Disclaimer: The Teen Titans and associated characters are the property of DC Comics and AOL Time Warner. This story is being written for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being sought and no Copyright infringement is intended.
Note: The following story is a sequel to my fic The Paragon of Animals. However, this stands alone enough that you probably don't need to have read it to enjoy this fic. But it might help.
Setting: Post Teen Titans Season 4 (That would be the Trigon arc. Season 5 never happened in my universe.) Not long after the events of Paragon.
As always, I have to thank my muses.
For lighting the lamp for me.
For showing me where to shine it.
For keeping me moving down the path.
Couldn't do it without you ladies.
Chapter One: Stigma
Beast Boy stared at his reflection in the mirror, willing an expression of what he hoped was intensity on his face.
Focus, Logan. You can do this...
Taking several steps back from the mirror on his bedroom wall, he closed his eyes, trying to calm his mind.
C'mon, I can remember this... I can't have studied for nothing!
After a moment's searching, he remembered the words. He cleared his throat, and began to speak in broad, expansive tones, addressing his empty room.
will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king
and queen moult no feather. I have of late--but
wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so."
Beast Boy paused reflectively at the end of his monologue, only to be interrupted in his reverie by a sardonic female voice coming from the doorway behind him.
"'Woman does not delight you?' I find that hard to believe."
Startled, Beast Boy spun, and saw Raven standing in the open entrance to his room, with a slightly amused expression on her face.
Flushing a bit from embarrassment, Beast Boy laughed a little. "Well, uh, certain women delight me. You, especially," he said with a smile.
"I'd better," Raven lowered the hood of her white cloak. Since the 'Beast affair' several months before, the half-demon empath had taken the all-white costume that the Titans had seen on occasions in the past as her standard attire. Beast Boy knew that there was a personal significance to her snowy garb, but whenever he tried to ask her about it, she tended to become somewhat coy. Not that it really bothered him, though. The fact was, she looked lovely. Indeed, almost angelic. Every time he saw her, he couldn't help but be mesmerized.
Not that he had much luck keeping his eyes off her before. But now, at least, given the newly-affirmed relationship they had forged with each other, he didn't have to worry about trying to hide his admiration.
Raven sat on the corner of his unmade bed, eying the growing pile of clutter in the center of the floor. "I seem to recall this room being clean, not too long ago."
Beast Boy took a seat on the floor at her feet, and looked back at her with an impish expression. "Well, yeah, but, that's not my style. It wasn't, y'know...me."
"Oh, I see... so your slovenliness is a personal trademark, rather than a vice."
Raven simply rolled her eyes. "So, what was with the dramatic speech? I recognize that passage... Hamlet, act ii, scene ii, if my memory serves."
Beast Boy nodded. "Yep! I uh, decided that I need a hobby, besides playing video games. I mean, one can only play Mega-Monkeys so many times. So I decided to take some acting courses, down at the community college. Just for fun, mostly. I have an audition later today."
Raven looked a little puzzled. "Why acting?"
"Well, remember how I used to be in the Doom Patrol? Rita -I mean Elasti-Girl-she was kinda like a foster mom to me, in those days. And before she was a hero, she used to be an actress, and she used to tell me how much she enjoyed it. So, I guess she kinda rubbed off on me. Besides, it's a good way to relieve stress, I think."
"Shakespeare suits you. You always were kind of a ham."
Without changing his expression one bit, Beast Boy shifted his form, his body flowing into the shape of a large green pig.
Raven's face remained stoic. "That's not funny."
Beast Boy shifted back to his humanoid form. "Well, the set-up wasn't very good. We'll have to work on that, if we're to be a pair. Speaking of pairs, where are the other resident lovebirds?"
"Robin and Starfire had a routine appointment at the Jump City Police Station downtown. Just touching base on a few cases, nothing to serious, they said. After that, I think they said something about stopping for lunch at some Japanese restaurant on the way back. I wouldn't expect them back until just a bit before dinner."
Beast Boy couldn't keep from chuckling a bit, as he got up off of the floor and sat next to her. "Good. Star's a nice influence on Rob. He needs to lighten up." He wrapped an arm around Raven's shoulders, and she leaned close to him, filling his nostrils with her scent. "What about Cy?" he asked.
