Chapter 14: invasion

Raven glared bitterly forward, some hint of her once-normal countenance apparent upon her features. It had been the first time in weeks that she appeared to have been the titan she always was: scowling face, eyes of icy lavender, an air of unreachable heights. And she was furious; fuming deep inside with anger that even Trigon would have been wary of.

She'd been a woman scorned, and hell hath no fury like it. Slade had done many things to her, many unspeakable things. Raven could overlook the fact he had pursued her upon her birthday, forcing upon her the inscription and a futuristic vision of the apocalypse. Fine, no big deal. Raven could ignore that he had attempted to rape her mind until which point she had let him in willingly. Perhaps a bigger matter, but again, not something that couldn't be set into the past. Even somehow manipulating her to love him, it could all be forgiven.

But shoving her out just after they'd shared their last intimate moment…! Ashen fingers clenched into fists, shaking with rage beneath her indigo cloak.

He had taken something from her that she cherished deeply: her innocence, not only in body, but the innocence in love. Raven had dabbled into a faction of herself she never was quite certain existed. It had been there in the smallest of forms when she had learned under Azar, when she had come to know her mother, and when she finally made her first friends. But Slade had aroused far too much within her. She'd never experienced the form of love that blossomed through such trivial needs, the desire and yearning that went hand in hand with it. And Slade had taken that from her.

At first, when she was rushing to dress herself, all she could feel was this gut-wrenching, heart-throbbing ache that seemed to permeate the very core of her being. When it became clear that everything they had shared during their time all the nights where she would be plagued by nightmares where he would keep her awake in his arms, their meals, their witty and intelligent conversations, and even their time silently spent in the other's company; when all of that was gone Raven felt as if she was once again a mere ant in her father's presence. Weak and pathetic, alone and miserable. Used.

And in all of her time, the one thing she had come to know was to steel herself from the pain. The ache had gradually shifted into a numbing sensation, and then was replaced with the trembling of rage. How she despised Slade for what he had done to her, how he could just toss her out the moment it seemed she would burden him. Served the bastard right, Raven tersely thought. She had no pity for his emotions when she became the portal. He would just have to suffer.

Slade was right. She truly was a demon.

But in all honesty, the entire fit of emotion was not only pointless but trivial at best. Slade may have kicked her to the curb, but what would happen after her demon side came out to play? Trigon's arrival would end Slade's purpose of existence. Without a message to tell, without a rebellious daughter to torment, scare, and keep in line, Slade would have no usefulness. It would be she who was left in charge of him, she who would be given permission to grant judgment upon his soul. Raven didn't need to contemplate what she would choose. Slade would live, if only but to watch him agonize over what she would become.

It was then that the enormity of her thought process struck her. What the hell was she thinking? Raven's hovering body halted in a moment of realization. She'd just wished the worst possible fate upon the man she cared for most. This wasn't her talking, thinking; this was her darker half, influenced clearly by the red-cloaked emotion within. Her fractured mind pleaded with her to go off towards the park and meditate, but doing that would only damage her. Fingers sought to rub the Ring of Azar as an alternative—nothing met her fingertips but the pale flesh beneath. She'd given the rings to Slade. Then her body yearned for his touch, something, anything of him to soothe her…

Raven's quaking fists fell to her sides in resignation. It was no wonder her anger had gotten so out of hand. a task He was probably gloating over. Her teeth weaseled away deeply into her bottom lip, worrying it into chapped parts. It wouldn't be long; even now she could feel it… adelicate hand inched across her abdomen, resting tenderly on her front. The portal was growing, progressing through its gestation. And all of her currently out of hand emotions were only fueling the energy needed to further continue her endurance resistance, her "portal pains".

She had enough energy to transport to the Tower, Raven concluded after a moment of contemplation, which meant she had enough power to do any of her basics. But, did she truly want to go back there, now? Feeling ashamed and angry with herself? The ache was slowly returning in her chest, an ache that hadn't left, but was masked with her fury. This had been the worst emotion of all. All her life she was trained to suppress these sensations. The hardest had always been the red-cloaked facet of rage and hate. She'd persevered; she'd been able to put the emotion back in place multiple times. Hate could be fought back, pushed aside, and then forgotten.

But how could love be forgotten? How could it be set to the corners of her mind? This wasn't just something that Raven could merely ignore and never let it cross her attention again. What had happened was a fundamental chunk of her life that had been impacted by everything Slade had done to her.

