Disclaimer-I don't own the TT. And I'm sorry this is so massive, but it felt more like a oneshot than a multi chapter story. Review tot ell me if you think i should break it up
A Long, Long Time
Story By StormDancer
It is not light that we need, but fire; not the gentle shower but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.
It had been a long, long time since she had last defeated a villain. Her cloak grew dusty, her leotard even more so. The chakra on her forehead was covered with an illusion, and her hair was dismissed as dye. She only got remarks about how she looked like 'that superhero' once or twice a week. The battles she avoided never gave her the urge to help the Titans. Her hands no longer instinctively glowed blue when she saw a video or telecast of a fight. It had been a long time since she had been a hero, and her powers had begun to fade with disuse. A scholar had no need for magic. The hero within her was in a coma, knocked into near-death by that fateful blow struck so long ago. No longer were her best friends the others who shared her home. Now she had no friends, as it was meant to be. No friends, barely any powers without rage, no purpose, and no ideals. The only things left were the blood on her hands and the nightmares which would never leave her, the nightmares of that last scream. Those, she knew, would never leave. She would never be released from the earthbound nightmare of her life now. Never.
The man groaned as he looked up at the building in front of him. It was so unfair he had to go on this mission. It should have gone to fish boy, as he had attempted to convince everyone else of. They all had reasons not to be sent, but Aqualad had no real ones. He could accept green or orange skin, a dependence on holo-rings or masks, pink hair, not being able to speak English, or just plain tactlessness as valid excuses, but after Aqualad had given his excuse he really had wished to hurt his friend very badly.
"I look too young," the stupid fish idiot had explained with an easy smile, "She won't take me seriously.
Arsenal, once known as Speedy, spat contemptuously on the ground beside him. It was the best way to vent his feelings in regard to his moron friend, but it also drew disapproving looks from passer-bys on this reputable, middle-class street. Tough for them. This was another reason for Aqua to come, he would be the epitome of propriety, but no, the stupid bastard had capitalized on Atlanteans aging differently and so here Arsenal was, Roy Harper once again.
He sighed and checked his sunglasses as he usually would do his mask, than reached up to reposition his bow slightly before he remembered that Nightwing had forbidden him even that, saying it would give him away. Well sure, but he was known as the smoothest talker on the Titans. He could have explained it away, somehow. Not to mention without it, he was not nearly as powerful. He didn't have super powers. But Nightwing was just as stubborn and closed-minded as when he was Robin.
Arsenal knocked resignedly on the door, noting the simple plaque on the door, which only read the number, no hint of what went on inside. Not even a name. Just as he raised his hand to knock again, the door swung open to reveal a curvaceous blond, maybe 3 years younger then him. She looked a lot like Changeling's pictures of Terra, but he supposed any blonde haired blue eyed girl would. He put out a hand to shake, regardless of that fact.
"Ms. Roth, I presume?" he asked with an ingratiating smile. The girl giggled, a sound that sent his nerves on edge. Giggling had always annoyed him.
"No, no," she corrected him with a broad grin, "I'm Tara Markov, the assistant. Let me show you up."
She spun and walked into a hallway and up some stairs. He followed, his eyes only straying appreciatively to her generous backside once or twice. He might once have been flirting up a storm with this kid, but now, she just wasn't his type. To full figured, and he didn't like blondes. Too often they succumbed to their stereotype.
The girl stopped in front of a plain cherry door and knocked, than slipped inside, motioning for him to wait outside. He leaned against a wall, adjusting his sunglasses again as a façade to attaching a video transmitter to the glasses. He knew the other Titans were in the living room, where it broadcasted to.
"I'm in," he muttered into his nearly invisible microphone, "No security to speak of."
"Good," Nightwing responded, "We're all watching. You know what's at stake."
"I know," Arsenal replied impatiently, "You've only told me a million times."
"Yeah, well, without Raven, we need this information."
Arsenal was about to spit something extremely rude back at Nightwing, but Tara came out of the door before he had a chance.
"She's ready to see you now."
He nodded and entered the room after her, noting instinctively that the girl had closed the door and was waiting in the shadows next to it.
At a desk in the back of the room sat a shadowy figure swathed in a dark sweater. The woman could have been anyone, from a beauty like Starfire to a complete dowd. He guessed the latter. Most experts were old. She was flipping through a file when he entered, and didn't look up when he came in, steps sounding louder than they should have on the hardwood floor.
"Ms. Roth? I'm-"
The woman cut him off, still looking at the folder.
"Roy Harper. You had an appointment. Sit down."
He sat obediently, as much as his rebellious soul drove him to stay standing just out of perverseness. Somehow, that ageless voice that wasn't quite a monotone struck resonances in his memory.
"So, Mr. Harper, Why are you here? My assistant said you didn't mention that, and I do need to know that before I tell you anything."
Obviously, she wasn't big on small talk. Well, he was famous for his bluntness.
"I need information on a demon."
"So I assumed."
"I need to know how to summon it, its powers, everything you have."
The woman looked up at him abruptly with penetrating dark eyes. He was too far away to see her specific eye colour. He almost flinched at the glare, but he had been celebrated as being thick skinned, refusing to be put off by a harsh look, especially from a pretty girl. And this woman was beautiful.
