Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans.
Author's Note: Here's yet another project I'm starting off with, this one having resided in my noggin for about a year now. I really should be finishing things instead of starting new ones… but what's the fun in that? Be forewarned that this story will also feature my first attempt at writing Jinx.
Also, a Public Service Announcement: go read CasaNova73099's Raven: Soundtrack Of My Life. You (and the author of that wonderful story) will be glad you did.
It is time that equality bore its scythe above all heads. It is time to horrify all the conspirators. So legislators, place Terror on the order of the day!
-Jacobin delegation, 5 September, 1793
Strays and Runaways
Something, the gray tabby decided, was amiss.
The problem, of course, was the noise that was gradually increasing in both volume and pitch that had awoken it from one of its many daily naps in one of New York cities many dark alleys.
Resolving to determine the source of the curious noise—and perhaps to see if it could be eaten—the tabby uncurled itself and slinked noiselessly towards the street to investigate.
Yowling in fright and discomfort, the feline darted back into the security of the alley, retreating into the dark shadows that it called home.
The source of the noise—a five-year old girl—lay stunned on the sidewalk, having tripped over the inquisitive cat. The pitter-patter of tiny shoes on concrete had ceased, but the cacophony of burglar alarms triggered by the sudden and mysterious shattering of every window in a two-block radius was hardly a welcome replacement. The child quickly recovered from her shock and just as quickly arrived at the conclusion that this was not a place she should be found in. Bright violet eyes wide with fright, she sought refuge in the alleyway (to the tabby's infinite displeasure), escaping from view just as the lights in the nearby apartments flickered on and annoyed tenants looked out their windows for vandals.
By the time the police arrived, the alleyway was devoid of both human and feline life, both having opted to seek sanctuary somewhere quieter.
Anger. She had thought that she had been angry before, but she had never really known what anger truly was until that very moment.
True, the other children at the orphanage had stolen from her before. It was the price of looking different, and she had been paying it in spades as far back as she could remember. But those weird tickles at the back of her mind that she instinctively knew were coming from the children around her had worn her patience out with remarkable speed, and for once she wasn't going to take Jason's theft of her cookie lying down.
For reasons Rachel didn't at the moment understand, she thrust her open hand forward—palm out, fingers parallel to the floor, thumb stretched up to the sky—and pushed… and suddenly she felt as though she were in two places at once. There was a tiny piece of her that wasn't in her, but instead inside-
-and just as suddenly, she was whole again, her rage replaced by horror at what she had done. In an instant, Jason had gone from being a six-year old boy with a cruel streak and a mouthful of one illicitly-acquired sugar cookie to being a four-foot corpse with a stopped heart.
Rachel didn't wait for Ms. Mason to move across the room to investigate Jason's collapse. She ran through the nearest exit (blowing it off its hinges and twenty feet away from the building in the process) and tore off into the night.
Rachel awoke as the sounds of morning traffic started to pick up and momentarily panicked when she didn't find herself in her familiar room back at the orphanage. She was brought back sharply to reality when the cardboard box she had used to keep warm overnight glowed black and disintegrated, leaving her exposed to the lightly falling snow that hadn't been there when she had fallen asleep.
Possessing a practicality not commonly found in children her age—or adults far older than herself, for that matter—she wasted no time or energy upon bemoaning her situation, but instead set about the task of procuring a meal.
Several hours later, Rachel's practical nature began to wear down. Finding something edible on the street, it seemed, was a far more daunting task than she had previously thought. The soup kitchen she had run across had been ruled out before she had come within a hundred paces of it; the looks one of its patrons had sent her way had promptly sent her packing. She didn't know the meaning behind the appraising glance she had received, but she knew enough to realize that she would rather be hungry and far, far away from the haggard-looking man with the torn brown leather jacket than full and finding out what was going on behind those eyes of his.
