"Dude, all I'm saying is that this is boring." Changeling rested his chin in his hand as he stared out the window of the T-car. The snow was falling steadily outside, as they passed the darkened shops and boarded up windows of the old docks district.
Cyborg worked the grip of the steering wheel a bit, his own boredom at the monotony of the patrol obvious. "Yeah, patrolling is never fun, B. You know if we find somethin' you won't be bored."
Changeling didn't respond. They had this conversation, varying only in slight degrees, every night. It always ended poorly, and Changeling didn't feel the need to rush it. A yellow-orange light spilling from an alleyway denoted another barrel fire, with the poor and disenfranchised inhabitants of this area warming their hands in the warmth of the burning refuse. Changeling sighed.
"This place has really gone downhill. I mean, we used to buy food over there." Changeling didn't really gesture, but was looking towards a ransacked grocery that had sold imported food. Raven always bought her strange tea blends there, and Robin occasionally purchased more eastern delicacies in the place as well.
Cyborg didn't answer, his grip on the wheel tightening slightly. Changeling kept talking, despite the growing feeling in his gut that he should shut his mouth. "I wonder if you can even get good herbal tea in Jump City any more. Let alone sushi. Even tofu is kinda hard to find."
"You don't even drink herbal tea or eat sushi."
"Yeah, yeah, but they did." Changeling sighed again. "Why do we patrol around here anyway? There's nothing left to steal. I mean, there hasn't even been any major crime down here since-"
Changeling stopped himself, but it was too late. Cyborg's voice was angry. "Since what? Go ahead and say it B."
Turning towards Cyborg, Changeling waved his arms defensively. "Hey, c'mon, I was just talking."
"Since the HIVE kids robbed the Xenothium vault. That's what you meant, right?"
Changeling sighed. Crap. "Yeah, since that. Look, I know it was-"
"It was an accident! It wasn't my fault, all right? You know that. She was dancin' around, I didn't see her going that way!" Cyborg was shouting now, an unbearably loud sound in the relatively small car.
Though he knew it was pointless, Changeling tried to defuse the situation. "I know! No one blames you for it! I don't even think Jinx-" The name slipped out before he could stop it.
The car screeched to a halt, slipping slightly on the snow despite the high-traction tires. Cyborg's voice was icy. "Get out."
"C'mon, Cy, I di-"
"You don't say her name. Get out."
The T-Car sped off into the darkness and snow, as Changeling stood on the side of the street, watching his friend drive away. He rubbed his arms with his hands, the cold night already creeping through his old Doom Patrol uniform. Not wanting to be bothered by the local inhabitants, he changed form quickly, taking flight as an eagle, despite the cold getting worse as he gained altitude.
The falling snow kept visibility short, but he knew the way well enough anyway. He shouldn't have mentioned the HIVE kids. He knew that Cyborg regretted that day, and the accident that had happened. Still, he should have put it behind him by now, it had been two years. Changeling flew idly around the area, half watching the T-Car continue the patrol, and half just passing time until Cyborg cooled off.
Cyborg pounded his fist into the steering wheel, and the sizable dent that he created only served to make him angrier. It hadn't been his fault. He'd been aiming for Mammoth. It wasn't his fault, and Changeling should have known it. Why wouldn't he stop mentioning it? Cyborg sighed, having difficulty staying angry at someone who wasn't even present. He allowed his mind to think back to the accident.
The Docks district had already been crumbling at that point, and the security was getting worse, while the goods stored were remaining the same. Seeing the chance for some higher profits than robbing convenience stores, the HIVE kids had invaded a local warehouse. Their goal was the new shipment of weapons-grade Xenothium, nearly four cubic meters of the stuff. It would have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the black market.
Cyborg and Changeling, still Beastboy at the time, met them there. The silent alarm had tripped a few minutes into the theft, and summoned them. It was, by all appearances, going to be the normal battle between the groups. Jinx, Mammoth, and Gizmo trying to bring their greater number to bear against the somewhat more experienced Cyborg and Beastboy. Everything had been going fine, until...
