I've been away from fan-fiction for too long. It's good to be back and writing. This is an idea that I've been kicking around a lot; it's evolved so much from its original plot. I hope you guys read and enjoy. If you read and enjoy, please tell me. Praise and encouragement are never wasted on me. If you read and don't enjoy, TELL ME exactly what is wrong. I'm serious: I like my fiction to be the best it can be.

I'll try to keep updates coming regularly, but I'm afraid I can't promise a weekly update like I have in the past - hi, old readers! Enjoy : -)

PS. A small note. This story is rated T right now. There is a distinct possibility that the rating will go up. Young people, you have been warned.

Disclaimer:

Balkoth hereby affirms, by affixation of typed penname at the close of this statement, that Balkoth does not own the Teen Titans. The characters portrayed in this work are the rightful and legal property of Cartoon Network and DC Comics. Balkoth has never - nor will Balkoth ever - asserted that these characters belong to any person(s) other than those previously mentioned. Any legal action against Balkoth for the production of this work is unwarranted; no profit is being made.

Characters and events portrayed in this work are fictional. Any resemblance to real people or events is unintentional. This work, while stemming from a pre-existing world created by others, is very much an original work of Balkoth's. Balkoth urges others to enjoy, comment, and assist in anyway that seems prudent. Replication of this work will be viewed in a most unfavorable light.

Balkoth


"Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us." - Voltaire (1694-1778)

Darkness Calls: Chapter 1

Stone crunched under Raven's feet as she walked through the ruined city block. The old fire station had collapsed on itself; a ragged fire truck stuck out of the demolished structure in pursuit of one last fire. The streets were fractured and ground to concrete dust. Shards of glass stood erect in the rubble, glittering diamonds in the morning light. The old town library didn't exist anymore. All that remained of the building was a humongous crater. Only forty-nine hours earlier a magical explosion in that exact spot had ripped a hole in the dimensional fabric.

"Miss, I really don't think my supervisor would approve of this. This area could still be unstable," Jason said.

"I'm not going to tell her," Raven replied in her usual monotone. The undercurrent of anxiety the young empath sensed in the veteran firefighter doubled. The only reason Raven had been allowed past the police tape and the barricades was because Jason owed her a favor. He'd offered her anything she needed at any time. That had been three years ago. And today, before the area was contaminated, Raven wanted to see where the end began.

She'd left behind something dear to her when she became the portal, and she wanted it back.

Jason licked his lips but said nothing, standing aside and giving Raven unfettered access to the gaping maw in the earth. She closed her eyes and waited. The air pulsed with fear and love, each possessing a heartbeat of its own. The tangible feel of the emotions as they thrummed in the air and bombarded her mind left Raven feeling weak-kneed and powerless.

The empath crossed her legs and drifted into the air. The blue cloak she wore hung down to caress the crumbled stone, and Raven reached out with her perceptions, embracing everything the location had to offer and drawing it into herself, sifting the emotions one by one, searching for one particular cluster. Fear went first, and even after Raven filtered the feeling, it left a bitter after-taste in her mouth that a small, horrifying part of her enjoyed. She shuddered.

Confidence, anger, desperation, anxiety. She peeled the layers of emotion away to zero-in on one cluster of emotions – one powerful cluster that she treasured. Raven treasured the cluster because it was meant just for her, and she knew she had no right to it.

Love.

Faith.

Trust.

The emotions consumed Raven's senses, but the source was small, so small it could fit once collected and condensed into… a penny.

Raven opened her eyes and lowered herself to the ground. The concrete rattled when her weight shifted on it. The penny had been destroyed in the blast that released the demon Trigon into the world, but remnants of the metal remained, spread far and wide, its atomic structure violated and discarded. Raven sighed.

"Azarath Metrion Zinthos," she chanted. White light sparked behind her closed eyelids, spreading outward until magical energy poured from her eyes. Black energy sprung to life around Raven's hands, covering her delicate fingers in a glove of ebony magic. The chill of her powers contrasted sharply with the summer air.