He saw Raven frown slightly as she laid her head against his shoulder. "I don't know where he's at, actually. I ran into him this morning, around sunrise. He was on his way out the door, said something about having some things to check out."
Beast Boy nodded. "That seems to be a regular thing, lately. I've caught him leaving by himself a few times. When he gets back, he always has an excuse. Do you feel anything odd coming from him, with your empathic sense?"
"No, but then, I can't always get an accurate reading from him," Raven replied. "It may possibly have something do do with half of his brain being electronic. You're his best friend, do you have any idea why he'd be acting so strangely?"
Beast Boy thought a moment. "Maybe. I'm not real sure. We'll let it be, unless he looks like he's getting himself in trouble. No reason to invade his privacy, yet."
"Fair enough," Raven said. "So are you ready for lunch yet? I'm starving."
"Sure, as long as you aren't cooking it."
Beast Boy grinned at Raven's baleful expression as they made their way out of his room.
Robin sat at the secluded booth near the back of Jump City's most renowned Japanese restaurant, moodily toying with his chopsticks as they waited for their lunch to arrive.
Starfire, who was seated across from him, spoke softly. "Perhaps you would be less upset if you talked about what is bothering you."
He and Starfire had been a couple for months now, and had been out on quite a few dates, but he couldn't help but still be a little nervous about his relationship with the beautiful alien girl. From her strange manner of speaking, one might assume her to be simple, but nothing was further from the truth. She seemed to have a peculiar insight into Robin's heart, that much was certain. At present, she was attempting to draw him into talking about his present diffidence.
"It's nothing, Starfire."
"I would disagree. You have been most out of sorts ever since we spoke to the new homicide chief at the police department."
Robin certainly didn't want to be reminded of that. "He just rubbed me the wrong way, that's all."
Starfire's expression was quizzical "I am... unfamiliar with that particular expression."
Robin couldn't hold the slight smile from his face. "It means he bothers me. Or, in this case, he said something that bothers me."
"He made a snide remark about me being 'Batman's sidekick.' Apparently, the guy came up on the Gotham P.D., and my former mentor didn't have such a great vibe with the city authorities. They always felt like they were being shown up, and he made little effort to include them in what he did. He thought they were bungling fools; they thought he was an arrogant jerk. They were probably both right."
Starfire nodded. "I see... I suppose I have just taken our working relationship with the police department for granted. Do you think that this will present a problem for us?"
The Titan's leader shook his head. "Don't concern yourself, I can deal with it."
Starfire's face showed a trace of exasperation. "We will deal with it," she said with some emphasis. "The Titans are a team. Even though you are our leader, you need to stop trying to take responsibility for everything that happens. If this new homicide chief starts to be a concern, then you should come to us."
Robin rolled his eyes. "You're going to start that again, huh?"
"It is true, Robin. You cannot concern yourself with every small problem that surfaces. "
"I suppose you're right," he said. "And I don't really care what that guy thinks of me, anyway. Being reminded to of the old days just gets me grouchy, that's all. Good thing I've got you to talk some sense into me, when I need it."
Robin decided it was time to change the subject. "Anyhow, there's not much to worry about, crime-wise. The only reason they wanted to talk to me was to let me know that Brother Blood was found dead in prison. They wanted to know if we had any info."
"He was murdered, then?" Starfire asked.
"Yeah, and there's no leads. He had a solitary cell, and wasn't allowed to associate with the other prisoners. They opened the door a few days ago, and found him dead on the floor. No signs of struggle, no clear cause of death, yet."
Starfire thought for a moment. "I assume the cell was monitored, since he was a meta-human? If there were no alarms raised, or nothing suspicious on any security footage, then the first place one would have to look would be the prison staff, themselves."
"That's what I was thinking," Robin agreed. "But, I'm not making this a priority. I'll let the regular authorities handle it for now."
"Perhaps Cyborg could examine their security data on their systems, to check for signs of tampering."
"That's an idea. Good thinking, Starfire," Robin said approvingly.
The lovely alien girl blushed rosily. "I am happy to help, as always!"
Their waiter then brought them their first course, a selection of various sashimi items. Star picked up a piece of Edo-style tuna sushi, and looked at it curiously.
"Problem, Starfire?" Robin asked.
