"A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute. He may not seem such a good friend after telling." -Arthur Brisbane
There were no leaves on the trees.
And the sun did not shine quite so brilliantly through the murky grey clouds that wrapped around the city like the blanket of a sickly patient.
They were all dressed in black.
They were his mourners.
Arrowette. Robin. Starfire. Cyborg. Beast Boy. Raven. Katarou. Jinx. Gizmo. Mammoth. Blackfire. Johnny Rancid.
The six heroes and six villains gathered on this hallowed ground to pay last respects to him.
To the deceased.
To Red X.
Arrowette couldn't stop sobbing. She wore a simple black dress but kept her red mask on. Robin and Starfire stayed close to her almost the entire time, offering a hand on her shoulder or a hug when needed.
The mourners all gathered inside the small church to attend Red X's funeral. Large and colorful stained glass windows towered above them as they took their seats in the pews. The church was so cliché it might've provoked a joke from Red X, if he was still capable of mocking cliché things that is.
Robin almost longed to hear Red X mock him again. Almost.
Red X, himself, lay in his open casket at the front of the church. He was still completely in costume, even down to his Zynothium belt. Nothing was changed about him. Even down to the last tatter on his cape, carefully preserved and laid down neatly. His arms crossed over his chest in an X pattern.
First a man of the cloth stepped forward and quoted a few verses of scripture in a soft but firm tone, and almost fatherly tone. When he was finished, he said "Amen" and took a seat in the pews.
Robin, dressed in a suit and his mask, stepped up to a podium that was to the right Red X's casket.
"Ahem.", he said, clearing his throat. "As I'm sure all of you know… We're here to pay our last respects to Jump City's greatest thief, known only as, Red X." A distinct ring of regret echoed in his voice.
Arrowette tried to be strong, but still sobbed into a handkerchief that Starfire had given her, like a grieving widow.
"I spent a long time chasing Red X. Trying to put him behind bars. I didn't want this though.", Robin said.
Katarou was dressed in a black Chinese outfit. He sat next to Blackfire, who seemed to be making a show of her tears. Katarou was tempted to reprimand her for being so dishonorable at Red X's funeral, but let it pass. He didn't want to dishonor Red X by starting a fight at his funeral.
"Unfortunately, I never got back the suit that Red X had stolen from me, the suit he's currently wearing.", he said with a subtle annoyance. "He requested to be buried in it, as stated in his will." Robin held up Red X's will, which was a crumpled up tin foil wrapper from a candy bar with writing on it.
"However…", Robin continued. "We refused to do a few things on the will. For instances, we refused to burry him upside down so that…" He held up the will and read aloud. "'…the world can kiss my butt goodbye.'"
Johnny Rancid chuckled to himself, wearing a suit jacket with the sleeves ripped off. "Kid had an attitude, I'll give him that.", he whispered to himself.
Robin put away Red X's will. "Red X did request, though, that at this point anyone who'd like to come up and give a short speech be allowed to do so. So, come on up and say a last few words if you'd like."
Robin stepped down from the podium and returned to his seat.
There was an awkward silence at first, but soon Katarou stood up and walked to the podium while carrying incense. He set the incense on the podium, lit a match, and began to burn the incense. "Red X was a proficient warrior and a cunning thief. He was one of the few people to have bested me in battle, and sadly I will not be able to challenge him to a rematch. I pray his ancestors guide him safely into the next world… Whoever they are." He set the incense on the floor near the casket, and returned to his seat.
Next, Red X's pet rock was on the podium table next to a piece of paper with a carefully written speech.
"Wow…", Jinx said after listening to the speech.
Blackfire sobbed harder and wiped her teary eyes with a handkerchief. "He has such a way with words…"
The pet rock took his seat at the pew again.
Then Blackfire rose from her seat and flew over to the podium. She sobbed into a handkerchief of her own. "My heart will always ache for the loss of Red X… He was the most giving thief I ever knew, and was always an enigma. It is some comfort, however, to know I meant so much to him. But no… It's not about the money he left me in the will. It's about the lessons he left behind for us!"
"Uh… Blackfire?", Robin said.
"Lessons like… Um, sharing! And, caring. Indeed, Red X had much to teach all of us.", Blackfire continued.
"Blackfire!", Robin shouted.
"What? Don't you know how rude it is to interrupt someone doing a eulogy?"
"Blackfire, you're not in the will.", Robin stated matter-of-factly as he withdrew the tin foil will from his jacket.
"Yeah. You're not mentioned anywhere.", Robin said, annoyed. "He didn't leave you anything."
