Vermilion Ascendant

Chapter Five

Dawning of Her Delirium, part two.

Connor looked over to Wonder Girl as she blinked back and forth from where the strange apparition had been, to the senior Titans off in their huddle. Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire and Cyborg sat around the kitchen table, seemingly content to speak amongst themselves as the rest of their team sat befuddled and lost. Seeing no change in that attitude, Superboy raised his hand, "Um, excuse me. What the hell was that about?"

A few of those of the old guard shot him and the others in the room apologetic glances for their silence, but Robin only looked back, annoyed. "Sorry, it's an old issue. Not something you would know about."

"Well "It" just came into the Tower, said hello and left without so much as mussing the carpet," standing and motioning to the place Raven had been, the young hero glared back at Robin, not giving an inch. "I can't really say I'm speaking for the rest of us, but this is a little fucking intense right now. It just rained blood all over the city for hours, there's a serial killer out there with a penchant supers, and now Raven is looking like she's been shopping in Tim Burton's closet." Catching his breath, Connor looked to the others who weren't in the old guard, and saw them nodding their agreement, along with Batgirl and Faith in their own corner of the room. "I think we're due some explanation."

"Look," reaching up, Robin squeezed the bridge of his nose between a finger an thumb. "I'm sorry, that came out all wrong." Standing, he gestured the other back into the main room, regretting his old habits kicking in and putting a rift in the team. That wasn't the way to handle things like a leader. "I'm just somewhat worried where this is all going, with Raven showing up, along with everything else that's going on."

Cyborg's head turned sharply at this, "You're not saying-"

"You heard her the same as me," gesturing to Beast Boy and Starfire, Robin shook his head slowly. "And whether you want to admit it or not, she fits the profile of what could have killed Billy and the others." Looking out the window to the still frothing bay, the waves churning the bloodied tides with their motion, Robin considered a moment the day, before swallowing nervously. "She'd also be able to turn XLT into... that storm earlier."

It was Cassie, Wonder Girl's, turn to speak out this time. "Wait, you mean that it was her, that little girl in the video?" When Beast Boy nodded quietly, she pulled up her knees and wrapped her arms about herself tightly. "OK, so let me just get this strait. After her dad's big mess, she got locked up for going insane, and now she's back and pissed." Shaking her head, blonde hair waving in the motion, the young woman looked out the windows as well, "why the Hive killings? It doesn't make sense."

"No, it doesn't," he agreed. True, the Hive had been their enemies on many occasions, even going so far as to ally themselves with the Brotherhood of Evil on some occasions, but there was no cause or reason for Raven to prey on them the way she had. Even Eddie, barely a presence in the Titans before she was imprisoned, shouldn't have been able to garner the attention that had ended with his evisceration and gruesome death.

"She wasn't insane," Batgirl's long periods of silence made anything the woman said have a rather large impact, and at this very moment, Robin would have paid anything to just have the woman be quiet again. "The JLA feared what she would do, once free of her restraints."

"Restraints," the word said quietly, still had a heavy implication of blame as it left Wonder Girl's lips. "You mean she was like... locked up somehow?"
Shaking his head, Cyborg gestured vaguely and frowned. "No, it's all in her file, but in short, she had to control her emotions, was told that all her life, that losing control would let her father control her." Slamming a hand against his palm, the metal Titan growled, "of course it had nothing to do with him. The paranoia and close-mindedness of the monks that raised her was borderline psychological abuse conditioning."

Faith, silent up till this point looked at him questioningly. "The JLA records show her as having massive personality deformation and a psyche that was borderline into incomprehensible."

"Lady, I've been there. Literally," gesturing to the still preoccupied Beast Boy, who nodded absently at the comment, Cyborg continued. "First off, she wasn't crazy. Not like that. She was wholly in control of herself, but it really cost her. She had to close down most of her emotions so much that it was hard for her to relate to a lot."

Looking from the heroes who obviously knew the woman, to those as lost as she, Faith tried to imagine the young woman then, fighting along side these people. She could see that lack now, like a chair that had gone missing in museum exhibit. It's lack was blatant, but unless you had seen it before, little would hint at the source of the scene's wrongness. "Why would the JLA make a file that was false?"

"Raven and Zatanna did not have the best relationship," Starfire answered darkly. Faith waited for an elaboration, but receiving none, considered the mentioned woman. Zatanna did have a lot of influence... and there had been that question in the past with brainwashing people. A simple records omission or change would not be so difficult, in her place.

Faith's eyes refocused, as Cyborg made a loud point, "...Really? I mean who's fault was that?"
"I'm sorry?" She missed the question, and was summarily lost. Faith blinked as the man seemed to deflate from his rage.

"I was just saying it wasn't fair. We were told to back down. Let it go," Shaking his head, the man sat heavily and looked at his hands. "The things her dad did to her... it killed her you know? She was so afraid of death, not because of what it's like to most people."

Leaning forward, Faith tilted her head quizzically. "How do you mean?"

"Her soul-self, remember?" Cyborg flexed his human hand, and smiled ruefully. "She confided in me a long time ago, about it. Working in the basement on something, smeared with oil the both of us. She was afraid of death, because it was just her human side that would die. The soul-self is, well, like a demon. Lacking a host, it's just that. Her, only without a body."

"And she worried it'd be just the demon her father had given her," Faith replied, seeing more clearly the person the JLA had sent her and Cassandra after.

"That seems to have been the assumption that the JLA went on, as well," Robin stated.

"So they locked her in a box, and told us all she'd be OK," Beast Boy murmured from his place on the couch, still glaring balefully at the wall. "How were we supposed to know?"

"We didn't ask," was Starfire's weary answer.

That was the bottom line here, wasn't it, Robin thought. There it was, staring them in the face. They'd abandoned her, left her to the JLA's good graces, without worry, without second thought. Abandoned her, when she needed them the most. Wasn't it Raven, all on her own that had defeated Trigon?

All her life lived in fear and mental turmoil for nothing. Eighteen years of her life, all of it in fact, leading up to one point, and then what? Her friends and allies betray her, and leave her to rot in a shoebox – after she won. Way to show her earth's sense of gratitude. It made sense, then, as he considered it, why she was so angry. Not only angry... but vengeful enough she had come to tell them directly, deliver the message herself. I will kill you. All of you.

"It matches," Faith's words were faint, but in the silence that had fallen since the veteran Titans had gone still, they rang out clear enough. "The things I've felt, match her." Sitting back with a sigh, the woman closed her eyes again, bow knit in concentration. "That thing in the center of the city, that's growing like a cancer feels the same."

