"Man," Cyborg painfully commented as he surveyed his surroundings. Considering the fact that he constructed the Tower from the ground up, it hurt to see the decrepit condition it had fell into through the passage of time. "This place is a dump."
"Yeah, no kidding," BB added, kicking debris as he stepped about in the room, almost depressed at the sight, "It's hard to think that this happened in less than three years, it looks like it's been abandoned for decades."
The once-mighty Titans stronghold had been reduced to nothing more than a condemned memory in a frighteningly short amount of time. Though Raven herself was shocked at the sight when she first arrived, this had been the first time the rest of them had set foot in it since disbanding the team. Needless to say, they silently milled about as they took in the fruits of their labors turned to dust from time and vandalism.
"You two really stayed the night here?" Richard unbelievably questioned, nearly startled as a bird that had apparently been living in the abandoned Tower darted from the shadows and out the vast opening where the bay windows used to be.
"Trust me," Raven began, hopping up on the remains of the kitchen counter, "I thought about it for a second, but my room was preserved."
"What do you mean?"
"You guys sealed it pretty much," she explained, "the door was not only locked, but the emergency security systems that are still in place activated when power was disconnected, so it was magnetically sealed."
"Then just how did you get in then?" Cyborg stepped up to them, perplexed, "those magnets can withstand quite a bit of punishment and take at least several thousand pounds of force to break free."
"With these two's help, of course," Raven motioned to Cyhper and Gecko. Cypher was simply standing diligently, awaiting command, while Gecko was fiddling with something he found with curiosity, much like a child would. "It took a little work…and some supernatural help out of all of us, but we got the job done. Though a little dusty from my absence, it was hospitable. Thankfully, my windows weren't busted out, so there wasn't a draft. My candles are still here, so I had light. Heat or not…it just felt really good to stay in my own bed again."
"All that we know…" BB chimed in with a smirk, "…is it's good to have you back, Rae."
"Words can't even sum up how good it feels to be, Gar," Raven returned his gesture.
"Warm fuzzies all around," Richard joked, getting a chuckle out of the group, "but seriously…how is this going to work?"
"How's what going to work?" Starfire finally spoke up.
"Us being the Titans again, babe," he answered, turning back to the others, "as you all can see…our former base of operations is a total dump. It makes things incredibly more difficult if we don't have the Tower, I mean, it housed us, we had direct communications with the police, and our own sophisticated equipment. I've seen more garbage and broken glass…"
"So it's a little messy, so what?" Raven answered enthusiastically, something that they were indeed not used to seeing from her. She hopped down off of the counter, dusting the back of her pants off to remove any collected dirt. "If you guys are truly serious about getting the team back together again and doing what needs to be done to keep this city safe…a little cleaning isn't going to kill you, right?"
Though hesitant, the response was unanimous for the better.
"Rae's right," Cyborg agreed, "we've saved the world a few times over, this will be a piece of cake."
"A time-consuming and back-breaking one…" Beast Boy commented, feigning enthusiasm. "Can't we just hire someone to come in and clean this place up?"
"We could…but then it would be too easy, now wouldn't it?" she added with a laugh. "Come on, we can have a lot of fun doing this. It's good to just be around you guys again, but I'll be getting to do something with you for the first time in what has been an eternity to me. As regretful and though contrary, negative, as it may sound…we've changed, all of us. Time does that people, and I think we spent some quality time getting to know one another again. Not only will we be the best of friends and a tight-knit group again, but whole once more."
Raven paused, seeing how intently everyone was listening, even David. Though he hadn't the vaguest clue as to who or what her friends were about, he made it a priority to do so if he hoped to ever become a fellow Titan.
"Though you've all said it in words," she began with a sigh, collecting herself in preparation, "it's my turn to show and prove the worth of my word. I've done things…bad things, and I truly regret them. There hasn't been a day passed since that I don't think about it. I blindly turned my back to my friends…my family, and everything I hold dear in this world…all for nothing. I gave everything away in the blink of an eye without a second thought for just that…nothing. Like I said, words only go so far, and I feel as if I must prove myself to you once more to garner not only your trust, but be worthy of your companionship once more."
Though silent, it was more stunned than anything. Knowing the hardship she had faced time and time again in her long journey home…Raven still felt that she must earn their trust once more to be worthy in their presence.
"Raven," Richard began, resting a hand on her shoulder, "as Gar said…it's good to have you back. We're glad you've returned to us, and this time…this time we'll make sure we do everything right…as a team."
"Well…you won't have to worry about me feeling homesick and leaving again," Raven stated, holding her arms out, hoping to receive a warming hug from her friends, "…I'm already home."