Jinx had a strange style of fighting. She tended to do a lot of dancing around, lots of wasted energy and unpredictable movement. Mammoth was incredibly tough, and had only gotten more so with age. Cyborg had been aiming at Mammoth, with a sonic blast intended to knock him unconscious, to speed up the fight. Beastboy had been occupied with Gizmo at the time, and couldn't have seen it coming. Jinx, firing her magical bolts at Beastboy, was dodging around wildly. Cyborg had fired, and Jinx wasn't watching where she was going.
Mammoth could have taken it. He should have been the one to be hit. It would have knocked him flat on his back, sure, but he would have been fine. Jinx was so small, and so thin. She wasn't Mammoth, and she couldn't handle the same kind of attack.
Cyborg chased her face out of his mind. His memory, electronic in nature, remembered everything in perfect detail, without affording him the control to delete it. He could still see her face as the blast hit her. He could still count the milliseconds before her facial muscles stopped tensing, and it had been over. Anyone else, anyone with a human mind and perception, would have said it was over in an instant, that she had felt no pain. Cyborg could see it though. For nineteen milliseconds, her face wore a look of shock, as her body broke under the sonic energy. Nineteen milliseconds of feeling her life fade from her.
Cyborg slammed his fist into the dash again, venting his frustration on the car. It hadn't been his fault! Mammoth could have taken it.
It wasn't his fault.
Changeling saw the car vibrate as Cyborg violently crushed the dashboard. Knowing now that Cyborg would shortly give up the patrol and return to their home to repair the vehicle, Changeling realized that he had to waste a few hours alone before he could return as well, sneaking inside and sleeping in his bed without seeing Cyborg somewhere on the way.
He tilted his body, turning as he glided through the air. Flying aimlessly through the night was calming in a way, the wind rushing through his feathers and the lights of the city shining ahead of him. The docks were dark and desolate, but the city core still had life at night, despite the cold weather that had taken hold since last year.
Changeling flew idly between the tall buildings of downtown Jump City, not really looking at anything in particular. Traffic horns blared far below, and the voices of late-night shoppers drifted upwards on the wind. Changeling halted his flight, landing on a small ledge of a building, and changing back into human form, sitting on the ledge and looking over the city.
He leaned against the concrete shell of the office building, looking up at the dark sky, the snow gently falling past him. It was a peaceful night, but Changeling couldn't take much pleasure in it. Cyborg was angry, and would be until tomorrow morning at the earliest, and Changeling really had no one else to talk to.
Suddenly, his silent thoughts were shaken by an explosion from inside the building. Changeling jumped slightly, lost his balance, and fell for two stories before he was able to change into a bird and light once more on the ledge. Not certain that he could handle combat alone, he didn't rush inside blindly. A moment later, it became obvious that he shouldn't have done so anyway.
A window, five stories below him, exploded outwards in a shower of tempered glass. A slender male figure, easily recognizable as Red X, jumped from it, gliding upwards as the jets on his feet fired. Directly following him, Mammoth lept out of the building as well. Lacking the technological abilities of Red X, Mammoth put more horizontal motion into the jump, crashing through the window of building across the street, and running out of sight. Gizmo followed X more directly, flying upwards with his jetpack.
Changeling backed away from the trio, not wanting to be spotted. He quickly changed into a pigeon, hoping that they wouldn't notice his green color and simply leave him alone. Though his new form wouldn't allow it, he would have smiled as he saw that the trio of villains had larger concerns anyway.
A green flash signified Starfire's presence, as starbolts flew from below, forcing Gizmo and Red X to slow their ascent in favor of dodging. Beastboy's keen eyes also spotted the black and blue costume of Nightwing as he swung from a de-cel line, tucking and rolling into the hole that Mammoth had created, pursuing the nearly invulnerable man despite his own lack of powers.
Taking flight, to better watch the battle, Changeling looked upwards. Starfire seemed more capable than ever, with Red X and Gizmo having no luck dodging her rain of starbolts. She had changed as she had aged. Her hair was longer, falling nearly to the back of her knees, and her figure was much more muscular, as well as more adult. Her costume was no longer the simple skirt and top that it had been, instead more akin to her old Tamaranian armor, with large metal bracers and plated promethium across her body. Changeling almost couldn't imagine her as the same girl he'd known when he was a Titan. As Changeling watched, Gizmo's dodging attempts finally failed, his jetpack exploding in a mass of sparks and burning jetfuel, causing him to fall out of the air. Starfire didn't seem to take notice, instead continuing after Red X, who was still escaping.
