Raven shivered and wrapped her blanket tighter around herself. She briefly considered getting up and adjusting her room's climate controls, but decided against it. After the events of last night, she refused to so much as open her eyes until noon. Not only did she need the rest, she felt she had earned it.
However, when her teeth started chattering, she admitted defeat. Grumbling, she sat up, and finally opened her eyes.
Which immediately bugged out of her head as the sight before her caused her to leap up and back so she was standing on the other end of her mattress.
"W-what are you doing in my room!"
I really shouldn't be here, the little green sparrow thought as he fluttered to another branch to get a better view. She told me to leave her alone. I really shouldn't be here...
Of course, it's not like I'm actually gonna talk to her. I'm just checking up on her. Making sure no one's taking her milk money. Stuff like that. Yeah, I'm fine.
Satisfied, he finally found the perfect vantage point. Directly below him, Terra stood, chatting happily with her two friends. The little green sparrow smiled inwardly knowing she was indeed doing well. However, that happiness slipped into confusion when she called out and ran over to meet someone. And his world came to screeching halt when he saw that it a boy.
A very handsome boy with hair as white as snow.
Wait a minute...white hair! the sparrow screamed mentally. No way...it can't be!
"Hey! New Kid!"
Johnny Gallo closed his eyes and cringed. He'd been dreading this. Why couldn't she have gotten the plague and called in sick? he sighed mentally, while aloud he said "Hey old timer."
"Where were you?" the spunky blonde girl asked as she started walking along side him. "I called you but there wasn't any answer."
"Yeah, uh...something came up?" Johnny offered lamely.
She gave him a concerned look. "Are you okay? You look like you've been to hell and back."
"I'm fine. It's just that...a friend of mine...died," he finished softly.
She gasped. "Omigosh."
"It's not a big deal. Just someone I knew from back home," Johnny said, trying to act dismissive.
"Johnny...someone you know died. How is that not a big deal?"
"Because I just found someone who's about to make me feel a lot better," he growled. "Hey Ritchie!"
As Johnny stormed off, she couldn't help but blink in confusion. "How is his friend from the football team supposed to..."
She didn't finish as a flash of green in the corner of her eye caught her attention. Scowling, she quickly ran around to the other side of the schoolyard gate.
"I thought I told you to leave me alone," she said coldly.
The green alley-cat froze, and slowly shifted into a nervous Beast Boy. "Eheheh," he chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. "Just thought I'd say hi."
"Bye," she growled, turning on her heels
"That guy you were talking to. Who is he?"
She stopped and looked back. "Johnny? He just transferred from another school a few days ago. Why?"
"I'm not sure you can trust him," Beast Boy answered softly.
"And why not?"
She did a complete about-face and marched over toward nervous changeling. "Listen Beast Boy, I really don't want to be mean here, but you need to stop. Johnny is just another kid like me. He sleeps in class, hates cafeteria food and doesn't study for tests. He's new in town and only has a few friends, and not that it's any of your business, I'm just trying to be his friend because I know what it's like to be the new kid, okay? Even if he turns out to be some big scary boogie man, I don't need you butting in my life. I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself."
"And stop calling me that!" she snapped. "My name is Sara!"
And as she turned and stormed away, Beast Boy could only change into a hound dog and slowly sulk away.
"What are you doing here?" Raven asked again. "How did you get in?"
The girl before her said nothing. Dressed in black head to toe, surrounded by colorful light, she simply looked around the room, as if appreciating a museum.
"Who are you?" Raven asked. "What do you want?"
"Who am I?" the girl repeated, her voice sounding...empty. "Who...was I?"
"What do you mean? You don't--"
"So cold," the girl continued, looking at Raven for the first time. "So very cold. But you," she whispered, reaching out and cupping Raven's cheek in her hand. "You are warm."
Raven gasped, both at iciness of the touch and in realization. "Are you...are you the girl from...from that place?"