He hadn't been able to tell in the dim lights, but now that her face was illuminated he could see the business-like woman wasonly a few years younger then him, much to young to have gone to college or to have gotten the reputation she had among scholars. She was much different from the middle aged mystic he had expected. Her violet hair (a very good job, it looked almost natural) framed a triangular face with smallish features, except for eyes that looked far too large for her face, a feature that was underscored by subtle bags under her eyes. She hadn't been sleeping well, probably for a while. Arsenal filed the information away for future reference. That should have lessened her beauty, as well as too thin lips and a lithe, boyish figure, but they didn't. She looked very similar to-
"This girl looks much like Raven!" Starfire exclaimed from his headset. He looked quickly at the girl, but she showed no signs of having heard the alien. Instead, she was staring into space slightly beyond him. That more than anything showed him the difference between her and what Raven would have been. No hero survived who took their awareness off a potential enemy.
"And why do you need this information? And on a specific demon?" she asked calculatingly, breaking into his musings. His words were no less careful.
"My employer is interested in many different, esoteric things. Who am I to question him?"
He had hoped to both win her sympathy and to impress upon her how little he knew. Judging from her even more piercing gaze, he hadn't succeeded.
"One cannot expect me to confide this sensitive information to an underling," Ms. Roth replied, studying her fingernails with what he assumed was false attention. Still, his eyes were drawn to her ring fingers. She wore none.
"This is, as you said, a sensitive mission. Would my employer send someone he didn't trust?"
The woman's quick glance at him made him wonder if he had been wrong to use the word mission.
"Perhaps he trusts you, but why should I? Could you stand the temptation?" she asked in a tone of idle curiosity.
"I could tell you how to summon riches, more than your wildest dreams."
He smiled whimsically.
"What gold is more true than sunlight? Or the wheat full ripened? What more silver do I need than the moon?"
He was abruptly reminded of a conversation he had had years ago, with a girl with a similar piercing gaze, whose cool voice had cut through all his shields. He had told this woman the same thing he had once told Raven.
"I can offer you beauty beyond compare."
It was the same question Raven had asked, all that long, long time ago. He refused to show surprise; instead, seeming to give the question thought he didn't need. His answer was the same as it had always been.
"What more beauty do I need than the smile on a pretty girl's lips?" it wasn't quite a suggestion, but she could take it as such if she wanted. He continued, "Or, for that matter, life itself."
"How about the ability to enjoy life forever? Immortality?"
He had somehow known she would keep with the old script, and so he had his answer ready.
"We all die at one time. Nothing can stop that. I don't need to live forever to enjoy it, and I don't want to give it time to go sour."
"Power? That is a demon's favorite gift. Revenge? Even more popular."
"I have all the power I need, and any more I could have would probably be bad for me," Arsenal riposted, but the other part of the question floored him. His answer here would have to change. He no longer had no one to wish revenge on. His hands clenched as he remembered the bastards who had done-that- to Raven. His only regret at their death was they had never faced- "I don't want revenge on anyone," he said slowly, "revenge doesn't do anything. If there's anything I need, it's justice. And no demon can offer that."
Her cool eyes fixed on him, and he almost gulped at their complete dispassion. Somehow, the fact they were shadowed so he couldn't really see them didn't help.
"Well, you pass so far. But what about the greatest temptress of all? I could tell you how to find love, the woman, or man I suppose, who could satisfy all your deepest, darkest desires."
When Raven had asked him that, he had told her he didn't want or need love. Now, to this woman who was so close to being Raven and yet not, his answer had changed.
"My love has been gone a long, long time," he said coldly. He could almost hear the others' gasps in his earpiece, but he could always tell them he was bluffing. They would believe him, or be sensitive enough to pretend to.
"Dead? I can raise her. If your love is unrequited, I can change that." Her voice had become more monotonic with every word.
"If she is dead, she won't want to come back. If she's alive, she'll come to me of her own free will and no other. A demon couldn't counterfeit true love." His reply was impulsive, different from his calculated answers of before. When he had told Raven his answer then, she had simply looked disbelievingly at him. This woman smiled slightly, and nodded.
"Very well. Tara!"
The assistant stepped up to her boss. Arsenal had almost forgotten she was there, so this sudden command had startled him.
"You can go."
Tara looked anxiously at her employer, than at him.
Ms. Roth cut her off, but her voice had a hint of fondness in it. Arsenal refrained from glancing closer at the two women. It sounded like she had almost said Raven.
"I'll be fine, Tara. I just need to talk to him alone."
Tara ran her eyes over him again, but this time it was appraising in a very different sense. She dropped her voice so that she thought that he couldn't hear, but she hadn't counted on years of honing senses to their extreme.
"He's not your usual type, Rachel, but he is cute. I'll be going, so you can get on with your 'work'" she hissed with a suggestive look. Raven glared at her, but the girl walked calmly out of the room as if a death glare was not being directed at her back. Arsenal now glanced questioningly at her. So he wasn't her usual? Interesting. He wondered what was, with a quickness that surprised him. He hadn't felt anything like that for a long, long time.
"Well, then," the woman said, pulling his attention back to the here and now, "take off that transmitter and we can do business."
He stared at her in complete shock, to the accompaniment of Nightwing's curse. She held out a delicate white hand for it.
"Because I would prefer to deal only with one person, not a shadowy number of others."
But," Arsenal objected, "This is my safeguard against you. You could have taken all those things you offered me earlier, and I would never know."