Batgirl rose then, standing and moving out of the room. Robin stalled her by the door, "Cassandra, what are you doing?"

Shifting away from his outstretched hand, the woman only offered two words in explanation. "My job."

The rest of the Titans looked on as the woman quietly swept out, leaving a tensed and aggravated Boy Wonder in her wake. Where the other Titans sat in their contemplations, Beast Boy spoke up first, "Robin, is your entire family nuts or something?"

Robin turned to him with a sigh, the comment irking him more than a little. "You really have no room to talk." Glaring at one another, the detective was the first to break the contest. "Sorry. This is all... it feels like a nightmare."

"I know." Garfield looked away for a moment, nodding. "I was out of line. What are we going to do?"

Striding over to the Tower's control systems, the young man rested his hand along side the access panel, his face clouded in thought. Shortly he keyed in a brief sequence, the lights along the room that indicated the alert status of the Tower going red. "I'm going to contact the JLA, and ask for backup. We can't handle her on our own. Everyone's taking shifts, and we're bunking up in main room for the time being. Break out the sleeping bags."

oOo

A knock on the door pulled Jinx's attention from the water running down her back, etching at the blood dried onto her skin. "Yeah? What is it Raven?"

"May I come in for a moment?"

Amused by the idea of Raven asking her for permission, considering the last few days and the peculiarity of their conversations, the young woman smiled. "Sure." Jinx wasn't historically a terribly shy or understated person, though she never really ascribed to the skintight leotards and spandex suits her sometimes allies had sported. Despite this, the alterations and changes to her body from it's rebuilding at Cyborg's hands had left her self conscious.

To say she had lost a lot her grace was an understatement. Then again, having half her torso be flat, blocky metal, while the other was supple feminine flesh managed to be a harsh reminder of what exactly she'd lost.

It was that impulse that had her checking the frosted windows of the shower again, as she scrubbed at her skin and hair.

Raven slipped into the bathroom and settled against the wall, the room hazed slightly with the moisture in the air. Behind the glass she could see the mottled profile of the young woman as she washed the blood from herself. "How did you sleep?"

"Surprisingly well, actually," Jinx replied, shaking her head slowly. "After we got back I just... crashed on the couch. Sorry if the blood won't come out of the cloth."

A light chuckle was her answer. "Don't worry. I think I managed to get all the blood out of that some time ago."

Pulling her hair in front of her face, the woman nodded absently, "Alright." Again she scrubbed at it, the water running clear and clean as it passed through the vividly pink stands. "Did you... "

"Fix something again?" Her words carried that tone Jinx had come to recognize as what passed for playfulness to the demoness. "Yes, though only something minor this time."

Nodding slowly, Jinx ran her eye along the lock between her fingers again. Before, since the incident that had spurred on this chain of events, her hair had dulled and faded to a pale mockery of it's once vivid color. With it went her powers, or it was simply a result of the same. She'd not kept it up in her trademark style since leaving the Hive, but Jinx had never considered dying it. It was part of her. Since that day, like most of her own sense of self, it had died as well.

Here it was, though, bright and alive as the water washed over it. "So, was that like a conditioner I'm going to have to apply again, or is this here to stay?"

Raven laughed, a quiet rustle of breath, "No, it will stay."

"So that was XL, then? I thought he was gone for good. Well before, I suppose he really is now," a small laugh punctuated her words. Her voice didn't carry concern, so much as a distant kind of curiosity. Even in her own ears it seemed hollow.

Raven watched, as a small droplet of water fell along the glass of a mirror, the single trail it left clearly reflecting the wall in it's passing. A corner of her lip quirked as in it's passing, a sliver of reality was revealed. "The Hive is worried. Channels were opened, an alert sounded," the water droplet settled along the seam of the mirror where it met the casement, the red wallpaper reflecting luridly inside it's liquid lens. "Such a thing makes it so easy to find them."

"Complaining?" Jinx's hands swept along her skin, scrubbing gently, as the seams along her neck and torso were rough and angry. Her body didn't adjust like Cyborg's to the augments, something in her nature not letting them blend as easily. Inflamed skin, sore, swollen muscles and the constant ache of them were a constant reminder not only of their presence, but their cause. That, she admitted was the real comfort in the things Raven had done. Less constantly was her mind wracked with the reminder of those changes. Through the glass, she could see Raven shaking her head, as well as the odd distortion that had the walls look fluid in the mist. Despite how long she'd been without her eye, that never seemed to pass.

"No, they are your vengeance. I won't complain about easy prey." Shuffling, Raven lay her hand against the wall, stilling the restless shifting that seemed to come when her attention wasn't solidly on keeping the Hotel in it's semblance of normalcy.

She hadn't lied to Jinx, when she said that her limitations with altering reality was limited to those things with a soul. Though perhaps taking all the people inside the building, and binding their flesh and bone into the thing while weaving their essences into it so as to better make it supple to her alterations was not what Jinx had in mind when she had asked if they could "clean up the place". Smiling, Raven was quietly glad she'd not needed to lie, with Jinx's lack of inquiry into the stocked pantry. "Besides, I have my own agenda, after all."

"Oh, how did that go?"

"I do not think my work will be boring, from here on out," was the demon's reply.

Jinx considered that, and felt herself smiling despite the implications of Raven's words. Last night, the rain and her strangely heated conversation had left her very clear headed. She had to admit, considering and weighing the options of the ritual she'd performed, how things had gone was not in her plan. "Hey, Raven?"

"Yes Jinx?"

"The Bloodmoon... how it's worded in the texts wasn't all that specific," hands stilling along her hips, the woman leaned back against the tile, focusing on the black streak along the red and faint yellow that was Raven through the glass. "I was wondering what was supposed to happen. Was I just going to end up in hell, or what?"

Raven grinned slightly, looking up as the young woman's anxiety and fear came through her words, coloring them easily. "Worried now, Jinx? Is the thing you summoned, or how it goes about it's work of your vengeance not pleasing?"

"No! No, it's not that," Jinx laid back against the tile, wrapping her arms about herself. "I guess... well. Shouldn't I feel strange? When I started that ritual, I figured one of two things would happen. Either I'd fail, and nothing would happen, or a demon would show up, accept the contract and I'd die."

"And what happened didn't fit into either of those expectations," Looking through the glass at the woman, Raven let herself smile, slipping over to stand by the shower where Jinx lazed in the warm water. "Tell me what's on your mind."

