children always have been slow learners."

"I have NOTHING to learn from you, Slade.," She hissed.

"Now now... temper temper. Is that what it's come to? I would expect this sort of moody defiance from my wayward apprentice, not you my dear. Still..."

Lightning fast he turned and put one boot on the desk before her, gripping the front of her cloak with one fist and lifting her, chair and all, up close to that one unblinking, inhuman eye.

"We can play it that way. Robin never told you the things we did together... I tend to be rather rough with my toys, but putting the pieces back together in an image that suits me can be almost as pleasurable as breaking them."

She choked, her eyes bulging. She tried desperately to maintain some sense of discipline but finally her face contorted into a grimace of hatred. A black field forced them apart as though the air itself could no longer stand his abuse, slamming him bodily against the stand behind him. She collapsed back to the floor and coughed wetly, blood oozing sluggishly down the corner of her mouth. She'd bitten her lip hard enough to draw blood from the strain of trying to maintain her composure, but just as he always did, he somehow managed to get under her skin.
He stood and brushed himself off slowly, his eye never leaving her. A shape loomed over him and seated itself, four baleful red eyes burning her exposed skin where they touched. She recoiled instinctively from that palpable ink blot of a psychic presence, she could feel it like filth in her mind.

A flicker of something, a reassurance... she blinked in surprise and looked up. Suddenly her father was not so imposing... in fact in that seat of justice he was almost ridiculous. She blinked.

What... was going on?

Slade turned and bowed slightly to the Dark Lord of Scath, his eye unreadable. He gestured grandly toward the court.

"Your Honor, members of the... Jury... may it please you, it is to my distinct displeasure that I intend to prove without a shadow of a doubt that this.
thing, this... abomination by her very existence is the single greatest hypocrite this court has ever seen."

Trigon rumbled, "Proceed."

Slade turned slowly in a precise angle and gestured towards the stand. "I call Azar, High Priest of Azarath to the stand."

Raven visibly winced and turned her gaze to the witness stand as a burning flame appeared. His features, normally dignified and kind, were haggard and contorted with agony, the eyes almost squeezed shut. An unearthly blue flame surrounded him.

Raven's lip contorted slightly at the sight of her mentor's torment. She tried to stand but the chair wouldn't let her.

"Stop this! This is-"

"Silence!" Trigon growled, and pain struck her, hot and intense, so quick and overwhelming that she slumped into her chair.

Slade placed his hand on the witness stand and leaned conspiratorally towards the beleaguered priest, his other hand clasped behind his back. At his presence the Priest visibly started and shivered uncontrollably.

His voice was a silken glove containing an iron fist. "Now, now. Please sir,
if you would... for the record, state your name."

"A-zar... Holy-"

Slade raised his hand. "Just the name will do. We both know there is nothing holy about you any longer. Wasn't... quite the afterlife you'd expected, was it?"

He winced. "Sir... I-"

Slade turned and watched Raven squirm, crossing his arms. "Take your time."

"No. No it is not." He said in a broken fashion, refusing to look in Raven's direction.

Slade sighed. "What brought you, so strong of conviction, so noble of purpose,
to such a state. Or should I say... who?"

He turned and leaned close in a mockery of compassion. "If it's too painful to say, you can merely point out the culprit."

He still wouldn't look at her. he simply raised a trembling finger at Raven. Slade turned to Trigon.

"No further questions, you Honor."

Azar disappeared in a puff of smoke. Raven gritted her teeth in defiance and simply glared murderously at the scene, this horrid mockery of justice,
displayed before her. She KNEW that it was just a Shade, just a phantom conjured by Trigon's cruel manipulation, but the accusation was close enough to her own fears, her own regrets that it hurt, nevertheless.

So it began. A parade of Trigon's victims crossed the courtroom, a march of all of the sins committed in his quest for domination, and all of them laid at her feet. So many people... so many lives ruined because she'd been born.
She knew it was a manipulative trick, she KNEW, but knowing it and feeling it were two very different things. There was always that grain of truth to it, that hidden secret guilt that Slade expertly teased out of her. It hurt.

It hurt so badly.

It cut worse than a thousand agonies of the flesh he could have exposed her to.

When she had to face her mother on the stand and hear from Arella's mouth how much better things would have gone if she'd been drowned as a child...

Well... she wasn't made of stone.

That was when it happened. A sudden crack of thunder, and Slade halted in mid tirade, looking suddenly alert. Where he'd been playing a role before, now he was all Slade, completely aware, completely focused.

Trigon roared. "What is THIS! Who DARES?"