"Why that rotten little…", she began to boil, but then realized she was in front of a small audience. "Heh. Pardon me." She regained her composure, and then leaned against the podium with a sly sort of grin. "Such a shame to see a fine piece of thief like that go, huh? Am I right, girls?"
Suddenly, a rabid Arrowette tackled her off the stage, and proceeded to maul the Tamaranian.
Soon after that event was settled, Starfire floated up to the podium.
"I am saddened by the passing on of the Red X. I would like to express my sorrow in a traditional Tamaranian folk song sung for fallen warriors.", Starfire said.
"Uh oh.", Blackfire said.
Starfire took a deep breath, and then emitted a sound that was a cross between exploding bagpipes and nails on a chalkboard.
Everyone in the church covered their ears and winced in pain.
Gizmo envied Red X for being lucky enough to not be able to hear this.
When Starfire was done, everyone slowly unclasped their hands from their ears.
"That was…", Katarou began.
"I know. She always was off-key.", Blackfire said.
Jinx gave her an odd look and tried to imagine how that noise could ever be a song.
"Thank you.", Starfire said meekly and took her seat again.
Next, Beast Boy stepped up to the podium and fixed his clip-on tie.
He chuckled once nervously. Then he began reading from a grease-stained napkin from his favorite pizza parlor. "Hello, ladies and germs. I didn't really know Red X too well, except for when he pinned me to the wall with all that weird red goo. And although I still believe he was a bionic monkey infused with Robin's DNA… Or least part of a clone army of Robins from the far future… I'm sad to see him go off to the big art museum in the sky. Get it? Art museum? He was a thief."
The audience was completely quiet.
A cricket chirped in the background.
Beast Boy seemed to deflate on stage. "Tough room…" He walked off back to his seat.
Cyborg, who dressed in a tuxedo that barely fit his bulky metal frame and a top hat, leaned over to Raven, who sat next to him. "Hey, you gonna say something?", he whispered to her.
"What's there to say? It's not like I knew him." Raven wore a completely black cloak today instead of her blue one, and she kept it wrapped tightly around her. The hood wrapped over her head and hid her face in deeper shadows.
"Yeah, but its his funeral. Figured you would've had something to quote from Edgar Allen Poe or something."
"Hmm…", Raven mused over the idea.
Mammoth, who had been sobbing like a baby the whole time, blew into his handkerchief. Jinx was patting his shoulder and said, "Come on. You can do it."
Mammoth nodded, sniffled, and rose from his seat. He walked past Red X's open casket and stood at the podium. "Red X was…" Sniffle. "He… He…" Then Mammoth broke down into wails and tears again, and ran off the stage and back to his seat while crying.
Then Raven rose from her seat and levitated across the room, and to the podium. "Edgar Allen Poe once said… 'Some things are so completely ludicrous that a man must laugh or die. To die laughing must be the most glorious of all glorious deaths!'" There was a moment of silence. "I… Just thought that would be fitting. Considering that this is Red X's funeral." Another awkward silence. "Um… Yeah." Then she floated off back to her seat.
Johnny Rancid walked up to the podium. "Hey… Listen, everyone, I have no idea why I'm here. I didn't know this guy.", he pointed his thumb to Red X as he lay in his open casket. "I just sorta got this letter in the mail and um… Yeah. Thanks, I guess." He walked off back to his seat.
There was an odd minuet or two of silence, as no body came up to the podium next.
Robin assumed everyone who had something to say had said it. But he looked to Arrowette as they sat in their seats. "Do you… Want to say something?"
Arrowette sobbed and shook her head.
"You sure?", he asked.
"Yes, grieving friend, perhaps it would help to say a few kind words.", Starfire proposed.
Arrowette was quiet for a moment. "I think… I think Red X doesn't care about words."
Robin thought for a moment about what she just said, then nodded and walked to the podium.
"Guess I'll go last. Not really sure what to say about him. He was a thief. I spent a lot of time tracking him down. It was a real game of cat and mouse, of cops and robbers. I never learned who he really was." He looked over at X. "And then the guy request to be buried in the suit he stole from me. So I'll never know. I'll never know who was the one who got away from me. The one crook I couldn't catch." He turned back to the audience. "The one crook who saved not only my life once, but the whole city twice." He lowered his head in thought.
Arrowette stood up. And she walked to the podium while Robin was still there.
The confused Robin stood aside while wondering what she intended to do.
She merely lifted her head and said five little words. "That mask was his face."