"Valid point. I swear on the bones of my mother and blood of my world that you will come to no harm by hand or power."
Arsenal had only heard one person use that particular oath, and that not for a long, long, time. But maybe it was common and he just hadn't noticed. Still, he couldn't quite trust her, and refused to move his hands to the transmitter.
She rolled her eyes.
"Well, if you don't trust my honesty, trust at least my self-preservation. I'm assuming that if you don't contact your employer in a certain amount of time, they will come to find you and avenge you or rescue you. I couldn't hope to stand against anything like that."
Arsenal slowly removed the video recorder and handed it to her.
"And the microphone," she prompted. He removed them as well. She studied them once they were encased in her fine-boned hand.
"Good work, this," she observed, "I only know of one person who could do better than that."
Arsenal suppressed a grin at that. Cy would get so annoyed when Arsenal told him that! This was at least one good reason to come here.
"It's not that I don't trust you-" he began to apologize, but she cut him off impatiently.
"I understand completely. Now, what demon do you need information on?"
"Trigon the terrible."
Her penetrating gaze was fixed immediately back on him. He shivered. The intensity in that gaze was intimidating.
"Trigon. Interesting. How much do you know about demonology in general?" she asked, calculating again.
"No much. One of my… friends was somewhat of an expert, so I picked some things up."
Ms. Roth did not notice, or chose not to comment on, the past tense of his words.
"Good. Well, then, you know, each demon is unique in itself, in its actions, methodology, domain, and summoning."
At his nod, she continued.
"You are also aware that the common myth of demons being controllable once summoned is just that, a myth?"
Arsenal could still remember the horrible devastation caused by demons summoned foolishly. He nodded again. She went on, with a scholar's completely dispassionate tone.
"Well, Trigon is often known as Samael, the angel of death, but cannot be confused with Satan. They are two different demons, of a kind. Trigon holds dominion over destruction, lust, and rage. He tends to go in for wholesale slaughter, rape, and control. He does not, however, want riches, and his followers should be the same. He is unique in that the summoner doesn't have to give something up directly to call for him. A virgin is all that is necessary, willing or unwilling, though willing is generally better."
Arsenal almost thought that for a moment, her eyes glinted red and her breathing became more pronounced, more meditative. She continued.
"However, he is a high ranking demon and, once summoned, can be completely unpredictable. He is just as likely to kill followers as enemies. The other component of his summoning, his true name, I will not tell you."
"Is that all you know?" Arsenal asked impulsively, before he could stop himself. Her lips, which had been pressed tightly together, curved into a nearly imperceptible smile.
"That was just an overview. I will give you a report to give to your employer."
He thought he could detect a hint of scorn when she said employer. Was that for him, being an employee, or had she seen through the fabrication?
"Why won't you tell the true name?" he asked, hoping to distract her, as well as his own curiosity.
"There is too much danger. No matter how saintly you are, I will not give you the temptation to summon Him."
"How come you can stand it then, if you know the name?"
She smiled again, but this time it was cold and nearly cruel.
"I have my ways."
That cut off the conversation completely. They sat in silence a while, Arsenal absorbing the information he had just got, Ms. Roth rubbing a brooch on the left side of her chest before she began to page through the folder on her desk again. Finally, he stood.
"Well, I must be going," he said, holding out a hand to shake, "It's been a pleasure."
"Don't lie," she snapped, but she stood and walked out from behind the desk to shake his hand and give him the folder. Her hand was cold compared to his, and full of old but still evident calluses. They must have been there for a while before they were neglected.
He held her hand a moment longer then necessary, but she didn't let go either. Somehow, her hand in his just felt right. As right as-
His thought was stopped in its track by her sudden glance, meeting his eyes. They were as violet as Raven's, and that startled him into dropping her hand, rather more abruptly then he would have if he had done it consciously.
Ms. Roth turned at what must have seemed like his rejection and stalked back to the desk, muttering inaudibly under her breath. Guessing that the interview was done, he turned to walk out of the room, until he realized the significance of something he had seen in the momentary lapse of control the accidental, glancing blow he had struck caused. A charka had flickered into and out of view on her forehead.
He turned back to look at the figure leaning against the desk, fists clenched tightly on top of the table.
"Raven," Arsenal asked quietly, "Why didn't you come back?"
She was good; he had to give her that. She didn't even flinch. But she froze for just a millisecond, scarcely enough to be visible. But it was enough. He walked back over to her, and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. She trembled slightly beneath his touch.
"We've all missed you more than you could know. We need you, now more than ever." His voice was low and tender. Suddenly she spun.
"I'm not Raven!" she yelled, "I just look like her!"
This time he was certain of the flash of red in her eyes. He refused to back off.
"I know you when I see you, Raven. You may be hiding, but the Titan is still there."
"For the last time!" she screamed, "I AM NOT RAVEN!"
The scream gave her away. For as she shouted in rage, all the light bulbs in the room shattered simultaneously.
"Sure you aren't," he drawled. Raven glared at him.
"Azarath, metrion, Zinthos," she murmured under her breath. Finally, she was calm enough to speak. "The Raven you knew is long dead." She still spoke into the table, away from him. Arsenal spun her around to face him.
"She'll never die until she's forgotten. And trust me, I'll never forget her."