Needless to say, they were more than happy to oblige, even David joined in the group hug. Though it only lasted for a few seconds, it seemed like a well-earned eternity and most welcome one at that. Five long, brutal, and agonizing years had stood between her and this moment, relishing in it was all that she could do.
"So how's this going to work then?" Richard commented after the group returned to their normal, relaxed positions, "since we've got to clean this place up before we can do anything…when do we start?"
"You're our leader, Nightwing," Raven replied with a smirk, "it's up to you to make the decisions. That's how it was last time I checked anyway."
"This is all your idea, Rae, if you hadn't shown up and showed us what we used to be and what we stood for…I'd still be crunching numbered for a faceless corporation…no offense to Mr. Wayne, of course."
"Nightwing's right," Star added, him turning to her in surprise that she didn't use his name, "we all were living by what we considered to be "normal"…I hate to say it, but we are all far from normal, and as Titans, we found solstice in one another because of that very factor. We aren't normal…we're superheroes, and what we do is far from it."
Cyborg nodded in agreement.
"Granted, I enjoy coaching those kids and keeping them out of trouble at the high school…it doesn't hold water compared to the times I had and experiences along the way as I Titans. Like Star said…this was the first time I ever felt like I belonged after I was turned into what I am."
"…and now I can stop failing at life." Gar surprised everyone, "let's face it…we all know how things have been going since we broke up as a team…pardon my French, but they went shitty for me. I work a dead-end job and live in one of the worst parts of the city to survive on a day-to-day basis. Because I can't conceal myself too well, I've been ridiculed and shunned for what has happened to Jump City since we disbanded. Returning to us isn't just a relief, but a miracle to me and everyone else. It took me a moment to realize the mistake I was making by not aiding Raven's cause to rally us back together again. Now… I know what we must do, and I'm prepared to follow you to hell and back if need be, Rae."
"I can't lead us; I'm not fit for such a position." Raven informed reluctantly, "Look, I'll compromise with you…let me and David help get things up and running again. By that, I mean, getting the Tower cleaned up and back to operational status, as well as getting you guys in shape again. No offense to any of you, but you guys have gotten a little soft around the edges, not just physically, but more mentally than anything. After everything's off the ground and ready to officially go…then Nightwing can take his rightful place at the reigns once more. How's that sound?"
"I don't see a problem with that," Richard commented in agreement, "you are right, we have gotten a little soft," he added, motioning towards Garfield, "…some a little more than others."
"At least my hair isn't graying, old man," Gar joked in good spirits with him.
"Yeah, yeah," he waved him off, turning back to Raven, "so who's David?"
Raven promptly grabbed Gecko by the arm, jerking him over in front of the rest of them, causing him to drop whatever it was he was so enthused with. "This is David, David Gonzales….or Gecko, whatever you want to call him."
"So this is the companion of yours you told us about? I know we met him last night briefly and all, but this is David?" Richard questioned, studying him.
"The one and only," Raven beamed, almost proud of bringing him along, "say hi to my friends, David. Since you're going to hang around for a little while, it's best you get to know them after all."
"Um…hello?" He waved, nervous.
"He's a little shy, we are his heroes after all. When I first met him, that's all he would do is go on and on about the Titans."
"Quite the coincidence to come across Raven than, isn't it?"
"Yes, Sir…er, I mean, Nightwing."
"There's no need to call any of us Sir or Ma'am, David," Richard laughed, "we're all friends here. If Raven thinks you're an alright guy…then you're more than welcome here. You may know our names, but let's match some faces to them. I'm Nightwing, formerly Robin, leader of the Titans."
David generously took his hand and shook it vigorously, honored to meet the Titans finally. It was hard to put into words the feelings that coursed through him, especially feeling the awe-inspiring dedication in his idol's hand.
"So why "Gecko", David?" Richard questioned curiously.
"Long story short, I used to climb on anything that proved a challenge as a kid, it started out as a nickname, but it's pretty fitting. I don't want to bore you with the details…maybe another time."
"Very well," Richard nodded respectfully, "if you're sticking around to help out, I'll eventually get to hear all about it."
Richard gently pulled Kori forward even with him to show her to him. "This is my beautiful wife of 3 years, Kori."
"I am Starfire, Princess of Tamaeran," she corrected politely, "Kori isn't fitting as a name of a Titan, Nightwing."
"Pleasure to meet you, my dear," he sophisticatedly greeted, gently kissing her hand. Her skin was as perfect as could be, delicately soft and smooth.
"Victor Stone," Cyborg greeted, taking up David's hand, forgetting his artificial strength as he shook it, "everyone calls me Cyborg."