Then she turned around and rushed back to her seat with a sob. Once there, Starfire held and consoled her further.
Robin was quiet for a moment.
He turned to the rest of the church. "I suppose it's time to-"
Knock knock knock!
Robin looked aside to the stained glass windows, and saw Kid Flash knocking on the other side. "Kid Flash?", he asked.
The red and yellow clad speedster waved, and then ran off to the side with a blur. Half a moment later he raced through the church doors, past the isle, and up next to Robin.
"Hey! By any chance could you give me some directions? I think I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.", he said.
"Uh… Flash… This is a funeral!", Robin informed him.
"It wha?" Kid Flash turned around and saw Red X lying in his casket. "Ack!", he flinched. Then he turned around to Robin and scratched the back of his head of scarlet red hair. "Uh… Real sorry about this everyone. If I could just get some directions to Metropolis, I'll be out in a flash."
"That way." Robin pointed off in the direction, as if he was a human compass.
"Thanks!" He turned to Red X. "And um… Take care?" He shrugged, and then ran out of the church in a red and yellow blur.
"Now that that's over with…", an annoyed Robin said. "As I was saying…"
"Hey!", Kid Flash said as he quickly reentered the church. "Which way was that again."
Everyone pointed in the direction Robin had.
"Thanks.", Kid Flash said, then he left in the blink of an eye.
The ever-annoyed Robin sighed. "Forget it. Let's just bury him."
Robin walked over to Red X's casket, set his hand on the lid, took one last stare at the thief he never could catch, and shut the casket.
A note on the casket's lid read, "Best before last week."
Robin glared. "Ha ha…", he said slowly and menacingly. Then he ripped off the note and crumbled it up.
Gizmo, the author of the note, laughed to himself.
"It was Red X's last request that a specific few people carried him to his eternal resting place. If the following people could please come up and serve as the pallbearers?" He took out the tin foil will from his jacket and read off it. "Me, Arrowette, Katarou, and Cyborg."
Katarou and Cyborg grabbed the handles on one end of the casket, and Robin and Arrowette grabbed the other end's handles. They lifted the casket up and started caring it outside.
But since Katarou and Cyborg were much stronger and taller then Robin and Arrowette, they ended up lifting their end (the back end) of the casket higher up then Robin and Arrowette could. The end result was a crookedly carried casket.
Arrowette strained somewhat to carry her load. "Why do I get the feeling he planned it this way?", she said, referring to how Katarou and Cyborg lifted their end higher.
"Because he did." To Robin, this was just yet another one of the last little jokes Red X had arranged. He figured he should probably enjoy the humor in it.
Red X wouldn't be making very many more jokes.
Johnny Rancid stepped off to the side, picked up his guitar, and began playing a tune. Heavy rock. Johnny continued to wail on his guitar happily. "ooh ah ah ah ah!", he screamed as the pallbearers walked. "ohhh ah ah ah ah!"
Raven walked up to him. "Hey! I thought we agreed you would play 'Stairway To Heaven!'"
Johnny stopped playing. "What? You kidding me? Have you heard that song backwards! Creepy!"
Raven turned around and began to walk off with a satisfied and sly smirk. "I know."
Onwards the pallbearers walked down the steps of the church and outside. A cold and brittle breeze greeted them as they walked to the near by graveyard.
The other mourners followed them out of the church.
Soon enough they approached the six-foot deep hole in the ground that was to be Red X's final resting place.
A large tombstone stood next to the grave. It was only fitting that a large "X" had been engraved and carved into it. Its epitaph read, "Soon to be reincarnated… As something right behind you!" Near the bottom it said, "Red X, exact date of birth and death unknown. Zombie version, coming soon!"
The device that lowers the casket into the grave had been placed around the perimeter of the grave. Three strong belts ran over the open grave, ready for the device to lower the casket into the ground. A nice green tarp covered the device, but left the belts clearly visible. A "casket placer" is what Arrowette thought it was called.
The pallbearers set X's casket on the belts, and prepared to lower Red X into the ground, never to be seen again. Each pallbearer let go of the handles on the casket and stepped back, save Robin, who stood next to the casket and stared at it.
"Is something wrong, Robin?", Starfire asked as she approached.
Robin paused. "I'm sorry. I have to know." He reached out and lifted the lid of the casket and stared at Red X.
"Robin… Don't.", Arrowette said. "It wouldn't be right."
"Yes… I must agree with friend Arrowette.", Starfire said. "We should not disturb the resting, least we invoke the wrath of the Kinishka.", she said, referring to some Tamaranian folklore.