Changeling decided to risk it, quickly becoming a pterodactyl, swooping gracefully across the sky and clutching the panicked Gizmo in his talons. Rising with difficulty though the freezing air, Changeling tossed the diminutive villain to the rooftop of the building, trusting the collision with the icy structure to stun him long enough for Starfire to take care of it.
Starfire landed nearby, holding the unconscious Red X. Changeling lit on the edge of the roof, forty feet away, not wanting to tempt fate. He did, however, change quickly back to human form, the chill night making it unwise to stay cold-blooded for long.
Gizmo fell struggled to his feet, but was quickly rendered unconscious by a quick blow from Starfire, who seemed as if she did not want to drag the battle out for the sake of fairness. She dropped Red X near Gizmo, and then looked to Changeling, doubt in her eyes, but in an aggressive stance.
Changeling forced a smile, waving his hands in front of him. "Hey Star, I'm not going to fight you. Just wanted to help, heheh." His nervous laughter sounded weak, even to him.
Starfire visibly relaxed. "I am glad. I did not wish to fight you, and Nightwing is not here to object. I thank you for catching Gizmo."
"No problem. How are things with you two?" Changeling hopped down from the small parapet that surrounded the rooftop, walking towards Starfire. The tense feeling had been diffused by her friendly manner.
Starfire appeared somewhat sad, though she was trying to keep up an appearance of happiness. "Things are fine. Nightwing and I are doing well together. We have been living in a building owned by his... father. It is not so bad. How are you?"
Changeling shrugged, feeling almost like a kid again, next to this tall and powerful-looking woman. "I'm fine. Cyborg and I have a place underground, near the docks. It's not great, but it's ok. He's kinda pissed right now though, so I'm just wasting time."
An electronic ring tone sounded from Starfire's belt, and she pulled the small communicator from it. Nightwing's voice came from the device. "Mammoth is down. You get the other two?"
"I have. Shall we return them to the prison?" Starfire looked at Changeling, and he understood, waving silently and changing into a small bird, flapping his wings and flying away into the night. Sailing upwards, and landing on a nearby precipice, he watched as Starfire flew down to collect Nightwing and Mammoth, then as the two heroes took their defeated foes through the night, northwards to the prison, Starfire carrying Nightwing as well as holding the cable that secured the tied villains. If Nightwing had noticed the small green sparrow, completely out of season as well as the wrong color, he hadn't shown it.
Changeling took flight again, changing into an arctic gull, and flying out over the bay waters, taking advantage of the winds to carry him with less effort, not wanting to tire himself out too quickly, since he still had plenty of time left to pass. Flying over the dark waters was strange, as there was no point of reference in the blinding snow. It felt as if there was nothing but water and snow for miles.
He'd been circling idly over the water for half an hour before chance brought him close enough to see the glimmer of light through the falling snow. Curious, he turned towards it, not entirely certain where he was in relation to much of anything.
As the glimmer of light grew more distinct, the shadow of the building came through the mist and snow. Changeling's avian eyes narrowed slightly, not really sure why he cared that someone was there, but angry nonetheless. He landed on the rooftop, looking around as he assumed human form again.
The place was in terrible disrepair, the concrete helipad on the rooftop having cracked in dozens of places from the cold weather, and a blast crater still gaping in the darkness on the far side of the platform. Changeling walked towards the roof access door, frowning at the frozen doorknob. He wouldn't be able to get in this way, without forcing it.
Sighing, he turned around, crossing the rooftop to the gaping crater. He still remembered the fight that had caused it, but didn't bother reminiscing at the moment. Looking into the gaping hole, but unable to see much in the darkness, he changed form once more, into a smallish monkey, swinging from the broken roofing, down into the first level of the hole.
He landed on the rusted out floor, thankful that his form wasn't heavy enough to end up falling through it. He looked around, a bit disoriented after having been away for so long. The room was covered in snow, but still recognizable. A computer, long since destroyed, was sitting in the corner, with the recharging cords hanging limply over the broken floor, dangling into the crater. The bed, if you could call it that, was still there, though rusted beyond use as well. Sports trophies, forgotten here during the fight, lay scattered around the floor as well. Cyborg's old room.
