Full Summary: Well, actually, to be completely honest- this is the abridged version. The full list is invading nine pages of notebook paper at this raw point in development, and I'm not giving away all my twists. Basically, almost all (I'll never claim all- I'd forget something) important events from the show (that I can convert into a real setting and I consider useful for character development and the growth of a plot) are twisted into a normal universe, set loose in Forston, and used to cause general chaos. Be on the lookout for cameos of the rich and the famed from the comic book universe- what's an alternate universe without a hyper-concentration of old friends and enemies and complete strangers? With funny, sad, happy, serious, light, dark, and genuinely odd moments, they are the Teen Titans. You don't need superpowers to be heroes, but uniforms help.
Edits: Beginning August 27th, 2007, small changes will be made throughout the story in an attempt to weed out the glaring mistakes, smooth out plotlines, and let me figure out how on earth this story became so long.
Just a few quick (sort of) disclaimers:
1. Couples are not changing from my opinions. So, deal or go away. Flame me, and I'll laugh it off. I have just enough confidence in what I'm writing to not be discouraged by a flame or two. (If there are more flames than reviews, I'm either not doing well or attracting the wrong readers.)
2. This story is rated T. So, this is your warning. This is rated Teen- there will be physical relationships, cursing, violence and adult themes. Violence is a part of life for heroes, and some teenagers. If you still want to read the story, there will be warnings on chapters with any graphic violence, and swearing is at a minimum. Physical relationships will not progress to the stage that it will make people too uncomfortable to read, even if insinuations are made.
3. This is an alternate universe. So, powers, circumstances, villains, histories, events, and all other applicable canon can and will be changed to fit a fairly realistic setting. If details are slightly different, I'm taking artistic license. Not everything will be perfect- that's what happens when you make up pasts.
4. I don't own the Teen Titans. This disclaimer applies to the entire story. If there is a change in this status, I'll be sure to let you know. Got it? Good. I'll say this once more, for the last time this story: The Teen Titans are not mine. Thank you and good day (or night, or whatever it is where you are), keep being a great audience.
5. Chapter length will very. This will be a long story, and some chapters will have more happening in them. This is just a fact of fiction, especially fiction published (or close enough) so casually.
6. Constructive criticism accepted, appreciated, and noted. If a mistake somehow confuses the story, feel free to ask questions. If you ask a question in a review that merits an answer (no, plot points will not be disclosed), I'll post the response on the next chapter. Reviews help me know which parts of this story are good/could be better/are something to read while slitting wrists (well, I hope not, but you never know).
7. Forston is set in California, even if I never do find the need to state this fact. They're staying close to their origins, even if many other liberties have been taken with names, identities, pasts, likes, dislikes, and mustard.
8. Real names: Starfire is Kori Anders, Robin is Richard Grayson, Beast Boy is Garfield Logan, Cyborg is Victor Stone, and last but not least, Raven is Rachel Roth. This is just to clear up any confusion for those who haven't seen the Titans' real names before. Pairings are to be announced.
9. President William Howard Taft is the only (known) president to have been stuck in a White House bathtub. Now that I know I have your attention, or at least the attention of those people bored enough to read a rather lengthy author's note, enjoy the story, and thanks for humoring the rambling person.
Dance of the Skeletons
Chapter One: A Detention and a Delinquent
"You all missed the first day of school, without an excused absence." The assistant principal was not pleased. He was staying after school in a room thick with the smell of new paint (Regulation Beige, approved by schools, prisons, and psychiatric institutions everywhere). The paint's lingering fumes buried even the scent of his infamous oily hair pomade. He brushed an invisible speck of dust from a neatly ironed faded suit, attempting to glare his small group of miscreants into submission. Well, two out of five looked like pushovers.