This seemed to trigger a reaction in the girl as she quickly let go of Raven's cheek and clutched her own head with both her hands. Raven went to place a hand on her shoulder, but before she could, a wave of emotions came crashing down on her.
Raven groaned as she shut her eyes tight and pressed her hand against her forehead. She lost her balance and fell back onto her bed. And then, just as suddenly as it started, the deluge stopped.
And when opened her eyes, her visitor was gone.
Ritchie Gilmore froze when he heard his name being called. He had to have misheard. That voice couldn't belong to who he thought it did. That brat was–
"All right Sunshine. What do ya say you an' me step outside."
–right behind him.
Ritchie gritted his teeth and spun around fist swinging. "Why can't you be good little boys and girls and all stay dead like you're supposed to be?"
Ritchie's eyes widened slightly. His fist should have connected with its target. However, it seemed he had moved his head just an inch to the side. Just enough for Ritchie to miss.
"You know," Johnny said as he glared hatred directly into Ritchie's eyes. "I was gonna try to reason with you, but to heck with it." He pulled his own fist back. "Leave us in a tunnel to die!"
Ritchie growled and swung his other fist, but Johnny ducked under it and delivered an uppercut and made Ritchie stumble back.
Like vultures to a carcass, students began to gather around the two combatants, soon enclosing them in a living circle. However they seemed oblivious to everything but themselves.
"You were supposed to be the leader," Johnny snarled as he continued to duck and weave around Ritchie's fists. "We trusted you. We trusted with our lives, and what happens? Cassie is dead man!"
Ritchie hesitated at that last remark, allowing Johnny to kick him hard in the shin.
"So what do you have to say to that, Captain Hero? Huh?"
Johnny went to punch Ritchie in the face, but the larger boy caught the fist and twisted Johnny's arm back.
"I say that she was weak," Ritchie growled. "And my name--"
Ritchie wasn't sure what happened next. There was a pain in his leg that caused him to let go. Then there was a series of impacts that kept him off balance. They came quickly and from all directions all at once.
"I mean you seem to get pissed whenever I call you Ritchie," Johnny said as he waited for his opponent to regain his footing. "And it's another nickname for Richard, right? More fitting too."
Ritchie growled and lunged, but Johnny simply stepped aside.
"I'd expect better manners from you, Dick."
At first, Eddie McDonough was oblivious to what was going on in the schoolyard around him. This was nothing new, as his school book seemed to be as much of a part of him as his palsied right hand. However, this time, his books were closed, resting in the crook of said arm. His mind, which was usually filled with theorems and equations, was blank. It wasn't until someone in their rush to join the crowd slammed into his crippled hand that Eddie was knocked out of his daze, much like his books were knocked to the ground. Even then, it wasn't until he bent down to collect them that he realized that everyone was running, and in the same direction.
"Hey Kyle!" he called to one of the runners. "What's going on?"
"Fight! I think it's you're two friends Eddie!"
"Oh no," Eddie whispered, his books forgotten as he joined the race. Sure enough, he arrived just in time to see Johnny all but topple Ritchie with a series of moves that would have impressed even Robin.
Eddie closed his eyes and held the bridge of his nose with his left hand. "And he gets on my case about using his real name..."
That's when it hit him. Eyes snapping back open, Eddie watched the fight with shock and confusion.
"I don't understand...they're not in costume...how are you doing that Johnny?"
Before Eddie could consider this further, someone on the other side of the ring caught his attention. Someone who couldn't, shouldn't be there. He blinked and shook his head. When he looked again, she was gone, but the chill upon seeing her remained.
"It's because I was the first, isn't it?" Johnny asked as he continued to bob and weave around Ritchie clumsy assaults. "You can't stand me because Greybeard picked me first. In fact, you were last weren't you? He picked you right after Cassie."
"Shut up," Ritchie growled.
"Is that why you did it? Huh? Is that why you left us for dead!" Johnny demanded, emphasizing his point with a hard kick right between Ritchie's legs.
The crowd fell silent as Ritchie fell to his knees.