Gecko minutely smiled as he grasped his hand, trying to return feeling from Cyborg's handshake. His attention turned to Gar as he leapt down off the back of the remnants of the couch.
"So you must be Garfield, correct?" David stated cheerfully as he extended his hand.
"What gave it away? The green skin? The fangs? Oh, I know…it was the pointy ears, wasn't it?"
"Uhhh…" Gecko stood dumbfounded from the response, unaware of the hostility he had stirred from within the shapeshifter.
"Garfield, be respectful of our guest," Raven demanded, as well as shooting him a glare that could freeze hell over.
"I'm sorry, where are my manners," he stated with a forced smile, accepting David's handshake. As David released and he was sure Raven wasn't watching, Gar brought up two fingers, motioning between the two of them, signaling he was watching David. To avoid confrontation, he joined Raven once more.
"I don't think he likes me," he whispered, assuring the others didn't hear him.
"Give it time, it takes a while to warm up to him, it took me forever to even acknowledge his existence."
"Ah, I see. I definitely don't want to make any enemies out of them from the get-go."
"There isn't much you can do to cause that, we're pretty tolerant of things for the most part. It takes something pretty extreme…like what I did, to turn them against you." Raven paused for a moment, recollecting, quickly returning to the present, "but the past is behind me, all that lies ahead is a prosperous future."
Raven turned back to the group.
"Well, let's get started then," she began, "since I'm impromptu leader, I guess it's time to give orders. Cyborg, you know the Tower inside out, so you'll know what we need to get it up and running again…take Garfield with you. Richard, since you're the big business man from what I can tell, see if we can't get a little help money wise from the city council like we used to, as well as establish our direct emergency connections again. Star…you can stay here and help me and David start cleaning all the garbage and filth up so we can fix everything up. Does everyone know what they got to do?"
They nodded in agreement, seeing how eager Raven was to get started.
"Alright then," she said, clasping her hands together, "let's get to it."
Without hesitation, they made their way to the exit, the door leading to the stairs since the elevator wasn't up and running yet. Star remained, taking in the range of work they would be performing.
"It's amazing," Gecko commented, looking out the window, off in the distance.
"What is?" Raven questioned, turning her attention back to him.
"Your will, it's inhuman, and I mean that in a good way," he explained, "though it is partly you being stubborn and refusing to give in or give up, you never lost sight. When I found you in the forest that day…you had become…misguided, not lost. I could see it in your eyes from that day forth that you had a purpose and wasn't going to let anything stand in your way to achieve it…I now know what it was. It's the bond you share amongst your friends, so close you consider them family."
"If it wasn't for them, I would have long given up," she replied, "if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be here today. You can say I'm indeed fortunate."
"Not fortunate…a miracle," Star imputed on the subject, "this is a blessing, Raven, you returning to us once more, allowing all of us to seek redemption for our mistakes."
"Wow, Star…how eloquently put," Raven smiled, surprised at her grasp of Earth's English language. Over five years, it was to be expected she would be better versed in the language.
Starfire simple giggled with a tilt of her head, content with herself.
"So where are we starting, Raven?"
"Well…this is good a place as any," she commented, looking around at the remnants of the central room that played host to their lives once day in and day out. "Might as well, we'll have room to put things we'll need when we start cleaning the individual rooms, right?"
"That's smart thinking definitely," Star commented, turning her attention to Gecko, "you wouldn't want to be a sweetheart and do us a favor, would you, David?"
"Anything for you, ladies," he smiled.
"Unless everything's been stolen, all of the Tower's cleaning supplies are in the basement near the garage area where Cyborg's car is. The room should be locked shut, go ahead and break the lock and bring that stuff up, would you?"
"You got it, no problem," David nodded, jogging towards the stairs leisurely. Starfire watched him make his way there, fixated on him.
"If I wasn't married to Richard…" she commented slyly, gaining Raven's attention.
"Starfire," Raven said almost accusingly.
"What? You can't sit there and tell me he isn't quite the man. Handsome, a sculpted body, those deep eyes…how long have you known him?"
"I already told you, about 3 years, give or take a few months," Raven commented, realizing what she was getting at, "no, not like that either."
"Come on, Raven…don't lie to me." Star replied in a sing-song voice. "I can keep a secret. Besides, I think we are all past the teenage drama, aren't we?"
Raven paused with a sigh, attempting to avoid the conversation.
"I did date him for awhile, Star, but it was mutual that we stay friends, nothing more, nothing less."
"How serious were you guys?" Star pushed, curious to Raven's love life.
"Do we really need to talk about this, Star?"