"Mr. Evans, I-"
He cut the unfortunate girl off. "Miss Anders, don't speak out of turn. It is known that you lack your sister's exemplary conduct. Connie was right to confess she may have given you too much information and confused you, but she did make the attempt to get you to class in time." His glare worked. Her indignant defiance faded to shame, and the dull resentment of her sister and everyone who liked Connie so much. Well, he wasn't the designated disciplinarian for nothing. The principal was far too nice and willing to "understand" students, and had even suggested that the girl should not even have this briefest of warning detentions. "Any other excuses?"
"Yes." The speaker was the smallest of the all-senior group, a scrawny teen only confirmed a member of the twelfth grade by his color-coded lanyard to hold the school ID. Green for seniors, white for juniors, black for sophomores, brown for freshman- it helped to distinguish freshmen at a distance.
"A good excuse, Mister Logan?"
"Yes." Garfield Logan was new to the school, as was Miss Anders. He was small, but willing to fight (and lose, but that was a little known fact until someone actually did fight him). "I was in the hospital. One of my guardians called you to inform the offices that I was having a few tests run, but you hung up."
Mr. Evans fixed him with his fiercest look. The kid quailed, but after a few seconds of determined staring. "Shelia Young is not the most . . . stable of people."
Garfield glowered, but didn't respond to the insult with a fight. He kept his cool. "Shelia Young is my foster mother, Mr. Evans, and has been judged fit by the state." He left the bad history between Nurse Young and Mr. Evans out of it.
The principal moved on, choosing the next likely target. Save the known trouble spots for last, after all. "Victor Stone, do you have a better reason?"
The only response was an impassive look, which finally gave way to a verbal answer. The captain of the varsity soccer team was not easily intimidated by Mr. Evans, when the other two assistant principals and the main principal were on his side. "Let Miss Anderson have a chance."
"It's Kori," Miss Anderson said with a shyly grateful smile. "There was no confusion," she said, gaining a little courage. "Connie said she would wake me in time to make the bus. She did not." She didn't give into any amount of disapproving looks, when someone else would support her.
Victor didn't smile, but looked much less unreachable. He'd made Evans back off, the least he could do. It wasn't right to pick on someone smaller, just because you could. There weren't many people bigger than him, so his philosophy was close to universal. "Electricity in my house was out. My father was doing an experiment and blew all fuses and cooked the phone lines. He left a message two hours ago in the attendance office, Mr. Evans."
Mr. Evans blustered, but couldn't find a problem or insubordination in the careful speech. Well, easier mark first- either of the last two could prove difficult. "Mr. Grayson, we meet again."
The response was a meant-to-be-inarticulate mutter. It contained several words that weren't acceptable by the Language Guidelines he had written just last year and posted industriously in every classroom, next to the Guidelines for a Successful Year (also authored by Evans himself). Grayson also used a few more unpleasant words that Evans had never heard before. He would have to update his Guidelines. "I was busy."
Mr. Evans allowed a hint of a smile to fall in place. He was going in for the kill. "According to the call from your house, you were watching television, tuned to a History channel special of some sort."
Richard yawned. "Was it? I was sleeping, which is more productive than this dump."
Mr. Evans would get nothing more from Richard, who had been casually diagnosed as an antisocial psychopath. He had a final target, often implicated by crying cheerleaders, football players, intellectuals, Goths, and all other clique name-bearing kids for verbal abuse. She didn't discriminate. No one was safe from her venom, as she had proved for the last three years of high school. Teachers bore the worst of it. "Miss Rachel Roth."
She had a face that was rumored to have been frozen in place when Nefretiri died. She was pretty enough, by all hushed opinions of guys who would rather live another day without her finding the weakest part of her ego. She had reduced an up-and-coming star linebacker to tears when he tried asked her out the year before. She had been a freshman coming from eight years of home school. The football player didn't have a chance. The stray kind souls to attempt including her in any way had been brutally shot down. She didn't take handouts.