There just wasn't any other way to rid herself of the pain. Meditation was gone. The rings gone. Slade…gone. Thus a burning grew in her once again. Her sad and timid demeanor hardened into an impenetrable shell. The rage had nestled back in, washing over the wound, covering it with a makeshift bandage. The hate kept her going; the hate would help her survive.

By now she was within the cityscape, passing through it as she would have normally on any given day. There had been talking, a buzzing about her of dialogue as she passed throughout the streets. Raven expected this to be normal. She'd been missing for sometime; surely Robin would have declined any statements of questions from any given media as to her absence. To anyone about her, she had probably had taken some downtime from her duties, or perhaps she'd been on an undercover front. Needless to say, here she was, with the facade that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Still, Raven didn't exactly love the idea of passing through the city to approach the Tower. Here there was noise, and loud emotions ringing in her ears it was all just an annoyance to her. Such life had always been depressing to her. Azarath had many individuals, yes, but none of them were quite this loud all together. At least…not until they had all perished and sang their fleeting death song with their emotions.

Raven snorted, trying to act coldly to the matter entirely. She hated these close-knit areas bustling with activity, but little could be done. Slade's home was right by the city. The easiest route to the Tower was a straight beeline through it. And even though the city was probably teaming with individuals worshiping her father, Raven concluded that none would dare to approach her in so broad a public space. Of course Raven was still undecided on the topic of if she washeading straight there or not. It would be…unpleasant. Not only with the feelings she was currently experiencing, but withall the sensations that would emit from everyone else there.

And surely there would be questions, hundreds of questions; such as why hadshe left to begin with? Hadn't she trusted them? Who were Grant and Joseph Wilson, the boys Slade had threatened Robin to find for him? There must have been countless more.

Worst of all, she had no reason to not answer every single thing that would be asked of her. There wasn't some life threatening tidbit of information left to hide. They knew she was the daughter of a demon, prone to demonic fits, and would bring on JudgmentDay. After that, what could they possibly hate her for?

Raven's eyes lowered in a flicker of fear and sorrow between the rage. They would hate her for her appalling relationship with Slade. Then anger once again took the front of her hooded face.

Relationship, ha! She was being immature and childish! Her relationship with Slade was insane at best. Heroes and villains did not make couples. It was a rarity that people like Cyborg and Jinx made friends. Now, people like Starfire and Robin hooked up. Not her and Slade, especially not her and Slade. Then what exactly was it they had? If not a founding relationship, then what?

And why was she allowing this to get to her at all? She was Raven, damn it! Daughter of Trigon the Terrible and Arella, taught by the monks of Azarath, nurtured by the almighty Azar herself! This was nothing but a thorn in her side, one that she would remove with some pain, but with little difficulty.

She paused, feet dangling inches from the ground as a pedestrian light blinked to a "no walking" sign. Purple eyes glared menacing bullets through the light pole, while she waited impatientlyfor it to turn back to a more pleasant indication of movement.

Slade was nothing to her, Raven instructed. He never had been. He had always been an antagonist that had threatened the city she protected, a devious fiend who sought power through unconventional, illegal means. The man always seemed upon a never ending quest to find some form of surrogate to fill in his place when he left the world, an apprentice to mold into his own form. He did that by raping them and instilling fear and a position beneath him to serve. And now Slade was dead, living on borrowed time, a messenger to her demon father, a servant to her, and the future Brother Blood whose child was foretold that she would conceive.

How could Raven love that? Or waste her time on that?

The light flashed, darting out and then reemerging as a new color and a new image. Safety was granted to her and her fellow pedestrians to pass over the street once traffic had officially cleared. Raven patiently floated several seconds in delay before traveling forward with the crowd, unaware of their petty conversations and only conscious of the area about her. It felt like her father. She ignored it.

Her lips turned from insecure biting to a fuming frown as she began to dive into the truth of her words. Raven was disillusioning herself, but what other choice did she have? Slade had pushed her out; she had to do the same in order to survive. He had outlived his expediency to her, now Slade was nothing but her father's lackey once again. Until she fulfilled her destiny, Slade should have been nothing more than a fleeting thought.

"Slade was wrong," she spat to no one under her breath. "Love and hate weren't alike at all. At least I can live with the hate."

That moment, at that exact place in time, all of her subsidiary observing finally pinpointed a place of alarm. The area felt like her father, yes, but that wasn't what bothered her. It didn't feel like Slade. Panicked, alert, Raven swerved her head about, eyes hunting.

No, of course it wouldn't feel like Slade, not in that natural sense. But the bond, there wasn't…no it was there, Raven was certain of that. It just was blocked, not empty, a seeming barrier between it, a cold spot. Now that she tried, there was no way Raven could detect Slade's presence. He didn't feel like he was at his mansion, and it didn't feel like he was on some otherworldly plain of existence. It just didn't feel at all. Something was blocking it; something that felt like her father.