Star simply looked at her, waiting for an answer.
"Alright, fine," she sighed, seeing she couldn't avoid it any longer, "since you won't drop it, I'll go along with it. Like I said, I knew him for about 3 years, but dated him for maybe two of it. We've been strictly close friends for about 8 months now. He's still fascinated with me though."
"So you're friends and nothing more…not even friends with benefits?"
"Starfire!" Raven said, embarrassed, "of course not. You and I both know that I'm not that type of person. The thought has crossed my mind, but I have morals."
"You didn't do anything with him the entire time you two were together, even though he is absolutely handsome and deserving of your companionship?"
"…second base, there, I said it," Raven commented, hoping to end the conversation over this, uncomfortable, as well as surprised how open Starfire was about the subject. "No, I haven't been with anyone else since, yes, I am still a virgin, and yes, I do plan on dating more. Any more questions or can we drop this?"
"I think that covers the main ones," Star laughed, seeing Raven smirk embarrassingly, "it's nice that you finally met someone that made you happy. You two may not be intimate anymore, but you are close nonetheless. One more question, I promise."
"Make it a good one, because it's the last one I'm answering on my love life, Star."
"You said you were going to date again…by that you mean Garfield?"
"Don't do this to me, Star," Raven pleaded.
"You said once more question, it's a question, is it not?"
Raven thought for a moment. It indeed had been her intentions all along…now…now she wasn't so sure. Star had a point about David, he was the type that nearly any woman could swoon over. A tough call definitely.
"It's too early to tell," She admitted, though it sounded bad, "I mean, we've all changed…I don't know if we still have anything between us. I know he's hurt over Terra and all, but I don't want to out of sympathy…do you understand what I'm getting at? I hate the way it sounds because it sounds terrible."
"I completely understand Raven," Starfire assured, "he may not look at you or have the same feelings anymore, or even vice versa. Just give it time, maybe even start from square one again and get to know one another again if necessary. Who knows? It could be exciting."
"I'm anxious with anticipation," Raven deadpanned, not thrilled at the idea, but saw the practicality of it. "I'll try, I got to see if he's even remotely interested in me anymore. Like I said…people change."
"After the break up with Terra…a good hunch says he will." Star smiled contently, "if you need any advice…I'm here for you."
"To think I would instantly disregard that statement back when I last knew you," Raven laughed, "I guess you're going to be the big sister or something now to me?"
"The Titans aren't family for nothing, Raven," she answered, wrapping her arms around Raven to give her a gentle hug. "I got to watch out for my baby sister after all, don't I?"
"Starfire…I'm older than you by almost a year, well, an Earth year anyway," Raven pointed out, both of them getting a kick out of it.
"Either way, Rae," Star continued, "I'll look out for you. If you do decide to rekindle whatever you had with Gar, let me know, maybe I can bring Richard along and we can double date."
"One thing at a time, Star," Raven stated, "we only have to rebuild and renovate the Tower, as well as get you guys back into a superhero mindset."
Gecko topped the stairs, coming into view from the stairwell, his arms completely laden with various cleaning supplies and instruments to do so. It was a feat in itself at how he was able to carry it all at once.
"I heard you ladies laughing on the way up," Gecko commented as he placed everything on the counter, sorting the various cleaning supplies out, "what were you talking about?"
"Oh, nothing, David," they both replied in unison, almost in the same sing-song tone, riling up another round of laughter from them.
Though scratching his head at the spectacle, he could do nothing more than stand there and simply smile at the fact Raven was laughing, something she rarely did even when they were by themselves…she was surrounded by friends who loved her and was happy again. Though he knew them to all be close, Gecko finally saw firsthand at how much they considered one another family.
Mere moments later, Raven and Star had armed themselves with a pair of cleaning gloves and prepared to get to work.
"Hold on a minute, girls," David spoke, stopping them, "let me get all the trash and stuff taken care of first."
"David, that's a nice gesture and all," Star spoke, "but there's tons of it everywhere, we will get everything taken care of quicker if we work together."
"You need not lay a finger, Starfire," he assured, giving Raven a sly look.
"He's too nice for his own good."
"You don't need to tell me twice, Star, I've lived with him for the past few years…I know," she said jokingly, "it's a lot easier to just let him do whatever it is that he wants to do."
"I don't suppose he some of your stubbornness has rubbed off of you onto him, has it?" Starfire questioned, getting a blank stare from Raven, "I'm only kidding, Raven."
"If by being stubborn, you mean I have leverage over him, then yes." She pointed out. "I don't know why he subjugates himself to me like he does, we are nothing more than close friends now, yet, he still waits on me hand and foot and heeds my beck and call, no matter what. Not that I'm complaining, it's just…intriguing."