Changeling walked on all fours over to the doorway, pressing the button to open it, and not at all surprised when it didn't work. Not willing to become large enough to force it, he looked around, finding an old length of rebar laying nearby. Picking it up, he shattered the ice on the door panel, then pried the covering off, exposing the manual crank. The well-protected machinery still worked, and a few turns of the heavy crank opened the door enough for a mouse to enter, and Changeling became one and did so. More out of respect for the old building than necessity, he closed the door again from the other side.
The hallway was dark and empty, but not as cold without the wind and ice from outside. Changeling became human again, looking around at the disused building. The place seemed fairly sound, despite the long period of abandonment. Still, someone seemed to be living here, from the light that Changeling had seen from outside. The darkness of the night, combined with the time away from the place, had made it difficult to determine exactly where the light was coming from.
Changeling pressed the switch on his belt, causing it to glow slightly, to provide enough light to see by, but only barely. Given the nature of Changeling's powers, it was difficult for even Cyborg to modify his equipment much, and this was the best light he could carry. He walked through the building cautiously, unfamiliarity fading as he saw the old halls pass by.
A door on his left caught his eye, his old name still emblazoned across it in black letters. He pressed the button to open it, and winced at the loud grinding as the half-rusted mechanics activated. The door slid halfway open, then stopped, as Changeling heard a gear snap inside. He slid sideways through the door, then recoiled slightly at the stale smell of rot from inside.
He looked around at the mess of a room, shaking his head at his old habits, not that they were entirely to blame. Somehow, the window had cracked slightly, letting enough moisture into the room over time to enable the deterioration of everything. The old bunk bed's wooden supports had faltered, and the upper bunk had failed on one end, collapsing to the lower one, and making a triangle instead of a square. The clothes strewn all over the floor had long since become nothing but rags, and Changeling spotted a rat as it run from the strange light that came from his belt.
Seeing his old place in such a state was depressing. Changeling stepped across the dingy floor, he looked at his old desk, faded photographs still on the desktop. He smiled slightly at the photo of the Titans and Terra, smiling at the camera innocently. He had been sitting on Cyborg's shoulders, grinning and holding his fingers up as 'rabbit ears' over Raven's head as she hovered nearby, looking irritated. Starfire and Robin were standing next to Cyborg, smiling as well, and standing just a bit closer than simple friends would have. Terra was on the other side of Cyborg, smiling at the camera, her hair having fallen and covering half of her face. They must have gotten some civilian to take the photograph.
Changeling, suddenly remembering why he was here, put the picture back on the desktop, and cast one more look around the ruined room, before leaving it again. He continued down the hallway, keeping his eyes and ears open for clues to the invader, whoever it might be.
He heard voices up ahead, and sped up his movement, while still taking care to be quiet. He came quickly to the door at the end of the hall, the voices still indistinct behind it. He knew that the door led to the old operations room, and light shone slightly through the center of the door. Changing to a small cat, for the increased auditory sense, and closed his eyes, listening.
Familiar laughter rang out behind the door. A young girl's voice spoke as well, to Changeling's surprise. "Please, you must try my new Glorg! It is wonderful, Robin."
It was Starfire's voice. Well, her voice as it had been years ago. Robin's voice responded, nervousness in it. "Uh, I'm fine, Star. I had a late lunch."
Changeling frowned internally, though the emotion registered more as a snarl from his current form. This was a conversation that the Titans had fairly commonly when they were in existence, but it made no sense happening now.
"Dude! Cy, you can't do that! It's cheating!" Changeling's eyes widened as he heard his own old voice from beyond the door.
No longer waiting to explore this mystery, and irritated by the memories coming to life, Changeling shifted into a large ape, smashing down the door violently, hoping to intimidate whoever was beyond it. The metal twisted free from the door frame, clattering to the floor of the operations room inside, and revealing strange, black caricatures of the old Titans.
They weren't people, they were weird projections of... of Raven's power. As they turned towards Changeling in surprise, he saw the Beastboy on the couch, next to the fake Cyborg, fade. None of the other duplicates seemed to even notice.
"Beastboy? What are you doing?" The fake Robin was acting as if the bowl he was holding wasn't covered in long-uncleaned filth, and was actually full of glorg.
