Robin sat in his room, at his desk, staring at a black computer screen.
A soft knock was heard against the door as it swished open to reveal a familiar silhouette. "Robin? Why have you resigned yourself to the confines of your room, where you sit and stare at a computer that is not currently operating?"
"Hey Starfire," Robin sighed. "Don't worry about me. I'm not going obsessive again, I'm just about to call in for a favor, and I just don't want to talk with the guy I need to talk to."
"Oh, I see. Should I depart for a moment, or…"
"Don't worry about it. Has Ghost's condition improved at all?"
Starfire's face fell. "No, it has not. I am becoming very worried about friend Ghost's health. He has not improved and I fear that he may not get better if something is not done to help him soon."
"Actually, that's what this is about. I'm calling in someone who should be able to help us fix the damage done by Blood."
"Why have you not requested the favor yet? If it could help to fix friend Ghost then you should have called this person right away!"
"It…it's complicated," Robin sighed. "You know I don't like calling in for help, and this is one person who won't ever forget it. I needed to see if we could fix Ghost before doing this."
Starfire put on a strange look of stubbornness that was only seen when she was upset and one of her friends was in danger.
"Fine, I'm calling," Robin conceded. He had found out a while ago that it was near impossible for him to say no to Starfire, no matter what the situation may be.
The Boy Wonder flipped the computer on and punched in a string of numbers he had memorized but never wished he needed to use. "This is Robin of the Teen Titans calling the Watchtower, Robin calling the Watchtower."
The screen filled with the unmistakable cowl of Batman. "What is it?"
"I…We…My team needs Justice League assistance." Onscreen, Batman's eyes narrowed slightly, not enough for Starfire to notice, but enough for Robin to see and note that his former mentor was listening. "One of my team was captured by Brother Blood, and took a lot of mental punishment. We can't fix him here and he needs someone capable of going into his mind and fixing the damage. Raven's tried, but she can't do enough to wake him up. We need J'onn to help us."
Batman's face didn't change to the untrained eye, but Robin could see him contemplating what to do. "J'onn's currently off planet. He should be back in the next thirty-six hours, negotiations are going well were he is. Prep your teammate for travel; I'm sending a Javelin down for pick up. It'll be there in an hour. Batman out."
The screen blipped to blank, and Robin stared at the black. "Get Cyborg to get Ghost ready for transport. I'll be there to help him in a few minutes."
Starfire drifted out of the room, a look of concern on her face, herself not sure which teammate it was for.
Cyborg had streamlined most of the operations for anything that needed doing the Tower, but transporting coma patients was one of the few that he hadn't. To put a point to it, he had never done something like this, and hoped he never had to again. Everyone on the team had been had been unconscious at points, it was an inevitability, but never a coma. And when Blood had brought everyone underneath his control, after it was broken, everyone had had headaches, but this was something he hadn't expected.
Cyborg heard a rattling coming from inside his leg, and opened a compartment to find a buzzing phone. "What—how hasn't the battery died yet?" Pushing the thought aside, he saw who was calling and flipped the phone open. "What is it Jinx?" he asked, sounded every bit as tired as he felt.
"How's he doing?"
"Better, in the sense that his physical wounds are all completely healed."
"How's he really doing?"
Cyborg let out a long sigh before answering. "He hasn't woken up yet. Raven said he's in some sort of psychic coma, and won't wake up till all the damage has been fixed. Problem is, she's not strong enough to do what needs to be done, and then we can only hope that he'll wake up. None of us are really experienced with this stuff other than Raven, and she's not sure, and she's not a true telepath, just an empath, and I just wish I could do more."
"Quit beating yourself to hell over this. I'll be happy to do it for you."
"I know…it's just that I know I should be able to do more. I should have found a way to fix him, I mean; my brain is part computer after all. Doesn't that count for something?"
"Not to sound concerned, but what's up with you? You're usually more upbeat and optimistic than this."
"Talk to me Stone."
"…Blood's my guy. I'm the one who he comes after; I'm the one who's supposed to takes him down. Robin has Slade, Starfire has her sister, Raven has Trigon…"
"You know, don't worry about that, it's something that's best left alone. And if I tell you, Raven'd probably kill me."
"Fine, fine, I don't care. So what are you going to do? If you guys aren't able to fix him, what're you going to do?"
"Apparently, the Justice League is sending a ship down, and J'onn J'onzz is going to have a look at him, see if he can't figure it out. Past that…who knows? But it'll all work out. We're the good guys, it always works out for us in the end, you know?"
Jenny's mind flicked to Terra for a moment, but she didn't say anything. "Yeah, do-gooders always get their way."