"I think there has been some mistake," she said, continuing to examine the sushi. "The chef seems to have forgotten to cook my food."
Sebastian regarded the huge book before him with a frown. He, like most young men his age, had little patience for most things, and the cryptic words written in the ancient tome were no exception. He believed in actions and results; knowledge was only a means to those ends. But there was little choice but to struggle with the alien language until the nature of the spell was clear to him. It didn't help that the ink was faded to almost nothing. The ancient necromancer that created the grimoire apparently didn't take into account that human skin made poor parchment.
After several hours of study, though, he was at last almost ready. Burning the strange words into his memory, he rose from the large wooden table that dominated the candlelit chamber, and moved to a circle drawn in red chalk on the stone floor nearby. Within the circle were a small, coal fired metal brazier, and a mirror in a wrought-iron frame. Seating himself within the perimeter, he closed his eyes and cleared his head, summoning the words he had committed to memory.
Before he could begin the spell, he was interrupted by a tentative step at the doorway to his chamber. Looking over, he saw the red-robed form of one of his acolytes. He couldn't place a name with the man's face, not that he particularly cared.
Sebastian stared at the intruder, gratified by the nervous look on his face. "Yes?"
"Master, we have news from our contact in the Jump City Penitentiary," the red-clad man said, keeping his eyes respectfully turned to the floor.
This was news that Sebastian had been anticipating. "Then the deed is done?"
"Yes, Master. Your predecessor has been removed."
This brought a smile to Sebastian's face. The acolyte dared a look to his master's face, then quickly looked away. The spike of fear that Sebastian felt with his mental senses almost made up for being interrupted in the course of his work. Almost.
"That is excellent news, then." Sebastian said mildly.
"Yes, Master. You are now truly Brother Blood."
"The old fool was unworthy of the title from the very start," Sebastian growled with venom in his voice. The very thought of the previous leader of their group lit a spark of anger, deep within his soul. "He turned his back on us. His heretical dalliance with science warped his vision, and we were right to shun him, to cast him out. Not even those weak fools that served him at the H.I.V.E. could save him from the hand of our justice. Now, he has paid for his apostasy. Under me, we shall rediscover our purpose. That, I vow."
"Yes, Master," the acolyte said subserviently.
Sebastian regarded his lowly follower with a dark look. "If that is all, you may leave me now."
With a low bow, the acolyte turned to depart.
"One more thing," Sebastian called to him, freezing him in his tracks. "As punishment for intruding upon me, you will immediately go and flog yourself into unconsciousness. Is that clear?" he said in an icy voice.
"Yes, master." With another bow, the red-robed man left.
Sebastian turned his attention back to the mirror before him. As he prepared himself for spellcasting again, he regarded his reflection. His face was youthful; smooth pallid skin beneath a shock of hair that was more colorless than white. During his ascent to his current position, many had failed to take him seriously, due to his age of merely 14 years. Most had not lived long enough to regret their short-sightedness.
Once again finding his mental focus, he began his chant. The words of the spell were guttural and difficult to speak, as was to be expected for a language not meant for humanoid mouthparts. As he continued, the dim light of the candles that illuminated the room seemed to take on a strange reddish cast.
As he neared the conclusion, he reached into robes, and withdrew a small pouch, from which he produced a lock of hair, the soft strands a strange shade of deep violet and bound together with string. He cast the hair into the brazier, which flared red flames.
"Th'gnatn tklethh... xthan Raven..."
As the spell was finished, Sebastian stared deep into the mirror as it began to glow. As the image of what he sought was shown to him, he smiled, revealing teeth that had been filed to cruel points.
He was indeed looking forward to what was to come.
Raven, floating above her bed in a classic lotus position, was roused from her meditation by the beeping of her Titans communicator. Shaking off momentary irritation, she answered. "Yes?"
"Beast Boy, how did the audition go?"
"Ok, I think. I nailed the lines. Then they had me read another scene with this girl who supposed to be playing Ophelia. I think I did ok, but they still have lots of others to audition. So, we'll see."
"I'm sure you impressed them," Raven assured him. "So, you're on you way back?"
"Yes, but I was thinking, it's been quiet around town lately... wanna go out tonight?" he asked.
Raven paused momentarily. "Umm... I don't know, Garfield, we haven't heard out of Cyborg or Robin and Starfire yet."