Sitting on the mostly rotted couch was a projected Cyborg, holding half of a Gamestation controller, but acting as it the entire controller was in his hands. "Yo, wasn't I just playin' a game with you? How did you get over there so fast?"
Changeling wasn't really sure how to react, but could easily see which Titan was missing. He changed into a human once more, and turned towards the false Robin. "Where's Raven?"
Robin looked annoyed. "She's in her room. Why did you break the door down?"
Changeling ignored the projection, walking across the room and shifting again into an ape, smashing the other door apart as well, not wanting to waste time with the broken opening mechanisms. As soon as he was out of the room, he heard the false Titans resume their meaningless banter, as if nothing had happened, Cyborg and Beastboy arguing over the nonexistent game, as Robin gagged on the ethereal glorg.
Becoming human again, Changeling ran through the dark hallway, towards the flickering light up ahead. The only fluorescent light still functioning in the tower was the one directly in front of Raven's room, flickering weakly in the darkness.
Changeling forced himself to calm down, unnerved by the mental projections of the Titans in the other room. Raven must still be in the tower. He'd assumed... Well, he and Cyborg had assumed that she had gone back to Azerath, like she'd said she was considering, last time they spoke. Changeling tried to remember. That had been over a year and a half ago.
Not knowing what Raven would think if he just came crashing through the door like a psychopath, Changeling decided to take a more reasonable approach. He reached out, gently knocking on the metal door, which seemed to be in decent condition, unlike anything more than ten feet from it.
"Uh, Raven? Are you in there?" Changeling felt strange even saying her name. It was like going back in time, knocking nervously on her door like this.
He jumped slightly as the door opened only about a foot, showing a girl's pale face in the dimly lit room beyond. If he'd seen her in any other place, he would never have recognized her. She was gaunt, nearly emaciated, her cheekbones standing out starkly from her sunken cheeks and eyes. Her hair hung in long, dirty strands, obviously unwashed for months. Her eyes were dull and uncomprehending, and her hand, holding the door open, looked nearly skeletal. She looked at Changeling for a few moments, as if she didn't recognize him. When she spoke, her voice was raspy, and she sounded tired and weak. "Beastboy?"
Changeling turned his head slightly, skeptical. Raven knew he'd changed his name. "Raven, what are you doing here?"
Raven's expression was familiar, at least. She looked mildly irritated, and her demeanor was condescending, as if he had just asked the most stupidly ignorant question in the world. "It's my room. I'm in here all the time."
Something was wrong with her; something had to be wrong with her. "No, I mean... Uh, hey, you don't look so good. When was the last time you ate?"
The girl looked confused, almost as if her memories didn't make sense. "Starfire cooked... something. It was... there was some meat... it was a few days ago."
Changeling shook his head. "Raven, Starfire doesn't live here. I don't think... I don't think she's been here either. Those people in operations... they aren't real. Come on, let's go get some food or something. You need to get out of here."
Raven shook her head absently. "No, I'm sure of it. She... she cooked something. An animal, it was in her room."
"A rat? You've been eating rats?"
Raven looked confused. "We... we all have. Remember? The food stopped being delivered, and the money ran out. We have to eat something."
Changeling put his hand on the door, pressing it open farther, exposing Raven's tattered old costume, still tightly clinging to her emaciated frame. Her blue cloak was tattered and stained nearly black from years of use. Her body was extremely thin; if she had been eating rats, she hadn't been eating many. She looked nearly dead from starvation. Changeling spoke. "We? Who? You are the only person here."
Raven weakly tried to close the door, but she couldn't match Changeling's strength. "What are you... the Teen Titans. We live here."
"Raven, we all left years ago. Come on, let's go get you something decent to eat. There's a diner just across the bay. I'll carry you." Changeling reached for Raven's hand.
She recoiled slightly, doubt in her eyes. "Wait! Wait... you... you're right. We... don't live here. I live here, but you don't. Why are you here?"
Changeling tried to be nonthreatening. "I'm here because I saw a light on, and I didn't know who would still be in here."
Raven shook her head. "No... you're lying. We... Everyone is still here. They are. We trained yesterday with Robin. You... you tried to get me to play Mega Monkey Four with you on the Gamestation."
"Mega Monkey Four? Raven, no one has a Gamestation anymore. Look, if you don't want to come with me, let me at least bring you something, is that ok? You look hungry."