"What are you doing?" Jason asked, appearing beside Raven in an instant. "I could lose my job for letting you in here. You can't interfere with anything."

Raven ignored Jason and waved both hands through the air before her. Stone rumbled in the distance and pieces of debris shot into the air of their own volition, each levitating piece of glass, rock, concrete, or metal splattered with the remains of a very valuable coin. Jason sputtered next to Raven as she clenched her hands together. The debris shattered and showered down to the earth, but black orbs of energy continued to hover in the air, devoid of substantive matter.

"There," Raven said, waving her hand and drawing the black orbs together to rest in her palm. "No one will ever know the difference." The empath turned to Jason and smiled. "Thanks. Consider us even."

Without another word, Raven vanished into the folds of her cloak, melting into the earth and leaving Jason standing in the middle of what once was the portal to Hell. The fireman shook his head and headed back to the police barriers. This place felt wrong to him.

ooooo

Raven reappeared in her room. The blinds were open, giving the young sorceress a magnificent view of Jump City. The bay stretched out before her eyes, clear and blue, before the city sprung to life, full of cars, people, and boundless energy. Raven's room was a different story.

Thick blue carpet lined the floor; black candles and incense were arrayed on various surfaces; oak shelves stuffed with all imaginable types of books lined the walls; and ornate figurines – a cat-like creature with a pronged tail, a raven with four blood red eyes – were sprinkled over the desk and bedside table.

Raven sat down on the carpet and crossed her legs, smiling as the fabric brushed against her pale skin. She lifted the orb of energy she'd collected to her eye level and let it hover. The black ball pulsed quietly as its creator surveyed it. Raven frowned in concentration, closed her eyes, and began to chant.

She didn't know how much time passed. The effort of containing the orb while simultaneously manipulating individual atoms back into place was taxing, and Raven found herself drenched in sweat. There was no room for error in this reconstruction; Raven needed this small piece of metal back exactly as it had been given to her.

The profile of Abraham Lincoln needed to be clear and shiny.

The Lincoln Memorial had to be restored exactly as it had been.

Raven needed to be able to trace her finger along the words "E Pluribus Unum," "Liberty," and "In God We Trust."

It had been a lucky 1997 penny, Beast Boy's lucky penny, and Raven needed it back as if a part of her had died with its loss.

When Raven opened her eyes her throat was dry and scratchy, her voice beginning to fail, and her uniform was stuck to her. Her skin was clammy and a headache pounded against the walls of her skull, but a shiny penny was floating in the air before her. The sight of it winded Raven. She'd wanted it back so desperately, but the logical part of her mind had never expected to see the coin again. A lone tear slipped down the girl's cheek and she brushed it away, attributing the emotional expression to exhaustion.

A loud rapping at her door startled Raven out of her nostalgic trance. She snatched the penny from the air and slipped it into the pocket at her hip before crossing her room to the door. The barrier slid open at Raven's touch, and the demoness stepped into the hallway.

Robin stood in the middle of the hall expectantly. There was something almost shy about Raven's teammate and leader, and the empath didn't miss the unusual emotional vibrations the young acrobat was producing. Robin was never this nervous.

"Raven," he started. "I was drawing up some of the official reports about… about the past few hours, and I was wondering if there was anything you wanted to add before I submitted it to the police."

Raven arched an eyebrow at her leader and tried in vain to see his eyes through the black and white mask that was always fixed over his face. Robin did everything by the book – every incident got reported to the city and the police – but every now and then, the Boy Wonder would make exceptions and allow his teammates, his friends, to fudge the facts that would incriminate them.

"I might have a few things to add," Raven said. Robin nodded curtly and started down the hall. Raven fell into step beside him.

"Are you alright, Raven?" Robin asked after an awkward silence. "Nobody's seen you all morning and with what happened…"

"You've seen me. Do I look okay?" Raven said. Robin fell silent and turned to face her. She could feel his gaze on her, penetrating her skin and gazing deeper, searching for a concealed wound. Robin was good at spotting the things people most wanted to hide, and the intensity of his gaze always made Raven feel uncomfortable. She fought the urge to squirm.

