Ties That Bind
A Teen Titans Fan Fiction by Jacob McDonald
Opening Notes – It was 2003 when I started writing Teen Titans fan fics. I was 22 then. Re-Educating Miss Roth was first posted in 2005, when I was 24. Now it's 2012, I'm 31 years old, and I'm still writing these things. It's taken me years to get to a place where I feel comfortable writing again... for a long time now, I've been really unsure about my own ability. Despite the many, many kind reviews I've had over the years, and all the positive feedback I get from everything I write, I'm just not comfortable with my own work. I'm trying to make writing a thing I enjoy again, rather than seeing it as a chore. So, hopefully, you'll see more of me again soon. The current plan is to finish Ties, then maybe one more fic in there, then finish the rest in an order I haven't figured out yet. SO much to do... and hopefully I'll enjoy doing it. Stay with me, just a little longer... I hope you all haven't given up hope all together, though I know many of you have. For that, I'm very sorry.
Standard disclaimers apply. I don't own Teen Titans.
Chapter 11 – When You're Going Through Hell...
Robin walked into the kitchen at Titans Tower, reading a stack of papers in one hand while his other groped for the coffee pot. As he was just about to actually look away from the printed crime reports, someone handed him a cup and he took it. Finishing the sentence he was reading he looked up to thank whoever it was.
The words died in his throat before he could say them however. He stared up at Cyborg, his mouth slightly open, for a full ten seconds before the frowning cybernetic teen walked past him without saying a word.
Robin whirled before his best friend could make it too far, "Cy! Don't… I mean…" he trailed off as Cyborg stopped and turned his head a little to acknowledge him.
Robin stammered for another second then stopped and sighed. He shook his head, "It's been over a month, Cy. I'm sorry. I've said it a million times, and you still won't talk to me."
"Yeah, well, side effect of having your trust betrayed and your heart broken on the same day." Cyborg scowled at the floor, "Don't worry about it. She made her choice and you made yours. Nothin' to do with me."
"That's crap. I should have told you. Of all people, I should have told you." Robin looked down at his coffee, made just the way he liked it. He swallowed hard, "I'm sorry, Vic. I'm…" he trailed off and looked up.
Cyborg was already walking onto the elevator that would take him down to the garage. Robin swallowed hard again and looked back down at the floor.
Some five levels above the kitchen, Raven knocked on a door that she hadn't knocked on in more than two years. After a moment, the doors swooshed open and Tara stood in front of her, dressed in flannel sleep shorts and a white tank top. "Yeah?" she asked as she scratched her side.
Raven noted her friend's hair was mused with sleep and he eyes were blurry. "It's almost half past eight. Time to get up."
"It's only 8:30?" Tara sounded disgusted, "Why are you getting me up?"
"You're living in Titan Tower now, Tara. We all get up early."
"So why do I have to?"
"Training," Raven shrugged.
"You'll be working out with Donna and me this morning."
It was then Tara noticed Raven was wearing spandex shorts, and a sports bra under a black tank top. Her hair was tied back in a pony tail, black streaked with violet.
"Why?" Tara was still only half awake.
"Because you just spent almost a month lying in bed. You're undergoing muscle atrophy. You need to eat more and start exercising."
Tara sighed, "Okay, yeah. But… training?"
"There's every possibility Slade may come after you again," Raven looked away, "I'd rather you be prepared."
Tara swallowed hard, a little more awake now, "Okay… I'll get changed."
Jinx stepped into the main room of her lair after having just finished taking a shower. She sighed as she wrapped her towel around her body, letting her wet hair fall free, once again in tightly woven braids swirling blonde and pink together. She glanced across the room to where Gizmo's card lay on the table and sighed again as she plopped down on her bed.
"Eff my life," she muttered to herself.
Something small dropped from the ceiling in front of her and she looked down at her feet to see a small green spider scurry a few feet away. She reached over to her nightstand and picked up the phone book that was sitting there, and dropped it at the spider.
The book was slapped aside as Beast Boy suddenly stood before her. Her pink eyes grew wide as he lunged at her and slammed her to the bed, his hands pinning her wrists and one of his legs tangling hers as the other knee pressed into her gut.
"The fuck…?" Jinx gasped, "BB… what the hell?"
"Shut up Jinx, and listen," he snapped, "I don't have a lot of time."
"I'll listen better if you let me up!"
"SHUT UP!" he shouted and she was briefly cowed by his rage. "Just listen. You control the East End, more than even Robin knows, but not more than I know. I'm keeping track of you Jinx, and I'm watching every move you make. I know about the smack you're getting off the streets even as you boost the pot and 'shroom trade, and I know you're regulating the girls now, even if you're not stopping them from tricking. I know about the guns you're hiding from Robin, and I know… I know Jinx. How you solidified control of the gang."
Jinx paled a little, and Beast Boy continued, "I need you, Jinx. I need you to keep doing exactly what it is you're doing. Grow the organization. Bring in more and more of the smaller gangs, and forge alliances and deals with the Italians and the Triads. I need to know the organized crime Jump City is in good hands. Your hands. I need you to control things tightly without letting anyone know you're controlling them. Got it?"
"Shut up." BB said again, "Yes or no."
Jinx glared at him for a second, "Yes. I got it."
"Good." He let her up and walked quickly to the door. As she sat up and glared at him, he turned a chilling gaze upon her, "Watch yourself Jenny. You kill anyone else, and I'll come down on you so hard you won't know your own name when I'm done."
As he opened the door and swept out, slamming it behind him, Jinx stared after him with wide eyes. Not much could shake her, but the way he'd been glaring…
She swallowed hard and reached for the clothes she had laid out. She needed to meet Jose soon.
Hanna sighed as she rubbed her belly, swollen to almost the nine month mark. She was seated on Janice and Ami's couch, sipping iced tea and ignoring her homework in favor of watching TV and waiting for Janice to finish dinner.
"Won't be long now, shuga'!" Janice called from the kitchen.
"Thanks so much for making dinner for me, Jan." Hanna called back.
Janice walked into the living room from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron as she did, "Thanks for comin' over while Ami's out at class," she said. "I hate bein' in this big apartment all by myself."
"It's no trouble." Hanna waved a hand. "Aside from having to waddle my ass up and down the stairs. You'd think a building this nice would have a damn elevator."
"It's an older building." Jan smiled as she walked back towards the kitchen.