A figure she couldn't turn to see began to clap contemptuously, advancing slowly towards the front of the court. Courage's eyes widened in recognition, Happy gave a bright sunny smile of complete joy, Rage scowled and fought her bonds,
Smart blinked, then took on a considering look, Disgusting winked and licked her lip suggestively, Fear... had fainted a long time ago, Lazy was also unconscious for different reasons, and Smug looked on in stunned (but dignified)

Slade let out a single amused snort. "My dear Apprentice. So NICE of you to join us. Whatever are you doing in such a nasty place?"

Robin advanced slowly into Raven's field of vision, and she fought desperately to free herself. What was going on? Why was HE here?

Turning very slightly so that she could see, he gave her a very small smile.
the sort of smile he always gave to them. The smile that said everything was going to be ok... even if it appeared as though all was lost. None of the Titans were immune to it.

She least of all.

He was never overly expressive in his facial animation but the smile was so fundamentally Robin, so very him that despite the desperate nature of their current situation she felt herself believing in him... believing that it was him.

And yet...

At the same time it WASN'T him. A shape loomed along with him, a strange shape. A well-built, slender, pale man possibly in his early to mid thirties occupied the same space as the adolescent Boy Wonder, a man with raven dark hair and a pleasant, if slightly devilish, grin. He wore slacks and a simple wife-beater teeshirt that showed off his statuesque, lean, wolfish physique to perfect advantage. In a way, it was what Raven thought Robin would look like when he grew older, and at the same time, not him at all. His eyes, strangely, were hidden behind dark sunglasses, the sort that a blind man would wear.

It was the Boy Wonder, and it was also not the Boy Wonder. Separate, and yet the same. A single being walking in a single body with two distinct faces.

"Nasty?" Robin-And-The-Other said in an offhand manner.

He was not angry and combative as Robin would have been to Slade in a normal confrontation, but there was nothing NORMAL about this confrontation at all. "You don't know what Nasty is."

Slade showed no sign of discomfort or worry when the Boy Wonder didn't instantly react to his jibe, nor was he upset at the appearance of his nemesis in a place that should have been completely under his control. He merely shifted tactics.

"Coming to the lady's defense are we? Very chivalrous of you, if futile. My Master-"

Robin shook his head. "Master? A Lapdog now? Slade... you really have no idea who you're fucking with. Now, we have a suggestion for you. Deconstructing you here would be... unfair. However, if you press the issue..."

He turned away from the jury box and Raven, and slowly removed his mask/sunglasses in a deliberate manner that suggested he was making some terrible revelation.

Slade showed no visible reaction, he simply continued to stare, that one eye burning coldly, but Trigon snarled.

"YOU! What are YOU doing here?"

Robin gave no visible acknowledgment of Trigon, much to the Demon's displeasure. His eyes were only for Slade. As he spoke he remained completely inanimate, like a statue, staring into the face of the Abyss. "Press us, Wilson. Press us and we'll finish the job your wife botched, so we can see what the world looks like through the eye of a puppet. Who are you under the mask, Wilson? You go to great pains to hide it... but you're a scared old man who just found out he's a very tiny turd in a very large bowl"
Whatever was reflected back by the dark mirror evoked a reaction from the normally unflappable Archcriminal. Slade clenched his fists and narrowed that one cold eye. "You don't scare me, boy. I'll-"

Trigon snarled. "Go. Leave us. I will deal with this."

Slade never took his eye off the Boy Wonder, his hands still clenched. His rage was almost palpable.

"I said GO, SLAVE!" Trigon roared again.

Slade burst into flame. From the way his mask contorted it was obviously not his intention to do so. Still, he stood for a moment, staring mercilessly through the agony, defiant, as though by will alone he would remain, a towering inferno that cast heat into the whole room, and then he disappeared with a flash of light and a roar that was the very essence of frustrated fury.

Trigon scowled. His rows of eyes narrowed in annoyance. "The best ones are always so touchy."

Robin cracked his neck and looked at the Dark Lord calmly, replacing the mask/sunglasses back onto his face.

Surprisingly, Trigon looked wary.

"This is my-"

Robin shook his head. "You trespass. You will leave. Now."

Trigon flared up, his four eyes burning brightly. "She is MINE-"

He shook his head. "She is no one's. You saw to that. So much power in a single vessel, Dark Lord. Rather like putting all your eggs in one basket. If she tapped even a tenth of what you gave her, you would be on your knees. Fortunately she's better than that. We don't expect you to understand."

He shook his head, silencing the Dark Lord's answering bluster stillborn. "This is our Realm. You hold no dominion here, and whatever sufferance you had is long gone."

Trigon scowled. "You have no authority, dream-thing. No power over me. I AM the stuff of Nightmares."

Robin grinned coldly. "Perhaps. Care to press your luck?"

He waited patiently. Whatever her father saw in his face, it must have, at the very least, made him cautious. He scowled and disappeared, his taint fleeing from Raven's awareness like a breath of fresh air in a room gone dead and stale;
poisonous with hatred.