"Yeah… Maybe you're right." Robin said as he prepared to close the casket. He paused. Then he quickly reached into the casket and grabbed Red X's mask!
"Robin!", Arrowette screamed.
Robin yanked the mask off. His eyes grew real wide.
Red X opened his eyes.
And all he saw was sand, waves, and a seagull standing in front of him.
He was quiet for a moment.
"It… It was a dream? Did I just dream of my funeral? And it ended right at a cliffhanger?"
The seagull squawked.
"Man… That's so cheap!", Red X commented.
The seagull pecked at his head, and Red X shooed it away with a wave of his gloved hand. The seagull, who had perhaps hoped to make a meal of the thief, squawked again and flapped its wings in protest.
Red X sat up on the sandy beach and rubbed his face, as people often do after waking from a long sleep.
He felt his mask still firmly in place over his face, a final comfort that it had only been a dream and that his secret identity remained a mystery.
Red X lowered his hand and took a look around. He sat on a beach late at night. He turned around to look behind him, and his eyes widened.
He was quiet for a moment and didn't move a muscle.
Then he remembered everything that had just happened.
The seagull squawked as Red X reached out and grabbed it. X stood up on the sand, holding the seagull in his hands.
"Yeah! Woo Who! That stupid looking Tower is still standing and the city didn't blow up! I'm still alive! You're still alive! Ha ha ha!", he yelled out. Then he began dancing like an idiot with the seagull in his elated grip. "BOO YAH!"
He tried to hug the seagull, but it replied by squawking loudly and trying to get out of his grip. Red X realized how he was acting and let go of the seagull with a startle.
The seagull flew away into the distance.
Red X stood quiet. Then he turned and faced the Tower again.
"Ha ha!", he laughed out loud to himself, then fell back into the sand and proceeded to wave his arms and legs back and forth to make a sand-angel.
The Teen Titans finally returned home from Steel City, bringing Cyborg home with them.
Happy to be home and to be a team of five once again, the Titans rode together in an elevator that acceded them up the Tower.
"Hey, Cyborg!", Beast Boy said. "Wanna play Super Mega-Monkey? I just got the new demo expansion package!"
"Sounds cool, BB, but honestly… I just wanna eat a hamburger I left in the fridge and go to bed!", Cyborg replied.
"Go ahead. We got things covered here.", Robin said.
The elevator doors opened and the Teen Titans walked out of the elevator, down a corridor, and into the main room of the Tower.
That's when they all froze and dropped their jaws.
The entire room was covered in a layer of intertwining white toilet paper. From the floor to the ceiling, everything was laced with an intricate web of two-ply.
"We've… We've been T.P.ed!", Cyborg shouted.
"Titans! Spread out!", Robin ordered.
The Titans all fanned out and began to inspect their home for further vandalism, or perhaps the vandal himself.
Starfire gasped. "Friends! Come quickly!" She floated just beyond the threshold of the corridor that led from the main room to their bedrooms.
The rest of the Titans quickly gathered to her.
"Someone has decorated the halls with our undergarments!", she reported.
The Titans beheld that it was true. The unthinkable unmentionables had all been duct taped to the ceilings and the walls of that corridor.
Raven flew down the corridor quickly, shuddering at everything she passed, and arrived at her precious room. She opened her bedroom door to peer inside, then stood still and pale.
"Raven! What's wrong?", Beast Boy yelled as him and the rest of the Titans rushed to her.
When they arrived, they saw why she was shocked.
Her room was covered with pink powder. Everything had a distinct pink tint to it.
Robin ventured forth, and inspected the powder on the floor. "It's… sugar. Pink sugar."
"Could'a come from our stores in the basement. Mixed it with some food coloring?", Cyborg suggested.
"Someone… Colored my room pink…", Raven slowly said with a growl.
"It'll come out, Raven.", Robin said as he stood up and tried to calm her. "Just needs a good vacuuming."
"Someone colored my room PINK!", she screamed.
A black flash.
And next thing everyone knew, all the near by lights were shattered. And Raven had a twitching eye.
The rest of the Titans slowly backed away from her.
Starfire thought of something. "Friends! What about Silkie!" She flew off to her room before they could answer, opened the door, and sure enough Silkie was there to greet her. "Silkie!"
Except someone had painted a mustache and a monocle on the larva's face with a black marker.
Starfire honestly didn't know what to make of it and stood looking at him very confused.
The Titans continued their search of the Tower. Many things had been disturbed in numerous rooms of the Tower, with the kind exception of Terra's old room.