"Hmm." Hanna turned her attention back to the TV but her phone ringing distracted her. Sighing, she flipped it open without checking the ID and said, "Hello?"
"Hanna!" it was Becka (of course) and she sounded excited, "Halloween party?"
"Oh God, again this year?" Hanna rolled her eyes, "Becks, your dad's political ambitions don't really matter to the rest of us, and I'm hugely pregnant. I'm not coming."
"Ami and I are!" Janice called from the kitchen.
"Ami and Janice will be there," Hanna said, "Now go do your homework. I know you're behind."
"Alright," Becka sounded mutinous, "But you'd better be at Christmas or my mom will kill me."
"Fine, I'll bring the baby over for Christmas. I'll talk to you later."
"See ya!" and Becka was gone.
Hanna sighed again, "I hate the Halloween party anyway."
"Why?" Janice asked as she placed a plate of country fried chicken in front of her friend.
As Hanna picked up her fork and knife she shook her head, "Something always happens."
"Hanna, it's just a costume party!" Janice laughed, "What could possibly go wrong?"
Speedy sighed and took off his mask to rub his eyes. Staring at computer screens was starting to wear on his sight, and he didn't know how much longer he could take it.
"Any luck?" Donna asked as she stepped up next to him where he was working at the main monitor. He looked up and she handed him a mug of tea.
"Thanks," he muttered, and shook his head, "And no, no luck. I don't know what Dick hopes to accomplish with this… Slade isn't one to leave tracks after he runs away."
"Yeah, well, screw it. To hell with what Dick wants us to look at. Where are we on Beast Boy?"
"Dick doesn't want us looking for him," Speedy looked down, "I'm siding with him on this one, Donna."
"What?" the Amazon looked shocked, "Why?"
"Because he kicked my ass, that's why!" Speedy exploded back at her. She took a step back as he stood up out of the chair, "He didn't just beat me up, Donna. He was trying to put me down," The red haired archer glared at her, "That's not how friends are, Donna. That's not how the Titans are."
"Roy, everything he's doing… it looks to me like he's trying to protect the city still… maybe he has a plan."
"Yeah?" Speedy turned away and started to walk towards the elevator. He called back over his shoulder as the doors swooshed open, "Then he can execute his little plan… without me."
As the doors shut, taking Speedy away with them, Donna looked down at the untouched tea, then back up at the screen. Large block letters read as part of a headline from the L.A. Sun Times; "Nuclear Weapon Facility Broken Into!"
Ami stepped out of her physics class with a disgruntled look on her face. It was her personal belief that no one should have to study physics after 6:00 p.m., yet here she was, just getting out at 9:00.
"What a fuckin' day."
"Oh yeah, how is the fucking going?" Ami paused and looked over her shoulder to see Beth standing there, smirking at her, "Or have you moved on and stolen some other girl's girlfriend?"
"Oh, you," Ami shrugged, "No, Janice and I are still together… and she was never your girlfriend."
"Uh huh… you keep telling yourself that." Beth moved in a little closer to press her height advantage. She was taller than Janice.
"Look… Beth, right?" Ami shook her head, "I'm not going to argue with you. I know you and Jan slept together, and I've forgiven her for that. But we're happy together, so just butt out, okay?"
"No, I don't think so," Beth sneered, "Jan's a pretty girl, and she and I look good together. I don't think I'm done with her yet. I think she and I have a lot more ahead of us…"
"She said pretty strongly that she didn't want to see you any more, Beth," Ami turned all the way and squared her shoulders, glaring up at the taller girl, "What was it? Something about having Raven come eat your soul or something?"
"I'm pretty sure she'll change her mind when I've got my tongue back in her-"
Ami shoved Beth back against the wall, glancing up and down the hall they were in to make sure it was deserted, "Okay, fuck calling Raven in. You stay away from my girlfriend, or I'll break every bone of yours I can before someone comes to stop me. Right now it's looking like that might be a while, Beth," Ami narrowed her eyes, "Are you sure you want to start something now?"
Beth struggled against her, but Ami was far stronger, even with her smaller frame. She'd been training to fight alongside a woman who was now the leader of the largest gang in the city, and she worked out every day. One prissy bitch was no match for her.
Beth stuttered for a moment, and Ami let her go. "Stay the fuck away, Beth. Or I'll hurt you."
As the red head turned and stalked off down the hallway, Beth sank to the floor, gasping for breath.
Speedy hit the rooftop of the apartment building with a grunt and rolled out of the fall. He'd misjudged the length of cord needed to get him safely from the last building, and had come down too hard. As he got his breath back he shouted out to his partner for the evening, "Flank him on the right Donna!"
"Affirmative!" the Amazon called and zoomed ahead of him. She caught up to the man they were chasing, a masked man in his early 20s wearing garishly bright colors and pulling odd things from his belt pouches.
"Give it up, Trickster!" she shouted, "If you don't stop, I'll break your-"
"Put a sock in your pie hole, Carpet Muncher!" Trickster screamed back at her and threw a small round ball, which Donna easily caught.
The ball exploded as soon as she had her hand around it, and the Titan was sent sailing off the edge of the building with a shriek more of surprise than pain. Speedy growled and ran faster.
The archer was just about to clamp his fingers down on the Trickster's shoulder when he had to dig his heals in and skid to a stop to avoid running off the edge of the building.
Trickster kept on running, his shoes making strange popping noises as he ran across mid-air.
"Man, I really hate this guy," Speedy growled and pulled out his T-Comp. Punching in a code, he spoke into it, "Yo, Wally! You busy man?"
"Kindayeah!" came Kid Flash's reply, "Whywhat'stheproblem?"
Most people wouldn't have even been able to decipher what the speedster had just said, but Roy was an old hand at understanding his friend, "Just the Trickster. He's one of your Rouges, right? Got any ideas?"
"Call in Jinx."
Speedy sighed as he flipped his com shut.
"Great," he muttered, "Thanks Wally."
Jinx glared, "No."
She was sitting at a table, counting a stack of money. Standing in front of her, his arm still in a sling, was C.T. Roller, former head of the East End Rollers, now one of the pink eyed witch's Lieutenants. He frowned back at her and Jose, who was standing behind his boss with his large arms folded across his chest.
"Look, Jinx... we're just not making the money we used to. You gotta let our girls hit it raw-dog, or we're gonna loose business to the Chinese bitches up north!"