"Not... glorg." Raven seemed comforted that Changeling was acting a bit more like Beastboy.
Changeling smiled a little, but couldn't be happy, looking at his old friend like this. "Ok, not glorg. I'll get something from that Chinese place nearby, the one you always liked, ok?"
Raven nodded slightly. "I... I can't pay."
Changeling nodded. "It's on me, back in a few minutes. Don't go anywhere, ok?"
At Raven's nod, Changeling shifted to a cheetah, bolting down the hallway, and up the stairs at the end, to the roof access door. Changing again, he smashed the door apart as an ape, and then flew from the tower as a hawk, sailing northwards.
Twenty minutes later, he landed on the roof again, setting the plastic bag of food down before changing from a bird again to a human. Picking up the food, he continued down the stairs, nervous. Seeing Raven like this, seeing the Tower like this, it was extremely disturbing.
He rushed down the hallway, and saw that Raven's door was still sitting half open. Looking inside, at the old and water-damaged books, Raven was nowhere to be seen. A smell of rotted meat filled the room, and Changeling could see bones of rats and other small animals in the corner. He cringed.
Changeling rushed towards Operations, stepping past the destroyed doors, and finding the room empty, aside from Raven, sitting on the couch, staring blankly forward. Changeling forced himself to calm down, trying to avoid breaking Raven's mind, if it wasn't already broken. "Raven?"
Raven turned her head, looking at him. The grime on her face had become streaked, and it was obvious that she'd been crying. "You came back."
Changeling walked over, setting the bag of food on the coffee table in front of the couch, opening it slowly and pulling the food out, trying to act as if everything was normal. "Of course I did. I told you I would be back."
Raven coughed slightly, and half smiled. "It... smells good. Better than glorg."
"Anything is better than glorg. Here, come on, I got some hot tea also, I'll pour a glass. Eat slowly, I don't know how well your stomach will handle it after having only rat for so long."
Taking the plastic fork that game with the food, Raven stabbed a piece of broccoli in the stir fry, and looked at it a moment before putting it into her mouth, and chewing slowly. Changeling never was able to describe the pleasure that crossed her face at that moment, but he never forgot it. How long had it been since she'd had a hot, civilized meal?
He had purchased two meals, but didn't open his at first, instead simply watching Raven eat for a time, her movement slow and methodical, almost trance-like. He helped her hold her small cup of tea steady as she drank, and the liquid seemed to rejuvenate her.
She ate less than a quarter of the food before her, before she set down her fork. "I'm full. I... I can't eat more. I want to, but I can't."
Changeling nodded, closing the Styrofoam box, and pushing the food away. "Raven, what are you doing here?"
The girl looked around the room, seemingly noticing the ruined state of the building for the first time. "When I left my room, they were all gone again. I... I remember it now. My friends... they aren't here anymore. Except you."
Changeling nodded slowly, not sure how to react. "Raven, we've been gone for years. I don't think you should stay here. Come stay with Cyborg and me, you'll be safer."
Raven didn't seem to notice the suggestion. "I missed you. All of you. Where are Starfire and Robin?"
He took Raven's hand, wincing at how cold it felt, and held it gently. "I don't know, they work mostly downtown these days. Come on, let's go. You can't stay here like this."
She shook her head, but her hand held his tightly. "No, I can't leave. We might... the Titans might need the tower. Someone has to stay here. The Titans might come back."
"Raven, I don't think that's going to happen. Robin and Cyborg... they are pretty dedicated to staying separate."
Changeling felt Raven's hand clench tightly. "No... No, they will come back. You'll see. It will be like before. They will be here. My friends..."
Changeling put his free arm around Raven's shoulders, and pulled her close. She leaned against him, uncharacteristic of the old Raven, and stared forwards silently. They sat quietly, looking out of the large window, watching the snow fall in the darkness outside, points of light in the distance, the snowfall having become light enough to allow the opposite shore to be visible.
Raven shook slightly, and Changeling felt a drop of water land on his chest. The woman in his arms turned slightly, laying her head on his chest, and crying miserably. Changeling held her gently, as she felt so fragile and weak. He spoke quietly. "Shh, shh, come on... It's ok now... I've got you. Don't cry, come on."