He shook his head and started walking again. That was the closest Robin got to prying: he would always let Raven know when she'd been found out, but it was her choice to talk to him about what was bothering her.

The living room door swung open as Robin and Raven approached, and Raven blanched. The computer file she'd expected to see on the main terminal was not present (the computer wasn't even on) but there was a plastic mat spread out on the floor. Starfire, Beast Boy, and Cyborg were all standing around the sheet of plastic patiently. Red, blue, green, and yellow circles were arranged in rows on the plastic.

"Absolutely not," Raven said. She rounded on Robin. "How exactly did you see this going, Robin?"

"I've got an answer to that," Cyborg grinned from behind her. Raven narrowed her eyes and turned to her cybernetic friend. He smiled cheekily and flicked a spinner lying next to the Twister mat. "You'll put your left foot on blue."

"No."

"Come on, Rae," Beast Boy whined, pulling on the tips of his green ears. "You've never played this game! Ever! How can you say no without ever trying?"

"Like this," Raven replied, turning around and running into Robin's chest. The boy smirked at her. Raven took a self-conscious step back. Anticipation and excitement saturated the air, and the demoness turned back to the game. Beast Boy smiled encouragingly and gestured to the mat.

"Please, Raven. Robin has told me that this twisting game is a most popular form of entertainment for Earth teenagers," Starfire chimed. The Tamaranian drifted to Raven's side and took hold of her elbow, pulling gently, coaxing the demoness to take another step into the room.

Raven glanced from one Titan to the next, hoping to find an ally somewhere, but there were none forthcoming. "I'll work the spinner," she said.

"Alright!" Beast Boy grinned. "That's a good place to start." The changeling tossed the cardboard square to Raven, and she caught it deftly. The other four Titans each took up a side of the mat and waited.

"Right hand on red," Raven droned. Her friends knelt to comply with the instruction. When none of them were looking, Raven smiled.

ooooo

The room was stark white with no distracting windows or physical objects. Temple liked to keep the Observation Room sterile. The white stretched out in all directions, eliminating any sense of up or down. The only object that gave a directional indication sat in the middle of the blank space.

The Basin was large and ornately carved, made out of stone as white as its surroundings. The depths of the Basin swirled with molten color, throwing up a cascade of yellow and red, a blur of green and purple, and a myriad of other shades and colors that exploded in the liquid contents like fireworks. Temple was sitting with her back to the Basin. She had a large book opened in her lap.

The book's pages were yellowed with age. Temple was busy drawing lines through countless pages of annotations and mathematical equations with a gold quill. She flipped from one page to the other, consulting a gold abacus sitting next to her every few minutes.

Temple groaned and scratched out a line of particularly complex math. The Earth wasn't supposed to still exist, the release of Trigon the Terrible into that dimension was supposed to be permanent, and she'd factored that into her equations. And now all her equations, the course of history and time she'd charted, was useless.

The petite woman placed her book down and stood. The Basin flashed and winked at her, and Temple dragged her hand through the colorful depths. The colors stopped spinning and a picture of the eleventh dimension swam into view. From there the galactic system know to its inhabitants' as the Milky Way took form. And finally Temple was looking at the planet Earth, the country of America, the state of California, and a large T-shaped building that sat in the bay of Jump City.

"Poor Temple," crooned a voice behind her. She grimaced. "All your careful work undone. Does it make you angry?"

Temple turned to glare at the man addressing her. Seth just smirked back at her, swinging her amicus carelessly on the tip of one of his beefy fingers. Seth was a large man, both in stature and girth, and there was a glint to his cocoa eyes that made him look oddly depraved.

"What do you want, Seth?" she growled.

"I want to help you." At Temple's skeptical snarl he continued. "We don't always get along. Fine. But you did so much work, and Earth still existing throws all of it into the gutter. I know how much you like things to be orderly. Predictable."

Seth walked to Temple's side and gestured at the Basin. Five extraordinary teenagers were in the midst of playing Twister. A green octopus was currently being accused of cheating. Temple's hair was disheveled and scattered, and Seth gently pulled the mane of black hair behind the woman and put it in a sloppy ponytail.