Jinx stood up and sat down the stack of fifties she was counting. She leaned across the table, letting him get an eyeful of her cleavage just to rub it in, "Calvin, I said no. And don't go thinking this is some woman thing, and I'm feeling sorry for the girls. I gave every one of them the option to quit when I took over and they made the choice to stay. They can quit whenever they want. But if they're going to be out there tricking, and they're going to be making us money, I'd rather protect my investments. We keep a couple guys around to protect them just in case, and they use condoms. Every. Time. I will not have STD riddled hookers. THAT'S how you loose business."
C.T. frowned and backed off, "A'ight, fine. But those girls up north are gonna cut into our profits. What'choo wanna do about that?"
"Nothing," Jinx was firm, "We currently have an... understanding with the Triads. No way am I gonna start a turf war over the girls. No one will win that."
"And the guns?" C.T. arched an eyebrow.
"Street level enforcers get pistols only. The heavier hardware stays hidden. Last thing I need is Robin coming down on me 'cause he finds out we're keeping assault rifles."
"That's still weird, you and the Titans. They really think you're doing this for them?"
"I let them think that, yeah," Jinx frowned, "Anything else? Or can I get back to this?" and she motioned to the table and the cash.
"Go ahead. I'ma head home. Calvin Jr. should be going down for the night soon, and it's my turn to feed him when he wakes up tonight."
Jinx smiled as she sat back down, "Try to get some rest in there somewhere Calvin. You look worn out."
"Yeah, price of havin' a baby. See ya."
As he walked out the door of the office and shut it behind him, Jinx sagged in her seat, "God this is hard."
Jose placed a hand on her shoulder, "You gotta keep foolin' 'em, Jenny. It's the only way to bring the East End back."
"I know," she placed her hand over his and leaned back in her chair as he started to rub her shoulders, "That's nice. Thanks."
Jose was about to say something when her com vibrated in her pocket. She pulled the communicator out and flipped it open with a sigh, "Jinx here."
Speedy looked back at her through the connection and she could see he was running across a rooftop, "Hey. Just called Kid Flash for advice on how to take down Trickster and he said to call you."
Jinx blew her breath out through her teeth, "Speedy I'm supposed to be a gang leader now. I can't just run off and go Titan on a super baddie just because you can't catch him."
"Well, lucky for us, he's headed straight into the East End, and you're going to have to protect your turf if he keeps throwing explosives like he is," Speedy replied, then cursed as he had to dodge one of said explosives.
Jinx narrowed her eyes, "Give me the nearest cross street to where you are now."
Across town, cold wind ripped across a rooftop as Robin charged after Katarou, his one-time foe from China Town. After the Boy Wonder had been trained by the True Master and had defeated the would-be ninja, Katarou had been banished and sent to live in exile.
Apparently, Jump didn't count as exile.
"Really, didn't I kick your ass once already?" Robin sounded exasperated, "You know you can't beat me. Why are you even in my city?"
"I have stolen a precious treasure!" Katarou exclaimed as he jumped to the top of a roof AC unit and dodged Robin's flying kick as the Titan leader jumped up after him.
"It will give me new skills! New power to defeat you with!" the ninja held aloft a scroll bound on both ends by jade dragon heads.
"Um..." Robin stopped for a moment, "Okay, didn't expect you to just come right out and say it, but whatever." He spun on the spot and lashed out with a kick, knocking Katarou off the AC unit and down to the rooftop. As the thief stood up to fight, Robin pounced on him.
They rolled across the roof before Robin stood them up. He held Katarou's shirt with one hand while he hammered away at the poor man's body with his other fist, his knees, and even his own head.
When Katarou was sufficiently beaten into submission, Robin stopped. He frowned as he stepped to the edge of the roof, "You know what? Just die," and he flung the ninja from the top of the twelve story building.
Katarou screamed as he fell almost halfway down before Starfire caught him and brought him back up. She dumped him in front of Robin and frowned at her boyfriend.
He looked up at her and winked through his mask. Star took on a confused expression.
"Now," Robin knelt down next to the thief, "you tell me where you got this scroll from, or you take another flight... and I don't think I have any more team mates waiting to catch you this time..."
The Trickster laughed as he sprang away from Speedy, the archer's kick missing him and forcing a retreat from the Titan. Trickster hurled another brightly colored ball at the rooftop and it exploded into a 10 foot wide spread of pink goo. Speedy backed away from it and had to go around to give chase again, but by then, Trickster was already at the edge of the roof. He jumped off and ran through mid-air again.
Speedy growled and quick as a flash fired a particular detonation arrow after the Rouge. Just as it was about to hit the young man, a motion sensing pouch on his back sprang open and fired off a stream of chaff to intercept it. The explosion rocked Trickster, but not much else.
"You'll have to do better than that!" he called in a sing song voice as Speedy ran after him.
"How about we talk about it on the ground?" Speedy growled as he jumped from the rooftop to tackle Trickster out of the air. The other young man turned and tossed a box at Speedy, which hit him right in the chest. It burst into a bundle of ropes, blowing him back to the rooftop and tying him to a TV antenna that was right at the edge.
Speedy struggled for a second, then dropped his head and sighed, "I really hate this guy," he muttered.
"Later, Speedy!" Trickster laughed as he pulled a pop gun out of... somewhere. Speedy knew it was probably some sort of lethal little toy, but he really didn't care at this point.
"Any time, Jinx."
"Yeah, yeah," came the voice of the girl down below. Trickster looked down and saw her standing on top of a car. He stared down her top and grinned.
"Nice rack, babe!"
Jinx rolled her eyes and whipped a hand out, hurling a lance of pink energy at his feet. Trickster tried to dodge but couldn't move fast enough with his Air Walk Shoes. As the hex hit him, the shoes stopped working, and Trickster fell 30 feet straight down to the ground.
He had enough sense to buckle his knees when he hit the street, but there was still a sharp crack as his ankle snapped. He gasped in pain as he toppled over. Jinx hopped down in front of him and was about to advance when he pointed his gun at her and fired.
Jinx froze up for just a second, but it was all Trickster needed. The cork flew from the pop gun and was about to hit her when in a rush of black and silver, Troia was in front of her, deflecting the cork with her bracers.