"I plead the fifth, Mr. Richards." That was her trademark response to almost every allegation. She always would admit to whatever it was she was accused of. She just couldn't be bothered to care what it was. It was her answer to why her hair was dyed purple, her eyes were violet, why her skin looked gray, why she was always such a freak (or Goth, or bitch, or heartless demon), and what she had said this time.
Instead, she drew complex figures of lines across the inside of her arm, tracing with a finger. She could hardly say what she had been doing during the hours the school thought they deserved. That was her business. She could imagine the look on Evans's face- on all of their faces- if she said what she had been doing. Then, she would have a few more titles added to her list. She wouldn't look forward to any of them, or the looks people would give her.
Mr. Evans considered. What to do, what to do- he didn't want to deal with them, the room was far too hot, the window was stuck, high school students would often form a temporary alliance against any disciplinary figure- he had it. "You will discuss why you were late, and how to ensure that this doesn't happen again. Once you all sign the statement form, you will be free to go- just send someone with it to my office." Perfect. Not too bad of an arrangement, if he did say so himself. They could deal with the two most frequent visitors to his office, he could have a break- and be paid for dealing with the kids on double-paid overtime. Life was good.
Kori waited until Mr. Evans had let the door to the tiny Supplementary Classroom close before smiling at the others. "I just will not trust Connie. She's nine and a half months older than me, and is usually responsible for bad things happening to me." Losing her shyness, she reeked of optimistic enthusiasm.
Gar shrugged. "I was in the local hospital's emergency room. He doesn't like Shelia because she helped his wife find a good divorce lawyer."
"The ER? What for?" Victor asked.
Gar shrugged again, this time looking uncomfortable. "I had some weird symptoms. I was there for a series of tests, a few precautionary extra meds, a quick check-up; nothing major."
Obviously, the guy didn't want to talk about it. Vic dropped the subject. "My dad has the whole basement for a lab, and is trying out electromagnetic treatments on different diseases. He screwed up the power levels, but it won't happen again."
Kori laughed, smile springing naturally to her face. "What did your mother say?"
Vic tried to not let his expression change. She was too sensitive to see the last remnants of anger from what had happened. "They split four and a half years ago, but she would have been down there with him. She's still in research."
"I'm sorry," Kori apologized, blushing. "I didn't-"
"I know. It's fine, Kori." He looked at a scowling Richard. "Your dad lets you watch History Channel instead of going to school?" Victor moved the attention away from Kori. She needed the break.
"My dad is dead, and wouldn't have cared. All my mom did for me was try to name me something my father didn't approve of. My uncle has given up on me, and I'm Forest Gates's resident juvenile delinquent." The rich gated community in the center of Forston, home of the Forston High School Falcons, wasn't any more fond of him. His tone left no room for apologies.
Rachel slowly let her gaze wander over three expectant and one apathetic face. "I had something better to do." They weren't buying it, with that little emotion. Time to lie. "Christiana- that's my mom- needed me to take her to her obstetrician. Raoul's out of town, and the housekeeper doesn't drive. My mom doesn't want anyone to know about the baby yet." There. Typical names, circumstances, and events. It wasn't remotely true.
"So, we can leave now?" Richard asked.
Rachel didn't answer. She signed the assistant principal's form and left. Richard followed, going the opposite way once he maneuvered through a narrow doorway. Kori expressed wishes to see the two again, not-so-discretely catching a final glance of Richard before signing the slip of paper and walking away.
"Wow. Somebody warned me about an ice demon, when I was registering for class, but she looked completely frozen." Well, she was unmistakable- purple hair, purple eyes, can't miss her, avoid at all costs.
"She's not that bad," Victor said.
"What?" He hadn't expected anyone to defend her.
"I met her when she was five. She still had the same hair and eyes. She isn't shy, really; she just doesn't like people. I still play soccer with her, whenever she comes around."
It could just be his size, but Gar considered Victor a pretty big guy, and large collections of muscles didn't hurt the idea that Victor could knock Gar out without any problem at all. "Soccer? I'd expect-"
"Football, or basketball. I'm okay at them, but soccer's my sport. My dad wishes I played something a little more- traditional, I guess, but I like soccer."