"If it is one thing that I've learned while I've been living on Earth amongst humans, Raven, it's this," Starfire explained with a smirk, "once you get men wrapped around your finger, they stay there. Richard does the same for me now. You thought he was painfully obvious before at showing his feelings towards me, you haven't seen anything yet."
"Star…I wasn't really around all that much when you two got together," Raven painfully pointed out, remembering a time long ago she wished would just remain buried in the past and leave her be. "If it's anything like what David was doing for me, even still does, it should be quite the spectacle."
Starfire simply nodded in agreement, knowing that with everything that has happened, bringing up the past and its accompanying negative memories was the last thing she wanted to do. Now was a time of rejoice, their friends and team of Titans were whole once more. Tainting this second blessing was not in store for either of them.
"Are you sure it's fine to let David handle all of this?" Starfire questioned peculiarly, standing once more from her seated position beside Rae on the counter.
"Like I said, he wants to do something his way, he's going to do it without question, I've given up on steering him otherwise…why?"
"...why don't you and I go out for lunch and really catch up, and spend some quality time with my best friend and family?" She suggested, holding up a credit card she procured out of her purse, "…maybe even a little shopping, Richard's treat?"
"I don't know, Star, it's not right to leave him here to do all the work."
"To do what?" David questioned, nearly startling the both of them.
"Star was asking me if I wanted to go out for lunch and whatnot, I don't want to leave you here to do everything," Raven explained, "it's not right."
"Go ahead, I don't have a problem with it, Rae," Gecko assured with a nod, "you haven't seen your friends in what…5 years? Go have a little fun, we both know it's been some time since you have. I can keep myself pre-occupied with this mess, besides; I'm doing my part by helping out…that's what I'm here for."
"Thank you, David, I assure you I'll make it up to you somehow."
"She'll make it worth your while," Starfire chimed in with a devious smile, getting Raven to blush with embarrassment. It was clear she wanted to leave as soon as possible before Starfire could open her mouth again and make her uncomfortable once more.
"Umm…heh…you two have fun now," David attempted to remain composed once he finally understood what Starfire was getting at. Though in a joking fashion, it still managed to get to him in its own little ways.
He stood there, watching as the girls proceeded towards the stairwell, talking amongst themselves. Gecko then turned, looking over the mess before him in dire need of cleaning.
"Well, well, well," he spoke to the "opposition" that stood in his way. "It's just you and me now. There's only one way to get rid you, and I happen to have the solution."
A short car ride later brought Star and Raven to a nice restaurant tucked away in the skyscrapers of downtown, a little more expensive than what Raven was used to, but food none the less.
"I still feel bad for letting him do what all of us were supposed to do, Star," Raven commented as she looked out the window with a sigh.
"You heard him," Star reasoned with a smile, "he said for us to have fun, that is what we are doing…having fun."
"I guess," she answered, turning her attention back to Star, "…sorry if I don't seem to talkative, I'm still trying to get over the overwhelming feelings that are going on at the moment, I mean, so much has happened since I last saw any of you…a lot has happened to me…it's just so much."
"It's okay, Raven, I understand, we are all experiencing the same thing to a degree. Maybe not as much as you are, but it is still there nevertheless. Let's make way for the future now though and forget the terrible things that have happened to all of us, it is time to turn over a new leaf after all."
"I suppose you're right," Raven agreed, thumbing through the menu, astonished at the astronomical prices of some of the entrees she read. "Since this is "us" time and time for us to bond once more, Richard said something about you being a model, how long have you been doing that?"
"Not long after we wed," she answered, "Richard always said I should be one, but I didn't know if I was pretty enough. I'm no different than many of the women of Earth."
"More often than not, Star," Raven informed, "most women have to force themselves to look the way they do, strenuous diets, plastic surgery, you name it, they'll do it. You have more natural beauty than anything."
"I've never looked at it that way before, but it makes sense. You're just as beautiful as I am, Raven, you ever thought of doing something similar?"
"Oh please," Raven countered, caught off-guard by the remark, "modeling isn't exactly my thing, besides, my scars kinda prevent me from even thinking about it. I'm not even close to you in beauty, Star."
"Oh, don't talk like that," Starfire commented, "you would have to be to have two different men after your heart, both of which, well, one formerly and a current one are quite the keepers if you ask me. I am willing to admit that Gar was stunning in his unique ways when he was in his prime."
"I'm willing to agree with you there as well," Raven added, surprised that Star actually laid eyes on Gar in that fashion. "I've had passing fads with Richard and even Cyborg, just childish crushes though."