"Does it hurt, fearless leader?" Johnny whispered, his fists still clenched and vibrating with rage as he stood over his comrade. "Consider it a taste of how I felt as I was buried under tons of rock. How Eddie felt as he tried to dig me out. How Cassie must have felt as they killed her dead."
And without waiting for a response, Johnny walked off, grabbing Eddie from the crowd as he did.
"We're sick Eddie," Johnny responded coldly. "We're going home."
The crowd only watched as the white haired boy dragged his friend off of school grounds. They were all confused as to what had just transpired, but none more than a blonde girl by the name of Sara.
"Starfire, any luck?" Robin asked into his communicator. He stood on the roof of an office building looking over the city.
"Negative," came the reply. "There is no sign of the girl of darkness and cold that Raven described."
Robin frowned. "Cyborg?"
"Raven's still a little shook up, but she seems okay. The security system seems fine too. No idea how our mystery girl was able to get in and out."
"Try reaching Beast Boy again and keep me posted," Robin said. "Something's going on and I want to know what."
"Roger," Starfire said.
"You got it," added Cyborg.
Robin looked to the sky as he closed his communicator and tried to gather his thoughts. There were few things he hated more that not knowing what was happening, and there had been plenty of that ever since they fought that strange shape-shifting creature. What was that thing? Was Terra really back? Who were these kids trying to play hero? Were they really all connected like he thought or was he just being paranoid?
"Having trouble connecting all the pieces, Robin?"
Instantly, Robin spun around, hurling Bird-a-rangs as he did. "What are you doing here Slade?"
"You remembered me," the armored villain said calmly as he dodged the projectiles and caught Robin's bo staff with his hand. "I'm touched."
"I could never forget scum like you," Robin snarled as pulled his staff free and continued his assault, which Slade continued to block and dodge. "What do you want?"
"The Grande Royale Hotel. I think you and your friends should be there for the grand opening. It's sure to be quite the party."
"So you can spring a trap on us? I don't think so. I'm bringing you down right here!"
"I understand your assumptions, but I assure you it's not what you think."
"And why should I trust you?"
"You shouldn't," Slade replied, suddenly switching to the offensive. He grabbed Robin by the front of his uniform and used the momentum from the teen's lunges to hurl him overhead. "Which is why you're going to do exactly as I say."
Robin hit the roof hard, but rolled and was soon back on his feet and in a defensive stance. However, Slade was no where to be seen.
"Johnny, about what you just did..."
"What? You don't think he deserved to get his ass beat?"
"No. I mean, yeah, I guess he did. It's just that..."
"Just what, Eddie?" Johnny asked as he opened the door and entered the main room of their makeshift headquarters.
"How did you move like that?" Eddie finally said, a bit of an edge to his voice. "You weren't in costume."
"I was on the gymnastics team back home," Johnny said nonchalantly, yet avoiding Eddie's gaze. "And I have a black belt."
"Our old school didn't have a gymnastics team," Eddie replied flatly.
"Dammit Eddie," Johnny growled, turning to glare at his friend. "I have history, all right? I had a life before I met you and the others at the foster home, okay? A life I don't wanna think about."
"I can respect that," Eddie replied. "But how are we supposed to be a team if we can't--"
"Wait, wait. You honestly think that after last night, after that little wrestling match, after everything, you think there's still a chance we can be a te--"
That's when Johnny felt the "flash" in his skull, but it came too late. There was a golden streak, and impact against his gut, and the next thing Johnny knew, he was against the wall, tasting salt and copper.
"My name," said from a voice above, "is Prodigy!"
Still dazed, Johnny barely moved his head out of the way in time. The fist struck the wall instead, but with suck power that pieces of the wall exploded free, one of which struck Johnny in the eye.
Another futile warning flash. Another blow to his head. After the lights cleared from his vision, Johnny found himself looking down on Ritchie in full costume as the angered teen held him high off the ground by the neck.
"And I can't stand you for many reasons, Ricochet," Prodigy growled.