As soon as it touched the mettle around her wrists, the cork exploded. The heat and fire washed over the Amazon, who shrugged it off like she barely felt it. Trickster's eyes grew wide as Donna stomped forward, he hair frazzled, but otherwise unharmed.
"Do you have any idea how long it takes to comb all the burnt hair out when you have this much?" the Amazon growled at him, "Oh, you are gonna' pay."
Jinx winced as Troia lowered her fist into his face, "Oh, that looked like it hurt."
"I hope so," Troia stood up and walked back to her, leaving Trickster unconscious behind her, "Still having issues with guns?"
"Not so much since the gang war. That just took me by surprise."
"If you need any one to talk to..."
"I know where you live. Thanks Donna."
"Hey!" Speedy called from the roof, "Little help up here?"
Jinx looked up and tossed another hex bolt at him. The ropes snapped and he tumbled off the roof with a yelp.
Donna stepped to the side and easily caught him, cradling him in her arms and grinning.
Speedy crossed his arms over his chest, "If either of you ever breaths a word of this to Dick, I'll murder you in your sleep."
As the girls burst out laughing, Speedy struggled, "Donna, put me down!"
"Do you really want me to?" she asked slyly, "Don't you like it when I hold you like this?"
"I'm starting to, and that's what concerns me."
"Oooh! I'm tellin' Raven!"
"Jen, you wouldn't dare!"
The girls laughed even harder.
From a rooftop half a block away, Beast Boy frowned at them. He checked a watch he was wearing, then took off as a hawk.
Robin bowed as he presented the scroll to Wei Huan, the leader of the Jump City Triads. The gang leader was an old man with a long white beard and he frowned as he accepted the scroll.
The Boy Wonder straightened and spoke in Chinese, "I apologize for the delay in returning the scroll, but we had to drop Katarou off with the police before coming here."
Wei Huan shook his head and replied in his native tongue as well, "There is no need for apology, Robin. I am thankful that you have returned my property."
Robin nodded, "I may be a crime fighter, and you may lead a crime syndicate, but I know honor, and I know you hold this for a reason," he nodded at the scroll, "The teachings of Kang Arana should never be unsealed."
Huan raised one eyebrow, "You are well schooled."
"It's my job to be well schooled," Robin smiled. "Now, I must take my leave. Have a good evening, sir."
"And you," Huan bowed, and Robin did likewise. As he turned to leave, Starfire, who'd been standing silently behind him, bowed to the Triad leader as well. She then turned and left with Robin.
"You will have to teach me Chinese sometime." Star mused later as they strolled down the street downtown.
"If it means making out with you until you get the right language out of my head, then sure," Robin flashed her a grin. His smile faded when he saw she wasn't smiling.
Star shook her red hair out of her face and looked up at the stars, "You would have killed him."
"Kori, I knew you were there. You know I wouldn't just toss someone, even that jerk, off a building."
"You mean to say," she stopped and frowned at him, "you knew I was following you, and you used me."
"Ask Donna about that," he scowled, "Apparently, I use everyone."
"You do. You tell us so little. Richard, we must work on rebuilding trust, remember?"
"I know," Robin looked down. "It's just... Kori, I'm fine. You guys don't have to worry about me going over the edge anymore... I'm past all that."
"You are no longer keeping secrets from us?"
Robin shook his head, "No. Unless you count my stash of Choco Bars hidden in my room."
Star floated up and away from him with a scandalized expression, "You would hide candy from your friends?"
"Unless I want Cy and Raven to eat it all, yes," Robin grinned.
"Fiend!" Star laughed, "You must share with me!"
"Why?" Robin started to walk back towards the Tower.
Star floated after him, "Because I am your girlfriend!"
"Hmmm," their voices started to fade as they walked down to the waterfront, "I'll think about it... if you offer your services in exchange."
"I will not whore myself for chocolate."
"What will you whore yourself for?"
"I will show you what I will do to men who ask me to 'perform' for them..."
As their voices faded, a lithe female figure wearing a white cat mask slipped out of an ally they had just walked past and swished her long green sleeves about.
"What are you're friends up to Roy?" Chesire whispered, then dashed off into the night.
The hum of overhead track lighting buzzed as Corp. Stan Parsons moved down the row of stored munitions in an underground bunker, hidden away far under the streets of L.A. It was grunt work, but it wasn't front line in Afghanistan, so he was okay with it. Every week they had to do a physical check to make sure all of the weapons were still right where they were supposed to be.
As he stopped in front of the last one in the row and checked off the box, a thin sword flashed in front of his eyes and pressed against his throat, drawing a slight trickle of blood.
"Don't move," an excited sounding female voice whispered in his ear, "and don't shout either. These things arm if you move them and count down a 24 hour timer. How do we move them without setting off the trigger?"
Parsons swallowed hard, "The United States government does not negotiate with terrorist," was his reply. He was proud to hear there wasn't a waver in his voice.
"Good. That's good. We don't really care about these dinky things anyway. Where's the Nuclear Weapon depository? And before you answer, Stan, think about that little girl you have back home..." the girl behind him waved his wallet in front of his nose, his ID and the pictures of his daughter folded out. He hadn't even felt her take it out of his back pocket.
"I..." Stan swallowed again, "If I tell you... you'll leave? You won't hurt me or my family, and you won't tell anyone I told you?"
"That sounds like a deal I can live with."
"The dry dock at the Naval Shipyards. There's an old sub there that was reported dismantled, but it's still operational. It acts as a land-based nuclear launch platform," Parsons cursed himself even as he said it.
"Access codes?" the voice demanded.
"I'm Army, not Navy. I don't know."
"Do they blow like these if we try to take them?"
"I don't know."
"I don't know, alright?"
The voice whispered in his ear closely, seductively, "Then what use are you?"
The cold steel never left his throat, but a second sword stabbed into the back of his neck, up at an angle, through his brain and out his right eye. Stan went limp instantly.
Rose Wilson let him drop and pulled back on her sword as he did.
The sword slid easily out of the dead guard's skull, and she flicked it to one side, flinging the blood off of it. As she jumped down from the ledge she was standing on, she grinned at her father, her half mask exposing her mouth.
"Next time you're interrogating a prisoner, try to leave them alive a little longer," Slade told her in a kind of teaching tone.
"I'll try," Ravager nodded, "but at least we found out where they have the nuke. Are you sure your plan will work?"