"We've all been there before, it's nothing to hide, I assure you. All that matters is that I found the man I truly love and I know that he feels the same way about me. We've been married for going on 3 years."
"You guys thinking about starting a family?"
"I've ran it by him once or twice, but he seems to avoid it all costs for some reason. Granted, having children is a big step forward, but I feel that we are ready."
"Since we are reforming the Titans, is that going to cause a problem with your plans, Star? That's the last thing I want to do." Raven explained, not realizing that Star and Richard had such plans.
"As I said before and will say again, I am willing to put my plans on hold for you and the others, Raven. We are still young and lively; a little while longer should not make any difference. It will also possibly give Richard some more time to think if he is ready or not to take that step forward."
"It makes sense, but both of you will be great parents, I know you will," Raven gave an encouraging word.
"What about you, Raven? You ever thought about children?"
"To be quite honest…I haven't," Raven answered, "I wasn't even all that interested in relationships period up until right before I left the team and…well, you know what happened. That said, I don't know if I would be a good mother if that day was to ever come."
"You have always put others before you; you're sound and logical in thought." Starfire stated in a positive tone, "and protecting the ones you care about is high on your priority list…those are all excellent parenting qualities from what I understand, Raven."
"Like a lot of things," she admitted, "it all sounds good and well up until one actually takes part in it. I'm not saying I won't ever have children…I've just never thought I would with anyone."
"When the time comes…you will know," Star smiled, resting a sisterly hand upon Raven's. "I'm curious about something." She added.
"Ask away, Star, I'm more than happy to answer anything you've got for me."
"What's your secrets?"
"Beg your pardon?" Raven asked, confused.
"Your secrets, what do you do to stay in such amazing shape?" she explained.
"Oh, that…" Raven understood, "we've been over this already, Star, comparing you to me, you're a goddess."
"We just had a talk about this, Raven, don't be so hard on yourself, now come one, I'm dying to know."
"Well…if you insist," she added with a sigh, "it's a combination of thing, really. From what I told you guys already, you know that I wasn't just traveling, but surviving. I did stock up on supplies before I went anywhere, but they would eventually run out, so I was forced to live off the land. Up until I made it to Tokyo before coming here, I hadn't had a decent meal in a long time, but I managed. I was far from malnourished, but things could have been better."
"What kind of exercises do you do then?"
"I guess they are considered exercising, but I picked up martial arts to actually be an effective member of the Titans again since I no longer can conjure or control my powers…think of it as me being similar to Richard now. In addition to practicing my arts, I do a lot of cardio and stamina building to strengthen my body as well."
"That's all you do and you look like you do?" Star asked, astonished with a hint of feeling Raven wasn't going into details.
"I can't give you all my secrets, Star," she joked with a slight laugh, "trust me, you'll get to see exactly what I do when we get thing rolling with the team again, alright?"
"We'll see," Starfire said in a playful manner, "I don't know about you, but I'm hungry."
"That I can agree with you on," Raven smirked, "let's make it quick though, I want to get back to the Tower as soon as possible, I still feel a little guilty about letting David do everything."
Meanwhile the girls caught up, as well as shared insight into the others' lives, the Tower was bustling with activity, the most it had seen in years. Cyborg and Gar, a little too old to be called "boy" at this point, were scouring the basement of Titans' Tower to see what needed replaced. The core and location of most of the systems implemented in the Tower's construction existed in the basement and lower levels underground. Needless to say, things weren't looking too good in the financial department of things.
"Looks like this doohickey needs replaced, Cy," Gar spoke, picking up the remnants of a large machine that had been stripped down and vandalized for money. "I don't know what it is."
"Of course you don't, your little pea brain couldn't handle the large words," Cyborg joked, jotting it down on his list, "I'm already getting a sick feeling in my stomach at the amount of money that this is all going to cost to get this place up and running again. It's like I'm pretty much rebuilding it from the ground up once more.
"Richard's handling that at the moment, using his and Mr. Wayne's leverage in business to "acquire" funds from the city to help out with some of the costs. Between him and quite possibly one of the richest men in America…I think it can be done."
"Why doesn't he just ask Wayne? He's his boss, isn't he? Last I remember, those two are close friends or at least knew one another. If he was generous to give Richard a job at Wayne Enterprises here in Jump City, then why not?"
Gar snatched the paper of tallied costs thus far from Cyborg.
"You really think that he'd go to him and ask him for…" he paused, looking at the paper, his eyes growing wide, "…6…million…dollars?"
"That's not even all of it, sadly," Cyborg commented, retrieving the paper once more from Gar. "It's most of the important stuff though."