Cyborg heard Robin's voice behind him, but didn't turn immediately around. "Listen, I've got to go, but I'll call you with any changes." Shutting the phone and storing in his leg, making a mental note to charge it later, he turned his attention to Robin.
"I just got another update, the Javelin that's going to get us up to the Watchtower is going to be here in fifteen minutes. What still needs to be done?"
Cyborg looked over the room, seeing what was left. "Only last minute things, stuff he needs to stay attached to until he's moved. Guess everything went faster than I realized."
"Alright, man, just make sure he's ready to move when they get here."
The Javelin docked in the main Watchtower and Captain Atom walked away, muttering about if he heard another word on how meat was better than tofu or vice versa, he would have to hurt someone.
Robin was the first out of the shuttle, moving quickly towards the welcoming party set before him. "Hello there Wonder Woman, Flash."
"Hey there Robin, how're you doing?" Flash greeted. "What brings you up here?"
"Didn't you read the information?" Wonder Woman asked.
Flash had sense enough to look sheepish as he ran a hand over the back of his neck. "Um…not really. I knew you would read it all and we're just the welcome, aren't we?"
Robin cut in before Wonder Woman could get too upset. "Our newest member got put into a sort of psychic coma that we can't get him out of. J'onn's supposed to take a look at him when he gets back."
Flash's face fell from the normal jovial smile he normally wore. "Oh man, I'm sorry. Who's your new guy?"
"I doubt you know him. He's never really been a hero before, he was working as a roadie before he joined us."
Flash quickly looked intrigued. "Really? What're his powers?"
"Short to mid range teleportation and invisibility. Why?"
Flash now wore a sly smile. "This guy…is he about six foot, brown hair in a ponytail, kinda looks like a biker?"
"I know that guy! If he's the same one I'm thinking of, I know him. A concert came through Keystone a while back, and this guy with the tour smacked Captain Cold in the back of the head with a wrench when I was trying to keep a bunch of people from being frozen. He was a funny guy, and it was nice to have someone else take care of that guy for me, but I don't think I'd want to work with him all the time."
"Why's that? Too serious for you?" Robin smirked.
"No, I just don't think we'd work to well together. Maybe once in a while, but he wouldn't be able to keep up with me on patrol, or anything like that." After a beat, he added, "Besides, I think the bad guys would probably start looking into wrench-proof helmets."
"You're probably right," Robin laughed, "but then again, the bad guys aren't always known for learning from their mistakes."
They all shared a laugh over that, knowing it was true. "Well, I suppose you and your team want to see where the medical bay is," Wonder Woman said, already beginning to walk down a hallway.
"Hey man, wait up," Beast Boy called, and Robin turned around to see Cyborg talking with the team used to transport injured, and the rest of his team standing against the Javelin.
J'onn J'onzz arrived a day after the Titans got up to the Watchtower, and was immediately sent to the medical bay. "What happened here?"
Batman spoke. "Immense psychic damage done over a short period of time. It's keeping him in a coma. All physical injuries have been healed, so all that needs to be done is to have the damage to his mind fixed. That's where you come in. Raven's going to be helping you."
"Very well." J'onn and Raven closed their eyes and felt them slip onto the mental plane.
"So…when are we gonna know if they fixed him or not?" Beast Boy asked.
"When they come out of his mind and tell us," Batman answered plainly.
J'onn and Raven found themselves floating in mid-air surrounded by what looked like interlocking steel pipes. The pipes were about two inches in diameter, and hit each other a ninety-degree angles. All the vertical pipes had small rings on them, two in between each horizontal, allowing for a slight step up to the next ledge. It seemed never ending, the pipes going on forever.
"…Well, this is interesting."
"Hey, who's there? Ain't no one supposed to be there. Curiosity, have you been wandering around again? Oh, hello."
Raven looked at the man before them, standing on one of the horizontal pipes, balancing perfectly without holding onto the pipe above him. He looked exactly like her unconscious teammate, the only difference being his bright, neon green hair and a slight Irish accent.
"Which aspect are you?" Raven asked bluntly.
"Me? I'm not an aspect…well, not really, but kinda. The name's Cricket."
"If you aren't an aspect, then who are you?" J'onn asked.
"Well, I'm a little strange. Course, that's only because Keith's a little strange. See, teleportation is really disorienting, at least the way Keith does it. And when he first started doing it, when he was four, he wasn't able to keep things straight. First couple times he did it, he passed out for a minute or two. But anyway, he wasn't able to deal with all the stress, so his brain made me. I'm not precisely sure what I am, but I know that I think separately from Keith. And I have access to almost all the information in his head, even if he can't readily remember. But I do love making him figure out everything for himself. I guess the best way to classify me is a separate personality that never takes control. I just know that I keep everything in order, just so he doesn't go completely nuts."