The woman's sobbing continued for several minutes, but finally ceased, as she slept against his chest, having pulled herself to sitting on his lap, as if she were a child. Changeling held her, unsure of what else to do. He gently ran his hands across her hair, looking at her. A bit of color had returned to her skin, after eating and drinking. She was always gray and pale, but she no longer looked deathly ill. She was breathing slowly and evenly, in a peaceful sleep.
Changeling stared out at the snow, holding Raven, and wondering what to do next. His mind wandered freely, remembering the old days, when he lived in the tower, remembering the problems that led to the dissolution of the Titans, and remembering the years since. Raven had tried to keep the team together, in the beginning. She'd even gone so far as to forcibly hold all the exits to the tower closed, in an attempt to keep everyone at least speaking to one another.
It hadn't worked, of course, and the team had splintered, along loyalty to Robin and Cyborg. Starfire followed Robin, unsurprisingly. You could see the misery in her eyes, even then, as she watched her friends bicker and fight, torn between keeping the team together and staying with the boy she'd grown to love. Eventually she'd gone with Robin, and Cyborg and Beastboy had left as well. Raven had remained neutral, trying to get everyone to return to the tower, but communication had grown less and less common, and stopped altogether after a time.
The two pairs of Titans still met occasionally, responding to the same alarm, or just by pure chance. It always led to confrontation, and often to outright combat. Time had done nothing to dull the distrust and anger between the factions, if anything, it had exacerbated it. Starfire and Changeling could still tolerate one another, but rarely got the chance to; as usually Cyborg and Nightwing would push the meeting into a combat.
Changeling gently brushed a filthy strand of hair away from Raven's face. She must have been in the tower this entire time. How she was even still alive, he couldn't tell. She obviously wasn't well, but Changeling found that he had no idea how to fix this. The Titans wouldn't come back; they couldn't. There was simply too much bad blood between them now. Five years of animosity was a lot to overcome.
He spent over an hour mulling over these thoughts, but found himself thinking in circles, and getting nowhere. Movement from Raven scattered his thoughts, however, and he looked at her again. She'd opened her eyes, and was simply laying against his chest now, holding onto him. "You're going to leave again."
Changeling shook his head. "I can't stay here. Come with me, we have space for you. Be around people again, even if we aren't still Titans."
He felt Raven's hands clutch his costume tightly. "Don't go. Stay here with me. If you stay, Cyborg will come back."
It was strange to see Raven, the girl who had always been so independent, so standoffish and cold, being this desperate for companionship. She would never have clung to him like this when they were kids. "It wouldn't work like that. Look at this place, it's destroyed. We couldn't fix it now if we tried."
"If... if you leave... I... I might go away again." Raven's voice was quiet, she sounded scared.
"Go away? What do you mean?"
Raven pulled her knees to her chest, as if she was terrified of the possibility. "I... the way I was... when you got here. The... the Titans in here, talking. They... It was me. They weren't here, I was making them. I wasn't here though, it.. it was like I was watching it happen. I don't want to go away again."
Changeling cringed, hating to see her like this. He hugged her gently, and held her to him. "Don't worry, I'll stay here for a while, you don't have to go away. I'm still your friend, Raven. I won't leave you."
"Fr... Friend. Yes... Friends." Raven closed her eyes again, laying against his chest.
He stared out the window again, as she slept again in his arms. He'd stay at least tonight. Rats wouldn't bite at them, not when there was nonliving food a few feet away, and he couldn't see leaving Raven alone in her condition. He wasn't sure how she'd handle more people coming back all the sudden, and he didn't want to her get hopes up that the Titans would be a team again. He couldn't tell the others about her, not yet. He had to do this slowly, and he had to do it right.
Changeling adjusted his position on the couch a bit, to be more comfortable, and closed his eyes, listening to Raven's quiet, even breath. He would stay here for at least one night, and see if he could help her. No matter if the Titans still existed, Raven was still his friend, and he wouldn't abandon her now. He relaxed himself, and allowed sleep to take him for a time.
A/N: Well, there you have it. Not sure if it's a coherent story or even an enjoyable read, but it was interesting to write. Please review if you have comments, or even if you just loved/hated the style. I'll get back to writing "Memories Written in Stone" soon, promise. Thanks for reading.