"You still play? With her, I mean?" If she wasn't going to bite his head off if he tagged along, maybe he could try this new game. He had heard that soccer was one of few contact sports where size wasn't too big of a handicap, even if the smallest players could be sent flying by a legal shoulder.
"Not often. Ever since freshman year, all she's done in public is lash out at anyone who gets too close. She comes over every six, seven weeks- on Saturday, if she's coming. She doesn't say, I don't ask. We just play soccer. You ever play before?"
"I've played soccer on GameStation, when I lived with fosters that had a system."
Victor grinned, shaking his head. "It's different in person. You're going to be a smear on my lawn after ten minutes. I play offensively, she always defends. She steals the ball and runs with it- if I score on her twice an hour, it's a good day. After figuring out ways to face her, people think I'm some prodigy when I do the same to an opponent's defense. You can come over to play GS, to try and get an idea of how it works before playing real time." He hadn't missed a rare look pass through Gar's eyes when he looked at Rachel. Not many were naïve, foolish, or new enough to even consider such thoughts.
"I need practice?" Gar asked, signing his name on the line to show he had been present for a Cautionary Attendance Meeting.
"Unless you want to be laughed off the field, that would be a yes."
"After school, tomorrow?"
"Sounds good." Vic scrawled his name on the last line. "I'll call you with directions." He jotted the number Gar dictated onto a scrap of paper. "Tomorrow, grass stain."
"Tomorrow," he agreed. Vic took the sheet to the assistant, and Gar slipped out the side door to start walking home. He had a few miles to go, to get out of Forest Gates and into the borderline poor part of Forston. He saw a flashy car that had to be Vic's, by the soccer cleats on the dash. He had a friend already. For a foster shrimp, that was a new record.
Richard was not the golden boy of the block. He wasn't even close to bronze. If he was near the awards podium, it was probably to knock someone flat on their back. In the Neighborhood's class consciousness, he was the Juvenile Delinquent Who Will End Up In Jail. He made no effort to change their minds. His social worker had been overjoyed to find his uncle a week after Richard's father "disappeared." Richard had liked his father. They had shared more than one good time. He wouldn't have minded that the entire neighborhood knew his son's age and status in the criminal justice system. His father would have been proud of a son that slashed the tires of a school official he frequently had problems with. Evans would know who it had been, but there was no proof.
Richard's father had taught him how to fight as soon as he could walk. He had never been involved in martial arts- pansy fighting, in his father's opinion. Instead, he learned the ways of fighting his father used. Street-fighting meant that the smallest kid could use speed and cleverness to beat out anyone. As he grew stronger, he learned how to use that, punching and kicking and disarming opponents.
At six, he had learned how to fight with guns. He could steal a gun, dodge bullets (rubber ones for practice, of course- nasty welts, but a mistake wouldn't be deadly), use a stolen gun, and had marksmanship that the Marines would probably accept. He had to be good. His father's one goal in his son was to make him a fighter, so he could defend himself. Richard could never bring himself to let his father down.
At seven, he was the only first grader who didn't back away from sixth graders on the playground. Four of them jumped him after school once, after he called them brutes not worthy of his time. Three were unconscious and one was sobbing "uncle" when the teachers and principal ran to break up the fight.
He still remembered sitting in the office, swinging his legs in the most cavalier way possible, waiting for his dad to arrive. He was nervous, not that he would ever admit it. He had been a little sloppy with the second, and had a glancing bruise on his shoulder. And- what if his father had changed his mind? The teacher, a smiling and demure young lady who had looked ready to burst with happiness at the sight of children to teach, had told him fighting was against The Rules, which were Not To Be Broken. She spoke to him as if he were seven. He was used to being talked to as an adult, so the rules (with no capitals, in his opinion) had been disregarded.