Her eyes narrowed to that of suspicious beads. The pace she had been traveling slowed tremendously as the group she had been caught up with began to pass by. More faces went back and forth past her, giving her looks of mixed surprise before passing on. Raven didn't see any of them, her focus entirely poised upon this one fact Who would block the mental passage between them? Raven could think of no one individual. She hadn't quite known any other specific servants of her father, and the Church of Blood was far too vast to narrow down to a specific cause.

Who then? What had Trigon sent her way this time?

Her pace continually decreased further until she had stopped altogether. Her feet had touched down onto the concrete, a look upon her face of preparation and tenseness. Those whom had walked beyond and near her took note of this behavior, many purposely moving back from her in a clearing circle. A fight was about ready to go down, Raven could feel it in her muscles and in the way her neck's hair began to stand on end. It was coming, and it was coming quickly.

Raven's head bolted upward, hood of her cape falling back, as her eyes met with an oncoming ball of flame racing down towards her. Her brain reeled, trying to issue orders to her body in order to deflect the most damage and to leave the most civilians unharmed. Whatever her frantic mind was ordering never quite made it through, for in seconds she ended up relying solely on impulse to do it's job. Gloved hands shot up and a black shield danced across the sky, beating the speed of the projectile and affectively blocking it, diverting the energy elsewhere. Citizens screamed, ducking and piling faster to get away from her.

The shield dropped and Raven dropped her arms, eyes flashing to their normal indigo as her assailant became the predominant force zooming down at her. What met her eyes both shocked her into silence and froze her to the spot. Slade's body was falling quickly to hers, arms outstretched, hands a crimson glow, the Rings of Azar mysteriously missing...

But it wasn't that it was Slade that was barely feet from her.

It was the fact it didn't feel like Slade at all. That no other explanation could be given aside that this could not have been Slade.

And that scared her.

Time sped up as this realization dawned upon her. With a gruff bellow of effort, Slade landed flat on top of Raven, crushing her to the ground. His hands roughly snatched her arms, crushing the skin beneath. A gasp wasushered from her as she felt the familiar burning from his touch. He was going to try and summon forth the inscriptions on her body, force her to feel them unwittingly, to stress her. Fairly premature of Slade, indeed.

"Shall we take Daddy's birthday gift for another test drive?" His voice, as always, sounded as it had.

But it wasn't Slade. Raven could feel it. It was his body, but it wasn't him. And if it wasn't him, than he would remain unharmed for any action she could have done to him. Which was little, if any. Her power was still not fully recovered. Sure, she had enough to teleport home, perhaps enough for a decent defense. But it was unlikely she could summon forth the charter marks which would then allow her to tap into any demonic energy reserves that had been replenished. If she were truly lucky, she could force them to the surface and keep the marks up as a scare tactic, but little more.

Alright then, Raven began to identify her situation. She was on low energy and fighting a villain that appeared to be someone that she had known, but was confusingly not. Fighting this battle would result in a bad outcome… why though? Why had Trigon sent him, or someone like him, to her like this? And what was the cause of this undecipherable absence of the actual Slade? There could have been so many different possibilities involving the exact notion of the contract keeping his undead body moving about on earth, however…

Raven couldn't answer those now. She could barely begin to fathom them. All she knew now was that she could not win this fight on her own, whatever reason maybe for it to happen at all. This and she would need back up. The best that could be done in this situation was to run away, but running could only do so much. It didn't stop Slade the first time he chased her down. But the other titans, her friends may offer assistance. That was that, they had to be contacted.

Furrowing her brows, Raven growled back venomously "This is the last uniform you try to ruin!"

A well aimed kick caused the demonic messenger's grip to falter. Raven exploited this right away, seeping into the form of her bird shaped soul self, passing through the shadows in order to escape his immediate hold. The curse she knew would never come from the normally calm, collected, and prepared Slade came in the form of a mental sneer. This could not be Slade. It just couldn't.

Once corporal in form, Raven darted up to the sky, taking flight. Even now as her pale hands moved to snatch the communicator from the back of her belt her mind was racing. This Slade was different, too different.

"Raven calling Titans!" her voice urged almost frantically into the device. Her speed increased.

It didn't feel like him. It was his body, his signature psychic waves, but not him. She couldn't quite explain it. There was no emotion radiating from him. None that would tip to her that the true Slade was somewhere beneath the masked man pursuing her.

"I need assistance!" she continued more urgently.