Rummaging through the garbage hadn't been nearly as rewarding as those cartoons she'd seen once or twice had lead her to believe either, and after she had nearly impaled her hand on a discarded hypodermic needle, she decided it was time she moved on.
The rest of the day passed without incident (or, for that matter, food). She wasn't thirsty—the unceasing snowfall made certain of that, at least—but that was the only success she could claim. Eventually, the sun set on her first day on the lam, and she sought out a dark corner to spend the night.
Digging out a small hole in the snow covering the ground and pulling another empty cardboard box to cover her small frame, Rachel made herself a makeshift bed that served to keep her slightly sheltered from the elements, as well as hidden from sight. None too soon, it turned out.
No sooner had she disappeared underneath the box than she heard voices headed her way.
"Of all the possible times for it to snow, it had to be when Chuck decided to send me out to look for a newbie." The speaker sounded irritated, but when Rachel concentrated on the man, she had the sense that he was more worried than angry.
"Logan, you've been complaining all day, and you're probably a good deal warmer than the girl-" This speaker actually was irritated, Rachel determined, and his aggravation only increased when the first man abruptly cut him off.
"That's another thing that's annoying me, Boy Scout. We don't even know the kid's name-"
"As I've said a thousand times today, the Professor couldn't pinpoint any specific details with Cerebro, because of her powers getting in the way."
"So he didn't send Jean instead of you… because?"
Rachel listened as the two arguing men walked past her hiding spot, their voices eventually fading into the distance. She was too terrified to even breathe for fear of them coming back—there was no doubt whatsoever in her mind that they had been looking for her… probably, she figured, to arrest her for that.
Sleep didn't come to Rachel for some time that night, and when it did it was hardly restful.
Fear. She had felt its icy touch before, but never had she truly been afraid for her life. That was now no longer the case.
Jason had beaten her up before. He often did it alone, but usually—like tonight—he preferred to have his buddies to back him up. Someone had to hold the victim still, after all.
She was gasping desperately for breath after the third fist to the gut, and a nasty blow to the face would definitely leave bruising—not that anyone would care; a new bruise on the Freak was hardly notable—but it was the knife that Jason pulled out that sent her over the edge. Suddenly the uncomfortably hot tingling at the back of her head turned numbingly cold, and she collapsed onto the floor. The surprise of hitting the ground snapped her out of whatever withdrawal from reality she had retreated to, and the sound of screaming children assaulted her ears… and looking at the mess in front of her, she couldn't blame them, although she could understand how they would blame her. A bloody knife was buried to the hilt in the wall of the bathroom that Jason's attempt at re-educating her had taken place, and a gaping hole in Jason's neck was leaking blood all over the tile.
Coming to her senses, Rachel shot up off the floor, through the bathroom door, past Ms. Mason running to investigate the noise, and out the front door of the only home she had ever known.
This time, it was the rumbling of her stomach that woke her up, and not the noise of morning commuters making their way about the city. The disoriented panic of the previous morning came and went, with the annoying effect of destroying the only thing separating Rachel from the cold ground and the rapidly accumulating snowfall. Any hope of 'going back to bed' quite literally torn to shreds, the young girl began her search for sustenance anew.
At first, it seemed that fortune had smiled upon her that day. It was one o'clock when she found the dollar bill on the side of the street, which so quickly turned into a candy bar that one might not be blamed for believing magic to somehow be involved in the process. Her luck quickly turned sour, and she found no more food to eat for the rest of the day.
Disaster struck that evening, as Rachel tried once more to brave the soup kitchen. Her resolve had weakened after two days without a proper meal, and the siren song of calories was too enticing to resist. She was no more than fifty paces from the door when it opened, and out stepped the man who had driven her from the kitchen the previous day. She froze, and as his eyes alighted upon her he allowed a malicious smile to grace his haggard features. Immediately, every instinct she possessed screamed at her to put as much distance between herself and the leering man as possible, and she turned on her heel and fled.
