Every time I think I'm through with ideas, another one comes out of nowhere and socks me in the face. This story is an alternate universe. All details of setting will be set as the story moves along. I do not own the Teen Titans, or Lynch. Many thanks to the lovely Kayasuri-N for letting me borrow her demonic muse for a mention. A few Titans will be out of character as judged by the cartoon, but a different background explains all changes. Read and review, and please keep in mind this is a comedy with hints of romance.

Raven slammed neatly folded undergarments into the bottom of a valise. The produced sound wasn't very satisfying. To further get the correct effect, she picked up her cedar chest and slammed that on the ground. The fact that the chest was across the room didn't faze her. She had been able to do odd things with black energy since before she could walk, and the black magic was most adept at startling potential suitors away.

Raven granted her hand mirror a satisfied grin as she packed it carefully amid a clump of stockings. Her father should have known better than to invite three suitors to one lunch. She had only needed to rattle the plates around six times to get them spooked, and just one incident of a dancing roasted chicken had sent the first man running. The other two had waited until she brought their hats and coats to them, courtesy of her powers. She didn't know why her father was surprised. Trigon had been threatening to get her married off for years for her many pranks, but she much preferred getting rid of the annoying men who wanted a pretty wife with a prettier dowry.

Trigon had once been one of the most powerful demons in hell- as he grumbled often, especially after she caused suitors to run away as fast as their legs would carry them. He was probably telling the story again to whoever was unfortunate enough to be in hearing range. Some "snotty young upstart" called Lynch had managed to get him exiled when she took over. Raven never had heard exactly why her mother left town in a huff when Trigon returned, but knew it had to be a good story. Trigon refused to mention any part of it.

Raven was almost humming as she packed away her dresses, starting with her every-day numbers. Her two nice dresses were packed carefully. She was the only seamstress in the household, and she didn't trust her work on the modified dresses her mother had left. The alterations had been done by Mrs. Grayson, who could do a bit of sewing without damaging clothing worse than it was before attempted repairs. Her father had been foolish enough to give her a choice. She could choose one of the three suitors, or get sent to the big dark scary castle down the road. Raven smiled at the look on her father's face when she had given him her best innocent look. That was one of many things she needed to work on. She could spend a month in the big old haunted place, easily.

She glanced at her two suitcases. Through a little creative packing, and a lot of her black magic, she had managed to fit all of her clothing into one valise. The second small case was entirely books. She wasn't going to mill about with nothing to do, after all. She brought them out into the hall with just a hint of magic. They trailed her out onto the street, causing her father to sigh. He was always complaining about how powerful she could be, with training. He had to admit that becoming more powerful would mean that she would have to completely repress her emotions and meditate more than she slept, which didn't appeal to her. Raven could keep people away and use a surprise advantage to win a fight. What else did she want?

"Raven, did your father give you the marry someone or go to the big creepy castle ultimatum?"

Raven smiled. She should have known her friend would guess. "Robin, do you know that this is the chance of a lifetime? I can read and not be bothered at all- and if I get bored, I'll come home sooner. You know what he's like- maybe, while I'm gone, he'll find a new hobby. We both know that he might try marrying us off again, if he gets too desperate."

Robin shuddered. He and Raven were close friends, but he did not want to be related to her father- and she was a friend. Robin, Raven, and Cyborg had grown up together, and had met Starfire just a few years before Trigon started the marry-off-Raven obsession. "You know that Cyborg's going to kill you if you get yourself dead." Cyborg was the farrier in charge of all horses' shoes within a ten mile radius.

Raven smiled. "Yes, I know. I'll visit all of you in a week or so, okay? If I'm not back in two weeks, you can send someone after me. There's no need to stay around here all night. You can tell the other two."

"Do you want them to hurt me?" he asked. Robin knew that wasn't Raven's style. She showed displeasure personally.

"They can deal with it, and so will you. I'm going to enjoy my two weeks of vacation." Raven loaded her bags into the carriage. Her father had harnessed the horses without being kicked by one of the mares, today. Trigon had yet to grasp simple ideas such as touching a horse before moving into its blind spot. Her father already had taken up the reins. Raven took a seat beside him in the simple cart, leaving her bags on the passenger seat. She hated good-byes, so she avoided them whenever possible.

"Raven, are you sure about this?" Trigon asked.