He gently pressed his lips to hers, than stalked out of the room. He paused at the doorway.
"I let you go once, Raven, and I've regretted it ever since. I won't make the same mistake. I won't let you disappear this time."
With that, he was gone. When Tara came in 5 minutes later, Raven was still leaning against the desk, staring at the cameras she still held in her weakly shaking hand.
"So that was all she told me," Arsenal summed up to the other Titans, "She said the rest was in the folder."
He handed it to Nightwing, who paged through it briefly.
"This looks quite good. You did well."
Arsenal didn't respond to this with one of his usual jibes. He had been distracted throughout all the report, battling with himself whether to tell the rest about who Rachel Roth really was. So far, he hadn't, but the internal struggle continued.
"Well, I'll go see how much this can help," Nightwing continued, "Star, want to help?"
The alien jumped up with enthusiasm not lessened by passing years.
"Of course, boyfriend Nightwing!" she exclaimed, following him excitedly out of the room, "It is always a pleasure to help you!"
"Why do I have the feeling he won't be getting much work done?" she asked the room at large. When no one answered, she rolled her eyes. "Well, I'll actually look at what Arsenal told us."
She walked out of the room. The others prepared to follow.
"cy?" Arsenal asked as the half robot began to follow everyone else out of the room, "Can I talk to you a moment?"
The man turned at the doorway and walked back, Jinx walking with him. They sat down on the couch. Sometimes, Arsenal was annoyed at Jinx's way of always being near Cyborg, but now she could help.
"What's up?" the half robot asked.
"Why would something be wrong?" Arsenal asked defensively. He hadn't been that obvious, had he?
"Basically everyone else has their random chats with big bro Cy, but you only do when something's wrong. So?" Cyborg prompted. Arsenal was still standing in front of the couch.
"What would you say," he began hesitatingly, "If I told you I had seen Raven?"
Cyborg looked almost shocked for a moment, but answered after a minute of consideration.
'I would ask," he said slowly, "Where and when."
"I," Jinx cut in, nowhere near as tactful as her boyfriend, "would wonder why she wasn't here, even if it was kicking and screaming over your shoulder."
The couple looked questioningly at him. Arsenal collapsed in a chair.
"She isn't the same," he admitted, "She's lost her instincts, it seems like. And she's obviously been here a while. Why didn't she come back? We're her friends, her family. Why didn't she come back to us?"
"I don't know," Cyborg confessed, "I don't even know why she ran. I thought she would have at least contacted us. Or at least you."
"Me?" Arsenal exclaimed in surprise, "Why me?"
Cyborg grinned nostalgically.
"You might not have thought so, but you were probably closest to her before she left."
"We were on opposite sides of the country! She barely ever talked to me!"
"Think those two were related?" Cyborg teased, "And let me tell you, when she did talk to you, it was for longer than she ever talked to any of us, and more relaxed. She really did like you, Roy. You might not have realized the import of that then, but I know you do now."
"Than why won't she return?" Arsenal asked hopelessly, "Why did she leave in the first place."
Cyborg shrugged disparagingly
"I don't know, dude. We might never know."
"I'll tell you both," Jinx inserted abruptly, "Both why she left and why she hasn't come back. But you won't like it."
"Why?" Arsenal demanded harshly.
"Because of those men," Jinx stated bluntly.
"The ones who, who," he couldn't say the word.
"The one's who raped her," Jinx agreed bluntly. Cyborg's great fists clenched, and Arsenal's eyes burned from beneath his mask. Jinx continued, "She killed them."
Both him and Cyborg stared blankly at her.
"I was told they were drunk and had a falling out, so they killed each other," Arsenal said disbelievingly.
"I was there when we found them, Jinx," Cyborg agreed, "that was the only explanation for what happened."
Jinx shook her head, obviously ashamed at their denseness.
"Well, of course, Raven's intelligent enough, even in her weakened condition, to cover up a murder. But even if that's what she thought it was, it wasn't. It wasn't revenge either. That was justice, the only thing she could have done to them."
Jinx rarely showed affection for anyone other than Cyborg. She called the rest of the Titans friends, her old HIVE teammates colleagues, and everyone else she knew were acquaintances. She would defend any of them, but she never got angry on their behalf. Now, though, her eyes glowed with her pink magic, ready to lash out in wrath.
"I was there," she said quietly, "I was the one who found her, stabbing the bodies with their own knives. Why do you think she was stable when she came back? I nursed her back to health. I helped her set the scene that you saw. She told me what had happened, but I didn't need to be told. But I saw the aftermath. She killed them."
"Why didn't you help her than!" Arsenal spat. Jinx's voice was still low and coldly vicious.
"I didn't get there in time. If I had, I would be the one with blood on my hands and she would be here still."
There really wasn't anything for any of the men to say in response to that. After a moment of all of them seething in anger at men long dead, Arsenal spoke.
"But I thought you said you patched her up. Why did she leave then?"
Jinx rolled her eyes at his idiocy.
"Because she saw it as murder. She was a hero, and she killed someone, in what she saw as a cold-blooded murder. She was scared it might happen again, or that you guys would find out and repudiate her."
"She's still a hero!" Arsenal shouted, "And she always will be!"
"Calm down," Cyborg hastily reprimanded Arsenal, "Do you want the whole tower to know that Raven's somewhere near here?"
Arsenal quieted sulkily.