Jinx let herself relax, her head back against the tile. "Is it strange to feel worried? You're remaking me, undoing all the things that had given me a reason to want revenge. Why?" Pushing away from the cooler tile, the woman leaned into the water and let it cascade over her, pulling the chill of the air from her body. "You said it was so I could work my own vengeance. That wasn't part of the contract, so I'm curious why."

"Don't you want that, for yourself-"

"That's not what I asked," interrupting the demon, Jinx let her head bang against the shower stall with a thump. "Just... listen for a minute, OK?"

Raven blinked, regarding the odd shifting of angles and colors that was the woman behind that glass. "Alright."

"Thanks," closing her eye, the former thief steadied her thoughts, picking them into a line. "I don't want to sound ungrateful. I am grateful, for what you're doing. What you've done," again, she ran a hand over the place where her arm was now whole, and not a twisted mockery of human and machine. "Despite being a Titan once I don't think that... really explains what you're doing for me. And being a demon makes even less sense. Why should you care about that? About me, and my condition. About whether or not I can get revenge myself."

"Would you rather speak of this outside the shower? It may take a small while."

"I'm kind of comfortable. The heat keeps me from aching so much. As long as the water stays warm," the former thief replied, considering that same point herself.

Chuckling, Raven shook her head. "The water won't get cold, so here then." Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, the demoness sighed. "Saying it was the right thing, probably doesn't mean much. Besides, what kind of reason is that, for a demon?" Raven leaned against the wall nearest the shower door and to Jinx's surprise, sighed. "Do you remember the talk we had at the diner?"

Nodding, Jinx remembered it. How Raven had impressed on her the ideas then. The loss of humanity's will to survive. It's inability now, to save itself, and later, the hesitant, almost tentative admission of her own loneliness. "I remember."

Silence dominated the room then, as Jinx watched the water, dripping from he angles and points of her body and down, to swirl and sweep through the drain. Raven watched her in turn, mind uncharacteristically cloudy, unfocused. She remembered the thoughts Jinx had entertained that morning, after watching the broken woman please herself. Remembered feeling that guilt-laden spike of pleasure as the woman lay, stunned beneath her in the park, Raven's claws having just bloodied her in a fit of anger. Raven remembered being alone for nearly two years, locked away and forgotten. "Perhaps... I have made an error," she wanted to laugh at herself, then. How could she forget this? That drive humans have to question, to forget the positive in light of doubt and suspicion.

It was selfish. She remade Jinx for her own reasons, and pushed her to enact her revenge for the same. She turned then without further comment but before the first step landed, a hand took her shoulder. Her eyes swept up a length of wet skin and met Jinx's, her expression unreadable. "Don't go."

"I don't know how to explain myself," or why I have the urge to do so, Raven added silently. Still, she didn't move. Jinx seemed to become aware of her own nakedness and shivered, pulling a towel from the wall and wrapping it about herself.

Her eye cast about, while her hand remained. Sighting another towel, she pulled it free and wrapped it about her hair, stepping into the chill air. "Walk with me?" When Raven nodded, Jinx seemed to relax slightly, and to Raven's surprise slipped her damp hand into Raven's own, pulling her along with. "When you set yourself up to die, make that decision, anything after that isn't what you're expecting seems... strange," she said, walking to the bedroom, the demon following after.

Raven nodded, understanding that idea well enough. She had been in that place herself, when her father had destroyed her. Imagine her surprise to still be alive, albeit not as she'd been before. "I understand."

"Can you imagine how strange it is?" Jinx released her hand, as they entered the room and Jinx went about, searching for clothes. Finding a shirt and pair of jeans, she looked back at the demon and blushed slightly, shrugging. The towel dropped and she hurriedly pulled the pants on. "I never expected to feel... like living, again. So it's odd to also feel nervous about losing that. I guess that's why I asked about the Bloodmoon ritual."

Sweeping her eyes along the lines of Jinx's body as she bent to clothe herself, Raven nodded once, "I suppose that is only to be expected. And with the nature of things, me... you have reason to worry." Wisps of shadow curled about her cloak, as Raven paced to the windows, opening the blinds to the daylight more.

Jinx sat down on the bed, noting distantly this was a room she'd never slept in. A small laugh escaped her at that realization. "I suppose that makes sense. What about... well you then? Have you changed your mind?"

"About my due?" From the corner of her eye, the demon noted Jinx's nod. "Would it disturb you terribly if I said yes?"

Swallowing, Jinx closed her eye and shrugged slightly. A small disturbance on the bed startled her, and she turned her head, seeing Raven sitting there, holding a brush. "I don't know. What is a soul? What is hell? What does a demon do with a soul they... well own?"

Raven seemed to go still, before a smile crept up her lips. "What would I do? Ask if I could brush your hair." Jinx's laugh bubbled up and lit the room more, and nodding she slipped into the floor at Raven's feet. Hands unwound the towel around her hair, and was taken away. Closing her eye, Jinx leaned back against Raven's legs, as hesitant hands ran over her head, through her hair. "I haven't forgotten that you were the one that freed me. Nor have I forgotten that it was your acceptance of my own agenda that lets me work my vengeance as well," Raven was preoccupied, her thoughts as haphazard and confused as Jinx's own. She simply had longer to become used to such things. Used to her inner turmoil and stifling it, burying it, and sometimes murdering it in it's sleep.

"As for hell... well. It's a selfish place. Full of selfish people. The weight of sin, is that it draws one further and further into one's self." Coral locks parted, were ran slowly through the teeth of the brush and set aside, and the process repeated. To her surprise, Jinx turned and lay her head against Raven's knees, as she slipped an arm around her calf, hugging that leg to herself. Blinking, the demon regained her sense and continued with her brushing. "Those in hell don't see one another. Only their own demons, and the punishments they feel that they deserve."

"So there's no court for the damned? No judge there, reading you your sins?" Her cloak, Jinx noted, was soft. Despite having seen it crawl and move seemingly of it's own will, it didn't disturb her as it slipped around her hip, curling about her warmly.

Raven shook her head, sweeping the brush through the fall of hair in her hand, "No. Sin is a measure of one's own guilt, their own need to be punished. Even in that, a soul's selfishness is evident. The damned chose that which they suffer, and faced with a life's guilt, all their wrongs without the masks they'd built for themselves, it's always what they deserve."

A small sound, possibly an affirmative left Jinx's lips. "And demons? What do they do with souls from contracts like mine?"

Pausing, Raven sighed and motioned for Jinx to turn. Shifting slowly, the young woman did so, laying her head back again against the demon's knees, as the cloak spread, creeping down and around the young woman. "I suppose they vent all their envy, or whatever drive had created them. Demons are just an impression, an egregore."