"Are you why Ghost's mind is so strange?"
"Not fully. I told you, every time he teleports, everything gets scrambled. It's a lot easier on passengers, but they do usually end up disoriented. Anyway, the teleportation is what screws him up so bad. If I weren't around, he'd be crazy by now. Actually, by now he'd probably be brain dead, but you know. So what are you guys doing here?"
"We're here to fix the damage done by Brother Blood," J'onn answered.
"Great, I could use the help. I've been running around here for the past few days trying to fix it. Lot harder than what normally happens with his teleports."
"So do you know what's wrong with Ghost?" J'onn inquired.
"Well, to protect him, I buried his psyche deep in his mind. Problem is, I don't know where."
"I thought you said you had access to all the information in Keith's mind," Raven said.
"I said almost all. I threw him down deep in there. I'm not sure. And besides, I've been running around here for the past few days, trying to fix all the stuff that went wrong. I suppose I could just leave it alone for a while, and go find his psyche, dump him back in a damaged mind, and cause him to go nuts with the mental pain, or I could keep doing what I'm doing. What do you say?"
"We can assist you in healing his mind," J'onn said diplomatically.
Cricket rocked back and forth, contemplating. "What am I gonna do? Say no? I mean, I can't fix him myself, and you two can, not to mention that the both of you could and probably would help me even if I did say no, so yes, help, please."
Raven and J'onn inclined their heads slightly in agreement, and began to concentrate harder. The alien and the half-demon stayed there for half a day, Cricket rocking back and forth on the pipe, dropping down to hang by his knees for a while, and even holding a finger as close as he could get it to Raven without touching her, just to see if she would notice. One eye opened, and he immediately shrank back.
"Gotcha, don't do that no more."
A little while later, Raven and J'onn came out of their trances, Cricket, letting out a sigh of relief. "Finally, I thought you guys got stuck in Keith's head or something."
"The majority of the damage has been repaired. Anything else will be fix itself with rest," J'onn explained. "Once you find Keith's psyche, he should be able to take control again and function normally." J'onn's eyes glowed briefly. "I am needed elsewhere. I must take my leave."
As the form of J'onn faded away, Cricket turned his attention to Raven again. "So, you gonna help me look for Keith or am I on my own?"
"I don't know the layout of his mind near as well as you. Why do you need my help?"
Cricket chuckled. "Well, ya see…just because I know the layout of the mind doesn't mean I know how to put him back in control. That's where you come in."
"I don't have anything better to do, and it will be faster than if I try to explain to you…" Raven muttered to herself, and Cricket knew he wasn't supposed to hear.
The duo set off in a seemingly random direction, with Cricket leading the way, jumping from one pipe to the next, and climbing up the verticals with amazing ease.
"So what's up, doc?" Beast Boy asked, quickly shifting into a rabbit and back again, earning a snicker from the Flash.
"Yeah, you were in there for more than twelve hours. What took you so long?" Flash asked.
"Ghost's mind is very unusual. This made repairing the damage very difficult. Now as I am needed elsewhere, I must take my leave."
"Oh yeah, Bats came down earlier and said he had to talk to you." J'onn nodded and made his way out of the room and off to see Batman.
"Still can't believe it's him," Flash continued. "Who'd have guessed that the same guy who helped me out one time, and wasn't a hero or anything, would end up on your team?"
Beast Boy and Starfire nodded their assent as Robin shook his head. "It's not as unlikely as you're making it out to be. He's got a strong sense of justice, and he won't let people get away with crimes right in front of him. And as for him showing up in both Keystone and Jump City, he was with a touring company. Keystone and Jump are both fairly large cities, it makes sense that he would come through both."
"Well, I guess," Beast Boy said, shuffling his feet, then brightening. "Five bucks says the first thing he asked about is food."
Starfire raised a finger. "I shall accept the five dollar wager."
Cyborg shook his head, knowing that Beast Boy had just gotten five dollars richer.
The unusual duo of Raven and Cricket traversed the mental plane, roughly side by side.
"Hey Raven, you might want to be careful up here."
"We're coming up on—oomph!" A speeding body flew down from above and tackled Cricket.
"We're in Happy's territory, aren't we?" Raven smirked.
"How'd you know?" Cricket pushed a pink shirt clad aspect off him as he pulled himself up to a level pipe.
"Just a guess. And the fact that my Happy aspect tries the same thing every time I visit her."
"Happy, get off!" Cricket pushed Happy far enough away and scurried up three levels, pointing a shaking finger at the grinning aspect. "Why the hell do you do that every time I come here?"