"Of course," Slade replied, "When we give it to Psimon, he'll naturally want to destroy the first major city he can, and Jump just happens to be very convenient. The Titans will try to stop him and be torn apart from the inside out."
"Cool," Ravager sheathed her sword as she thought about the destruction of the Titans, "Oh Daddy…" she hugged his arm, "This is going to be so much fun…"
Cyborg walked through West Park, one of the largest in Jump City, and also the one he used to umpire youth baseball games at. He had worked with a special league that helped out kids with cybernetic prosthesis limbs. Nothing as advanced as his tech, but he was still really good at relating to the kids and their difficulties.
As he wandered closer to the ball fields, he thought more about those games. Thinking about the baseball games got him thinking about the girl that got him into them. Thinking about her made him think about the first time he'd ever really thought he might be in love.
As he rounded a bend in the path and saw one of the ball diamonds, he saw her sitting there on the bench, just like she used to. Her hair was a little longer now, dropping just past her mid-back, but other than that, she looked exactly as he remembered her.
She caught sight of him and smiled as she waved him over. Cy smiled in spite of himself and walked over to stand in front of her.
"Sarah Simms, as I live and breath, you still make a guys bionic heart go pitter patter."
"Hey Vic," she replied and motioned for him to have a seat.
Cyborg stared at that open seat on the park bench for a long time. He remembered all the good times they'd had, all the arguments, and the time he'd almost gotten her killed simply because she was too close when a super villain had decided to see if they could take down a Teen Titan.
He knew he should just walk away. He should wait to find someone who could protect themselves...
But waiting for things had cost him way too much lately.
Cyborg sighed and sat down next to the blonde heavily. She smiled over at him and then back out at the kids she was watching.
"How've you been?" she asked.
"Oh… you know. Heart break and butt kicking. It's just how my life goes."
"Well, we always like it when you come here."
"Sarah… even after everything that went on between us?"
"Vic, just because we broke up, doesn't mean I hate you. I'd say you're the best man I've ever been with, actually."
"Heh… you sound like you want to give it another shot."
"Do you?" she turned a kind smile on his frowning face.
Cyborg stared for a good long time then nodded, "Yeah. I do."
Sarah stood up and kissed his cheek lightly, "I'm free for dinner tonight if you are."
Tara gasped for breath as she fell to her hands and knees in the Tower's training room. She looked up through sweat soaked hair at the arched eyebrow of a certain raven haired Boy Wonder.
"I really hate it when it's your day to train with me."
"You make me run forever."
"Because you're cardio ability sucks."
"I hate you," Tara dropped her head back down.
"No you don't," Robin held out a hand and she took it. He pulled her to her feet and motioned them over to the training mats, "Come on. I want to walk you through the basics of Judo again, then we can work on your Tai Chi forms."
Tara nodded in a weary manner. For the past three days, she'd been training with a different Titan every morning, then Robin in the afternoons. So far Raven and Donna had done strength training with her, Cyborg had pushed her limits with endurance sprints and pushups, and Starfire had actually done aerobic dance with her. Every day Robin had her run for over a half hour straight, then drilled her in various fighting forms. So far she'd learned the basics of Judo, some kind of kung-fu she was pretty sure no one in China even knew any more, and the Tai-Chi Robin had assured her would improve her grace, all outward signs to the contrary.
"You should take Star out some time soon," Tara said in a conversational manner as they walked to the mats, "You know, like.. tomorrow afternoon."
"Do you think she's jealous that I'm in here wrestling around with another woman?"
"Pretty sure I don't have what you're looking for in a woman," Tara snorted out.
"What do you mean?" Robin stopped at the mats and looked at her quizzically.
"Dick, you haven't so much as glanced at my rack, and I'm wearing nothing but a sports bra. Compared to Kori, I just don't have it going on up here," Tara grabbed her own breasts and hefted their lightness to emphasize her point, "I'm an A cup. Can't get around that."
Robin was blushing so hard by this time it looked as if his head was about to explode, "Sorry... er... I mean..."
"Don't worry about it," Tara waved it off, "But seriously, have you guys been out on a date since you patched things up? Take the girl to a movie or something!"
"We've been busy. With the city cleanup after the gang war and we've had a pretty steady stream of costumed criminals trotting through Jump lately, and-"
"Dick," Tara reached out and shoved him, "The team will live without you and Star for a night. Take her out. Have a good time."
Robin stared at her for a short time, then smiled, "I missed having you around to tell us-" he stopped himself, "I'm sorry... that was thoughtless."
Tara was staring at him with wide eyes, but she blinked away her shock a moment later, "No! It's okay... did she... did Terra keep you in line too?"
"I don't know about keeping me in line..." Robin rubbed the back of his head, "But... and no pun intended here, she was always so... grounded. I'd come up with something and she'd be right there to be the voice of reason. She would have told me the same thing you just did... and she would have been right, just like you are. Thanks, Tara."
"No big," Tara grinned, "So... what do you think I should dress up as for Becka's big Halloween party?"
Raven was meditating. The solitude on top of Titan's Tower was deafening, and it was exactly what she needed. There were too many threads woven through her life at the moment and she felt she had to blank her mind and look at each one of them individually.
Starfire and Robin had made up and were once again on good terms. Though he still seemed obsessed with crime fighting, Robin had leveled out recently as well, seeming to have no problems dealing with his interpersonal relationships, which was new for him.
Those were positive things.
She and Speedy were doing fine, Donna had stopped worrying about her son so much, and Tara was becoming more fit and in a better mental state by the day.
Cyborg was still furious at Robin, and he hadn't even said Jinx's name in a month. He referred to her as, 'the gang leader.' He'd been spending a lot of time outside the Tower lately, sometimes not coming home until well after dark, or staying out on patrol until after the sun had come up.
These were negative things.
Beast Boy was still MIA, but the reports of his work in the city were starting to become more and more frequent. He was taking down specific targets, removing obstacles to Jinx's expansion, and eliminating the need for the Titans to patrol certain parts of the city.
By far the most disturbing report was one that Robin had keep so quiet only he and Speedy supposedly knew about it. Raven had dug it up after sensing they were hiding something from her.
Apparently Beast Boy had been in the East End during the gang war when we had stumbled upon a girl who had just been raped. The girl's brother had then found his sister and killed the rapist with a hand gun.