"A what," Raven stiffened, as Jinx's fingers trailed along the inside of the cloak.

Stilling herself, Raven took a breath. "An idea, given form by many, many minds believing in it. It's something people do, often. Give an idea an identity. With enough time and force of belief, that identity comes to be it's own, separate thing."

A minute passed, as Raven ran the last few strands of hair through the brush's teeth. "What will you do with mine?"

The question, asked without malice, expectation, or fear made her pause. In truth, Raven felt a slight stab of guilt, in realizing that it wasn't so much what would she do with Jinx, but what she'd continue to do. What would the result of her own actions be? "What makes you think I'd take it?"

"Do you really need to?" Raven blinked, and she could feel Jinx laughing silently through their contact. The brush moved again, parting strands of hair just for it's own sake, the comfort of the action lulling Jinx, and that same sense lapping at Raven and keeping her hands moving.

"Such an idea doesn't worry or make you nervous?"

Jinx shrugged, and loosed a deep breath, settling back against Raven more. "It does. It's human nature for that to happen," after a moment, she leaned her head back, placing her temples below Raven's hands. "Besides. What could I do if you wanted my soul anyway?" Laughing quietly, the young woman opened her eye, staring up into the pale, expressionless gashes that Raven looked at her from. "I'll use what you've given me, to take some of my own vengeance. I won't waste this chance. Killing... even if I hadn't called you, I was damned already. Why half do this? Besides, I can't really think of a... nicer demon." Smirking, Jinx shrugged, "could have been worse."

Laughing quietly, Raven smiled, her fingers tracing at Jinx's skin. Faintly she could feel the scar under her fingers, as they traced along the woman's brow. "I'm flattered," Raven said quietly then and leaning down, she hesitated, before brushing her lips against the young woman's forehead. "It may seem cliché to say so, but don't worry.

"It all gets easier from here."

oOo

"Stupid fucking morons," Gizmo kicked another door open, and glared about at the people who looked up at him with wide eyes, startled by his appearance. "What?"

One of those gathered held up a deck of cards, and looked about at the others there a moment. "Want dealt in?"

Blinking incredulously at the people there, Gizmo stomped into the room and kicked over the card table, glaring about the others as they either stood and moved away from him, or to each other. "Did you not just see what happened out there?"

"Look man, what can we do against the fucking rain? Huh?" The lamp in the room by his place was one of the many lights about the common room, all the windows boarded up against the elements. Standing from the couch and the book he was reading, See-more glared from beneath his ball cap, helmet off and laying on the chair beside him. "What do you want us to do? Cower in here?"

Running a hand over his head, Gizmo sighed and walked over to his irritated teammate and the mess his tantrum had wrought. "Look, that rain? That was XL. I just got out of the lab."

"Jesus," running a hand over his face, See-more, looked over as Baran came into the room, his broad shoulders barely fitting through the door. "XL?" When Gizmo nodded, the lanky man who'd worked alongside the short genius and the large man to his side picked up his helmet and came to stand beside them.

Gizmo looked over the room again, the dozen or so blank faces, staring either at him or losing interest. "Yeah. We need to get the others, or figure out what's going on. I don't really want to end up on that red list that keeps growing."

Nodding, See-more looked over the room, feeling for the first time the gravity of what was happening. XL, Angel, Billy... "Yeah. Yeah, lets get a plan. I don't feel like being a statistic. What do you think is going on?"

"I don't really know what to think," Gizmo stated as they walked down the hall of the large building, the last of Brother Blood's legacies. Hulled out and half crumbling, the old school was little more than a lot of dormitories and some common rooms now, and served as a base for Gizmo and Baran before the events that seemed to be plaguing the the former Hive members. Now, it housed dozens of the old team, as after his initial paranoia played out, Gizmo had sent out the call for them to come back together. "So far nothing really makes a lot of sense."

"That's really not reassuring, considering," Baran muttered, as they walked along the path leading to Gizmo's room. That path lead them from the main commons, through the mess hall and into the dorm. As usual, quite a few of the former Hive were gathered in the mess, as they passed into it. "Hm. Going to grab a bite."

Regarding him with a look of disgust, Gizmo walked on, shaking his head.

"Man's got to eat," Baran offered in reply, as he walked by a table where some were eating already. Looking at the gloom and darkness in the room, he took hold of a curtain chain and pulled, the large hanging folds of cloth moving on pulleys away from the massive windows overlooking the courtyard.

After the compound had been abandoned by the Hive, little had changed. The fight that had taken place had blown out most of the windows, so those were often boarded up, or the mechanism that ran them broken beyond simple repair. Even some doors were locked tight in such ways, and it was a rarity that windows could let in the sun, like those in the mess.

"Holy sh... Gizmo!"

Turning from where he was stalking off, See-more in tow, the diminutive genius glared back at Baran as he stumbled back into a table, knocking it back and spilling the food on it with the impact. It was the look on Baran's face more than anything that got the young man's attention, and drew it out the windows.

Jogging over, he stalled as the sight in the courtyard greeted him. The old school had been, at some point, a modern if not legal, institution. It's courtyard had housed the athletic fields, pools and various sports and fitness tracks that had kept them in working order.

Now, it seemed a slaughterhouse. Miles it seemed of flesh, strips of it lay all about the field, bones laying up against the school's walls at odd points. All dry. All massive, huge and with wrong angles, strange colors. Arranged neatly across the tennis courts were organs, dessicated and dried, all set out in some kind of perverse order. At the head of the field was a skull, halved neatly and with it's contents set out in a neat pattern before it. Floating in the Olympic sized pool, two red-rimmed eyes gazed sightless up at the sun. A scream from inside sent a flock of birds into the air, as they had been there feeding on the bounty left for the morning sun to discover.

"The bones... oh shit. I'm out of here, fuck this noise man," See-more ran from the room then, pushing by Gizmo where he stood transfixed. His eyes moved away from the swimming pool, an the massive black orbs there, to the bones that leaned up along the walls. "I see you," they spelled out, in yellowed curves and strange angles, tied up in places with great ropes of tendon and sinew.

"Gizmo. Giz, hey," a smack on the back nearly sent him careening. "Sorry, hey, wake up." Looking about, the little man blinked up into the face of Baran, as it leaned over him. He could hear the faint sounds of people running, panicking. "We need to go."

Snorting out of his stupor, Gizmo blinked around, at the chaos of people running to and from the room, unbelieving what was out in their courtyard. "Baran, lock it down."

