Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans.
Author's Note: This was an original submission for Nevermorepixie's R/R site back in last September. I thought with the X anniversary airdate around the corner, I figured to share with the world finally. Beyond that, just a short coda from me. Do I need a reason?
Beta: You know the drill — busy.
Timeline: a few minutes after X.
'There is good, and there is evil, but the line between them can be almost impossible to find. Does one good deed make him a hero? Am I to blame for all of it because of a single mistake? In the end, all I really know is that the answers don't come easy. It's supposed to be simple, but it's not.'
The words echoed in Robin's mind as he surveyed the wreckage on the top of his Tower. Cyborg was expedient with the construction machines but Robin desired to gaze into the chasm before the machines would plaster up his error — the error born from his brashness, rage, and detachments to the team that rescued his wretched hide anyway.
'Well, maybe it would be simple if I wasn't so well trained. Bruce, you madman, how do you do it?'
He inclined his head downward and eyed the bay, the wind rustling his hair and cape. His groan muted by the air-stream as it howled, the building materials rattled, all the reverberation prodded the Teen Wonder as it reinforced the impact of his error.
'Chain reactions never cease to amaze me. From my first act of espionage of the first chip to the nanoprobes to Slade falling into the lava pit to now — a hole on the roof of my, er, our home?'
His guilt revived itself and churned within him. Ironic as it was subdued in the aftermath of the traitorous geomancer, Terra.
'Echoes never die down, do they? They just fade away.'
Robin exhaled again and sensed another breeze, from the opposite direction.
"I suppose the adage is 'penny for your thoughts?'" Raven's emotionless voice carved into the silence.
"Raven? What are you doing here?" The last thing he currently wanted was to stare into those unforgiving amethyst eyes.
"I'm usually up at this time of night. I heard someone on the roof and I thought to investigate by myself." She cautiously hovered to his side.
"And didn't have the chance to tell the others?" he rejoined in amusement.
"I didn't think I shouldn't worry them unless I was sure."
"Aren't you quite the maverick?"
"I'd be careful branding about such terms, considering you're the one who dressed up as a reject from a Tim Burton movie just to…never mind. I'm…It's been a long night and I haven't had a chance to meditate." Raven suffered his remorse and it elicited a pang of shame from the demonic empath.
Robin was flabbergasted. He swore she was about to apologize; he could perceive it in her gesticulation. It is quite a bombshell to the Titan leader, considering how self-righteous his mystifying subordinate is with her opinions and barbs.
"Tactless aside, no, you're right. Whatever you're thinking, I certainly deserve it, given tonight and all." He fretted for the worst.
"Yes, but I don't think I should kick someone when he's down. At least until I'm rested."
"Hm, that should give some measure of peace to Beast Boy," he jested.
"Indeed. However, we're digressing and we're not talking about him. We're talking about you skulking around on the roof late at night after what you've been through against X and Chang," she scolded.
"What can I say? I'm a night owl and, apparently, so are you. It's surprising that we haven't run into each other yet." This was an opportunity in disguise for him. Beyond Terra, he hardly conversed with Raven on any other matter.
"I usually spend my time in my room, meditating and various things I usually don't have time in the day for."
"You said usually, what about the rest of the time?" His brain was already active, so he might as well direct it on a new target besides himself.
"Do you really want to hear the horrible truth?" she posed in her notorious deadpan.
"Will I respect myself in the morning if I do?" He would participate in her game, as it would make for a decent distraction.
"Bite your tongue. Anyway, interesting place for some fresh air." She observed her surroundings.
"Just needed a place to think."
"Looked like brooding to me."
"You say tomato…"
"I hope this won't be a recurring theme now, considering that your usual reason to brood — not to mention reason for making that suit — is lying underneath 600 meters of earth," the metahuman chided.
"Slade? Oh, right. No, I've let him go for the most part."
Raven arched an eyebrow. While the male wasn't being mendacious to her, he was hemming in his emotions. "I think you certainly tried, even when the blonde showed up."
"I had larger concerns." He already had one specter on him tonight; he was not ready for another.
"I know. Did you suspect she would betray us at all?"
"No. I guess I was too optimistic and from what I noted at the time, there was bare interaction between her and Slade, so, no, I didn't suspect. However, Lord knows we've had too many distractions to see it, though." His tension boiled over.
"True, we had a full plate. We still do now, with Brother Blood and his H.I.V.E. and now…" She trailed off, unable to complete the sentence.
Silence then permeated the conversation until Raven produced another pronouncement. "So, who do you think this Red X is? Thoughts, suspicions?"
"I don't have any."
"Oh, please, you're the detective of the group; surely you have an idea," she taunted.
"Well, it had to be someone who had access to the Tower but, then, anyone can break in the Tower anymore — Mad Mod, Atlas, the Master of Games, and of course, Slade with his drones."
"Well, the drones had assistance there." She differentiated.
Normally this would educe a snort from the impatient girl. "So, again I state, who would it be?"
"Who would know about Red X? It's just you guys and Slade really. Terra could have known if Slade told her." The Teen Wonder initiated his trademark cogitating.
"Yes, but I doubt she or Slade could do anything now. So I suppose it's us or…"
"You're going to say me, aren't you?" he snapped defensively.
"Actually, no, but I do notice a parallel between with you and this Red X."
"Oh, really? Like what?"
"Well, you two have a similar fighting style, and those jokes. Although, to his credit, he tells a better joke than you do."
"Hey, what's wrong with my jokes?" Robin countered.
"You sound like you come from a Cracker Jack box and those haven't been funny since 1949."
He mockingly covered his heart as if it were a mortal wound. "That hurts; as supposed to your scathing 90's wit?"
She shrugged. "At least it's up to date."
"Yeah, well, since Cracker Jack is still around, I'm thinking my jokes are classics, then."