"Cy's a big boy. And I checked in with Rob about 15 minutes ago. He said he and Star would be in late. They wanted to go to the movies or something. I think that's like code for 'we're going to be making out for a bit, don't wait up for us.' So, how about it? There's a nice new coffee shop that just opened on the west side." Even through the tiny speaker, Raven could hear the hopeful tone of his voice. She had to admit, it was hard to resist him, when he was like this.
"Alright, I suppose it couldn't hurt to get out of the Tower for a bit. You'll meet me back here?"
"Yup! See ya in about half an hour then?"
"That'll give me time to get ready. I'll see you then."
After hanging up, she allowed herself to descend from her floating position, and stood, walking about to work the blood back into her numbed legs.
I guess it might be nice to go out, after all. Garfield deserves to have something close to a normal relationship. Or as close as I can manage to one, that is.
Raven was still somewhat confused by the nature of what held her and Beast Boy together. To be certain, she didn't see herself as the kind of girl that boys like him would find interesting. She didn't find herself enjoying the things that most people their age engaged in for recreation; trips to the park, or movies, or whatnot. She had often wondered if he would eventually lose interest in her, and drift away. She wouldn't blame him, people had been shunning her for as long as she'd remembered, her own mother, even.
But, Garfield had shown no signs of ever abandoning her in all the months since they had come together. He had always been patient with her moody, quiet nature, and although his clownishness still annoyed her on occasion, those times were much fewer than they had been in the past.
Raven regarded her reflection in the mirror over her dresser. She had told no one what the meaning of her now-white garb, not even Garfield, who was most responsible for the change. She was content, her soul at peace, and her Azerathan garment reflected that. For perhaps the first time ever, she considered herself happy.
In that spirit, perhaps it was time to start acting like a proper girlfriend to they young man she owed so much to. She looked over at her dresser thoughtfully.
Maybe I should try looking a bit more like a normal girl, too. Might be nice for him, at least.
Starfire had spent the last few months embarking on a make-over program, attempting to find "a new look" for her quiet teammate. Certainly, Raven found such attentions flattering, but some of Starfire's fashion choices were a bit... showy for Raven's personal tastes. But there was a nice slate gray cashmere sweater that was rather flattering, and would suit a cool spring night quite nicely Perhaps the sweater, and some jeans...
As Raven walked over to her dresser, she suddenly felt a wave of dizziness overtake her. In fact, she would've fallen to the floor, had she not managed to catch herself. Pressing one hand to her now throbbing head, she could feel perspiration beginning to form on her face.
Feeling weaker by the second, she slumped into the chair that sat facing her dresser. As she did so, she caught a glimpse of her face in the large mirror above it. And what she saw there froze her with terror.
No... please, no!
The dressing mirror glowed with ebon light, then shattered into thousands of tiny shards.
Cyborg was growing more impatient by the moment. "Quit stalling, one-eye. I know you know where she is!"
The for mer H.I.V.E. student known as Seemore glared back at him with his one enormous eye. "No, I don't. And are you really stupid enough to think I'd tell you if I did?
Cyborg gritted his teeth in annoyance. "You're the last friend Jinx had from her old crew. I know she came to you. You're her only resource left, and she couldn't have evaded the cops and us without help. Like you said, I'm not stupid. Now, start talking!"
Seemore sat down on a dilapidated couch that was about the only furnishing left in the H.I.V.E, student's former base of operations, which had been picked clean of valuables when the criminals had disbanded, some time ago. The one-eyed boy was now it's only denizen. "Look, she's gone. I haven't heard from her. End of story, She's split like most of the other regulars around here. And I'm about to as well. So, ether take me in, or leave me alone."
The cybernetic teen sighed. His quest to find the location of the former villain Jinx had been almost completely fruitless in the time since she aided the Titans against Slade. He wasn't even sure why he was looking for her, really. Something was driving him, some part of his conscience that he hadn't noticed before. "I don't have anything to take you in on, you know that. What's this about all the criminals leaving town?"
Seemore shrugged. "There's been some nasty rumors, lately. There's a new player in the game, and, from what I've heard, he's raising the stakes. Maybe a little too high... I mean, robbery and and stuff plenty fun, but, things are starting to get not fun in the underworld pretty fast. So, I'm leaving, and J-girl probably did too. I doubt she'll be back, if she's as smart as I think she is."