Mammoth shot him a quizzical glance but shrugged, trusting the smaller man. Reaching into a pocket he pulled out a small device, and keyed in a simple sequence of button presses. Shortly, the compound went into lockdown, doors sealing and windows, the ones not broken beyond repair, shuttering closed. "Hope you know what you're doing, we're obviously not safe here."

"Yeah, I hope I know too," nodding, Gizmo stood back on his feet and spared the windows one more glance. "And yeah. We're not safe here. Hell I don't know if we're safe anywhere." Looking about himself dazedly, the genius closed his eyes and shook his head. "Damn it."

oOo

"Going out tonight?"

Jinx's voice made her pause, as her hand reached for the door. "You were sleeping."

Yawning, the woman shrugged, rubbing at her eye slowly, "I nodded off reading. Speaking of which, that was an odd book."

"I brought it from home, a long time ago." Turning, Raven regarded the woman where she stood, leaning on the door frame to the bedroom in her jeans and shirt, hair a sleep-ruffled mess. "Didn't expect you to be back up for a while."

Nodding the former thief slumped onto the couch and stifled another yawn. "Oddly, it's hard to sleep on the bed. I'm not used to one, been sleeping in corners... on junk for so long." Raven watched as her breath went even again, curled up there between the couch cushion and the arm in a huddle. A light touch of her mind confirmed that the woman was sleeping, and not the fitful nap she'd seen on the bed.

Hesitating, the demon remained watching for a moment till her eyes were drawn to the windows, the city beyond.

No, the windows themselves. Eyes narrowing, she reached out her empathy as-

Heat and light blasted her into the wall, and she let the force of impact scatter her, soaking into the stuff of the wall like so much oil striking water. Casting her mind about, she finally found the one responsible, barely a flicker on the fabric of the world.

Cassandra Cain waited. Kneeling on the ledge across the street from the building that Faith had pinpointed, she had waited all day. Finally, come night a light had broken through a window and she had struck. Swinging to the crumbling waste that was the Hotel, she flung her handful of explosive-laced spikes into the wall and window, the arc of her swing taking her clear of the initial blast. It's second swing took her into the hulled out room, and kneeling amid the pool of her cape, she waited again.

Shadow began to shift, divorced from the light-

Her elbow struck out in a flash and the impact shattered the wall and mortar behind it. A low noise, like someone screaming in a distant room reached her ears but she was again moving. Someone lay injured, the initial blast having thrown them and debris against the wall, behind an overturned couch.

A young woman, pale and with a vivid head of hair sat bleeding shallowly from cuts and glass, but to her sight was otherwise – wait. Her breath sounded wrong, sounded like someone else-

"She is mine. Find your own."

Stupid, she'd left her guard down to inspect the 'innocent', and left herself open. Whirling around, the cape's weighted edges arching along with her motion, Batgirl spun her heel into the shadows behind her, the inky smoke parting without resistance. Unfazed, she positioned herself again, looking and listening intently.

"Interesting mind... very interesting," eyes narrowing, she remained still. The voice wasn't outside her. It was inside. "And bright as well. Cassandra... daughter of the most successful assassins in the world. Welcome to my home."

Raven dropped the illusion on the building, then. Cassandra's vision was a wash of blood, slick yellow bone and screaming faces, their skulls pulled and stretched grotesquely along corners and into the very fabric of the walls. Everything, the ceiling, floor and the air itself stank of blood and gore, as her eyes and ears were overwhelmed with the sight and sound of thousands upon thousands of crawling, creeping things with pale eyes that watched her.

Something seized her, in that moment of overwhelming motion and noise and held her. "Shhh. Be still. I've no quarrel with you, curious girl." This time she could feel the probing, a slick, thin tendril of cold and will knifing into her mind. It cut into her thoughts, and despite herself, Cassandra flinched. "Ah. A loosed hound, of the League."

As suddenly as she was held, the assassin turned hero was set loose, and with breath rasping only once, she regained her feet. "This isn't your fight, daughter of Cain. Flee." Shaking her head, the woman again set her senses and sought the body that housed the mind that spoke to her. "Ah, but see, that's the problem. There is no body, unless I want it. Your friends, allies should have told you.

"I'm dead after all," rising from the debris-strewn floor, shadows parted and shuddered, and with a gasp of broken limbs, Raven rose. A semblance of her, at an rate, it was the last form she'd worn in her mortal form. Red runes lined her from head to toe, as she wavered, naked and broken there, skin torn and ripped free and hanging off her bones. Central to it all a black nothing bubbled and grasped, below the ruin of her chest, as she regarded Batgirl from empty, dry voids in a skull that was only vaguely human. "This is what they let become of me. A thing to be used and discarded. What business have you here, then?"

Ignoring the words, she struck again, her foot sweeping the revenant's jaw free as it spun and shattered against a wall. Hollow laughter echoed about the room, as the body that had borne it stood nonplussed. ""That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die", Batgirl? I'm afraid you've not been about long enough, by far to qualify for that privilege." Reaching out a hand the thing pointed and that seething nothing in it's bowels whirled and sucked at the air greedily. "You error, thinking as you do here."

Again she struck, and the thing's chest broke and caved in, the grotesque mockery of female anatomy distorted further. "You don't seem to understand, Cassandra. The rules you obey, that your world conforms to, mean little to me." Frowning, the caped hero reached into her belt and pulled free more explosive spikes, hurling them into the ragged flesh that shook and shuddered, an effort to simply stand. The explosion that resulted didn't phase her, pulling her cape about herself to shield from the debris of it.

"Still you fail to see," turning to the sound, Batgirl's eyes widened as she saw the four slashes of Raven's eyes peering back at her from the inside of her own cape. "Your masters loosed you on an errand they did not understand," pulling the cape free, she moved to throw it free, but it clung to her arm, crawling along her skin, numbing it with cold as it's formless sheet spread and billowed. "Do you see?"

Panting, Cassandra ripped the arm of her bodysuit free and shucked it off her arm, leaving the cloth and cape to pool on the floor as she rolled away. Regaining her feet, the woman looked to those possessed thing, only to see them inert, still on the floor. "Do you see?" Spinning, she looked about her anxiously, unsure of her enemy's direction.

From above her a shadow swept down, a silhouette of a girl, upside down before her, hair hanging down lank and swaying in the air. This time Batgirl didn't strike, but simply watched. Blank white eyes opened and bored into her own, expressionless. "Do you see?" Staring back into those empty lamps she could feel the sins of her past, all the killing, all the deaths well up inside her.