"You suggested that Richard should make a trip to Gotham City all the way across the United States to ask Bruce Wayne, THE Bruce Wayne for 6 million dollars? Man, Cy…I thought you were supposed to be the smart one out of all of us."
"I'll show you how smart I am, you little…" he threatened, but stopped himself, knowing that there would be time to get his cohort back after business had been settled.
"I'm just jerking your chain, man," Gar assured, patting Cy on the shoulder, "we'll figure something out, who knows, Richard may come through for us in the end."
"What about you? Didn't you get money from your parents or something?"
"Trust me, if I had any of it left, I would," Gar explained, almost ashamed, "I spent a good bit of it on that tribute to Raven…which all seems naught now, but it is beside point. I donated quite a bit of it, and used the rest to get me that apartment downtown where I've been for the past few years. I've got about 200 to my name, Cy, I bet that will buy a really expensive bolt for one of those multi-million machines you need."
Knowing he was just joking, he didn't need to question him about it in any regard, but his attention was caught as he stepped forward, only to hear the crunching of broken glass beneath his feet.
"What the hell?" Cyborg said to himself, his flashlight looking at his feet, the reflections of hundreds of broken glass particles shimmering back. Using his flashlight, it followed the broken glass to its source…but it abruptly stopped at the side of a tarp, the very same that covered the T-Car. Rushing to the side of the concealed car where the glass was the most condensed in grouping, he lifted the tarp, finding what he wished he had not. The rear passenger's side window had been busted out.
"Why would someone do this to my baby?" He asked to no one in particular, turning his head to see the girls pulling up in Star's car from the tunnel entrance they had opened only that morning. Cyborg's focus was soon shifted from his car to the fact that they had been elsewhere instead of helping out with the Tower.
"Where have you two been? You're supposed to be up stairs cleaning stuff up."
"Just calm down, Cy, everything's in good hands," Raven assured as they exited the vehicle, bags in hand, "Star wanted to take me out for lunch and do a little shopping, how could I refuse?"
"Raven could most definitely use a few additions to her wardrobe, many of her articles of clothing are well worn." Starfire attempted to justify.
"When there's work to be done," he pointed out, "this is all your idea, Raven, I'd expect you to help out with things, we can't do it all."
"Come on, I'll show you that we did exactly what you asked us to do and it is indeed done," Raven stated, motioning for Cyborg and Gar to follow them.
"So you two managed to clean the entire Tower from top to bottom, get rid of all the garbage, broken glass, and everything else, making it ready for me to start replacing things like windows and whatnot?"
"Yes, yes, and…yes," Raven assured with confidence.
"In a single afternoon? I think not," Gar protested, "Even for you two, considering the fact that neither of you have been here."
"If the two of you would like to see for yourselves, just follow me."
Not to be shown up and proved otherwise, Cy and Gar followed Starfire and Raven up the staircase that had seen more use in the past few days than it had in its entire existence because the elevator wasn't operational yet.
Not a single doubt in her mind, Raven led them to the entrance hall to Titans Tower, one of the worst-stricken areas that seen the most vandalism and damage over time. Without a pause, she motioned for them to open the door from the stairwell that led into the hall. The two of them did so, enveloped in silence.
"Well, what do you think?" Raven asked, smiling at Star.
"Wow…," was all that both of them could manage at the sight. Even though the windows and furniture were missing, as well as the carpet being all but intact, it was…pristine. Everything had been cleaned, as well a fresh coating of paint on the walls to rid themselves of the plague of graffiti, the aroma still drifting in the air.
"About as good as it is going to get before the rest of the repairs are made, right?" Raven commented, snapping them out of their trance-like state in awe from the sight.
"Let's see the
rest of the Tower then," Gar challenged, "I'll admit, it looks
nice in here, real nice. Your job isn't over with until the rest
of the Tower looks like this, remember that."
"I assure you it is, but since you have doubts, let's continue the tour, shall we?" Raven motioned in a playful manner.
"How did you know that he would be able to accomplish everything while we were gone, Raven?" Starfire questioned, even perplexed at what they saw.
"I said to have faith, didn't I?"
"You made your friend David do this, didn't you? Raven, I'd expect something like that out of Gar in trying to swindle somebody into doing their work for them." Cyborg commented, getting a glare from the green changeling.
"He actually offered," Starfire pointed out, "we would have never left if he hadn't offered to do it for us. He insisted in most definitely."
"I told you how he is, guys, I wasn't kidding when I said he'd go the extra mile when it came to helping us out," Raven stated with a slight shrug, "I am surprised he is showing this much compassion for the Titans when he isn't officially part of them, well, yet I hope anyway."