"This planet isn't supposed to exist," Seth whispered. "Those people are supposed to be dead. I know we don't see eye to eye all the time, but Trigon's takeover was expected. I planned for it, you planned for it, and all the planning is undone now."

"You've never planned for anything in your life," Temple scoffed. "That's part of your problem: you have all this power and you don't stop to think before you do something stupid. I have work to do, Seth. Shouldn't you be throwing a civilization into chaos somewhere?"

"Morana will cover for me," Seth replied smoothly. "Urak won't know what hit it. You're wrong, though. I planned for this," he waved his beefy hand disdainfully at the Basin, "to be gone. Trigon and I had a deal. I had so many plans…" Seth trailed off, his eyes glinting madly.

"For once we're on the same page," Seth continued. "All your calculations are based off the assumption that the entire eleventh dimension was going to be thrown into anarchy and chaos. I can throw it into that chaos. I can fix this. And you can stop worrying about facts and figures and try having some fun for a change. Don't think about every little thing – just do."

Temple frowned and took her hair out of Seth's disgusting attempt of a ponytail before fixing the thick curls herself. Seth waited patiently, glancing out of the corner of his eye at the Basin.

"You think you can fix this?" she asked.

Seth grunted an affirmative.

"And I suppose you're telling me this because…"

"Because," Seth sighed, annoyed with Temple's intentional denseness, "what I have in mind is a little more… hands-on than usual. I need to go into the dimension and fix a few things in order for everything to fall apart just right."

"You need a counter to give you access," Temple said. She couldn't have been less enthusiastic.

"We were made in pairs," Seth smirked. "Think about it: you can spend the next century redoing a millennia worth of calculations for this dimension and every dimension that interacts with it… or you can give me a few hours on the surface. Do you really want to do all that work again, Temple? Especially considering that someone like me will mess it up anyway?"

Temple frowned. "The last time you got into a physical dimension you blew up four planets and made thirty-seven races extinct."

"But that would have happened anyway," Seth smirked, scooping up Temple's book and flipping to a page covered in black ink. "I'm just going to make sure we get back on track."

"I'd want something in exchange," Temple said eventually. "You, Morana, and Devin give me a lot of headaches."

"This isn't a negotiation session. I'm offering to do you a favor. You don't get a favor and a cookie!" Seth shouted, slamming the book closed. "If you want to run over all the facts and figures again, be my guest." Seth started to storm off, but Temple called him back.

"I'll give you one hour."

Seth grinned. That would be plenty of time. Temple rubbed her slender hands together over the Basin, chanting a language Seth didn't know under her breath. When she separated her hands, tan sand spilled into the Basin, making it glow and stick on the image of Jump City, California.

"One hour," Temple whispered as she picked up her book and amicus. Seth nodded and dove into the Basin, his sizable bulk slipping into the liquid without so much as a ripple.

ooooo

Anthony Baxter was lying awake in his cell. The cold stone of the prison walls loomed over the muscled man, dwarfing him and threatening to slam together, squeezing his frame until his entire body crumpled and popped like a ripe berry. Anthony did not like prison. He did not like the smell of fear that lingered in the air. He did not like the cocky guards who walked past his cell every fifteen minutes with their weapons in hand. He did not like the orange jumpsuit he wore. He did not like how his skin cried out for the sun's light. Above all else, Anthony hated being in a cage.

The muscled prisoner sat up and eyed the hallway expectantly. Being in prison had sharpened his internal clock. It told him the guards were late. The guards were never late. Footsteps sounded off the stone, and Anthony fell back onto his cot. There was a jangling of keys and the door to his cell opened.

"Baxter," said a rumbling tenor. Anthony looked up to see a large guard standing in his cell with him. The door was still open. He didn't recognize the guard, but the man looked out of shape.

"Yeah?"

The man breathed in deeply through his nose. "You're angry," he said with a smirk. Anthony felt his dormant anger flare. He hadn't been angry, annoyed perhaps, but now he found himself furious.