Other pranks they discovered include but was not limited to:
Motor oil squirted in Cyborg's room.
Cling wrap placed on the toilets.
Furniture and equipment from other rooms in the tower had all been rearranged and switched.
Powdered starch in the dryer.
A bucket of mud hanging from the ceiling, activated by a trip wire (which Beast Boy had discovered the hard way).
The batteries stolen had been from the TV remote.
The sugar and salt jars switched.
The water in the indoor swimming pool turned into Jell-O.
Practice dummies in the training room had been dressed with spare costumes and made to resemble each member of the Teen Titans (blue markers and spray paint was used on the one resembling Cyborg).
Red die had been placed into all of their shampoo.
Some complicated trap that tarred and feathered Beast Boy, literally.
Vaseline lotion on all of Robin's bo staffs, bird-a-rangs, and disks.
Earlier last night.
A large mansion rested on the outskirts of the city. The home belonged to Loren Jupiter, head of Jupiter Enterprises. While small compared to Wayne Enterprises or LexCorp, Jupiter Enterprises was still nothing to be laughed at and tossed aside.
In a brilliant move, Loren Jupiter, CEO of the company and avid fan of the Teen Titans, regularly funded the Teen Titans and let it be publicly known. This gave the company a very honest and trustworthy reputation to consumers and a very intimidating reputation to competitors (after all, how many companies could shack hands with Robin whenever they wanted). The best part was that the Titans themselves didn't even have to endorse Jupiter Enterprises like sold-out athletes, leaving them free to be honest heroes. The mere fact that the company was a major supporter of the Titans was all the endorsement Jupiter Enterprises needed.
But while Loren Jupiter was an astonishing businessman, he was at times less then capable as a father.
Loren Jupiter had found himself the father of one Jarrod Jupiter, his son. And by stunning coincidence, a young woman in his employ turned out to be his daughter by a late wife.
But that whole series of events is a story for some women's television channel to tell.
The window of Jarrod Jupiter's room opened and Haze crawled through.
He was dirty, tired, and extremely frustrated with his defeat at the hands of Red X earlier that night. He stood in the darkness of the room, breathing heavily like a wild and wounded animal. Suddenly and without warning, he grabbed a picture off the wall and threw it at the door as hard as he could. He relished the sound of the breaking glass as it shattered to pieces and fell to the floor.
Haze walked over to a full-body mirror on the closet door, and took off his helmet. He stared at his angry blue eyes and deep red hair. His tightened lips completed the grimace face.
He stood staring at himself in the mirror, angry enough for a blood vessel to pop. As he stared at his face, made uglier by each new drop of anger building in him, he berated himself for having lost to Red X. All his efforts and planning, all the money he'd lost. All for nothing. All so Red X could beat him to a pulp and mock him.
Haze was already a violent person, but a slight grin moved about his tense lips as he entertained himself with fantasies of Red X's gory demise. Oh, and he wouldn't just forget about Arrowette or the Titans either. His hatred had not died. It was far from over…
He would return.
A knock on the door came. "Jarrod? I heard something breaking. Are you alright?", came a concerned voice of a young woman.
"Fine…", Haze said slowly with deep venom dripping from his voice.
"Ya know, me and Dad were thinking of catching a movie tonight. You wanna come?"
It infuriated Haze even further how that wench had so quickly grown to calling his father "dad". He clenched his fists. "No.", he said sternly.
The woman on the other side of the door was somewhat disappointed but certainly not surprised. "Alright… We'll be going shortly. You have my cell phone number if you change your mind."
"Just leave me alone."
"Bye now, Jarrod." Footsteps could be heard from beyond the door as the woman walked off.
Haze found himself breathing heavily and tensely. Tonight, the mere sound of her voice was enough to make him want to strangle the closest small woodland creature.
He found himself giving into the temptation to imagine a special gory demise for that woman. A demise complete with wire, charcoal, a pronged fork, and perhaps a moving car.
No no no… Far to rudimentary for someone of Haze's sadistic expertise.
Perhaps… Yes… That's it. Just like that. That's perfect., Haze thought as his horrible fantasy reached new levels of fear and torment.
Just as his private fantasy reached the peek of it's gore and cruelty, Haze heard something. A gasp. Her gasp. And he thought he could sense her fear and confusion.
Then, downstairs, she shrugged it off and thought of it as her own mind playing tricks on her. But she resolved not to see a horror movie tonight.
The obscure event left Haze mystified.
Had he given her the fantasy? Had she seen his delight in her horror?