The man had tried a tactic he hadn't pulled on her in weeks, months! For Azar's sakes, he had pinned her expecting to fry her nerves by pulling forth the inscriptions. Not only would it have been painful and probably worked to immobilize her, but it was entirely against his style. Slade would've opted for something more personal, something more likely to make her hurt worse for shoving her out not just twenty-thirty minutes earlier. Slade wouldn't have tried immobilizing her so soon. Slade would have exploited her current emotional state.

"I am being pursued" She darted her head back to see the distance between them. He was missing. "What the—" Her body slammed into his, a hand instantly snatching around her wrist. The communicator quickly exchanged hands, and in his touch it had set half ablaze, setting off the smell of melted plastics into the air.

"Now, now, Raven," he cooed to her, leaning his face closer to hers. "This is between you, me, and dear old dad."

"Tell 'Dad' this can wait." The flat of her hand rammed into Slade's chest plate, charging with a black aura. "Azarath, Metrion, Zynthos!"

A minor explosion of black soul erupted after, flinging their bodies apart equal distances. Raven's nose crinkled in a glare. Her eyes wandered overhim, sizing him up, debating once and for all if she could really take him. If she could chance taking him.

No, she noted to herself. This wasn't the Slade she was used to any more. She couldn't feel him, and it didn't act like him, like the Slade she currently knew. And in any event she was right and this was not Slade, how could she anticipate this imposter's strength? And again, especially at her weakened state? No, better to continue running.

With that, her body turned and bolted in midair again; the race was on once more, and Slade bolted from his stationary position in chase. Her body ran with adrenaline. She had two options. Fly straight for the Tower, or fly in random patterns to try and loose him. The second held no guarantee that she could receive help. The titans could've been fighting in town already or were trying to find her after her call. And if she couldn't beat Slade, what made them believe they could? The first was dangerous. Not only did it leave Slade an easy shot to reach her, it led him right to a place that could not possibly protect her.

Yet…there was no other choice. Raven began the second of maneuvers. It was suicidal in every right of the word, and although Slade couldn't die from it, she could. Though, that seemed irrelevant. Trigon would rather rot in his hellish domain than see her die before his escape. Even with that thought, however, Raven couldn't help but wonder what the hell she was doing as her body came in low to dart through oncoming traffic.

Cars swerved, horns blared, and Raven couldn't issue a single thought to save her life, relying entirely on instincts to survive the chaotic threat. The world became a mass of blurring colors of flashing lights, crazed screams and curses, and all Raven could do was respond like a panicked animal, rushing every which way to safety. Finally she pulled free from the course, barely escaping the singeing heat of an explosion. Raven's eyes clenched shut, not wishing to look behind her at the cause. It could've been an accident or Slade either way.

Swallowing guilt, she pushed onward, avoiding capture. She was terrified; terrified that this wasn't Slade. Frightened for the unknown reason of this chase. And even more petrified that her friends were nowhere near to help her in this state.

The first chance she received Raven pulled a sharp turn, throwing her body through the window of a tall building. Under the pressures of her pursuit, she barely registered the small lacerations from the glass as she landed down to her knees. Frantically her hands darted about the broken glass surrounding her, grabbing the largest pieces she could wield in her hand. With a determined frown, she darted from her spot on the ground, charging, lunging through the window and intercepted Slade.

With a cry issuing from the back of her throat, she pummeled into him, ramming the shards in an area devoid of his armor. Slade's hand snatched her wrist, keeping her entangled with him as they plummeted downward to the streets. His body began to super heat, the glass embedded into him melted. Raven's palms screamed with pain, and in reflex she released a screamof her own, one in the form of her mantra. The energy knocked them apart once more, allowing a space between them as they landed haphazardly to the ground. In seconds the two were up in the air and at it again.

On whims her body turned down alleys, up great streets, backtracking and repeating it all over again. Finally there was a detour in her flight. Her eyes spotted it. The bridge, one of Beast Boy's favorite hangouts. An idea stuck her in desperation as her eyebrows furrowed in determination. "Let's see if skeletons can swim…"

She dived, curving her flight to drop beneath the bridge, the nearing water spraying her bare legs. Then she saw it too late: the one thing that Raven had not anticipated in the heat of the moment, the one thing she couldn't possibly have known or prepared for if she hadn't been within the city the past weeks. Her speeding body smashed headfirst into an immobile crane. If Raven yelped, it wasn't heard for the loud resounding thrum against the metal siding. Then she fell back, dazed, her face a contorted mix of shooting pain. She didn't feel the water as she landed, but its cold touch punched the air from her. As she was beginning to sink under in the semi-shallow waters, a hand snatched the back of her cloak and pulled her up. As her eyes opened, she saw the full of her mistake. Slade was there, arms grasping her, head ablaze with the mark of Skath.