Her first kill, still a child, barely eight years old. Cassandra felt her skin go cold again, her mother's body hung on a hook above a Lazarus Pit, so soon from her own resurrection. Again her body weighed down by seawater and fatigue as Spoiler's ghost refused her the peace of death.

"You seek vengeance against circumstance. To prove yourself better, and therefore defeat not only the presence of those parents whose shadow you cannot move from, but also the idea their hands in your life present." Closing her eyes, she shook at images of a white room, bereft of anything but that luminous nothing staring back at her. Her eyes didn't close on that nothing for what felt like decades. At the speed of dream she relived her life, again and again.

Four seconds, the voice said. In that room four seconds passed while I relived my life, from start to end. Cassandra did as well, looking out of those eyes. Her father's training. Each day passing in anguish, memory of it all perfect. Deaths. Killing. Growing. Learning. Despair. Love. Hope. Each time I tried to see what I could do to change it. Undo what had happened. Now the images, the pattern flashing by with soul-crushing force changed and she could no longer desensitize herself to it's passage. Things altered, chances taken differently. Let me show you what it's like to live a life, seven million, five-hundred and forty nine thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight times. Each time trying to see the wrong. See your error. Why everyone you trusted, everything you've striven for and tried to hope for, was crushed and refused you.

Batgirl jerked, where she slumped against the wall, her eyes wide and unseeing, but her mind could not close it's eye. See my hell, Cassandra. Those brown eyes rolled up into the woman's skull, as her body feebly spasmed on the floor. Do you see?

Cassandra saw. In her mind, a life, her own played out to this point. Each time subtly different. Each time ending the same, with the knowledge that at the end, she lay frothing a the mouth as her mind closed it's talons in her soul and would not let go.

Raven slipped down to the floor and regarded the woman who lay there. Kneeling down, she ran a hand along her face, her own back in it's semblance of humanity. Something... similar in the woman made her hesitate. Stilled her killing hand. "You will survive this. You are too strong not to. Like me, your are a monster, just one with a fate that doesn't lie here." Slipping an arm about the woman's shoulder, Raven lifted the slender form up and carried her to the blown out window that dominated the apartment.

"This is not your fight," looking out a the stars, Raven smiled a very small, very cold smile. "For all this place, this city and maybe the world are damned and falling into my darkest dream, you aren't a part of it."

She looked out at the city, and the yawning chasm of the street below her. In a moment of clarity she could see the asphalt writhing under the heat of flame from beneath, driven and cracked by the feet of things damned and walking. "This isn't your fight. Go home."

Flinging the limp form from the window, she watched as shadow warped and wrapped around Batgirl, as her limbs twisted from the fall. Then she was gone, swallowed up by Raven's will.

Sighing tiredly, the woman-made-demon leaned on the ruin of the windows and looked a the ground-borne sky the city displayed. Stars, planets and every light of the sky, gleaming up in a perverse mockery. "Did you enjoy your little freedom, Jump? The respite from my father, a salvation from his hell? Your time without me, uncaring for the sacrifice I gave for your survival?"

A groan told her that Jinx was waking to her injuries. Blinking out over the city, Raven felt rage, cold and calculating well up in her breast. "I hope you did. Seven and a half million lifetimes of nightmare. Soon, it will be time to pay for that peace," turning, she gestured and the wall shimmered back into place, the debris melting into the floor as the illusion she maintained of the Hotel slipped back over reality like a second skin.

She found Jinx laying by the wall, the destroyed balcony and window tearing her body and leaving jagged trails which had soaked her clothes. Raven settled her cloak over the young woman, and into that same blackness fell as well.

Rising from the pool of shadow between the bedsheets and the bed itself, Raven left her companion whole and sleeping off the effects of the healing while she herself drifted, staggering against the wall nearby.

She'd meant to move on, a spark that had caught her mind present in the city beckoning to her, but the recent fight and healing and forcing into another her own broken damnation had exhausted her strangely. "Even I have limits, it seems," she murmured, and without preamble shuffled back to the bed and simply collapsed there beside the other woman, not bothering to pull back the sheets or make herself comfortable.

Jinx's troubled sleep eased, as the images in nightmare were pulled away. Beside her the torpid form of Raven shed it's shadowy cloak as the mind that drove it went still, sleeping herself for the first time in years. Dreams or nightmares may have moved through that sleeping mind, but in the face of her reality, they likely fled.

oOo

Waking with a start, Jinx groaned and shifted, feeling for all the world like a hangover like no other was hammering about in her skull. Closing her eye again tight, she sat up slowly and hoped the room wouldn't be trying to play the part of carousel when she opened it again.

Surprisingly, the soreness and disorientation passed, as she woke more fully, and peering about her the former thief was surprised to see she wasn't alone in the bed. "I thought I went out to sleep on the couch," she thought to herself, peering at the quiet form of Raven beside her. Though she'd not seen her so peaceful, it was oddly disconcerting to see the demon so... human. Sleeping, she could almost forget the former Titan's usual visage, cloaked so in her shadows as to erase her form.

Quietly, Jinx rose and straitened her clothes, peering out at the world through the windows. The odd distortion at the corner of her vision was stronger, but she knew it was Raven's sleeping that let it happen. Not a fool, she knew something more was going on than first met the eye in the Hotel. Frankly though, she didn't care.

Perhaps it was something Raven felt she'd not want to know. Perhaps it was 'too horrible' in the demon's opinion, whatever it was. Despite her sometime naiveté, Jinx had been the one to summon Raven, had been the one to survive her own horrors, and regardless of the truth, she'd face it. She had resigned herself to die, or worse, after all. Gazing out at the city, it's nighttime lights faint from the window and height, Jinx could feel the impetus of Raven's presence on the sprawling metropolis.

It wasn't that she had singularly darkened the feel of the place. It was more... a coaxing. Small things, taken and used and pressed properly were leading it to darker and darker depths. Laying her hand on the windowsill she could feel the pulse of the Hotel. It was a living thing, now, almost. With each piece of herself that was replaced, her sense of self grew. With that, returned her innate power, and the senses she bore that let her tap into the weave of magic. As she grew stronger, that awareness sharpened, and now she could feel the presences in the building.

Before she'd made the pact with Raven, perhaps it would bother her... no. Before she'd lost all she held as her own. After that, little held so much meaning. The scene and Raven's actions at the Diner, when she had taken all those people into her darkness after their talk, cemented that ideal inside her.