"Who is this new player you're talking about?"
"I dunno, and I don't want to know. All I know is some of the real nasty folk in Jump City were recruited into some sort of new group, and then a lot of the rest started going missing. It's all just rumors, but, rumors are enough for me. Any more, you'll have to figure out for yourself."
Cyborg thought it over. He really didn't have any more reason to hassle Seemore. He could tell he was holding something back about Jinx, but, he had no leverage to use, as Seemore hadn't been implicated in a crime in some time. "I was just worried, that's all. I know your kind and my kind don't really mix, but Jinx was... different. I just want to make sure that she's not in trouble. Too much trouble, anyway."
Cyborg turned to leave the run-down hideout.
He turned to Seemore once more, who was peering intently at him with that strange single eye.
After a long moment, the criminal spoke. "Listen Cyborg, she did come to me for help. I spotted her some money, and set her up with a ride. She left town about a month ago. She didn't say where she was going, or if she'd call. Really, that's all I know."
Cy looked back at him, matching his stare with his own. "Why'd you tell me this?"
"Because she's my friend. I care... and I think you do too," he said. "If you find her, just make sure she's ok, and tell her to get in touch, alright?"
Cyborg nodded. "Fair enough. Thanks, man." Cyborg turned and walked through the door, wondering if fortune would cross his path with that of the pink-haired sorceress... and why he cared so much in the first place.
Beast Boy exited the elevator into the common room of Titans Tower, which appeared to be deserted.
"Hey Raven!" he called loudly. "I'm home! It's time to go out on the town."
Hearing no response to his call, he walked into the kitchen, finding it deserted as well.
Perplexed, he re-entered the elevator, and ascended to the upper floor where the living quarters were located. The doors opened, revealing a eerily silent hallway. He proceeded to Raven's door and knocked. "Raven, dear? I'm home."
"...Go away..," came the muted reply through the thick metal.
Something was not right. Raven had told him to get lost plenty of times in the past, but something was definitely wrong with the tone of her voice, this time.
"Raven, what's wrong?" he said, with an anxious note in his voice. "Talk to me, please."
"I-I just want you to go away... just leave me be."
In the past, such words might have driven Beast Boy off, but, many things had changed recently. He knew something was wrong. Something in his gut told him this was bad.
"Raven, I'm coming in now," he called, and tried the electronic switch that opened the door, finding it locked, as he predicted, he quickly used his powers to morph into a tiny ant, and crawled through the ventilation duct adjacent to the door and made his way into the empathic girl's room, returning to his humanoid form upon arrival.
Immediately, he knew why his instincts told him something was wrong. The stench of fear was thick in the air.
"Raven? Where are you?"
He looked about the room, which was in total disarray, broken and overturned furniture all about. Books had apparently been ripped from their shelves and flung about the room as if by a great storm. From the looks of it, Raven had lost control of her telekinetic abilities.
Growing more panicked, he dashed about the room, calling to her. Finally, in the far corner, he saw a small form swathed in a dark indigo cloak. He quickly ran to her side.
"Raven, what happened?" He tried to touch her, but she shrank from his grasp.
"Go away... I don't want you to see me, Garfield..." her voice was small and weak.
"Don't want me to see what?" he said softly as he he reached out to her, and gently lowered the hood that shrouded her head.
She turned her now exposed face to him, and in he felt his heart almost stop in his chest. There, upon her forehead, shone the mark of Scath, burning with malevolent crimson light. He looked her over, and could see the other demon-script markings on her body, all aglow with the same fiery incandescence.
She looked at him with terror in her eyes. "I'm so sorry... I don't understand why... Garfield... I'm so afraid!" Her voice was a shaky whisper.
Beast Boy took the trembling girl into his arms, holding her close, hoping he could comfort her. "We'll fix this... I promise..."
To Be Continued...
Some of you might vaguely recognize Sebastian if you read the comics... My version of him will be a bit different, however.
Like I said, some of you that didn't read the first fic in the series may have missed a few things. But don't worry, knowledge of that story won't be necessary to understand this.
As always, thanks for reading, and please feel free to review!
29 May 2006