"It's always so great to see you! You never come to see me so I have to make the most of it every time you do come to visit. Want to play tag? Not it!"
"No, Happy, I don't want to play tag. We're doing something important right now. You know that I buried Keith's psyche somewhere."
"Sure do! Don't know where though. When you find him, can you tell him I want to play with him? You never do anymore." He turned to look at Raven. "Hey Ms. Scary Lady, do you want to play? You don't even have to be it. I don't mind."
"…I don't do tag."
"…Oh well. I'm going to ask Timid if he wants to play." Happy ran off towards Timid's territory.
Cricket shook his head. "Look's like I'm going to have to save Timid after this is over. Third time this month. Let's keep looking."
A short time later, Cricket and Raven passed into a distinctly different section of the mind. A large training floor covered a large square in the middle of the pipes, the verticals breaking long enough to let the floor go on uninterrupted, then resuming ten feet overhead. The sounds of flesh striking wood filled the air.
Cricket stepped forward and called out, "Bravery! Where are you? And how in the world can you hide on an open mat?"
A muscular aspect wearing a dark green shirt jumped down in front of the duo. "I'm right here, and as for the hiding thing, I don't really know. What do you need?"
"We're looking for Keith's psyche. Any idea where I put it?"
"Alright, I'll tell you, but you know you owe me a fight later on for me answering." Cricket nodded and rolled his hand over and over in a 'hurry up' gesture. "I know you threw it down deep. It's down there past where Intelligence is. I'm talking down there. Intelligence should know more, but when doesn't he know more?"
"Alright, thanks Bravery. I'll be back after I get Keith fixed up."
Bravery saluted good-bye as Cricket and Raven descended the grid.
"What did you mean when you told Bravery that you owed him a fight?"
"Just a sparring match. He loves to fight, and being a mental construct, neither of us really gets hurt. So the deal is that when I get his help, I have to help him train. Doesn't your Bravery do that?"
"Hmm. Maybe it has something to do with me not really being Keith, just a…well whatever you want to call me. No big deal."
A few minutes later, Raven and Cricket were speaking with the yellow clad Intelligence. "Yes, when you buried Keith's psyche, he went down past here. I followed for a bit, I think he ended up around the base instincts."
Cricket sighed deeply, and thanked Intelligence anyway. Raven knew why her companion wasn't happy to hear that, she had once traveled near her base instincts, and never wished to visit them again.
After traveling warily for quite some time, Cricket and Raven arrived at the edge of the instincts territory, a noticeable change from where they had been. The area the instincts inhabited covered an actual floor, black and cracking platforms as it were, but a floor the same.
"If you don't want to go in there, I don't blame you," Cricket said. "You can stay out here while I go in there and get Keith. You just fix him up when I get him out here."
"…No. I've come this far, I won't stop now. And I've faced down my father, a few instincts won't be the ones to beat me."
"Are you sure? I mean, I won't get too messed up; I'm a native here, for the most part. You aren't. They'll probably attack you without hesitation."
As the two made their way forward, they began to here the sounds of gnashing teeth and cracking bones. This was what Cricket had been worried about.
Cricket went forward first, knowing what he was about to see, but hoping against hope he was wrong.
A figure in rags hunched around a vertical rising from the ground, a piece of raw meat in his hands. A plate was discarded on the floor beside him, covered in broken chicken bones, the marrow sucked out and the meat completely gone.
It was Hunger.
Cricket swore silently as he saw a crystal holding a distorted image of his only friend.
Cricket crept back to where he had made Raven wait, where she was hovering in the lotus position. "It's Hunger up ahead. If it were anyone else, I'd be okay with you going with me, but Hunger's bad. Keith's instincts are under control for the most part, but you've seen him eat before, haven't you? I mean, he's been hungry around you guys, but he's never lost control around you. I've seen him eat molding cheese before because he's been so depleted, and Hunger's the personification of that eat anything quality. I really don't want you coming with me."
"I told you I wasn't going to abandon you, I'm going to now, just because you say that there's something you don't want me to see. I have personal demons of my own, some much worse than you can imagine."
Cricket sighed and didn't bother protesting any longer, he knew he wasn't going to get anywhere and it wasn't worth trying.
Cricket went first again, and seeing Hunger was still occupied with his meat, he signaled Raven forward. Raven glided forward silently, and gasped as Cricket ran forward yelling for Hunger's attention.
"What are you doing?" She called back.
"Just get Keith!" Cricket bellowed and kept running from the ravenous instinct. Raven reached the crystal just as she heard Cricket scream in pain. She whirled around and spoke her mantra, binding Hunger with black energy.