"You go think that." The daughter of Trigon rotated her eyes, as she suppressed her enjoyment from the conversation.
"I will, but as you say, we're digressing."
"Right, well, he seems arrogant and sure of himself, I would like to say that archer you and the boys talked about from your trip to another dimension."
"You mean Speedy?"
"Yes. If he cracks jokes, I'd say you got a problem," she flippantly derided.
"Not really. He's more the silent type if anything."
"With his bow, I'd say that he gives 'talk softly and carry a big stick' a whole new meaning."
He detonated in hilarity. "You can say that." She suddenly ogled at Robin's hair.
"I was thinking of you with combed red hair."
"Oh, come on. My look is far more…"
"That's a cheap shot," he seethed.
"You know I'm full of them," she boomed with satisfaction.
"You're full of something alright," he mumbled under his breath.
"What did you say?" she grilled in an accusatory pitch.
"Nothing," he stated with as much innocence as he could muster.
"That's what I thought you said. Anyway. You know, I suppose we have the chance to do another old fashioned pool bet in figuring out who he is."
Now it was Robin's turn to hoist up an eyebrow. "Another? What was the first?"
"To see how long it would take for you and Starfire to get together." There was an outlandish sensation of distain in that statement for Raven.
"Oh, really? How long has it been going on?" His cocky attitude was invigorated.
"Oh, not long. Since Blackfire first showed up."
"Hm. Pity I got other things to worry about, even if I was so inclined."
The demoness perked up. "Really now?"
"Future plans. I wouldn't even have time anyway," he dismissed.
"No. Not anymore anyway."
"To get back to the point, at least X doesn't have the belt to use anymore." His mouth was rather day.
"I didn't even know we had a point. But if he broke into the safe once, he could do it again." She wished she could peer through his mask.
"I don't think so. New safeguards are in place; it would be easier to crack into Fort Knox." He had an air of confidence.
"I've heard that quality of rumor before, like with the Titanic?"
"Oh, must you criticize everything?" he teased.
"It's my job. Since we were talking about Speedy — if we're going by this parallel theory — he could be a clone or another version of you, using that diagram of Beast Boy's as our proof."
"Another version of me? Wasn't Larry enough?"
"I was going for something less threadbare." The Teen Wonder was a tad annoyed by that.
"That supposed to mean something?" His glare was on her.
"No. Just how shoddy Larry seemed in his reproduction of you."
"No, you meant something by that."
"No. I didn't. And Slade is dead, so you can stop the paranoia." She scowled right back.
"I am not paranoid."
"Yes, you are, but no, I didn't mean anything in that about you, besides, even if I did, you've quite redeemed yourself." The empathic lass stormed off.
"Redeemed? What do you mean?" Raven was grateful for the boisterous, blustering breeze or he would have heard her heave a firm sigh.
"Well, I didn't think much of your leadership back then as you mostly pranced around being a throwback to the gothic theater and hardly gave us a thought but miraculously, inexplicably,…we stayed by your side and saved your miserable hide. Then, came the blonde and while I wasn't happy with your acceptance of her, I could see the position you were in: someone who could be used for good, not to mention Beast Boy's pining for her. You had no options. And even when it hit the fan, you still united us and showed what the team was all about while still giving us a chance for revenge. At least with some of us." She recollected her and Beast Boy's later attempts to deal with the blonde earthmover and implored the weather to obscure the cacophony of small explosions from the bay.
It was the strongest sympathetic display Robin ever detected out of the empath. "I usually try to think of the best with people. I've been there before and I realize with girls like Terra, it's a tough situation but with her, she was special."
"Indeed." There was a puzzling pang of envy within her.
"I do feel that her actions and what happened here tonight won't be going away. They're echoes, Raven. And echoes never die down, it seems. They just fade away," he affirmed in a somber demeanor. She then faced him and gaped into his soul.
"Words to live by, Robin. To recall Starfire's words from tonight: no, I don't think you are connected to him. You've outgrown the need for him. If nothing else, it serves to deepen your resolve of him and the reason for his creation." She volleyed back the solemn manner.
"I have a feeling we're not talking about that suit anymore, are we?"
"No, we're not."
"Come tomorrow, the reason for all this will be covered up and back to the shadows it goes." He pointed to the breach.
"That doesn't mean it didn't happen — it simply won't be in the forefront anymore, but it still will be remembered. Suppression can be a good thing at times." She ambled to him.
"So would closure."
"You'll get your closure but not overnight. Sadly, closure and the other components of a relationship take time to achieve." The forlorn female unfettered the melancholy character she possessed back in the early days of the team.
"I suppose. Been this long and we're still here," the leader of the Titans acknowledged with a modicum of optimism.
"Which is why you are no longer connected to that suit, so I wouldn't worry? He'll be caught. After all, he's not you," she retorted with a wisp of his optimism.
"So, Raven, when you said that 'we miraculously stayed at my side', what made you stay? At the time, you didn't seem like you cared about the team one way or another," he interrogated.
In response, Raven eyeballed her commandant for an eternity. "Ask me that whenever you unmask Red X 2.0 and tell me what you see. Then, we'll both know."
"And here I thought you were becoming less elusive," he humorously reproached.
"You should know better than that. You've been around Cyborg and Starfire too long — you're too out in the open."
"One could say the same thing about being too closed off."
She massaged her temples. "Duly noted. Since you seem to be fine, and I need to mediate, I shall leave you." She commenced phasing into the floor.
She stopped in her tracks. "What?"
The enigmatic Titan envisioned what his eyes look like underneath that wretched mask.
"What are…friends for?" She morphed into the room beneath.
Robin scrutinized the abyss yet again while Raven's words resonated on.
"Closure and the other components of a relationship. Just another kind of echo."
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