"But that doesn't explain why she hasn't come back," he said slightly sullenly, "She should have known I-we would miss her."
Cyborg and Jinx exchanged slightly amused looks, obviously at the expense of his density.
"She has all the reasons she had for leaving still going," Cyborg informed him gently.
"And she thinks you all hate her now for leaving," Jinx continued for her boyfriend.
"But I could never hate her!" Arsenal cried impulsively.
"Well, did you ever tell her that?" Cyborg asked rhetorically. The other man opened his mouth to reply anyway, than shut it again. He stared into the twilight sky, mainly violet today. But not as violet as Raven's brilliant eyes.
"I'll bring her back," he declared into the silence that had fallen, "She'll come back by herself."
With that he rose and stalked out of the room, back into the hallway that led to the bedrooms.
'Think he'll manage it?" Jinx asked idly.
"I hope so," Cyborg responded seriously, "We need her now more than ever. He needs her."
The woman studied the house Arsenal had only a few hours ago. The night sky shadowed her face, as well as her surroundings, but she was perfectly comfortable. She pulled up the hood that covered her bubble-gum pink hair, and knocked. The door swung open immediately.
"I'm sorry," a blond in tight jeans and a semi-revealing shirt said with annoyance, "It's after hours for clients. Miss. Roth will gladly see you tomorrow."
"I'm no client," jinx said neutrally, "I'm an old friend of Rachel's. Can you just run up and tell her I'm here, than you can go out on your hot date, Tara?"
The blonde stared at her.
"How did you know my name?" the girl asked in amazement.
"I told you, I'm a friend of Raven's."
The girl's professional manner reasserted itself.
"May I have a name to tell her?"
If Raven couldn't figure out who she was from that, she didn't deserve to be reinstated as a Titan.
"I'll go tell her," Tara said grudgingly, "Just wait here."
The girl disappeared up into the house. Jinx crossed her arms and waited outside. She hadn't really thought this through. It was so easy to trace the signal of the cameras Raven had taken from Arsenal, to steal here without anyone else knowing. But she hadn't considered how she was going to convince her friend to return.
She needed to, though. And not just for this specific mission. Raven had been the Titan's lodestone, even as a villain she had seen that. Cy may have been the elder brother, who could give good advice and sympathize with you, but Raven was the one you trusted instinctively. Odd though that was, her being the darkest on the team, but Cyborg had a annoying way of accidentally trying to work with what you told him, for your sake, of course. Raven would never either tell a secret or try to manipulate you. She would tell you what you needed without sympathy or tact, but that was what the Titans needed. Raven had been the one Changeling had confided in about his nightmares about Terra. Who Starfire had told about Nightwing's problems, and how to solve them. She had held them together and now there was no one to take that spot. Bumblebee had taken it somewhat, and so had she, but they weren't Raven's equals.
Jinx more than anyone knew why Raven had run. She had been tempted to do that so many times, to just get away from it all. She knew how much Raven had needed time to recover. She hadn't told Arsenal or Cyborg, or anyone, everything about that night. About happening upon the dark girl stabbing the men over and over with a blunt knife. The pain in the dark eyes that had looked up at her, activating every motherly instinct the villainess had possessed. How Raven had sobbed the whole story out at an understanding face. The long, long time it had taken to piece Raven back together.
Jinx's fists clenched. Raven. Her first real friend, who had unexpectedly accepted her help with an open hand. Now it was time to finish the job of putting her friend back together.
Tara came running back downstairs.
"She said to come on up. I've got to go; it's the last room on the left on the third floor."
The girl dashed out the door. Jinx slowly entered the house and began her way up the stairs. It was interesting that Raven's room was the same as it had been at the Tower. That wasn't a plea to go back at all. She opened the door and slipped in without knocking.
Raven was sitting at a desk that was nearly covered in books and scraps of paper.
"Jinx." She said resignedly without turning, "To what do I owe this honour?"
Jinx sat on the bed without an invitation or asking permission.
"I just found out you were here and thought I owed you a visit."
Raven spun on her chair to face her.
"You owe me? I owe you my life, Jinx. You have no debts with me."
"Okay, so that was BS," the pother sorceress admitted, "But I did what to see you."
"Well, you've seen me," Raven said curtly, "and I'm fine. Now you can go."
"Why were you so cruel to poor Arsenal?" Jinx asked, ignoring her. Raven looked quizzically at her. "Speedy, Roy, whatever you want. Why did you have to show yourself?"
"He figured it out by himself," Raven replied coldly, "I tried to deny it."
"Not very hard," Jinx observed shrewdly, "You're clever enough to have avoided him, or something. You want to go back. You know it, I know it, don't bother denying it. So why don't you?"
During the weeks after the 'incident', as they had called it, their friendship had flourished, and they both knew each other well enough to be blunt and not beat around the bush. They stuck to that policy now.
"I'm afraid," Raven confessed, "They probably all hate me for running away."
"Ridiculous." Jinx said dismissively, "None of them hate you. Did Arsenal seem like he hated you."
"No," Raven admitted, "But he's Speedy. He's a special case."
"Because you love him, and he you," Jinx clarified. A slight blush spread across Raven's pale face. Jinx grinned. "I knew it. He never did stop, you know. He still does."
"That doesn't matter!" Raven yelled, and a light bulb shattered, "I can't go back!" her voice lowered and she calmed down. 'How do you know about that, anyway?"