"…no…!" she whined softly, the breath having knocked from her. Looking in his masked face, seeing his eye had finally left room to interpret the only emotion that seemed to emit from him at all that evening. A lustrous vengeance…

Something was beginning to form in her head… establishing a face based upon the presence behind the eye.

He flung her from the water, back to the grass and dry land. Raven gasped sharply upon landing, disoriented and trying to regain a sense of self. Slade hopped from the water, promptly approaching her. "You won't go unpunished…"

This wasn't Slade at all. Raven couldn't sense him. The fact he felt no remorse when just hours before he had been bitter with the reminder she would be forced to leave him. None of that was present. It was masked, just like his face, just like…

He grabbed her, jerking her to unsteady legs, his grip bruising. A fist engulfed with flames rose to her, striking her face. Once more Raven flew back, an audible shout ripped from her throat. She looked up in time to see the boot swiftly approaching. Air once more surrounded her body. The ground hit hard, she bounced, and skidded. Groaning, aching, Raven uttered, "…stop."

It was all making sense now, perfect sense.

Slade's eye narrowed. "Never."

She raised her head, her nose dripping blood, her skin blistering from his blow. "I said stop it, Joseph."

Slade's body stiffened. And Raven knew it to be true. The absence of his presence, blocked by something that felt like her father. The missing rings. The words. Joseph was in there, using his body. He must have been searching, hunting her down. The look behind Slade's eye was just the same as Adeline's. Strong and bitter, vengeful in every aspect. This wasn't an attack issued by Slade or her father. Joseph wanted to make her pay for killing his mother, and what better way than to deal punishment through the one you loved most? Normally Slade would never have let someone like Joseph so easily take control of his body. But he was dead now, penetrable…and with the rings absent there was no way to block the attack.

Raven's face formed a look of fortitude. Joseph felt like her father now. He would certainly have more power than she did at the moment. It was time to use a tactic that Beast Boy was familiar with: appear menacing despite the factshe hadn't the whole power to defend herself. With as much energy she could spare, her inscriptions flared and she rose to her feet. Taking a stance of aggression, she pushed with her mind a swift and sharp blow. Suddenly Slade's body collapsed, and falling backwards was the forming physical mass of a teenaged boy.

With a wave of relief the sensations of Slade's presence flooded her brain, alerting her of his nearness. She smiled thankfully for that, but as her attention lowered upon the boy her lips fell deeply into a deadly frown. Glaring, Raven forced herself to straighten her posture and stand firmly, fighting to hold onto the inscriptions best she could. A feat she was struggling with.

It's all your fault! Joseph gaped up at her, green eyes bubbling with hot, angry, accusing tears. Raven had been right: he looked so much like Adeline then.

Her eyes glowed white, body a blood red. She had to play the front that she could handle this. "You're gonna have to clarify that Joseph because lately, everything's my fault."

You killed my mother!! He screamed it with his mind, hands signing fast. Apparently her physical weakness went unnoticed by him.

"I'm not sorry," Raven addressed back.

Of course you aren't! How could you?! You're just like he is! He glared at the unconscious form of his father.

"I'm everything and more." Her eyes narrowed, glaring at him with intensity. "Now, listen, Joey," Raven had accessed Slade's memories, rubbing the nickname into him "because I'm not going to repeat myself. I spared your mother a fate worse than death."

Joseph's face remained skewed in an expression so much like Slade's could be.

"This world dies shortly. You can either enjoy your last days and suffer, or I can spare you the pain and kill you now. Either way you'll die," Raven summarized. Azar she had hoped he picked the first than the latter, despite what little qualms she had about making this kid the proverbial smudge of bug guts on the universe's windshield right now.

Go to hell!

"I'll one up you and bring hell to earth. Sound like fun?" Raven teasingly raised an eyebrow.

He stood shakily to his feet, holding within him the anger, the whim to lunge at her that very moment. Raven understood the feeling. Really she did, but her face remained unbudging.

I'll get you. I don't care what it takes, I'll get you.

"Whatever gets you through the night." Raven dismissed it conversationally.

It only seemed to fuel that growing hostility for her, but he reserved himself. She had to admit, she commended him for that. With one last departing glare, Joseph took his leave. He walked away, hands shoved angrily in his pockets, huffing away in a furious fume.