"And you're strong," the guard continued as he crossed to Anthony's side. He ran a hand down one of Anthony's bulging arms and the muscles tensed and flexed. "Oh... there is so much more to you than meets the eye. Your anger, your power. Let it out. Let it take you places you never knew existed."

A bright flash of bronze light shot from the guard's gun and slammed into Anthony's chest. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. He collapsed onto the ground and writhed on the stone. His body grew; the muscles on his arms, legs, and back inflated; his skin darkened until it was a gruesome brown; and two extra arms sprouted from his ribcage with a tremendous ripping sound.

Seth smiled at his creation before moving to the next target. Temple's hour was almost up, but he had time for one or two more masterpieces. Exactly thirty-four miles away in Titan's Tower an alarm went off.

Red light cascaded from the walls, and the computer terminal leapt to life without instruction. Beast Boy was so startled he collapsed on top of Starfire and Robin. Raven dropped the spinner and rushed to the computer. Her nimble fingers flew over the keyboard as she pulled up security footage of Jump City's maximum security penitentiary. The screen went dark before static covered the monitor.

"The cameras aren't working," Raven called over her shoulder. Robin pulled himself out from underneath Starfire and raced to Raven's side. The empath was already busy calling up the prison's layout. Red blips covered the map. Raven paled.

"That can't be right," Cyborg whispered from behind her. Raven hammered out a diagnostic command, and the screen reloaded. There were even more red blips than before.

"The entire prison is breaking out," Raven mumbled. Robin nodded grimly, his brow creased in thought. The immovable mask of Robin, leader of the Teen Titans, had fallen into place. The hero had taken over.

"Cyborg, get the T-car to the main gates now! That's the only way in or out, and we'll need a vehicle for pursuit. Raven, we need to be there now!"

Raven nodded, and her eyes lit up in white magic. Dark energy rose through the floor and wrapped around Beast Boy, Robin, Starfire, and the empath before the four teenagers sunk into the floor. Cyborg gaped at the map as even more breaches appeared on the screen. Then the cybernetic African-American turned on his heels and ran from the room.

Raven and the others erupted from the ground outside of the prison. Beast Boy shuddered from the chill of her magic, but the others were glaring defiantly at the steel-enforced gates. The ground shuddered beneath their feet, and both Raven and Starfire floated into the air. Green energy surrounded Starfire's clenched fists and glowed in her eyes. Robin narrowed his eyes and drew a flat disk from his utility belt.

The doors blew off their hinges and chaos ensued.

Prisoners spilled into the yard, their eyes crazed and starved for the freedom hanging just inches from their faces. All manner of people ended up in Jump City's maximum security prison, but they all had one thing in common: they were dangerous.

Robin hurled his disk into the midst of the fleeing prisoners, and they cried out as smoke erupted around them, causing them to gasp and wheeze. Starfire followed the strike by shooting a volley of starbolts into the cloud of smoke. There were a number of satisfying thuds as prisoners were bodily lifted and thrown backward.

The smoke cleared, and Raven's eyes widened. There was a woman standing in the threshold of the prison holding one of her former guard's guns. Reacting on years of training and conditioning, the empath called up a shield of black energy in front of her friends and her. Mere milliseconds after the shield sprung to life it was pounded by a hail of bullets. Raven clenched her teeth together as the bullets continued to slam into the barrier. Every strike left her slightly weaker.

Beast Boy leapt from the protective shield and morphed into a falcon, sailing into the air. A separate volley of fire chased after the green bird. Starfire grabbed a hold of Robin's cape and lifted him into the air, sailing toward the prisoners. Raven relaxed her shield and focused on protecting herself.

Gunfire was everywhere. Raven's ears rang with the deadly sound as she flew through the air, lifting fallen debris from the ground with her powers and hurling them at her attackers. The deluge of prisoners wouldn't stop, and Raven found herself tiring.