"Didn't anyone tell you?" Jinx asked innocently, "I'm a Titan now. And Cyborg's girlfriend."
"I'm not saying I told you so," she informed Jinx, "I'm just thinking it really hard."
Jinx made a mocking face.
"Well, if I can do that, you can come back."
"I can't Jinx, I really can't."
"Of course you can."
"NO.I. CAN'T!" another light bulb shattered somewhere in the house. Raven took a deep breath then continued, "I really can't, Jinx. My power's weakened, except when it's out of control. I'm out of practice. I'd be a liability. I haven't fought since I left, and that was a long, long time ago."
"Did Arsenal mention why they needed that information about Trigon?" Jinx asked, paying no attention to Raven's outburst.
"They've found evidence of a number of partial summonings, that looked like they were for Trigon. Nothing's come of them, though, because it seems like the summons wasn't finished. At every site there's been a dead body, generally female, but all young."
Raven had paled, then stalked over to a bookshelf and paged through the book. At its result, her eyes flared red.
"Imbeciles," she muttered, "How could they do that?"
"Do you know what's happening?" Jinx asked quickly.
"Yes. They're trying to make an artificial portal, a new way for Trigon to completely manifest in this world like he did through me."
"Will it work?"
Raven nodded slowly.
"How many sites?"
"At the next one, the next full moon, midnight."
Jinx swore under her breath.
"That's tomorrow night."
The two women stared at each other in terror. Slowly, Jinx rose.
"I have to tell Nightwing."
"As soon as possible," Raven agreed.
"I hate to ask this," Jinx said, "But can I have a portal? I really need speed."
Raven shook her head sadly.
"I can't anymore. I don't have the power."
"You don't have it, or you don't want to use it?"
Raven glared at her. Jinx met the glare as very few people could.
"This right up your alley, Raven. If you came back, it would be really great."
"I can't. I told you why."
A barely perceptible movement. A flash of metal. A knife flew directly at Raven's face. Instinctively, her powers stopped it before it reached her. Jinx smiled grimly.
"It's there, Rae. The powers, the instincts, everything. Just have to let it free."
She vaulted out the window. Raven glared at the knife.
Hesitantly, she gestured to a raven statue on the dresser. It glowed briefly black, then tipped over as the light dissipated. She had meant for it to fly across the room. Raven glared angrily at it, and her closet door blew off its hinges. In the back, covered in cobwebs, she could see a cloak, waiting.
Midnight. Raven stared out her window, trying to make out the spot where she somehow knew her father was waiting. Where her friends were going to their effectively inevitable death. The females to be raped by her father, than killed. The men to be tortured before death. She knew her father's favored methods, all too well. But they would end up dead, as dead as those men so long ago. This time though, the blood wouldn't be on her hands. Except that it was her who had sent them to their death. This time, totally undeserved. She knew now, with the agonizing realization of the 11th hour, that they would have forgiven her. They would have embraced her, helped her. Her friends. Her family.
She peered out the window, searching for the explosion she knew would come. Her face was cold, impassive. But inside, she was praying to any gods listening, anyone listening.
"Just let them live," she begged, "Live so I can tell them how wrong I was."
The world exploded.
"We can't beat him!" Changeling yelled. Much as Arsenal hated to admit it, he was right. They had no way of really harming Trigon, or any of his demons. Jinx's magic was the only thing having any effect on them, and that wasn't doing much. They needed more. Last time, the only one to be able to hurt Trigon in this form was Raven. This time, she wasn't here, and they would fall. One by one. It had already started. Aqualad was down, Bee as well.
A high pitched scream. The twins were out. 6 of them, against countless demons. Arsenal drew his arrows grimly. If he was going down today, at least it was in a good cause. His one regret was he had never told Raven how he felt, but that was irrelevant. Right now, he had to save the world. However futile that might be.
Raven picked herself up from the explosion which had heralded Trigon's appearance in this world. She saw the fire's raging, the civilians screaming. He was here. Her friends, her family, were dying. And what was she doing? Sitting in her window.
Her closet door had swung open once again. Inside it, the jeweled belt glinted. The jewels had not lost their luster in the long, long time since they had last been polished.
She rose and brushed the cobwebs aside. It was time for one last fight, time to fall, if needs be, with those she loved.
Raven arrived panting at the sight of the battle. She dared not attempt a portal and expend valuable power. Right now, in her weakened state, she needed everything she could get.
It was not going well for the heroes, as expected. Half of them were down, and as she stood on the sidelines, cloaked in her always forgiving shadows, Beast Boy was struck down by a demon. It leant down to take a bite.
"Hey!" she yelled, trying to distract it.
It spotted her and stalked over, grinning ferally, blood dripping from its ravenous mouth.
"Another morsel?" it purred, "why thank you."
It attacked. Frantically, she threw up shields, but it batted them down as quickly as she put them up. She overmatched, and she knew it. Lots of help she had been. It raised its hand for a killing blow. She desperately created a last shield to cower humiliatingly behind.
A sonic blast caught it in the torso, sending it crashing in a building.
"That'll only slow it down," Cyborg announced coldly, "Miss, you have to get out of- Raven! What are you doing here?"
"Trying to stop the end of the world, what does it look like?" she snapped in a good approximation of her old monotone.