"Oh, and Joey!" Raven called back teasingly. She couldn't hurt him like this, but she could do something else…

He stopped, eyes peeking across his shoulder back to her.

"I have to thank you for that little pep talk we had." Raven hostilely grinned, referring to the time she had him hostage "Without you I never would've known the truth."

His green eyes burned with rage. An eye for an eye, Raven.

And silently, as always, continued on his own path of darkness.

Finally, the inscriptions faded, the white shine of power left her optics, and lastly she turned her head down to Slade. He was left just as he had fallen. With a characteristic pout, Raven uttered while giving him a light kick in the arm, "You're more useless than Beast Boy."

No response.

Raven sighed, "Uhhhnnn…"

She lowered down to his level, preparing to wait until enough energy returned to do something, anything. But in the mean time, the threat of Joseph and his retreating words began to seep away from the forefront of her mind. All Raven could feel was relief. Slade was safe, and even if he wouldn't return that joyful sentiment, it meant everything. "You're more trouble than you're worth."

It meant everything in the world.

Joseph's face was that of a hard, grisly expression, one that did not fit the once-gentle boy at all, but was there nonetheless. It had been there for ages now, or at least it had felt like ages, there since the day his mother perished under Raven's hands. Since that day something dark had stirred, something sinister bubbled and arose inside him. He had been vengeful before. He had known what vengeance was like. It had been what drove him to follow in his mother's tracks, to hunt down Slade and put him away.

But this was a far greater vengeance. Before he had only been enthralled because the incident that left him mute was directly in relation to his father's actions. It was possible, and Joseph was well aware of this, that his hatred for his dad was half-instilled by his mother. After all the things he grew aware of in his father and what he did, that hatred was only cemented and became well founded.

This however, was far, far different. Someone he cared for had died. He understood Adeline's drive to put Slade down with ease now. He could have died because of him, now she was dead because of her. And the one thought that pounded in his brain as he parted his way back within the forested area of the park was that of how he would still reap what he wanted from her.

His green eyes landed upon his brother, hunched over and fidgeting with a knapsack. Joseph hadn't needed to make his presence known; Grant had already realized he was there.

Looking up, Grant eyed Joseph in acknowledgement. His chin-length blonde hair was slicked back from his face, tied back in place for him to easily see. "Uh oh, something must not have gone well." Smugly he added, "Tough break, kid."

That was your brainchild. Joseph's words this time were conveyed through the use of his hands. Grant was by no means a telepath like Raven.

"You just can't fight with the big boys," Grant teased. He slipped legs into ebony, body-clinging pants. "Doe-eyed and violet has nothing on red when it comes to a fight. I could'a taken her."

As if on cue, the alien princess floated several feet in the air above their cover in the trees. Her green on green eyes were searching furiously, her body sulkily floating along. She raised her communicator to her lips, and spoke worriedly into it. "Oh, I fear we will never find out, friend."

One last glance over the area, and she moved on to continue her search in relation to Raven's earlier distress call.

Joseph followed Starfire's direction with his eyes, and exhaled softly when he was satisfied that she was gone. He continued And you have experience fighting Titans? Joseph's arms were crossed.

"You know I do. Mom knew I did," Grant said through the muffled sounds of the spandex top he was pulling down over his head. Once that was free, he continued. "You guys were too smart not to figure it out. So don't act dumb with me."

Alright, I did know the other admitted. You may be able to fight the Titans, but she's evolved since you fought them as a whole. And what good do your skills have in comparison to your ideas? That plan was a crock.

"I've had better," Grant said stiffly, indignantly as if insulted. "And it could've worked if you weren't so terrible at this kinda job."

Grant. His hand landed on the other's shoulder, catching him still before Grant could pull another article on. We go by my plan this time, and we use your physical skills.

The dressing boy stared at Joseph's hand hard, deep in thought. Agitated, he muttered back, "I don't like this. It isn't my style, kid. I'm pissed too, but this isn't going to help anything. I say we hire a professional to take a hit on her. We have the money for it."

A professional wouldn't manage one shot at her. The only way we can do this is if we do it by ourselves. A pause Joseph wet his lips. Raven's too strong to target directly.

"And you know of someone to target indirectly?" Grant chuckled dismissingly, in a chiding manor. He threw a black mask over his head. "After Slade, the Teen Titans are the only thing left."

No, there's one more. A glint was in Joseph's green eyes. A knowing, tell-tale glint. Almost undetectable, his forehead glowed softly, and the impression of Skath into his brow was barely seen. But you'll have to trust me.

Grant stared even harder into the boy's face. It seemed as if a great battle was raging in his head. This wasn't what he did, but his brother was in so much pain over this, could he possibly reject him? "Alright. One shot, but after that count me out."