There was no thing that could come, she'd not face directly. She was ready, if it came to it, to die when her revenge was complete. Jinx realized as her hand slipped down the window's sill that she was also willing to kill, if presented the opportunity. Already three deaths were on her hands.

Raven was right, she admitted with a smile, cold and empty as she looked out over the lifeless lights of the city. "It does get easier."

Stretching, she winced as her body shifted and metal ground against bone. Straitening her clothes, the woman moved quietly to leave, but paused at the doorway. Jinx had intended to go out and get something to eat, having not done so yet that day. Though the pantry was always stocked, she wanted to go and move about, walk and breath new air. She knew Raven would likely not join her, besides this was literally the only time ever she'd seen the former Titan sleeping.

Sneaking quietly to the bedside, Jinx peered down at the still form of Raven, sleeping. Tilting her head, the woman busied herself a moment, pulling a coverlet over her companion before leaving the apartment.

oOo

Walking along the streets, her clothes something less the rags she'd worn only days before, Jinx found in herself some of the old exuberance and energy that had escaped her for so long. Enough so that she hazarded to visit an old haunt, craving something social and mindless.

Odd, she figured. It wasn't that Raven was bad company, quite the opposite. Not like she could discuss her mind with anyone else, outside of the Slab's occupants, without getting herself carted in for psychological analysis. She didn't fancy a trip to an Antarctic slammer to chat, so Raven would happily do for the moment.

On the other hand, she was sparse company when it came to conversation, and about as entertaining normally as a footstool. Probably had something to do with being locked in a box for two years. Jinx figured she'd lighten up a bit in time, but till then...

She needed to indulge in a bit of nightlife. It had been far too long since the last time, and an thrill of excitement ran through her at the idea. Jinx had no intention of picking up someone, or getting drunk, or for that matter had no real idea what she intended.

Out. That was as far as she'd gotten as far as planning.

It didn't take her long to reach the Straits, the few streets in the part of town devoted to bars, watering holes and dens of questionable activity. "Absolutely perfect," she sighed, spinning about a streetlight and disturbing foot traffic for a moment.

Jinx remembered how it used to feel. Walking into the neon lights, and the flashing bulbs of the bars and clubs and seedier things, flesh houses and taboo dens. Maybe she'd just gotten done with a big hit, or possibly gotten a lucky fence off something. More money than a young girl with no future knew what to do with.

Young, she'd been nervous to indulge in harder pursuits. Heavy drugs were out, as she needed to be sharp. The same applied to the riskier games. Gambling was strait out, as she hated odds that didn't let her stack her way through skill alone.

Drinking was a simple game. She played it well, had for a while. Street smart meant knowing from experience what and what not to do, when you're a young woman with few people that would miss you. Lucky for her, she had a loaded deck with her powers, or early on the streets would have taught her the darker side of sex.

As it was, she took as she pleased. Which wasn't much, admittedly. Call it stubborn aesthetics – most people smelled funny. Or couldn't keep her interest long. Maybe they just didn't strike her fancy. She'd let herself slide into that dance on three occasions, one of which had ended with her being put out of the game for a year, tending to a swollen belly and later a mewling little thing that looked up at her with eyes like her own.

Her expression turned grim for a moment, as she inspected the window of a shop intently. What kind of life could she have if at every turn something reminded her of loss? Taking a deep breath, she loosed and pictured those memories fleeing with that breath. Again, and again she repeated this cleansing, each time letting those pains dim. Jinx didn't want to forget her pains, but needed distance, clarity from them. They shaped her. Defined her, but they weren't the whole of who she was.

In time, she could almost pretend the woman who swayed down the street wasn't a killer, or tormented by inner demons that most would flee from. She passed the hourly hotels, the drug dens and harder frivolities, and found a club that played music she liked. It smelled of people, sweat, alcohol and lust. Breathing deep, Jinx slipped in and settled near a cove by the floor.

A few days ago she'd danced for Raven, drunk off the reality of a more whole body.

Now it was time to dance for herself.

Though her energy wasn't fully back, it didn't matter. She was alive. She could move, and dance, and the music was fine and it was wonderful. Lights played into her eye as she looked up and out over the floor, the brightness picking out people, faces that were at once amazing and unremarkable. Jinx acknowledged them, knew they were beautiful, and forgot them in a moment.

All but one.

At first, she thought... nothing. Just a cold recognition. Her arms and body kept swaying, moving with the beat that drove the bodies around her into a frenzy. As the next part of the song began, a heat ran through her, a desire. Something she needed.

Dancing, the crowd was easy to navigate, she was moving with, rather than against the press of people. Hands touched her, brushed past, and she touched and passed on a bit of that contact as she moved. Then, she was on him.

The vodka and beer were strong on his breath, even in the crowd. It floated about him like a cloud, and it amused her distantly that he was still standing, much less dancing. It started then, that ritual that people had done for ages. She met his eyes, the fall of her hair masking her lack, and she smiled.

Through his drunken daze, the man smiled back, and she swayed closer, dipping briefly into that alcohol miasma that surrounded the man like a cloud of flies. Meeting his eyes again she looked down and focused on her movements, her hips rolling, arms waving by her sides as she turned. She let him see her neck, her cheek as she arched her back, grinding against the noise of the club like a physical thing.

He took the invitation. In a moment she felt hands on her hips and indulged in a little flare of victory. The music carried them for long minutes like this, as he grew braver, letting her feel him through their motion. His hands crept up and she took them, pulling them back to her hips, held the contact to reassure him.

When the song ended, she turned and pressed the still-woman side of her body against him, murmuring softly, knowing he'd not hear. He looked quizzical, and she stepped back, looking to the door and back. Smiling, he followed and they eased through the press of bodies, his hand in her own.

Outside the cold, fall air snapped her awake and her senses clean. He stank of drink and sweat, old anxiety and opiates. Red hair and blue eyes looked back at her as they walked clear of the club and it was nearly three blocks before he said anything, her long trek from the music not missed. "Hey, where we goin'?"

Summoning a coy look, she grinned back at the man, "Well that depends, honey. You wanna see heaven, or hell?"

Frowning, he made to stop but she pull the hand she held to a hip and continued on. His resistance evaporated, "Heaven huh, with you I think that'd be nice."

"Oh but honey I'm not going to heaven," crooning the words to the abandoned streets, Jinx practically skipped as they passed the park.

Laughing at her, the man shrugged and smiled, "So I guess hell then? You a naughty girl a bad one?" A dumb look spread over his face, "I like the bad ones."