"Whatsamatter...need a hug?" Johnny asked weakly. "Ritchie?"
"Shut up," Prodigy snarled.
He began to squeeze. Luckily for Johnny, intervention came in the from of a blue laser bolt, striking Prodigy on the back, and causing him to cry out in pain. Enraged further, the team leader turned his head.
He was greeted by Eddie, right hand raised and encased in a smoking gauntlet.
"Let...let him go, Prodigy," Eddie demanded. "I've been making some modifications."
"Do you think you can hurt me, Hornet?" Prodigy scoffed. "You're not the only one with power."
"Let. Him. Go!" Eddie shouted. "I'm not gonna ask you again."
"Look at you," Prodigy said, still laughing silently. "All of this over a poor little goth girl. It's a cruel world Hornet. Only the strong survive. Dusk was weak. A liability and a danger to the rest of us. It would have happened eventually, and I say better now than later. Only the strong survi--"
"Well, the way I see it," Johnny interrupted, "is both me and Eddie have survived a hell of a lot more than you so far, and I've already kicked your ass once today. Think you wanna go for two?"
"You're hardly in a position to make threats, Ricochet."
"Wasn't talking about me, Captain Hero."
"I swear Ritchie," Eddie said, his breath practically visible, "if you say one more thing about Cassie you will see just how much I've been able to improve my weapons system. Now put Rico down."
There was a long silence as Eddie and Prodigy glared each other down. Finally, Prodigy simply let go of Johnny's neck. To his credit, Rico landed on his feet, but immediately lost his balance and fell onto his back.
His hands free, Prodigy turned his attention to Eddie, who still had his gauntlet armed and ready. This super-hero version of a Mexican stand-off would have no doubt continued on much longer is the sound of a single person clapping didn't break the tension.
"Splendid," Slade said happily as he entered the room. "I see Prodigy was in error. Not only are the two of you alive, but look how much stronger you've--"
"Save it gramps!" Johnny shouted, suddenly to his feet and a yard from Slade's face. "Where the hell were you? You could've helped us!"
"And what if I did?" Slade replied. "How are you ever to learn to walk on your own if I am always holding you hand?"
"Whatever," Johnny huffed. "I don't need this crap. C'mon Eddie."
"You're welcome to leave if you wish. Of course, I must ask you leave behind your uniforms."
This caused Eddie to stop, which in turn made Johnny do the same.
"Fine," Johnny said immediately. "Damn thing looks stupid anyway."
Eddie said nothing.
"Eddie?" Johnny said, sounding slightly worried. "C'mon, you don't need that fancy tin suit."
"I...I think I do, Johnny," Eddie whispered, holding his right hand. "You...you can't understand."
"Are you really willing to give it up so easily?" Slade asked of Rico before he could say anything. "This is your chance to be great. To be accepted. Loved."
"Maybe, but you can't really expect me follow this dirt-bag, can you?" Johnny replied, pointing a finger at Prodigy.
"No more than I can expect you allow our dearest Dusk to go unavenged. Prodigy's lapse in judgement not withstanding, her true killer remains free. Stay with me, my Ricochet, and we will take more than his life from him."
Johnny closed his eyes and faced the floor. After a moment's silence, words came from his mouth, as if they were being vomited.
"Fine. I'm in."
Slade seemed to smile from behind his mask. "Excellent."
How's that? Eh? Eh?
Sadly, you'll have to wait a while before the next episode. Partially because these have been done for months and I've just been to busy/lazy to post, and I haven't started writing the next one yet. Also, I have to take time to plan. These have all been more or less improvised up till now (if fact "Epilogue" started as just a random scene I posted on my live journal), and as the story gets more complex, I need to figure out specifics.
I have every intention of continuing though. I've never had as much fun with my writing as I have with this project, and that's saying something.
Thanks to my roommate for helping me fill in the gaps of Titans episodes I haven't seen and helping me write for Slade.
Special thanks to Pointless Authority for the helpful, encouraging and just plain entertaining reviews. Hope this one was to your liking as well.