Beast Boy was standing alone in the midst of a group of heavily muscled men. With a quick transformation, the changeling was replaced by a green Ankylosaurus. The dinosaur swung its club-like tail at the group and tossed them left and right. Starfire was swooping through the air, leaving a trail of dust and green energy in her wake. Raven could see a number of dark bruises already peppering her friend's orange skin. Raven surrounded an unconscious prisoner in her powers and hurled the woman at a figure in her peripheral vision. Raven didn't expect the woman to crash into her moments later.

The empath righted herself quickly and gasped. There was a hulking creature standing before her. Its flesh was a muddy brown and its eyes were glazed by a milky sheen. Four muscled arms were attached to its torso, and its snarling face was fixed on her. Hatred pooled in the thing's eyes, and Raven could practically taste the animal's rage. And it was an animal. There was something unnatural about it. There wasn't a flicker of human consciousness in its mind.

The creature howled and lunged at Raven, all four of its arms swinging madly in the air. Raven ducked and dodged the massive blows, throwing up magical shields to intercept the attacks, but she didn't try to maintain the shields. A part of her knew they would break, and that would leave her vulnerable while she recovered from the mental shock.

A flurry of starbolts slammed into the creature's side, granting Raven a brief reprieve and enough time to slam a magic encased hand into the thing's chest. Neither the starbolts nor Raven's attack did more than irritate the abomination.

The monstrosity howled and grabbed for Raven. She tried to summon her powers, but the thing was too fast. One of its lower arms latched onto her ankle, and Raven was hoisted into the air. The creature drew back its three other fists to strike at her, but the blow never came. A screaming jet of sonic energy ripped through the air and slammed into the monster's back. It dropped Raven with a howl.

"Yo! Can't you guys do anything without me?" Cyborg called. He didn't get a response.

The battle was in full pitch. Bodies flew through the air, and gunfire rang through the battlefield. Raven found herself squaring off against the four armed creature. It grunted at her and charged. She was ready for the attack, and she vanished in a swirling vortex of black magic. The demoness reappeared behind the creature and delivered a strong kick to the back of its head.

A cry from behind Raven caught her attention. She summoned a wall of her powers and pushed against the monster before her, sending the creature sliding across the ground and away from her, before throwing a look over her shoulder. Starfire was lying on the ground fifty meters from her. The Tamaranian was bleeding profusely, her hands clasped over the wounds in her chest. The blood was soaking into the ground. Raven couldn't see where the shots had come from, but her friend was quickly being surrounded.

Explosions of noise and light sprung from the ground around Starfire as Robin leapt into action. The spiky haired boy drew his bo staff from his utility belt and downed fifteen people with a series of quick upward snaps and violent forward thrusts. No one tried to get to Starfire, instead circling Robin wearily.

There was a loud crunch next to Raven and she redirected her attention. Cyborg was standing inches away from her with his metallic fist still in the motion of following through with a punch. The creature Raven had been engaging was sliding across the ground on its bottom.

"Pay attention, Rae!" Cyborg shouted. The mechanical superhero leveled his arm at the four armed animal. The panels opened and shifted around his circuitry, opening up a circular orifice that fed directly into Cyborg's circuitry. A screeching jet of energy flew forth and slammed into the creature's head. It collapsed and did not rise.

A pterodactyl flew overhead and dove to the ground. Beast Boy morphed back to his original form gasping desperately. "There's a thing!" he shouted. The panic in his voice was tangible. The changeling didn't get a chance to elaborate before a woman burst through the throng of racing prisoners.

Beast Boy had been right in calling her a thing. Raven could feel the undercurrents of human emotion from her, but there was something fundamentally wrong – twisted – inside of her. Her skin was the color of fresh mulch and her eyes had the same milky sheen over them as the creature Cyborg had dispatched. Quills and spikes sprouted from her neck and limbs, each point glinting menacingly in the morning light.

Raven concentrated on the ground under Beast Boy's feet and opened a portal. The changeling sunk into the ground just as an eruption of projectile quills rained down on his position. The quills impacted harmlessly on the dirt.

A portal of black energy opened in the folds of Raven's cloak, and she deposited Beast Boy back in the appropriate dimension. The elf shuddered before launching into the air and transforming into an armadillo. Cyborg took the cue and spiked the armored mammal at the woman. The armored ball of green collided with the woman's torso, and both Beast Boy and the woman flew backward.