Robin turned, and for a moment she saw the Other... then it was just Robin. He pulled a small knife from his belt and leaned close.

She stared up at him half entranced, her eyes on those featureless white panels behind which his eyes would have been.

"Sorry I'm late," He whispered, the knife severing her bonds in a quick, expert flash of blade.

She shook her head wonderingly. "Why?"

As usual he answered the question as she meant it in her heart, not in her head. "You asked. I told you all you ever had to do was ask."

He sighed. "I'll get in trouble for this, but... I don't care."

She rubbed her wrist and avoided looking at him, her features automatically schooling themselves to neutrality.

He watched her seriously, then sighed. Turning slowly, he seated himself on the desk in front of her and watched her expressionlessly.

"Don't ask questions of me that you already know I can't answer, Rae." He said quietly.

It didn't even raise a scowl that he knew what was going on. The amount of incredulous wonder zinging along their bond at the moment was more than enough to forstall any effort she might have made to prevent it.

It was amazing how quickly one could get used to such a thing. She half expected to wake up with her bed and most of her personal belongings reenacting a scene from Poltergeist.

With Raven, EVERYTHING was an Indian Burial Ground.

Instead she tamped down her typical suspicious reaction and instead focused on the bond between them. This normally would have been something she would have avoided at all costs, as she very rarely wanted to know what SHE was feeling, let alone someone else. She trusted his motive, but she wanted, no... she needed to know what he meant by this.

Concern. Tired resignation, and beneath that...


Her eyes widened. Fear? Of her? That didn't make sense... that wasn't right.


Her expression changed subtly and he stood. He nodded curtly to her, then turned and walked towards the exit of the courtroom.

"He won't be back tonight. My intrusion is... regrettable, but necessary. I'll-"

"You're afraid that I'll stop trusting you." She said quietly. "That I'll reject you."

He froze. His back was to her. He looked down. She felt a sudden sick surge of dread from him. Then...

Self recrimination.

Her eyes widened slightly.

"Of course I'm afraid." He said bitterly. "What have I given you to trust? Secrets and more secrets."

He looked down. "What can you build out of dust and shadows?"

"Why don't you trust me?" She asked. She kept her tone neutral.

He turned slightly.

"What makes you think I don't trust you?"

She raised an eyebrow. "You know everything there is to know about ME."

He sighed. "I've told you everything I can. More than I should. The problem is..." He hesitated.

She waited.

"The problem is, it isn't my story to tell."

She considered this.

Slowly while the two of them talked, the courtroom faded from view. Everything, the desks, the jury box, even her other emotions. They seemed, by silent concensus, to agree that this matter affected them all, and that she should handle it. The dry greyness of Nevermore flushed the sick fantasy of Trigon's nightmare from her psyche.

He waited. The sense she got from him was that he was waiting for the axe to fall.

She felt surprisingly calm. Centered. He always did that to her, for some reason.

No... she knew the reason.

She came to a decision.

"We'll work on that." She answered.

He started. Looked at her fully.


She fixed him with a slightly bemused but still very serious expression.

"It takes two to tango, Boy Wonder."

Once again something had changed between them. The air felt charged and expectant.

Still, this time she wasn't afraid. Rather than being swept along by the force of the events in her life, she had made a decision, and now she was, for lack of a better term, surfing her way to a distant unknown shore.

Of course, if she fell off...

He watched her for a moment, then let out a great sigh.

"I wasn't meant for this, Rae." He said quietly.

She shook her head. "That's no excuse-"

He raised a hand to quiet her.

"As I was saying, I wasn't meant for this... but... I really don't have much of a choice, do I?"

He didn't sound bitter. He sounded rather amused. The bond between them felt heavy with emotion, like a rope drawing ever tighter.

Surprisingly, things stayed easy between them. It felt... Right.

She smiled inwardly at the release of tension.

"I don't think either of us do." She said quietly.

He cocked his head.

"What now?" He asked quietly.

She smiled. It was a small smile, typical of her. It didn't begin to speak of what she felt inside, but...

He knew.

"I'll see you in the morning." She whispered.

He nodded, and simply vanished like a soap bubble. For a moment she wondered if he had really been there, then shook her head.

She knew. She didn't know how he had been there... but she knew.

She didn't know how, but it didn't matter.

For once, she refused to analyze it to death.

This wasn't a epiphany... there wasn't a crash of cymbols or a symphonic release. They didn't suddenly begin to desperately devour one another.

That wasn't how they worked. They were quiet people, the both of them. Everything must be judged and weighed, assigned a risk. Not to self, or rather, not entirely to self, but to others.

Their consideration was always outside of themselves. Still, this was... an acknowledgement.

There was something between them. Something they could no longer ignore, or pretend wasn't there.

She sighed.

It had the potential to save her... or damn her for all eternity.

There was no turning back.