"Well, I'm sure Richard will be more than willing to add him to the roster and put him somewhere, even here maybe. God knows we need the help."
"Yeah, especially after what those H.I.V.E. kids were doing to our guys," Gar regretfully mentioned.
"H.I.V.E. kids? I thought Nightwing pretty much put them down for good after he killed Brother Blood?" Raven stated, remembering the information she garnered on her travels.
"So did we, but maybe they weren't truly for the H.I.V.E., but rouges. All I know is these kids were Blood's top students, and he sent them on assassination missions…to kill Titans. The Titans lost a lot of good heroes because of them. Panthra, Kole and Gnarrk, I don't know who else they got after we disbanded, but they almost got Red Star, but he held his own to survive thankfully."
"So where are they now then?" Raven questioned seriously, "they need to be brought to justice and pay for their crimes against the Titan order."
"No one knows, it's like the disappeared into thin air and dropped off the face of the earth," Cyborg continued, "but if they are still as fanatical as they have been in the past…we might see them real soon again when they catch wind of us being back."
"Let them come, we'll put them in their place," Raven challenged, "in the meantime, let's focus on the matters at hand…I think we've all got enough on our minds already to dredge up the past like this."
"Can't be anymore right there," Gar added to the conversation, "it would help if home was actually home again and didn't have such a terrible draft, then we can focus on bringing the bad guys down again."
"All we're waiting on is for Cyborg to start buying all the new electronics and fixing stuff," Raven stated, glancing over at him as they topped the stairs.
"As soon as Richard gets us funding for us to play hero again, then I'm on it," Cyborg assured, "so let's see the rest of the Tower and if you girls are off the hook."
"Be my guest, you won't be disappointed."
Raven led the group through the door to the central room of the Tower. Though chilly from the constant winds through the broken windows, the room was void of trash and debris, and not a single speck of dust was in sight.
"Wow, he even shoveled all of the snow out of the room, too," Cyborg commented in disbelief, looking all around the room as he entered it, "…where is he?"
"Who else? He's not in here, I'd like to thank him for doing all of this and saving us a lot of trouble," Cyborg commented.
It didn't take long to find David…seeing how he was passed out on the couch, snoring away as he slept. Clearly exhausted from working at such a furious pace to get the Tower clean from top to bottom…he deserved it.
"See, I told you he was good for it," Raven stated, playfully acting as if she deserved an apology, "anything to say, Cyborg?"
"Sorry for doubting you or him, happy?" He smirked, "As soon as Richard comes back…with good news I hope, I can get started."
"You know when he's going to be back?" Star questioned of Cyborg, "I know we all went off to do our own thing earlier this morning, but have any of you heard from him?"
"You're his wife, Star," Gar commented, "I figured you'd keep tabs on your man after all."
"No need to," Richard's voice startled all of them, turning in surprise to find him approaching them, a newspaper in hand.
"So…how did it go with the mayor?" Cyborg questioned, everyone waiting in anticipation for the answer.
"…I got us funding," he replied with a devious grin, acting as if things hadn't gone as planned.
The feelings were unanimous within the central room of the Tower as they were overjoyed to have a second chance to do good in Jump City once more, enough to wake Gecko up in a startle and fall off of the couch.
"Who…w-what's going on?" He asked with a yawn, stretching as he stood up.
"It's going to actually happen…we're actually going to be the Titans again, I can't believe it," Cyborg answered with a grin, turning his attention back to Richard. "So was it a quick and over with thing or what?"
"It took some persuading, I'll admit that," Richard stated, "but after a lengthy and logical proposal, he was all for it. Him and everyone else in the city, giving us a second chance to do what we were meant to do."
"What's the newspaper for?" Gar pondered, poking at it in his hand.
"Oh, nothing," he feigned, holding it up for everyone to see, "…just a little necessary publicity to get the ball rolling again and give this city the morale it needs to have hope again."
Everyone, including Gecko, gathered around Richard as he held the Jump City Chronicle up for everyone to see. The cover story in large print was as easy as the day to read, a picture of the bust on Rancid and his gang they had made last night, standing confidently as heroes once more over the spoils of victory to show that not all was lost in Jump City. The headline was enough to instill hope in one once more:
"Resurrection of Titans Miracle for City"
"Well, guys," Richard stated confidently, "I do believe that we have a city out there to protect. They're expecting us soon, real soon. I think we better get to work to prove to them we are the real deal again."
The phrase "actions, not words" applied all too well here as the Titans were ready to take the reigns as Jump City's protectors once more…after they had a base of operations again.