Oh, you won't regret it… and his green eyes locked with Grant's masked ones, there bodies becoming one.

An eye parted, and then the other tried. For the split second of a moment, there was panic in Slade Wilson's mind. But the panic, as it was every morning, was short-lived. The phantom feelings that an eyeball was still present in his right eye socket dissipated with the remaining evidence of sleep. He paused in self assessment a moment. Like a shot, his mind fired off lists.

He was on a bed. He was stripped to his pants. The armor had been removed from the leggings. And there was an empty space beside him that was lukewarm from the heat of another body.

It was then Slade dually noted that the bathroom door connecting to his bedroom was shut. The shower head was running. Ex that, it had just shut off. Rather than sitting up and investigating, Slade readjusted himself on the bed for comfort, crossing his arms behind his head giving him enough leverage to look about without difficulty while still remaining flat on his back. He didn't have to guess who his bedtime buddy was.

While he waited, Slade finally took the time to assess what had happened the night prior. He and Raven had spent ample "quality" time with each other, before she went and pissed the hell out of him. The nerve of her, demanding that he protect her friends, protect the titans. Especially when that threat would likely be Raven herself. Of course he would kick her out after that. He could barely hit her without some body-wrenching remorse. The next option was to push her out.

Then there had been the struggle. No, Slade reminded himself. There wasn't much of a struggle. But it sure as hell sounded better in his mind if there was a struggle, and that he at least had a chance to fight back. Alas, that nice thought existed only in his mind. He had taken off the rings Raven had given him rings she had told him at one point were Azar's rings, relics that were capable of warding off Trigon. Even if she hadn't told him outright, he could have accessed her memories to find out everything he needed to know about them. Their powers against Trigon, as he suspected, was the reason Azar had bestowed them to her.

Thus, he had removed them out of spite, and the moment he had Joseph struck. Unlike Raven, Slade could not just detect the whereabouts of individuals through psychic or mental means. He had to rely solely on enhanced senses, all of which he had pointedly ignored during his home stay. The mansion was a safe haven; he had never suspected any intruders. It had allowed his son a quick strike, one Slade couldn't avoid.

Normally, as it would with Adeline or even in Raven's case, Joseph's presence in the physical body would not render the host unconscious. Slade wasn't normal; he was dead and walking the earth with extra time. To Joseph, Slade's body was nothing more than an empty puppet, and instantly upon possessing his body had knocked him unconscious. Aside from assuming Raven had somehow pulled his ass out of the proverbial fryer, Slade had no other recollection of how the night went.

Eventually the bathroom door opened, and Raven emerged with towel wrapped around her waist, and a second draped around her neck, hanging loose enough to modestly cover pale breasts still beading with water. Nonchalantly, the daughter of darkness used the towel around her neck to squeeze her wet tresses. Droningly she commented, "You're awake."

Never one to miss a beat, mockingly, Slade droned similarly, "You're still here."

The edges of her lips twitched in a smirk.

It was interesting, in all actuality. When her stay began at Slade's abode, Raven was told that the energy usually released due to an expression or intensity in emotion had been shut off to help gain energy to create the portal. Even before then, meditation was impossible and left her unable to keep a stiff hold of these emotions. Coming so close to Slade had helped to soothe her, bring back a false sense of emotional control. They both realized this.

"I just can't get rid of you, can I?" he huffed, his face contorting to look that of annoyance.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it you who made all the marriage innuendo?" Raven's eyebrow quirked up in expectance of his answer.

A glint of mischief was seen in his blue eye. "I accept defeat; you're right."

A look of humor danced across Raven's face, and she made no motion to hide it. "Oh really? If I would've known it was that easy to win an argument with you, I would've said that a long time ago."

"Child, a long time ago and that remark would have cost you."

"I'm not a child," Raven pointedly defended. He knew better than anyone that her intelligence level exceeded her age, even when she was younger. But Slade knew it would upset her, hence why he did it, the very fact bringing him on top of the situation once again.

The room fell silent after that. Slade eyeing Raven quietly while she tried to ignore this fact, pretending to be more focused on drying her hair. It now lay in dampened strands, no longer dripping as they had. His eye on her made her blush lightly, a mix of nervousness and embarrassment. Her body, she felt, was very plain. Of course her purple hair and eyes were rather odd for the average, but that was as far as the traits went. Aside from looking like she lived in a cave her entire life, her body was like anybody else's: average, common, undesirable.

"I thought you were leaving," Slade finally commented, seeming at random.