He needn't have worried. His father was proud of him, even if he said the appropriate words and nodded gravely at his teacher's speech. Richard could tell. His father's hand was on his shoulder, with just enough pressure to show the touch wasn't accidental. Affectionate physical contact was very rare. His father took him home early, promising better behavior the next day. In the car and out of sight of administrators happy to have solved a Problem, his father requested a play-by-play.
He hadn't been at all disappointed about the bruise. He had taken a look at the boys to ambush his son. Four against one meant that the accepted testimony was that Richard started it. Looking at the damage, it seemed more than possible. His father hadn't minded. Instead, he told his son that he was proud of him. Fighting wasn't nice, he explained, but sometimes it was the only way to keep your head above water.
Two weeks passed, with Richard had kept his nose clean in school and moved onto wrestling and close-quarters fighting with his father, before the unthinkable happened. His father didn't come home.
Richard had always known that his father had an odd schedule. He would disappear for days, and come back with gunshot wounds and presents. But he never lied. If his father said two o'clock Thursday, he meant two o'clock on the dot on Thursday. If he said he was proud of him, he meant it, and Richard knew that he could be happy. His father had a different job than most parents, but it paid the bills, and more than that.
He still remembered his last phone call. He had asked why he didn't have a mother- in class that day, they had learned about families. His father had told him that his mom had died just after he was born, from injuries completely unrelated to Richard. She had wanted to name him Robin, but his father had disagreed. That had been the last time he spoke to her- after that, she had hemorrhaged severely from a bullet wound. His father kept a tough front, and Richard had never seen him cry- but he had also never seen him date like the friends that had come over once in awhile.
Richard walked himself to and from school, and had his own key no one else was to see. Seven-year-olds usually couldn't watch themselves. He prided himself on it. He had a schedule. He would get himself up with a blast of radio from the alarm clock, get dressed, eat cereal for breakfast, put away the dishes, pack a lunch or take money from the folder his father left, and practice his latest set of exercises. After school, there was more practice, dinner (usually microwave-heated canned pasta), work on reading with his father's gun manuals, and then go to bed. A simple schedule, but it was enough.
He was home early on Thursday, a half day of school. He worked on his wrestling, practiced sharp-shooting in the basement range, and made sure the box of bandages was open and accessible. He was sitting by the window at 1:30 P.M., ready for his father to come home. At 2:01, he was nervous. At 9:00, he knew that something had happened. He knew what to do. He went to bed, slept however uneasily, and went to school as if nothing had happened.
Four and a half weeks later, there was no news. The house had one can of processed food left, and he was out of money. Richard had exhausted the envelope of funds, however miserly he had spent. He stayed after class to speak to the teacher, and calmly informed her that his father hadn't been home for over a month.
Two days later, Richard Grayson arrived at his uncle's house with two suitcases, a large trust fund, and a longing for his old hobbies. They had confiscated all guns, knives, manuals, trash, and writing samples. His uncle was not pleased to take in an obviously violent child. Richard had quickly adapted to the new house rules. If he stayed in his room, his uncle wouldn't give him disapproving speeches and try to get him to open up and act like a normal kid, whatever that was.
He let the door to the elaborate house slam behind him. "I'm home," he called to the empty house, dropping his backpack on the bench by the front door. His uncle hated that- by morning, it would be neatly hanging in the closet. He found the usual note on the kitchen table, recycled from a few weeks ago daily. A few grease spots made the paper transparent, but the message was common. Busy day of work, don't wait up for me, there's money for delivery on the fridge. Richard picked up the phone. Pizza again- just like usual. He hadn't had a break in his routine for years. Practice fighting he hardly ever used in his room, order in pizza, go to school, watch people stop talking whenever he came too close, and scour the History channel specials about the modern Mafia. His father might come up someday, and he wouldn't miss him. That was the only gap in the usual day that he looked forward to, just one welcome change. But maybe- after ten years- another change might not be so bad.