Beast Boy had been there, and he hadn't stopped it. He had intentionally not stopped it. The fact that the rapist had been the same man that had gotten Hanna pregnant lent some credibility to the story.
This was a very big negative.
Add all that to reports that Jinx was starting to consolidate gangs outside of the East End, that there was a new metahuman gang in L.A., and that several nuclear weapon facilities had been broken in to with no trace of intruders left behind despite several deaths, and things were starting to look grim.
Raven's brow knitted as she tried to focus more. There were storm clouds on the horizon... she could sense it. The pattern wasn't complete yet though... there was still something she couldn't put together that would bind everything together and it would all make sense.
Raven floated above the roof of the Tower in the deafening silence. She needed to focus. She needed to find the pattern.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos..." she droned.
Sunlight streamed in through the drawn shades of a dingy hotel room on the outskirts of Jump City, illuminating the green skin of the changeling that was sleeping in the bed. He rolled over with a groan and threw one arm over his eyes.
After a few minutes of grumbling and tossing about, he finally got up. Beast Boy didn't even bother pulling on his clothes as he walked to the middle of the room. He'd pushed all the furniture to the walls long ago, so he had an open space to work in.
He started moving in a set pattern, arms and legs moving in fluid motion. The Tai Chi Robin had taught him was his wake-up routine now... it helped him focus on all he had to do in a day.
As he finished the routine, he shook his limbs out, became a dog and shook, then became a cat and stretched. Becoming humanoid again, he plodded over to the bathroom to take care of business there.
After he was finished, he glanced at himself in the mirror. Light stubble dotted his chin, and he frowned at it. Despite his shape-changing ability, Beast Boy had never been able to grow any kind of decent facial hair. He concentrated on it for a moment, and with a light ripple in his skin, his chin was smooth once again.
Walking back out to the room, Beast Boy grabbed a hoodie and some second-hand jeans he'd picked up at the Goodwill. Pulling them on, he grabbed his keys and stuck his feet in some beat up sneakers. Ready for his day, Gar Logan stepped out of his room and out into the bright California afternoon.
His hood pulled up over his green head, Gar walked down the street in the north of Jump City, eying a Chinese man who he had been following for the past several blocks. The man's name was Liu Gara, a high level enforcer for the Triads. He was also one of the most vicious killers in the city, and the changeling had information that led him to believe the gangster had been freelancing as a hit man outside of his organization.
"Not in my city," Gar muttered as he crossed the street and entered the pizza place the thug had just walked in to.
The inside of the restaurant was sparse, with only a few tables and a single counter that ran along the back of the room. Behind the counter the space was dominated by a pizza oven and a dish washing area, all visible from the eating space.
Liu was sitting at a table with a young woman, who looked older than Gar knew she was. The girl was one of the Triad's hookers, and the Chinese gangsters started them young. This girl was still new, though she looked worn down and exhausted. The green skinned hero knew she couldn't be more than 14, and his stomach churned at the thought of what she was being put through.
The gangster was talking to her in Chinese (Cantonese, Gar noted, though he didn't speak much of it... he was better at Mandarin) and motioning with his hands expressively. The girl shook her head over and over, denying whatever he was saying.
Glancing around the pizza joint, Gar saw they were the only two dinners, and there was only one bored looking staffer behind the counter, fanning himself with a large wooden spoon. Civilians at a minimum, Gar made the call for himself to start the take-down.
And he answered to no one except himself any more.
Walking across the room quickly, he lunged the last few feet and grabbed the man about the neck, wrapping his elbow up under his chin and squeezing, hoping to cut off his oxygen and knock him out before he could react.
Liu Gara stood up quickly and flipped the changeling over his shoulder, smashing him through the table and sending the girl screaming away as she stood up and cowered in the corner.
Cursing himself for underestimating a highly experience killer like Liu, Gar quickly morphed into a large bear and roared at the man. His eye's widening, the Triad enforcer pulled out a .45 and blasted off three shots at the huge green animal in front of him.
But it wasn't huge anymore. It was a jack rabbit scurrying towards him. Then, suddenly, it was a ram, plowing him off his feet and into the counter. The lone attendant ducked behind the pizza oven with a scream.
Gar became himself again a moment later, breathing hard from the sudden shifting. He kicked Liu's gun across the room from the gangster (he had dropped it when he'd been rammed) and glanced over his shoulder to check on the girl.
His heart almost stopped.
Rushing to her side, he quickly felt for a pulse. The girl looked in his eyes even as torrents of blood pumped from the bullet wounds in her chest. Gar counted two.
"Stay with me," he muttered to her, even though her knew it was a lost cause. She whispered something to him in Chinese, and her eyes glassed over. Gar closed his own briefly, then opened them again and reached out. He closed her lids, and gently laid her down on the floor.
"Aw, man!" Liu was on his feet again, holding his arm, "You just cost me a good bitch, man!" he shouted at the green skinned hero.
Gar stood up suddenly and lashed out at Liu with a snarl of rage. It wasn't until the Triad fell back screaming that he realized he'd morphed his hand into a claw and had just ripped into the other man rather badly. Noting that the hit-man's gun hand would be useless for the rest of his life, and that he was bleeding enough to die from it within a half hour or so, Gar shuddered. Staring at his own hand, now slick with blood, he shook his head, "What's happening to me?"
A bird darted out the door of the pizza joint and was gone a moment later.
Becka Pullman was a very busy young lady.
Currently, she was fretting over the fact that she had a paper due in the morning she hadn't even started yet, and was trying to pull off a fund-raiser for the victims of the gang war, which was starting to look like it was going to be an all-nighter.
As she flipped through screens on her iphone, checking guest lists and refreshment stocks, she glanced up and around the ball room she was hosting her 12th gala in. She'd gotten the hang of it after the first four.
Her eyes came to rest on the radiant form of her friend Ginger, who was being fawned over by several of the cities wealthiest young bachelors. Becka grinned. Having a super-popular model/actress at your parties was a surefire way to get the kind of people who had influence (and deep pockets) to not only show up, but donate to the charitable cause as well.
Finally tucking her phone away in the folds of the sash she wore around her waist, Becka picked up the hem of her evening gown and stepped over to where a brown haired girl was checking her PDA as well. Maggie Delmont's gown was simple, didn't draw too much attention to her, and was perfect for the personal assistant of Ginger Hamilton.
"How're you doing, Mags?" Becka asked.