Cricket scrambled away, clutching a bleeding arm. "What are you doing? Get Keith! I'll be fine!"
Raven just poured more power into the obsidian tendrils binding the struggling captive, and screamed at the searing pain produced when Hunger actually started eating its bindings. Raven couldn't remember any time the extensions of her soul self were destroyed in such a painful manner.
Cricket drove the full force of his shoulder into Hunger's torso, putting him down and wrestling with it. "Go!" he grunted. "Get Keith and go! I'll catch up!"
Raven levitated the large crystal with her weakened powers, and flew off, only chancing one glance back to see Hunger kick Cricket off and pouch on him, teeth bared.
Cyborg excused himself from the room, pulling the phone from his leg once more. "How's he doing?" Jenny asked from the other end.
"He's almost fixed. The damage has been fixed, but Raven's still inside trying to restore his psyche."
"So what does that mean? And why did you call me even though he's not fixed yet?"
"I said I would call with any changes, and I would say this is a change. But I have another reason for calling. I have a question."
"What is it?"
"Why did you go on the mission with us?"
"What do you mean?"
"Did you help us because you wanted to save Ghost, or did you just want revenge on Blood?"
"I wanted Blood."
Before Cyborg could say anything else, he was met with a dial tone.
Raven didn't set the crystal down until she reached Intelligence's territory. Once she was able to concentrate properly once again, she assumed the lotus position and began the process of reconnecting her teammate's consciousness.
An hour later, once it was done, she opened her eyes. Cricket was leaning against one of the verticals near her, covered in scratches and a chunk of skin missing from his arm where Hunger had bite him.
"Keith's all fixed then?" Raven nodded and Cricket smiled. "That's good. It's been strange not having him to talk to. But can I ask you a favor?"
Raven just raised an eyebrow.
"Okay then. Could you leave out the fact that I'm really a separate person? I'm not sure if that's the right word for it, but he just thinks I'm his conscience, and I'd rather have him not think he's crazy. Well, crazier."
"I suppose so."
"And if you ever need to talk or vent or whatever, I'm a good listener. A lot better than Keith anyway."
Everyone stood up as Raven opened her eyes and uncrossed her legs. "Keith should wake up in a few minutes. The damage is fixed, and he will be fine. Now I need to rest. Don't disturb me," looking specifically at Starfire and Beast Boy.
My eyes flickered a few times before they really opened. Then I remembered.
"Where am I?" I shot up, my head glancing around the room, trying to make sense of everything. "What happened? Why does my head hurt so much? Can I get a sandwich?"
"Hah! I win the bet!" Beast Boy crowed, then sat back down sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Lay back down," the strong voice of Wonder Woman commanded me. "You're on the Watchtower. You're safe."
"What happened?" I asked, taking a glass of water Starfire handed me.
"After we took down Brother Blood, you were in a coma," Cyborg explained. "We brought you up here after Raven couldn't bring you out of it. She and J'onn J'onzz fixed you right up. You've been out for a few days."
"That takes care of my second and third questions, so about that sandwich?"
Flash zipped over, tossing me a sub. "What? I know I'm always hungry after getting knocked out."
" 'anks," I said, my mouth full.
"No problem," Flash said, eating a sandwich of his own.
"Yeah, um, this is good, but I haven't eaten in several days, if I really have been out for as long as you say, so I'm going to need more. Can you show me the kitchen?"
"You are going to stay right here until you're healed," Wonder Woman said forcefully. "I'll have some more food sent up." The Amazonian princess exited as gracefully as one would expect.
Over the next hour, I was told exactly what had happened after I had left for my date with Jenny. Even though I was embarrassed that I was captured so easily, the others told me it happened to everyone at some point or another. They were all actually fairly surprised that Blood hadn't taken over my mind completely. Apparently, Cyborg was the only one to ever completely resist his powers, and someone named Bumblebee was one of the few to break free, but I was the only case that they knew of who had had this reaction to it.
"Okay, can everyone get out now? I just want to eat a little bit more and then take a nap."
"A nap?" Beast Boy said in disbelief. "You've been asleep for the past few days, why do you want to sleep more?"
"I also haven't eaten in a few days. My energy is about zero right now. Count yourself lucky I haven't passed out yet."
"Oh. Okay. Hey Starfire, you owe me five bucks," Beast Boy said, his attention off me now.
"No, you owe me the five dollars. The bet was that Keith's first question was to be for food. He first requested to know where he was. That means I win."
I called after their retreating forms. "Hey, were you betting on me?" They shouted back an affirmative. "Hey, guess that means I'm really one of the group.