"Starfire's been shot," Raven called to Cyborg before racing after Beast Boy's bouncing form. Cyborg nodded and disappeared into the sea of fleeing convicts; only the occasional burst of sonic energy narrated his passage through the rapidly deteriorating battlefield. Unconscious bodies littered the ground, but even more had escaped in the chaos.

Raven's flight through the battlefield could be described as nothing less than reckless. The woman Beast Boy hit was crouched on the ground with two large spines extended from her elbows. She held her arms like she was preparing to throw an elbow forward, and Raven knew that would fire the spines sticking out of her flesh. A green tiger was stalking the woman, its teeth barred and a throaty growl issuing from its large mouth.

The woman shot one of her elbows forward. Beast Boy leapt out of the way, and the thorny projectile slammed into the earth. Once it was embedded in the ground, tiny hooks snapped up into the air. The second spike was quick to follow.

"Azarath! Metrion! Zinthos!" Raven yelled. She thrust her hand out and desperately tried to wrap the object in her powers. The thorn stopped three feet from Beast Boy's hind flank. With a grunt of exertion, Raven flipped the thorn over and shot it back at the woman. She jumped nimbly to the side and cocked her head at Raven.

Quills rose up along the length of the woman's arms and legs. In a matter of seconds she resembled a giant porcupine. Raven narrowed her eyes and prepared to counter whatever attack was coming. The emotions the creature was emitting changed subtly. They were still fundamentally twisted and inhuman, but there was some extra venom in the mix now.

"Beast Boy, those quills are poisonous," Raven shouted to the tiger. She wasn't sure how she knew that, but the second the words left her mouth they felt right. The quills started vibrating, waving back and forth along the creature's flesh until their afterimage and the real thing were indistinguishable.

It was like a bomb went off. Raven could hear the horrible rending sound as flesh and bone separated from the quills. Beast Boy and Raven reacted instantly: the changeling morphed into a kangaroo and jumped into the air; Raven summoned two shields of black energy, one protecting her and the other covering Beast Boy's accelerating form as he fell toward the woman.

A large spike tore through the woman's spine, exiting at the base of her skull, and rocketed through the air toward Beast Boy. Raven tried to reposition the shield – it had been constructed to protect from frontal attacks and wouldn't stop the thorn.

Raven watched in horror as the spike moved in slow motion toward Beast Boy's tail. The changeling's form was already shifting in an attempt to minimalize the damage. He wasn't fast enough. Right before the spike hit Beast Boy, a colored blur sailed underneath him, clipping the thorn's tip and sending it harmlessly away.

Robin hit the ground with tremendous force and staggered, falling into a roll when his legs failed him. Raven could feel pain emanating from her leader, and a sinking feeling in her gut told her Robin had been hit.

Beast Boy was hammering the woman left and right with large gorilla fists. The changeling didn't let up, even when more spines rose from his opponent's flesh. Raven encased every quill, spike, spine, and thorn in black magic, sealing it in place and leaving the monstrosity unarmed against a very angry primate. The creature collapsed under a brutal blow to the temple and did not rise.

Raven was beside Robin instantly. The acrobat was breathing heavily and his skin was damp with cold sweat.

"Where were you hit?" she asked. Robin nodded to his right leg before lying back against the ground. Raven probed the leg gingerly and found a deep cut along the back of Robin's calf.

"You've been poisoned," Raven intoned. "Try to relax. Breathe deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. You need to slow your heartbeat." The sorceress placed both her pale hands on Robin's leg and willed healing energy into the wound. The toxin wasn't something she'd encountered before. Just like with the two creatures lying unconscious in the midst of the battlefield, there was something fundamentally corrupt and unnatural about it.

The screech of sonic energy broke Raven's concentration. She glanced over at Cyborg and saw her metallic friend standing guard over an unconscious Starfire. He was firing his sonic cannon nonstop at the same four armed creature he'd put down earlier.