He stared quietly ahead at nothing in particular.
Interesting…, he thought. He would store away that event on his list of things to do, along with plotting his revenge for Red X.
Haze walked into his closet with a new bounce in his step, energized by new hope. At the very back of his closet, he moved aside all his clothes and beheld the clippings of newspaper, maps, pictures, drawings, and various ideas pinned to the walls.
So much planning. All for nothing.
All for nothing!
He grabbed each piece of paper and tore it down from the wall, until the floor was littered with rejected ideas and clippings of paper.
He stood quietly among the paper, breathing slowly, regaining his composure. Breathing ever so slowly with his head hanging down.
He said nothing for a moment or two as he thought to himself.
"Guess I'll just have to try harder next time.", he said to himself.
He looked up and stared proudly at the blank walls in the back of his closet. Soon there'd be an even better plan pinned onto those walls.
The next night.
Steam rose and filled the air as Arrowette bathed in the tub of the luxurious hotel room Red X had rented for her. The scents of bath beads, soaps, and lotions created a relaxing aroma that was only added to by gently dimmed lights.
Normally, her nerves would've been racked with worry over whether or not Red X had survived their battle with Haze and his henchmen. And she had in fact been racked with worry until Red X called her cell phone from Titans Tower. He only called her long enough to tell her he was alive, and would meet her at her hotel room later. He erased the call from the Tower's computer logs to ensure that no one would discover the call.
Once she knew Red X was alive and safe, she allowed her self to relax. After the whole ordeal, she reasoned a couple of bathes and some room service wouldn't be too much to ask. She doubted Red X would mind.
Arrowette exhaled and sunk deeper into the warm bath water.
After thoroughly water logging her skin, she got out of the tub, tried herself off, and finally emerged from the bathroom, clad in a robe and towels around her head.
The first thing she noticed was how cool and crisp the air outside the steamy bathroom was. The second thing she noticed was that the TV in her room was on, and it sounded as if the channels were being frequently changed.
Half expecting what she saw next, she looked to find Red X reclining in a chair and flipping through the channels. The remote control rested lazily in his hand.
"All squeaky clean?", he asked.
Arrowette, or rather Cissie King-Jones since she had taken off her costume hours ago, sighed contently with a smile. "Yeah… I needed that."
Red X chuckled to himself, humored by a woman's fascination with baths, and turned off the TV. He rose from his comfortable chair and asked, "How ya feeling?"
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel like a truck ran over me."
"How do you think I feel?"
"I dunno. You tell me."
Red X paused for a moment. "Actually… Not all that bad."
"What happened to Haze?", a question she had silently been dreading to ask him.
"He got away. But I sent him packing with his tail between his legs."
Arrowette was relieved that Red X hadn't beaten Haze too badly or crossed a line. But she was also somewhat worried because Haze was still out there.
"I sent you all the details in an email a few hours ago.", Red X said as he walked across the room to lean with his arms crossed against a comfortable looking wall. "Should be in your inbox."
Arrowette fought off a slight chuckle as she looked over to her laptop. "I haven't checked that thing all day. All I've done is eat, sleep, and take baths." She looked back to Red X. "Think Haze will come back?"
"Not for a while anyway. I've been picking my brain all day, trying to figure out who he might've been."
Red X gave a short sigh. "Not really…"
"Why did he hate you so much?"
"Apparently, I robbed him."
Arrowette fought a laugh.
"What's so funny?"
"Irony. Looks like your thieving came back to bite you."
Red X narrowed his eyes. "Except I don't remember stealing anything like he said. He said the Titans got the loot back to him. And I can tell you right now, I for one don't remember that."
Arrowette crooked her lips in thought as she walked to a piece of luggage and opened it. "Yeah?", Arrowette said to encourage Red X to continue his story.
"He said that his dad loves the Teen Titans more then he loves him. And he said after I robbed him, a woman was placed as head of security who just so happened to be his sister."
Arrowette looked up from her luggage. "Wait… The same lady that became head of security was his sister?"
"Yeah. He's mad at me for making his sister his father's official favorite child… According to him."
Arrowette blinked in confusion as she withdrew a few articles of clothing from her luggage. "That's… Odd."
"You're telling me. All the details are in that email I sent you." Red X glanced at the clothes she held in her hand, and then turned his back to her in a gentlemanly fashion.
Arrowette smiled faintly, but retreated into the bathroom to change anyway. She emerged again soon after in jeans and a simple T-shirt.
Red X still had his backed turned. His arms were crossed and his cape draped over his shoulders. He still leaned against the wall.