She gave him her sweetest smile, which only grew wider when he muttered under his breath again. "Positively, dear father. As I recall, you suggested this lovely plan." She adjusted her skirts for a long journey. "You don't believe those rumors about the Beast that lives in the old palace, do you? All I know is that the orchards and kitchen gardens will feed more for however long I choose to stay."

"What do you mean, she's off to the creepy deserted castle?" Cyborg demanded. He had started out life as Victor, but couldn't forget the horror of what his mother had almost named him. His father hadmercifully written 'Victor Stone' on paperwork, but nearly being named Colin Yorick Brandon Orville Reginald George was one of those scarring events that just scared a man. He did like how the first letters of each name worked out into a unique title no one else would claim. Cyborg the farrier, at your service.

"Her dad gave the ultimatum that usually is a mother's threat for small children. It's only been used for about ten years, so the old wives haven't caught onto it yet. 'Marry one of these guys or go off to the castle.' She chose the castle- you know how contrary she is," Robin said, appealing to reason.

"Well, you certainly didn't stop her," Cyborg grumbled. "We all know her father meant to make her look twice at a suitor."

Starfire was not pleased. She was a relative newcomer to the group of friends, but she had been in town for three years. "We all know that friend Raven is most impulsive, and even the oddest of rumors has a base of truth. There is something in that castle."

"Even if there is something in there, Raven can handle it," Robin argued. Personal insecurities for her aside, he was saving his hide. "We need to give her two weeks, or it looks like we don't trust her."

"I trust her," Cyborg said reluctantly, "but I don't trust legends."

Starfire nodded her agreement. "I will give her two weeks, but will not be disappointed fully to see her ride back here with her father. She is far too stubborn for her own good, sometimes," she said with a frown. "Someday, she'll meet someone just as obstinate as she is." Starfire stared down the one road that led out of their small town. The dust was beginning to settle behind Raven's chariot.

The deserted castle was not the best territory. The inside of his lair was too large for it to be carefully patrolled, but he wouldn't stay in the caves closer to town. The earth shook, and there was only one entrance that could easily be blocked by falling rocks. It was better to stay far from the warm earth, even if cold stone was the other option. No other cave was unoccupied, and fighting for dominance with some creature would do no good. They had no space to roam.

Instead, he claimed the area surrounding the castle as his hunting ground. He needed no weapons, when he could catch his own prey easily. The smoldering fire that had been left by a passing traveler was fed by shattered furniture, dry, rotting wood that served no better purpose. He didn't know why he kept the fire alive, except that he would have no replacement if all the embers died down. Tending the fire in the great hall became a way to keep track of days. In seven sunsets- he knew that five and two lights made some measurement of time- he could burn away three of the large chairs.

He left only two of the chairs after burning the great hall's many pieces of furniture, many sets of all-claws used for kindling. After years of neglect, the wood was in no condition to restore. Beneath the expensive exterior, the framework was soft sap-wood. The table had begun to sag away from the supports, and was easily broken into manageable pieces that wouldn't kill his small flames. Fires were a source of dim light, and the smell of burning wood was familiar. He could almost remember people roasting meat over a fire- but the smell of the singed feathers on his experimental woodcock discouraged that idea.

Sometimes, small prey-that-is-a-predator came to his castle. He roared at the timid and threw things at the braver. No one was to stay in his home. Their territory was elsewhere, and he had claimed this for his own. He knew almost every inch of his home, save the crawlspaces that smelled of wax-bright ends and homelier meals with sharp spice ruining the flavor of natural meat.

No one had come by his home for at least two four-legs of dark moons, but he still patrolled his territory diligently. He had nothing to defend but the land that was his by right of strength and cleverness. He could defeat strong animals without wasting effort. The other animals did not think with bursts of the prey-that-will-not-be-a-predator, and he felt no guilt in using his advantages.

He could remember a time when he did not claim territory for his solitary use. The memories came only when he slept or stared into the fire, unclear images of a not-mad not-scared smile-mouthed mate-pair who smiled at a small boy-cub. He could remember screams and crying, and the look of claws in the moonlight, and running from the light-on-sticks that was like his fire. That was long ago. Only the prey-that-eats-predators kept memories to trouble their nights, and he felt less like prey every day, no matter how strong or clever. He was not to be hunted. He was a hunter. He howled, throwing back his head so that the sound echoed in the great hall, nearly deafening to his ears. This was his territory, and that was all he needed to know.