"I was." She corrected herself, "I am."

A knowing, smug expression pulled at the skin of his visage. "You'll stay."

"No, Slade." Any amusement in her voice was gone. "I am leaving. For real this time."

"Don't be so selfish," Slade off-handedly muttered to her in a lowly fashion.

"Selfish?" Raven questioned, anger clearly underlying her tone. "I'm not being selfish, Slade. You're the one being selfish, wanting to keep me here. My friends are worried; my mother is looking for me. They deserve to see me before this goes down.

"And did you forget what you told me last night?"

Slade rolled his eyes nonchalantly "That was last night." A smug expression shone on his face. "Although I had every intention to keep that 'chase after you' portion."

"I know," Raven mumbled. "And I almost thought you were making good on that promise."

She was referring to the possession Joseph had performed on Slade.

"I'm sorry to have disappointed you." Slade's expression turned from smugness to that of a grudge. He still could not get over the fact he had let his son get the better of him.

"You're one to talk. Do you know how careless you've been?"

Ah, there it was. Now he was going to get scolded.

She eyed him with a stare that stabbed through him. With scrutinizing eyes she trailed her gaze down to the fingers on his hands. The rings, once missing, were now positioned on his fingers once again. Raven had known what had happened, oh how she knew. After taking him back here she had used the advantage of touching base with his memories and mind once again. All of this had been a result of the rings all along, and she had used his memories to locate them and place them where they belonged, back on his fingers.

Slade had well over-pushed his limit. Perhaps Slade wasn't aware of this, but Raven had picked up upon the subtle signs. First Trigon hadn't saved him from the pain of shifting through her memories, only giving him the power to achieve the act but without the knowledge to deal with the backlash. Then he allowed someone like Joseph to take control of his body. An emissary of Trigon's would not be allowed to have such an occurrence happen. Clearly this would attest to her suspicions for some time now Slade wasn't Trigon's favorite minion anymore.

"I can't protect you from Trigon anymore. You have to wear those rings for your own good. After Joseph last night…" Raven continued, her face frowning, but her eyes deep with concern.

Slade's indifferent grin turned to that of bitterness. Raven had struck a nerve. Good, she thought. If she got her point across maybe he would do as she said. Her toweled body turned towards Slade's curtained windows. This room, as Raven knew, also faced the city. With the estate being private property and just far enough away to look out without fear, Raven didn't hold back from opening wide the curtains.

"You know that one of your sons is still around somewhere. You'll have to find Joseph and Grant on your own while there's still time, because I don't want Robin spending his efforts—!"

Her voice suddenly left her. With wide eyes, Raven gapped at the city before her. It was flooded with red, rivers of red…

But it wasn't the fires she'd seen in dreams. Wasn't the red-tinted ocean…

These were waves of red robes.

The one thing she thought so certain never to see the night before was happening.

The Blood Clan had flooded the city with one thing in mind.

Suddenly, Slade was at her side, his face blank, controlled and collected. Tactlessly, he confirmed the fear in Raven's mind. "They've come for Arella."

Her mind was set on the spot. "I have to find her."

She spun around, intending a beeline straight to her uniform until Slade's hand firmly grasped her arm. "Don't."

Raven's face skewed into a look of defiance. "You can't stop me."

"If you leave, there is nothing more I can do." It was a threat.

Her nose scrunched up in distaste. Was he suggesting putting this stupid argument between staying or going before her mother? This was unbelievable! Abruptly, she wrenched her arm from his grasp. "I am saving her."

She stormed over to her clothing "This can be resolved after." The bathroom door slammed shut.

Slade eyed the door evenly before taking his leave. There wouldn't be an after.

AN: It might seem that Joseph possessing Slade was spur of the moment and made no sense, but this was actually planed out from the moment I decided to incorporate Joseph into this fic. I just feel horrible that it just doesn't read well as some of the past chapters. Chapter 15 should be exciting and rather lengthy, but I'll let you guys chew on these past two chapters for a while before the next post.

Again, I'm sorry for the lack of updating. In Chapter 12 I had said that the season would prevent me from writing. And it had, Thanksgiving and Christmas in the retail world is not easy. In addition, a lot of customers get cranky when you can't order their product in before Christmas (it was of course their fault for waiting until the last minute). I think though, what really took it's toll on me, were the last 3 weeks where I had perhaps only a day off in between each one due to being called in. By the end of the day I was just dead, so my absence was justified.

I also can't promise any specific updates in the future, as on Friday, I'm starting Winter Semester on top of working part time. We'll see.

Once more, another thanks to Kendra Chetnova for beta-reading.