"I'm dressed now. Thanks."
Red X glanced over his shoulder then turned around. "Ya know… Something's still bothering me though."
"How did Haze know where to contact all those villains?"
"What do you mean?"
Red X focused his eyes in intense thought, switching over to the deductive part of him. The same intuitive and analytical mind that allowed him to bypass the most secure of security systems was now fast at work on something else. He hunched his head a little lower.
"Adonis, Plunder, Al Melee, Kitten and Fang, Atomic Skull, Mad Mod, The H.I.V.E. kids…", Red X listed, holding up a finger for each name listed. "All villains that he knew how to contact. And they couldn't have been easy to find, because otherwise the Teen Titans would have arrested them already!"
"That's… A good point.", Arrowette said, pondering. "That means he had some kind of connection to them all. Or some way to keep track of them all."
"Yeah. Some way the Titans didn't."
"So if he could find all the other villains… Why couldn't he find you? Why did he have to use them to find you?"
"Because no one can find me.", Red X said as he fixed his posture. "One of the benefits to not trusting very many people. It's how you survive in this business."
Arrowette stood silently and wrapped her arms around herself. "So what now then?"
"I guess now we get on with our lives as usual. Except we keep an eye open for anyone in a purple space suit."
"Get on with life, huh? Does that mean you're going back to being a thief?"
"Yeah. And it means you're going back to being a hero, aren't you?"
"Well then…", Red X began, then found the words caught in his throat. "Guess I'll be seeing you around." He began to make a motion towards the window.
"Wait! I mean… Why don't you stop by Star City sometime? Not to steal. Just to say 'hi' or something?"
"I'm not a big fan of social visits."
"Come on, X. What you got to loose?"
"Besides my self-respect and dignity?", Red X said in a jovial tone. He even added a slight laugh to the end of the sentence.
"X…", she said, ignoring his sarcasm.
"Look, thanks for the offer, toots. Thanks for all the help, really. But in the end, I'm a thief and you're a hero."
"So? Doesn't mean we can't be friends."
Red X cocked an eyebrow up, as it to signify how ridiculous the idea sounded to him.
Arrowette thought it best to argue a different point. "Besides… You saved the city for the second time tonight. If that's not a hero, I don't know what is."
"I'm not a hero. I'm just a guy looking out for himself. And if the whole city blew up, it'd be pretty inconvenient for me too."
Arrowette stared gently into his eyes. "You told me you're not such a bad guy once I'd get to know you. You were right. Why else would you have gone all the way to Star City to warn me about a price on my head!" She paused. "If you're half as selfish as you want me to believe, why'd you come back for me?"
Red X was quiet for a moment, but his mind was racing and desperately searching for an answer. Thinking quickly on his feet, he said, "Because if Haze put a hit on you, it was the best clue I had to finding him at the time."
"What about that battle with SuperBoy then? Why'd you stick around and be my bodyguard? You could've just told me and ran back off. Or when we first met and you saved me from Adonis? You could've taken the case and ran when our backs were turned."
Red X didn't have an answer for that, and words were being choked into his throat. "I never run from a good fight.", he forced out.
"Yeah right.", Arrowette said more intently. "Admit it, X… You do care about other people."
"No, I don't.", he said.
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't!", Red X exclaimed. "Why can't you get it? I'm just looking out for number one! Me! The only one who will look out for me!"
Arrowette softened the expression her face. "So why have you saved my life so many times now?"
Red X narrowed his eyes. He spoke calmly. "Go home, Arrowette. Somewhere, there's a city missing its hero.", he said.
"So this is goodbye?", she said with a hint of a downcast tone.
"Yes. Yes, it is.", he said sternly. "Good bye. Audios. Sayonara!" Then he swatted his cheeks and open mouth to create popping sounds that emulated tribesmen's communication.
Arrowette felt somewhat offended. "Ya know... It wasn't easy to sleep after I knew you learned my secret identity. I had to work to trust you." Her face slowly turned from a hurt expression to an angry one. "Had to trust that you would be a good person and keep your word."
Red X stared at her objectively, as if observing her from a distance.
"So don't go and tell me that a selfish thief saved my life and the city's. Don't go and tell me that! You got that, X? Don't even try! I did not risk my reputation as a hero to stick by and help out a thief!"
"And right about now…", he said. "I bet you're wishing you hadn't."
Arrowette boiled. "Ya know what…? I was wrong! All you are is a selfish, no good, common thief! I hope your stolen jewels are enough to keep you company!" She turned around and stormed out of the hotel room, exiting into the hallway with a slam of the door.
