Chapter One: Airline Food
I have read romance novels. It was inevitable for a book addict like myself, but no matter how many times you look at it, Raven Roth of the Teen Titans never seems like the type to enjoy such things. Well, surprise, I do. That is to say, I enjoy romance novels occasionally. You see the keyword in that? This indicates that I like to read romance novels when they're good. It's not that hard to mess up a love story, and people tend to do it a lot.
How are most love stories destroyed? I think it's a lack of correspondence to reality. Yeah, I know, this coming from an adolescent superhero, but just bear with me. It all just seems to be romance for the sake of romance. It's almost as if the whole story is completely improvised and looking for excuses for intercourse every three seconds.
But enough of my ranting. There is a point to bringing this up, believe it or not. Another factor in rejected romances that actually applies to this story is the lack of intimate interaction between the main characters in question. What I mean by that is not that the characters are compatible. No, I mean that their love for each other sort of shoots off a bit too quickly. It's like that "love at first sight" cliché. Apparently these writers don't seem to grasp the idea that such feelings take time. Those who do grasp it ruin the idea by filling the character with self torment and confusion that just has to be told in tediously long paragraphs and descriptions.
I hope I haven't bored you to sleep by now. If you are still awake, then kudos, you get a cookie.
Now, onward to the actual story. It starts the day after our week of sightseeing and endless nights of karaoke in Tokyo. We were flying first class back to Jump City with our cargo filled to the brim with gifts and souvenirs. Why weren't we flying in the T-ship? It turns out that the T-ship was damaged in the midst of our battle, much to Cyborg's misery. However, a mechanics shop in town volunteered to repair it for free and fly it in back to the US when it was done. Cyborg, of course, protested to someone else using his "baby" without his supervision. But his choices ended up with either being left behind in Japan or flying a free trip back home first class.
Needless to say, no one was missing from our group on the way back.
Much to our good fortune, the Titans ended up being the only people flying first class on that flight. We made the best of these luxuries and advantages. You know, ordering the lobster and stuff like that. Beast Boy couldn't stay still he was so excited. As soon as we had been permitted to leave our seats, he was bouncing off the walls like a big, green rubber band ball. I took a seat in the back to read a book or two without any disturbances (or so I hoped) while the rest of the team occupied the front as they watched a movie. What it was, none of us knew. But it was free; all the qualifications were automatically filled.
We were halfway over the Pacific Ocean when an unshelled peanut hit my head and fell into the pages of my book. I looked up at the seat in front of me and frowned at Beast Boy.
"What?" I growled.
"Aren't you going to join us for the rest of the movie?" he pouted.
"I don't plan on it," I said, looking back down.
"Jeez, Rae! Loosen up a little!"
I ignored him and he eventually sighed and sat back down with the rest of them. I took a small second to look up at the four. Cyborg was on the edge of his seat while Beast Boy wasn't even on his. Robin and Starfire sat in the middle, Robin's arm wrapped around Starfire's shoulders. Noticing the gesture, my eyes immediately found the pages again.
How predictable, right? Just be thankful that I'm not going into some dissertation-long explanation about how and why. We'll save that for later because at this point in my life, even I didn't know what was going on. What I did know at the time was that when I saw stuff like that it irritated me. Public displays of affection have never been my favourite thing in the world, so I put two and two together.
The TV screen buzzed into feedback. A few seconds later, one of the flight attendants looked at us from the cockpit.
"Pardon me, Titans," she said, "but we have received a transmission for you. Would you like to accept the call?"
"Who is it?" asked Robin.
"It is Bumblebee of the Titans East," she replied. "She says it's important."
I put down my book and floated forward to Cyborg's side, who looked saddened by the sudden interruption.
"We accept the transmission," Robin said. The attendant nodded and Bumblebee took her place after a second of more feedback.
"Hey, Titans," she said with a smile, though her eyes were sharp. "You guys on your way back?"
"We are," said Robin. "What seems to be the problem?"