Maggie rolled her eyes as she looked up from her cell, "I'm fine, Becka. Cassie healed me almost all the way, and what damage was left, I healed on my own weeks ago. I'm not made of glass, and I won't break. Please stop treating me like I'm broken."
"Okay, okay... you haven't seen my assistant, have you? I could really use her to-"
"Ohmygosh..." Janice, decked out in a simple gown as well, rushed up to Becka's side, "Sorry ah took so long, sugar. These damn heels just won't let me run as fast as I need ta!"
Becka glanced at Janice's dress and felt a pang of jealousy. The dark haired Southerner still looked like a bombshell, even in her far less fancy dress, "Well, stop running around being the hottest girl in here, and take a breather. I need you with me for a little anyway."
"Ah think Ginger has me beat ta'night, hun," Janice smiled, "and Ah'm glad I can help you. What'cha need me ta do?"
"Run interference. See that guy over there?" she pointed.
"He's an aide for my Dad, sent here to make sure I'm not screwing up. He also doesn't like how aggressive I am with some of the guests, asking for donations. I need you to head over there and distract him so I can grab those guys Ginger has captivated right now and grill 'em."
Maggie nodded, punching up a screen on her phone, "The one with the sky blue vest right there? Just closed a deal for about six million in commission. He's got a bank roll to drop some coin with."
"God you're scary," Becka shook her head, "Help a girl out, Jan?"
"Sure thing sugar," Janice grinned and sauntered over to the young aide with her hips swaying.
"Ami's a lucky girl," Maggie noted.
"No kidding," Becka grinned.
"Hey there, Sugar!" Janice giggled as she slid up to the young aide, "You available ta' take a purrty girl out ta the dance floor for a spin?"
The young man stared at her for a moment, obviously a little startled to have a beautiful young woman just walk up and ask him to dance. Janice took the time to inspect him.
He wore a black suit, not a tux, but it fit him well. His tie was dark green, and complimented his green eyes well. His hair was a light auburn color, not as red as Ami's but not brown like Becka's. He stood just a hair under six feet tall, and looked as though he worked out, even if he wasn't a body builder.
After a long moment of him staring at her (she was impressed to note he didn't stare at her breasts at all, even though they were pushed up and somewhat ogle-worthy) he extended his hand and said, "Rodger Burdine III. And you are?"
Janice put her hand in his and let him kiss her knuckles. She giggled again, "Janice Butler. I'm-"
"Miss Pullman's friend," Rodger cut her off, "yes, I know about you."
Janice was a little unnerved, "What exactly do you know?" she asked as her accent slipped entirely away.
"The Senator has files on all of his daughter's friends. I know your parents are very wealthy plantation owners, you went to school with Miss Pullman, and you're pre-med at JCU," he paused for a moment and looked at her a little sideways, "I also know you're in a homosexual relationship, and aren't actually interested in a man to dance with."
Janice was a bit insulted by his last comment, and a bit freaked out that Becka's dad was just handing out information on all of his daughter's friends, but she pressed on anyway, determined to give Becka the time she needed.
"Just 'cause I'm gay doesn't mean I don't like to dance with a nice guy some times! My girlfriend is just too short to lead, and I grew up learning the traditional female parts of dances... my Mom was big on me knowing all the proper forms of Southern society."
"I don't think so," Rodger replied in a cold tone, "I wouldn't want to pry you away from your sinful nature, and besides," he gave her a once over, this time taking a good look at her chest, "you look like a cheap-"
"I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you," a hand clamped down on Rodger's shoulder, and Chad Doxen stepped up next to him, "Hey, Jan. Rodger, could you do me a favor?"
"Yes, Mr. Doxen?" Rodger ground out the words, gritting his teeth.
"See that corner over there? Why don't you go stand in it and fuck yourself."
"You heard me," Chad's voice dipped lower, and Janice thought he might have been taking lessons from Robin the way his eyes suddenly turned cold, "Take your homophobic ass away from my friend, and hope that I don't mention this incident to Senator Pullman next time I'm over at his house for diner."
Rodger gave them both a sour look and walked away. He grabbed a glass of wine off a tray being toted by a passing waitress and took a large gulp as he made it up to an important looking older man and began to talk to him.
Janice turned to Chad and hugged him briefly, "Thanks for that."
"Hey, you're not just my girlfriend's friend, Jan. We went to school together for four years, remember? You're my friend too."
"Still, thank you. It would have looked really bad if I'd slapped the shit out of him."
"Yeah, it would've, wouldn't it?" Chad grinned, "I'm just glad I didn't punch him."
"No kidding," Jan grinned too, "Now, I offered him a dance and he was too big a dick to take me up on it... Becka's busy at the moment, so I'm sure she won't mind if you get the same offer."
"Can I stare at your boobs?"
"Only a little, and only because they look so good tonight." Janice winked.
"Sweet," Chad held out a hand, "Shall we?"
They walked to the dance floor, both doing their best to forget about Rodger Burdine III.
Tara stepped out of the bathroom attached to her room at the Tower, rubbing at her ear with a towel. She'd just gotten done with an hour-long weapon's training session with Speedy, and had needed a good shower. Just as she was about to start looking for clothes to lounge around in (Robin was taking Starfire out on a date, so she was free for the afternoon) her com buzzed.
Grabbing it off her nightstand and flipping it open, she saw Raven on the other side of the video connection, "What's up Rae?"
"You have a visitor."
"I have a what now?" Tara arched an eyebrow.
"Maggie Delmont is here to pick you up. Apparently you have an appointment downtown today."
"Um..." Tara didn't remember any appointments, but if Maggie wanted to hang out, that was cool with her, "I'll get dressed and be right down."
Twenty minutes later, Tara walked into the main room of the Tower, dressed in an ankle length jean skirt that was slit up both sides to just above her knees, and a light pink tank top. She wore flip-flops on her feet and a barrette held her hair back from her face.
Around her neck swung a pendent with a chunk of amber embedded in it.
Maggie stood up from where she was chatting with Donna and Raven on the couch and stepped over to Tara, "Took you long enough."
"I'd just gotten out of the shower."
"Good. It's better if you're clean."
"Why? What are we doing?" Tara walked with her over to the kitchen where she picked up her purse off the counter. She'd left it there the day before when she'd gotten back from shopping for a new top with Starfire.