"Well, you're in no shape for it. You have to get out of here!"
With that, he ran back into the melee. Raven couldn't summon the strength to bristle at his blatant dismissal of her help. He was right. She was no use. She hadn't been for a long, long time. Raven shrunk back into her shadows to watch the end of the world.
Nightwing dashed over to where Arsenal perched, attempting to snipe the demons.
"I'm running out of arrows," Arsenal told him.
"We're the only ones left," Nightwing stated. Arsenal risked a quick glance around. 'Wing was right, of course. The rest had fallen. Trigon sat in the background and laughed at the demons spreading havoc around the city.
"I'm going to distract Trigon," Nightwing continued tersely, "When I do, hit him with all you've got."
"that's suicide!" Arsenal objected.
"What isn't, right now?" Nightwing's surveyed the scene bleakly from beneath his mask, "We've lost, Arsenal. We might as well go down fighting."
He leapt off the building, running towards the demon towering over the city. Arsenal drew his bow a final time.
Raven saw Robin running towards Trigon, obviously trying to distract it. He always had been suicidal.
"Robin, no!" she cried, but that only drew the demons' attention. They began to close on her.
Arsenal watched as Trigon flicked Nightwing away as he would a fly. The fatal moment came. He aimed with cold eyes, and let fire.
The arrow bounced harmlessly off of Trigon's skin. His attention shifted from the downed Nightwing to Arsenal.
"The last Titan," he drawled in a voice that shook the city, "God bye, heroes."
Arsenal was sent flying backwards into a building by the explosion.
Raven saw the explosion despite being surrounded by demons. Her father's voice had rung in her ears. The last Titan, he said. That meant her family was gone. Everything she had ever lived for.
"No," she begged to the uncaring gods who had refused her pleas. The demons closed in faster.
"No," she repeated, and her eyes glowed as she began to rise into the air, the center of a nimbus of power. Demons exploded from around her.
Through blurred eyes, Arsenal saw an explosion. A figure wreathed in black power rose out of the wreckage, white cloak shimmering in the moonlight.
"Not quite the last Titan, father," Raven announced. A blue glowing wave of light spread out over the battle field. Arsenal dragged himself up straighter.
Trigon's massive head turned to his daughter.
"You are weak, daughter," his voice rumbled throughout the city, "you are nothing."
Her blast of power drove Trigon back. The battle was begun in earnest, red clashing with red tinted black. Raven was angry, and her own power was tinted with her demonic rage.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Titans dragging themselves up out of corners. They stood in amazement, healed of any major wounds. They drove back the demons with renewed vigor.
She sent a building flying at Trigon. He fell beneath it. Taking advantage of this slight breather, she landed in front of Arsenal. She gave him no time for surprise.
"At my signal, aim for his eyes," she informed him curtly, neatly decapitating a demon, "that's his most vulnerable point. Pass it to everyone."
Arsenal nodded briskly. Raven took to the skies once more.
She took a deep breath as the power which had forsaken her for such a long, long time flowed through her. It was time to balance her previous sins, whatever they may be.
"Now!" her voice rang through all the titan's minds. Green, black, blue, pink and yellow power flew at Trigon's eyes. He doubled over in pain.
Raven's whole body glowed with white light as she began to chat in a strange guttural language. Trigon's outline shimmered.
"Again!" Jinx yelled, but they were all done with power. They didn't have the strength left to dismiss the weakened demon.
Arsenal looked down at the crowd of Titans. It wasn't enough, it was never enough. He could never finish anything. He couldn't save Raven the first time, he couldn't get over her, and he couldn't get Raven back. He hadn't really done anything for a long, long time.
Green Arrow had drilled one thing into his mind. Never let go of your last arrow. Whatever you do, keep one in reserve. That had been his mantra for all his years as a sidekick, as a titan.
Arsenal drew his last arrow out of the quiver. A sonic arrow, made to explode on contact. To the backdrop of Raven's chanting he took aim and the arrow flew, as accurate as he ever was in training.
As Trigon opened his mouth to roar in pain and disgust, the arrow shot into his mouth. A moment later, Trigon doubled over in pain. The explosion in his stomach had hurt, as Arsenal had thought it would.
"And leave this world forever!" Raven screamed suddenly, breaking out of her chant. Trigon disappeared, along with the rest of the demons, leaving only carnage in their wake.
With agonizing slowness, Raven fell from the sky.
She blinked. A long unseen sight met her eyes. The medical bay of the Tower, barely changed in all the long years. The steady beeping of monitors and drip of an iv sounded in her ears. She was warm, and comfortable on a soft bed. Light was everywhere, and despite the terrifying weakness pervading her body, her lips curved in a smile.
'We won,' she thought contentedly as she drifted off into unconsciousness once more.
Her next waking was prompted by a cool hand on her forehead.
"Jinx," she growled, "I'm fine. I don't need to be coddled. Can I get up?"
Jinx smiled mischievously.
"Well, Cy did tell me not too," she prevaricated. Ignoring her, Raven sat up, brushing all the various tubes away from her. She knew the extents of her body, and she was quite aware she was completely healed.
"What happened?" she asked, her voice cracking slightly, "Any causalities?"
"Nope," Jinx responded happily, "You healed us all. You've been out the longest."
"3 days?" Raven groaned, "I must have really expended a lot of power."