"It looks like you were gone one day too long." She gave up on her grin and wrinkled her nose. "We've been watching the news, and it seems that there have been some sightings of an old friend of yours around Jump."
We all immediately fell silent. News like this was sort of predictable, but we couldn't predict when we'd see our masked enemy again. We all knew that he had disappeared, but I guess the thought of him coming back had been pushed to the back of our minds. The Brotherhood of Evil and Brushogun were just distractions from the worst villain of all. Why was he so dangerous? I think it's because we never knew what he was going to do next. Every time we thought he was gone for good, he stepped out of the darkness once again. Every time he did, he was guaranteed to be more powerful and knowledgeable than before. Slade was a disease, one that seemed more and more incurable the worse that it got.
"What has he done?" Robin asked, now standing up.
"That's just the thing," Bumblebee replied. "All the crimes in Jump City that have been committed since you were gone have been taken care of by your replacements Kid Flash, Jinx, Red Star, and Hot Spot. We talked to them and they said that none of the villains battled were Slade."
"He must still be planning from the shadows then." Robin began to pace with his eyes facing the floor. "Have you got any leads on his location?"
"Negative. The substitute team has searched the town a hundred times over and still don't have a clue where he could be."
Robin's brows furrowed as he stopped pacing. Bumblebee saw his frustration and quickly continued talking.
"Look, just relax, okay? I don't want you guys to get too busy on your first day back." She forced a smile and waved goodbye. "Talk to you later!"
Before Robin's open mouth could protest, the TV screen buzzed back to the movie they were watching before. However, this time, no one was watching the movie; all eyes were on Robin.
There was a tense and closed barrier surrounding his aura. We all knew that his mind was now abuzz and his aggravation mounting. You'd think he hadn't learned anything from our experience in Tokyo. The truth is we all knew this was just as certain as Slade's reappearance. We just didn't know how we were going to alleviate his obsessions. A few more thick moments of silence ticked past.
"Hey, Robin," Cyborg began, but his voice trailed away.
"How long till we get home?" Robin asked to no one in particular.
Everyone else's spirits were dampened a little.
I spoke up. "We should be there by tomorrow afternoon."
"Good," he said. "We can't afford to waste any more time. Slade's out there and we still don't know what he's up to."
"Dude," Beast Boy started, "don't you think –"
"He doesn't seem to have made any moves yet. Still, we can't take any risks. We have to take him out before he tries any –"
Starfire took Robin's hand. He stopped talking and looked down at her.
"I think Bumblebee is right," she said softly, almost scared even. "We should relax."
They were brief statements, but the look she gave him told enough. His expression loosened and he sat back down, showing her a small smile.
"Okay," he said. "I'm sorry."
He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. She returned his grin and settled back down to watch the movie. Beast Boy and Cyborg sighed in relief and returned their attention to the TV screen. Even I was comforted by these small movements of a quick recovery from what could have been a nasty argument.
Suddenly, though, my heart sank as I saw Robin flash a frown that eluded all but me. I knew it was too good to be true. It would take a lot more than that to get his mind off of Slade.
Nonetheless, everyone else was ignorantly content. I would just have to help prevent any future difficulties that may force rifts between him and his team.
I felt a small impact against my head. A peanut landed at my feet and my eyes found Cyborg and Beast Boy hanging over the backs of their seats with bags of peanuts in their hands. Beast Boy pointed to Cyborg who now looked terrified under the wrath of my magnifying glass of fire and fury. Feeling a bit good-natured for some reason, I threw them a playful grin that possibly spelled out even more trouble than before. The bags of peanuts that I had been given earlier were still lying idle on my seat. Idle kernels are the work of the devil after all. They levitated in a black cloud into my hand and opened themselves, spilling all the peanuts into my aura of power.
"We surrender!" Beast Boy suddenly squeaked.
Too late. My seeds of catastrophe had been launched at them like bullets. The two mischief-makers were pelted to the ground and I sat back down in a much better mood.
Probably not the cherry on top of my vacation, but it was pretty darn close.