Maggie looked at her funny, "Didn't Ginger tell you that she was going to introduce you to her agency? You're doing a shoot for a perfume add today."
Tara paled, "What?"
"You're going to a paid photo shoot for a new perfume."
"I hear you the first... why?" Tara was honestly confused.
"Hey, Ginger said come get you and get you down to the shoot. Here I am. Let's go."
"No buts!" Maggie grinned and shoved the other girl along, "See ya' Cassie! Donna!"
"Later!" Donna waved.
"Have fun, Tara," Raven waved as well.
A moment later, the two girls were gone, and the two Titans were left alone in the room. They glanced at each other.
"Wanna braid my hair?" Donna asked with a grin.
Raven stared at her for a second with an arched eyebrow, "No."
"How long will you be gone?" Jose asked as Jinx shoved a change of clothes in her bag, followed by a spare pistol.
"No more than a day or two," Jinx replied. They were in her lair-ish apartment, which was one of the only places they could stop acting and be themselves. Jinx was running the East End for real; she wasn't just a Titan puppet. Robin didn't always know what was best for the city, she was convinced of that, but she still had the same vision he did, and only she and Jose really knew what the organization was working towards – a unified, non-violent, city wide gang that could eventually be disbanded and worked down to nothing at all.
"We're running a pretty light crew this weekend," Jose replied, "We could really use you around town if some shit goes down."
"You'll have to make due. The Titans will still protect the East End if they need to."
"I know that, it's just... why do you have to go?"
"There's just something down in L.A. I have to take care of, that's all. It's best if you don't know too much. And don't let any of the Titans know where I am... especially Raven."
Jose sighed and nodded, "I just worry about you."
Jinx stopped her packing and walked over to him, "That's sweet, Jose, it really is. Here, you can have a parting gift..." and she stripped off her shirt, then started working on his.
"Naw, Jenny... come on, you know I don't like it when you sleep with me then run."
She paused, then smiled gently, "Okay... how about I hang around town for another few hours then. We can take out time... but I really have to get down to L.A. tonight, so I can't stay with you all night."
He smiled down at her, "Okay, fine. You know... I think I might be starting to-"
"Don't," Jinx put a finger to his lips, "Don't say it. Not to me."
"No, Jose. You don't need that kind of bad luck, trust me."
Cyborg sat on top of a hill over looking the small lake in the middle of Jump City's largest park. Next to him, the pretty blonde Sarah Simms was blowing the fluff off a dandelion.
"What'd you wish for?" he asked.
"That you would be more talkative."
"Aw, I'm sorry, Sarah. I didn't mean to be so bummed while we were out together..."
"No, it's understandable. After everything you went through, and Robin was being such a jerk, and Jinx... she really hurt you, didn't she?"
"Stop being so understanding."
"No," Sarah sat up straighter and leaned against him, kissing his cheek, "You and I, Vic? We're really easy together, you know? And I would never ask you to quit the Titans, but... would you consider taking on less responsibility and devoting more time to education and your research for better prosthesis?"
He looked down at her sharply, "We've only gone out twice since we got back together and you're already asking me to settle down? You move fast girl."
She swatted his arm, "Stop being silly. No, it's just... I'd like to think I know your moods, Vic, and I think you'd be a lot happier if you had more time to devote to not, you know, constantly fighting crime. If you could help people with your other talents as well."
He stared at her for a long moment, then sighed and nodded his head, "You always say the right things."
"I just want what's best for you, Vic Stone. You sacrifice too much and you take on too much. It's time to step back and do something for you."
Cyborg looked back out over the lake for a long moment, then lifted his arm and punched up a window on the com-network, "Cyborg to Robin. You there, Boy Wonder?"
Tara lifted her chin up a bit higher, as she'd just been instructed, and waited for the picture to be snapped, "I still don't get it," she said to Ginger.
The heiress waved a hand from where she was sitting on a chaise lounge nearby, posing as well, "I told you, you have a model's build. And from what I've seen today, you're pretty good at this."
Tara was wearing a slinky evening gown that covered her front fairly well (the stylist had not only done her hair up in an elegant swirl and applied gorgeous makeup, but had also managed to squeeze some cleavage out of her breasts) but left her entire back exposed down to her tail bone. She feared her ass would fall out of it if she bent over.
Ginger was dressed in a similar fashion, but her hair was down, swept back from her face and giving her a regal, commanding look. She moved her legs over so she was facing Tara and rested a hand against her friend's hip, "You should stop selling yourself short, Tara. What you went through was horrible... in fact, your whole life has kind of sucked lately..."
"Thanks, Ginger. You're a peach," Tara rolled her eyes and the camera man squeaked in excitement, snapping rapidly at the apathetic look on her face.
"Hush and let me finish," Ginger stood up and faced Tara. They were both in heels, and almost the exact same height, "Your life hasn't been great, but you have a lot going for you too. Great friends, the Titans, and you're a smart girl too. This is just my way of helping you out a little... a new job can do wonders for your self-image."
"Well, as far as self-image improvement goes, this one's been a real doozy. I look hot."
"Yes you do," Ginger grinned, but staggered a little when Tara suddenly hugged her.
"Thanks, Ginger. Really."
Ginger hugged back briefly, "Any time, Tara. Now come on... we have a wardrobe change, then we need to get to the next set. If we're lucky we'll have time to eat something before we start the next shoot."
It was almost three in the morning when Gar walked back into his hotel room. He'd been out all day doing damage control with the Triads. While he wasn't a fan of their organization, he knew Jinx wasn't ready to pull them under her control yet. He'd had to smooth things over with them in order to keep their trust of the 'good-guys' a little longer.
Tossing his keys on the table next to the door, he yanked off his hoodie and threw it aside. Scratching his side, he stretched and turned to walk to the bathroom.
There, standing in the doorway was a dark form.
A growl ripped out of Gar's throat and he backed away, getting ready to change forms, "Who's there? Who are-"
"Triads, huh? Interesting company you're keeping these days," the dark form stepped into the light and stared down at him.
Slade Wilson, Deathstroke the Terminator, grinned at the changeling through his mask, "On top of all that, I hear you're ripping people apart and alienating the Titans... Garfield, I can't wait to find out what kind of trouble you're getting yourself into out here on your own."
Closing Notes: I've already started the next chapter. Look for it soon (I hope). Until then, tell me what you thought. I know it's getting dark, but there needs to be a little dark before the dawn.