The Hotel loomed above them, and she considered the elevator. "I bet you catch a lot of bad girls, don't you?" The redhead nodded, as she pulled him through the grand entrance doors, and while he was still thinking about those other "bad girls", she guided him into the elevator.

"Bad girls like good boys, so I hear," she slid back to the far wall, away from the access panel and grinned, keeping her bangs over the scarred pit of her eye. "And if you're very, very good, I even have a friend who would like to meet you."

As she'd hoped, the idea settled in his head and the smile that split his face was painted with lust, dull eyes glazing in his imaginings. "Oh I can be good. I'm a hero, after all."

Jinx feigned surprise and toed the floor coyly, "Really...? Oh I know she'll wanna meet you then. I bet she'll eat you right up," bubbling up a giggle for the young man, she honestly felt amused. How simple this was...

Pale metal doors opened and she swept out, taking his hand, "Just a bit further baby. I have someone you'll just be dying to meet." Jinx rattled the door the room far too loudly, and smiled as she felt Raven's spike of awareness sweep the the Hotel. Lucky for her, the besotted man beside her was too far gone to notice the odd swell and unnaturally organic sweep of the walls, as they passed.

Jinx winked at some pale, many-legged thing as it slipped between one shadow and another, and to her surprise, it paused and winked back. Laughing she threw open the door, and tossed the man through before her, giggling again as he sputtered and skidded to a halt in the middle of the room. "Oi, hey that was kinda rough," he complained, rubbing at his shoulder as he looked about.

Jinx mocked a pout, "Awe, but I thought you would like it rough..." leaning forward, she planted a foot on his shoulder, as he was still getting his balance, and kicked out hard. The force planted him against the couch's back, and he stumbled and fell over onto it. Splayed out and shaking off the dizziness of the spinning room, the man blinked as something detached itself from a doorway and stared at him.

He blinked rapidly. The thing shivered a moment and stretched, arms unfurling out and balling into fits, a sound like a yawn escaping it. Then four shallowly-slanted diagonal lights shone out of the thing's head and he shook off the blurring in his vision, something familiar scrabbling at his memory at seeing those... eyes? "What's going on here?"

Raven hesitated a moment, still unused to the languor of sleep that had fallen over her. Definitely something to do in moderation in the future... but here, something interesting. "Well well, look what the cat dragged in," Jinx giggled and leaned back against the hotel room door, the latch catching loudly in the silence.

"I thought you might like a snack when you woke up," the quirky woman replied, shrugging. "Was surprised to see him in the Straits honestly," leaning over the couch, she grinned down at the man, her face cast half in shadow in the room's dim light.

Curiously he looked to her, wondering what the hell was going on. Anxiety was slowly riding up on his spine, pushing back at the cloud the drugs and vodka had settled over his brain. He started when the shadows forced his eyes to seek out her own, and under the fall of bangs he noted the lack there. "The hell is going on?" Reaching to his belt, his hand closed on... nothing?

"Looking for something honey?" Dancing away from the man, Jinx produced a small red-lined communicator, the thick yellow "T" prominent on it's lid. "Sorry, old habits die hard." Turning to her companion, the pink-haired woman grinned at the shadowed form and tilted her head, "does this mean what I think it does, Raven?"

Nodding, the demon moved forward and leaned over, staring Roy Harper in the eyes, as she offered him a smile, "I think so, Jinx. I believe that they added a more pieces to the game. How lovely." Looking back to the woman, looking so pleased with herself, Raven grinned. "And here I was planning to find him earlier, before my nap. What a coincidence."

"Raven? Jinx?" Speedy's mind caught up with the moment and he scrambled back, falling off the couch. Why the fuck had he listened to Garth and gone out before checking in at the Tower? That man's womanizing was going to get him... killed. Raven. Robin had called in the Titans East that morning, to help with the serial murderer that was active in Jump. The one they thought did Eddie. Oh god. Mind reeling, he scrambled back, cursing again when he found absolutely nothing to use as a weapon nearby. "Wait, wait. Jinx why are you with her? I thought you were with the Titans?" He considered the chair in the corner, then looked back to see the woman he'd followed supposedly to a momentary tryst standing alone.

Jinx offered him a wide smile. "Why be a pauper in heaven, when I can be a princess in hell?"

Shit. Running for the chair he'd seen, Speedy came up short hard, when he saw Raven, missing a moment before when he'd spoken to Jinx, sitting in the very thing. "Why mister Harper, such a hurry to leave? How disappointing, and with two lovely women having you all to themselves."

"Please," holding his hands out before him, warding the two off he backed away. "I don't know what you want, but whatever it is, we can reason this out." Swallowing hard he took another step slowly toward the room's door, the alcohol haze quickly leaving him alone there, cold and scared and lucid. "Just tell me what you want. Maybe I can help."

Speedy's vision shifted, jerked nervously from the madly smiling pink-haired seductress to the shadows pooling all around the room and he lost his nerve, seeing Raven missing again. Turning he moved to reach for the door-

Something cold and smooth slid into his stomach, the sound of the muscles and tendons that held in his entrails parting with a sound like wetly tearing fabric, and a distant sensation of heat over is navel. "Oh. I'll tell you what I want, Roy," Raven's eyes were so empty, as he looked into them, only an inch from his face. He imagined they weren't eyes at all, but windows that let him see through her, through everything and into whatever lay beyond. "I want you."

His breath wouldn't come. It felt like something was pulling at his diaphragm and would not loose it. Speedy's mouth worked silently, as the effort to speak taxed him, "Why me?"

"Because the stage isn't ready for the real players," Raven replied simply, her mouth a deceptively gentle curve below those inhuman eyes. Reaching up she ran the backs of her fingers along his cheek, as the pain in his gut flared like hot iron. Raven shivered at sudden spike of sensations that washed over her.

Raven practically purred, the fabric of her cloak soaking with blood as it shallowly sawed at the man's abdomen, slipping under his skin and barbing wickedly. "Let slip into something more comfortable, you and I..."

Jinx settled on the couch, watching as Raven's smile shone out of her shadowed cloak. Fingering the communicator in her hand, she watched as the fabric of the demon's cloak separated into a thousand barbed strands, the woman's naked curves shining pale and bright in the moonlight. Then the stark lines were lost, as those barbs spun and dived, and the spray of dark blood blurred her back into the shadows.

Biting into an apple she'd snatched from the pantry, Jinx's tongue snaked out to recapture the juice that tried to escape along her chin. Tasty. "Easier and easier," she noted idly, licking a the exposed fruit with a low, satisfied sound.