"Raven," Jinx replied patiently, "You dismissed Trigon. That's supposed to be virtually impossible."
"Well, everyone helped," Raven said dismissively, "Especially Spe-Arsenal."
She looked around anxiously as she spoke, reminded of him by her words. If Jinx was right, he should have been here-"
"Arsenal's taking a nap," Jinx explained with a smirk, 'He's been here almost every moment since you collapsed."
A flush stained Raven's cheeks.
"That was sweet," she murmured. Jinx's smirk grew.
"So you've finally decided to admit to yourself that you love him?"
"Admit nothing," raven retorted, "I've been trying to stop for years."
"Are you still?"
"How could I?" Raven smiled slightly, "He's been drawing me back since I left. He just succeeded."
"Well, he'll be back in a moment, I'm sure," the other girl reassured Raven.
"Jinx, why is he here?" raven queried, "Shouldn't he be at his Tower?"
"Oh right, you wouldn't know," Jinx replied, beginning to tidy up Cyborg's workspace, "There's only one now, with a permanent teleportal to get between them. Its one big happy family!"
She considered a moment, than revised her statement, "Except when we're in one of our arguments."
Raven rolled her eyes.
"I remember that."
"Now," Raven said, standing and stretching, "I'd like to go somewhere alone, that's not the med bay. Is there a room I can crash in."
Jinx led Raven through familiar corridors, until they stopped in front of a familiar door. Raven softly traced the word engraved into the door.
"My room," she murmured. The door slid open, as quietly as it ever had. Her room was still there, untouched but not a bit dusty. "They kept it."
"Just as it was," Jinx smiled proudly, "Star dusts every once and a while, but no one else will come in. Honestly, I think they're all too scared."
"Good. Obviously, I won't need to retrain them."
"Bit harsh, don't you think?" Jinx said through her chuckles.
"You didn't have to re-house train Beast Boy," raven muttered before entering her room. She walked strolled through it, gently touching some long forgotten statue or nook. Jinx smiled, and the door shut. Raven sighed, back in her sanctuary after a long, long time.
Arsenal gulped. Standing outside her room in the same cold hall, years dropped away until he was 18 again and steeling himself to say just one word to the dark beauty who haunted his dreams.
He knocked. The door slid open, revealing the same scene it always did. Raven, back in her uniform, glaring at him. He hood was back, for once, but the glare was till there. As soon as she saw who it was, the glare lessened.
"Speedy!" she stated, "or is it Arsenal, now?"
"Arsenal is my new name," he admitted, "Can I come in?"
He realized he was stepping on dangerous ground there, but they needed to talk, and it was best to be in a place she was comfortable with.
"Sure," she responded, stepping back to allow him in. She reseated herself on her bed. He sat beside her.
"Look, raven, I know this might not be the best time for you, with you readjusting and stuff, and I'm not really great at these things, but I need to get this off my chest and-"
He was cut off by a cool hand on his lips.
"You've been talking for a bit," Raven said calmly, "Let me talk for a while, okay?"
He nodded dumbly.
"I was an idiot," the girl spoke impartially, as if considering a stranger, "A complete moron. I should have known all you would have forgiven me. But even after I was patched up, I wasn't thinking clearly. I would never have fled if I was. I wouldn't have been able to. Not from my family. Not from you."
She looked entreatingly up at him through brilliant eyes.
"I suppose I should tell you what I'm talking about," she said reluctantly.
"I already know," he assured her, "Jinx told me."
"Do you?" she asked, but went on before he could answer, "I don't think you know the whole thing. The rape was traumatizing, yes, but that wasn't the half of it. I could recover from that. I have, long ago. But when I killed them, it wasn't me. It was my father. I was doing what he had always wanted me to do. I almost let him into this world. And that scared me too, but I've almost caused the end of the world to many times for that to terrify me too much."
"So why'd you run?"
"Because of you."
At his shocked look, she continued.
"It was you I was scared of. You, and my feelings for you. I'm a demon; I'm not supposed to feel!" She hit her pillow. "But then you came, and I knew I was falling for you. And I thought maybe, just maybe, you returned the feeling. But then IT happened."
He knew IT was in all capitals, the one incident that had caused them both so much pain.
"And how could anyone love me after that?" she asked, nearly pleading, "Why would anyone love a murderer? How could they?"
Her voice trailed off. Arsenal smiled slightly.
"Like this," he told her, and pulled her into his strong embrace. When he finally let her go, his suit slightly wet from her tears, she stared incredulously at him.
"Are you serious?" she demanded.
"How could I not be? I love you, Raven."
And she pulled him into a passionate kiss.
The door to the common room slid open. Raven stood framed in the doorway, Arsenal's arm supporting her. All eyes turned to her. They smiled, and turned back to their tasks. No more was said. She had only had a vacation, nothing more. There was nothing to say.
Raven studied the room. It was only changed a little, and that more in its inhabitants then furnishings. It was all normal though. It was perfectly natural, Beast Boy (Changeling now, she supposed) and Cyborg arguing about breakfast in the kitchen with Jinx and Tara (raven didn't know how she got there, but it was only right) cheering them on; Robin studying in a corner, Starfire feeding Silkie, Mas y Menos playing a videogame with Aqualad and Bee looking on. Surveying her family, with Arsenal's arm around her waist, for the first time in a long, long time, raven was home.