Red X was left alone with his thoughts. "Maybe I could'a put that a bit more… delicately."
He stared aside to the floor as he felt something inside him he didn't feel very often.
Arrowette was running down the hall, but halfway down the hall she lost her energy and slowly came to a stop. She sobbed once or twice, and then slowly walked back to the hotel room.
She opened the door with a lowered head. "Look, X… I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I-" She looked up, and saw that Red X was gone. The only hint to his departure was a window left open so that the night breeze could gently blow the drapes.
Arrowette was left alone in her hotel room.
She decided that maybe it was time to check out and get back home.
The next day.
Arrowette was miserable on the plain ride home. She couldn't stop feeling just a little bad about how her last conversation with Red X had gone.
Who knew when she might meet him again? Red X only appears to steal something, or to present a fence with a stolen delicacy that would make his mouth water and bankrupt him.
She feared she might never see Red X again. She feared she might never get to apologize to him, or to perhaps be the first person in a long time that he would have called "friend".
She absentmindedly held a bag of honey-roasted peanuts in her hand. She didn't have the appetite to eat them.
Once she arrived in Star City and departed her plain, her band of boy-crazy friends was there to meet her at the baggage claim. It didn't take them long to see through her smile and realize that something was bothering her.
Unable to tell them anything else logical, she said that she had a fight with her mystery boyfriend from Jump City and they broke up.
To that, her friends had only to shake their heads sadly.
"Told you bad boys didn't last.", one commented.
An hour or so later, Arrowette walked into her apartment and set down her luggage. It was getting dark, and when she flicked a light switch the ceiling lamp chased away the darkness and shadows. She was hungry, but didn't really feel like cooking or bothering to walk to a restaurant or fast food shop. The only thing the trounced young heroine wanted to do was to fall asleep on her bed and wait to for sunrise to bring a new day.
She turned off the lights and proceeded to walk into her room. She walked through the darkness of her room and turned on a lamp beside her bed.
A present was sitting on her bed.
It was a simple black box with a black square lid, tied together with a big red ribbon. A tag hung from the knot in the red ribbon.
She was startled at first to see the present sitting on her bed just under her pillow. She hadn't remembered one there when she left for Jump City.
She cautiously reached to it and observed the tag.
"To: A friend.", was written on it. A red x had been swiftly marked in the corner of the tag by a red inked permanent marker.
Arrowette blinked in confusion a few times. Normally she'd be extremely worried about a strange present waiting on her bed, but the x in the corner of the tag looked too familiar and coincidental.
After carefully examining it, she slowly began to untie the red ribbon. With it untied, she slowly lifted the black lid off the box and looked inside.
It had taken her a few seconds to completely understand what it was inside.
It was a red communicator, similar to the Teen Titan's, except this one was red and had an "A" on the lid that was stylized to resemble an arrowhead.
She slowly picked it up and examined it. She opened it, and beheld all the features and capabilities of a real Teen Titans Communicator, except this one was personally tailored to her.
Then she noticed something else in the box. Placed underneath the communicator had been a note.
"Call me. –Red X.", was written on it.
She smiled to herself widely and laughed.
She was strangely relieved. But then she was curious as to how Red X had managed to place a present in her bedroom so quickly, as if by magic.
Perhaps she would see the thief from Jump City again after all…
A beautiful katana that once belonged to Kawakami Gensai rested on Red X's coffee table. Beside the sword was his vase, which was filled with peppermints.
Red X held his own communicator in his hand above the katana, opened it, pressed a few buttons on the tiny touch screen, and waited.
"Robin here. Hello?", said Robin's voice from the communicator. "Hello? Hello!" A pause. "Speedy, is that you? This is the third time today; it's not funny anymore! Hello! Beast Boy? That's it… When I figure out-"
Red X closed the lid and hung up on Robin, and then began to laugh hysterically.
Disclaimer: No, you are not a bad person if you laughed during Red X's funeral. You were supposed to.
Author's Note: Wow. Just over a year after it had begun, it's finally finished. I gotta admit, I'm sad to put the finishing touches on this, yet strangely proud too.
I'd like to thank all my readers and reviewers. And I'd like to thank all the people who gave me ideas or inspirations for this story, or who listened to me babble for hours about my own ideas. You know who you are.
Ya know… Who says it has to end? If you got ideas for a sequel, let's hear it! Send them to me. I want to know what my future readers would like to see in… Twice A Thief.
Better Luck Next Time.