The creature felt different to Raven. There was a twisted mind in the body, but it felt like there was a separate entity in the body other than its natural inhabitant. Beast Boy was already racing toward the animal, shifting into a triceratops as he ran. The creature didn't even look in Beast Boy's direction. Right before Beast Boy hit it, two extra arms popped out of the monster's body, grabbing a hold of Beast Boy's horns. The creature flipped onto Beast Boy's back.

The changeling shifted into an anaconda and wrapped around his attacker. He started squeezing, careful to keep all six arms trapped at the creature's side. Suddenly the creature went limp in Beast Boy's grip, and a shadowy creature erupted from the animal's head. It flew straight into Beast Boy. The changeling started convulsing. Raven gasped as the separate presence made sense. The creature had been possessed, and now Beast Boy was undergoing the same trauma. The anaconda dropped its prey and writhed on the ground. The snake fell still.

"B?" Cyborg asked uncertainly.

"He's been possessed. Don't get close," Raven snapped. Cyborg's eyes widened and he nodded, leveling his sonic cannon at the prone snake. Beast Boy's form twisted and morphed into a falcon before he took to the air.

"Take care of Starfire and Robin," Raven shouted as she lifted into the air. "I'll get Beast Boy." It wasn't until after ten minutes of chasing Beast Boy through Jump City that Raven realized she forgot to tell Cyborg that Robin had been poisoned. The empath drew her communicator from her belt and switched it on, careful to keep Beast Boy in her sights at all times.

"I'm a little busy, Rae," Cyborg grunted. She didn't look at the screen.

"I forgot to tell you Robin was poisoned. I've never seen the toxin before."

"I know he was poisoned. That's the problem. Whatever got into his system is tearing him apart." Cyborg cursed. "Where are you?"

"The industrial district, block E3," Raven replied, using the ridiculous navigation grid Robin had created of Jump City and drilled into all of their brains. It sounded stupid, but it had also been an invaluable tool over the past few years.

"I can't get close enough to Beast Boy to engage him." The green falcon ahead veered sharply around the edge of a skyscraper. Raven was hot behind him. "I'll be back as soon as–"

Raven screamed as she was jerked out of the air. Her communicator fell from her hand. The demoness tried to right herself as she fell, but the octopus wrapped around her made it difficult. Her arms and legs were trapped to her side; her vision was partially obscured by a suctioned appendage; and they were falling fast.

Raven managed to twist one of her hands so it was planted against the octopus' side. "Sorry, Beast Boy. Azarath! Metrion! Zinthos!"

A claw of black energy formed around Raven's hand and thrust forward. The magic penetrated the invertebrate easily. The animal released her and was thrown into the air. The octopus slammed into the skyscraper it had used to ambush her, and the windows shattered. Raven flew in after it.

Beast Boy was standing at the far side of the room when Raven entered. The changeling was covered in cuts and bruises. The window behind him was broken. Beast Boy smirked before jumping out of the window. Moments later a black shade flew in the opposite direction. Raven launched herself into the air to give chase. Now that it was out of Beast Boy, she could stop holding back.

"Raven!"

The empath stopped and turned. Beast Boy was falling to the ground. She'd expected him to transform, but the green elf was plummeting to the ground with his arms outstretched and his face twisted in fear.

Cursing the shade, Raven flipped over and went into a dive. She reached out with her powers, but something was wrong; her powers couldn't find a purchase on Beast Boy. Every grab she made for him slipped off uselessly. The ground was getting closer, and Raven put on an extra burst of speed.

Cars grew from the size of Hot Wheels to the size of Raven's palm, and they were getting closer by the second. People went from microscopic specks to men and women. Beast Boy was holding his arms out to Raven, reaching desperately for her.

She caught up with Beast Boy and grabbed his hand. Raven tried to pull out of the dive, but they had too much momentum. She closed her eyes and braced herself, screaming as they collided with the ground. Air fled from her lungs and a rib cracked. Beast Boy and Raven bounced twice before rolling to a stop in front of a pizza parlor, but both were unconscious long before that.


AN: It's been a while since I posted anything here. I'm a little nervous. Please tell me what you thought.