She could hear him give chase, and she knew that he could—and would—quickly close the gap between them if she didn't lose him as soon as possible. She turned a corner, and once out of sight she dove into the nearest convenient alleyway and tried to make as little noise as possible as she hid inside a dumpster.
Her pursuer appeared at the mouth of the alley and paused, looking around for any other possible avenues of escape that his quarry could have taken. There were none. He chuckled under his breath and slowly began walking into the passage, eyes darting left and right in search of any sign of his prey.
Rachel couldn't help herself, and the slight whimper gave away her position. As his arm darted forward to catch hold of her, all Hell broke loose. She screamed, and immediately the contents of the dumpster levitated a few inches and exploded, knocking the man backwards and onto the snow-covered ground. Picking himself up, he gave Rachel a murderous glare and lunged forward once more to grab hold of her. As he did so, however, a great big shadowy thing materialized from one of the piles of trash littering the alley and interposed itself between Rachel and her attacker. The hulking figure (something in the back of Rachel's mind recognized it as a gorilla, but the rest of her was unable to process that fact) pulled back a hairy arm swung at the man in front of it, landing a powerful punch directly his chest. The man went flying into a wall and collapsed into a heap, only to be picked up and bodily hurled deeper into the alley by the enraged primate. As the beast ventured further into the alley to continue its extremely one-sided fight, Rachel wisely opted to leave, moving with all possible haste to get as far away from the creature and its probably-dead sparring partner. She didn't stop running until her legs gave out from under her, by which time she was completely lost in Central Park.
Crawling into some bushes for some shelter from the snow, she tried to go to sleep, but even as exhausted as she was it was hours before she finally achieved unconsciousness.
Left alone. It wasn't something that happened very often, but even dickwads like Jason had to take a vacation from bullying every now and then. For once, he and his friends had behaved approximately like halfway decent human beings and left her in peace for the evening. She even actually got to eat her cookie.
And then on the way back from the bathroom, she tripped and hit her head on a wall.
Jason, who had been halfway down the hall from her, laughed. That was expected, of course. He wouldn't be Jason if he didn't find amusement in the suffering of others. What was unexpected, however, was the tingling sensation that suddenly appeared at the back of Rachel's head. Ignoring the asshole, she focused on the feeling and discovered that it possessed a directional quality. She didn't understand how, but somehow she could point it in one direction or another and 'listen' to whatever it said. She 'pointed' it in one direction, and 'listened' to Ms. Mason in the next room over. Some part of her brain interpreted the signals she received as "irritated," and Rachel realized that Jason was being very loud. Almost automatically, the sensation focused itself on the bully, and Rachel realized how much Jason enjoyed watching her get hurt.
Something inside of her snapped at that moment, and the next thing she knew Jason was screaming bloody murder as he floated up against the ceiling, Ms. Mason was sputtering incoherently and pointing at her, and the other children were coming to investigate the noise. Suddenly shocked back into reality, Rachel dropped Jason from where he had been suspended. He fell badly, however, and the resulting crack that snapped through the air silenced Ms. Mason, the inquisitive children, and especially the (formerly) screaming Jason.
And when Rachel ran, nobody gave chase.
The morning of Rachel's third day outside of the orphanage was met, not because of the sounds of traffic (of which there was none) nor the growling of her stomach (of which there was plenty).
She woke up because there was something Cold and Wet poking her in the neck.
Gasping, she sat up and turned to inspect the cold and wet neck-poker that had awakened her, but all she could see was green and white. The latter was certainly both cold and wet, but it had stopped falling during the night and there was near where her neck had been. The former was made up of a Maine Coon and the bush she was in, but neither of those were-
Rachel's brain ground to a halt and backed up a few steps. Maine Coon?
She looked again, and just as there had been the first time, a large and exceptionally green feline sat next to her, an expectant look in its eyes. Before she could say or do anything, however, a loud growling erupted from her abdomen, and the cat fled.
Having successfully frightened off the likely culprit of the Cold and Wet fiasco of the morning, Rachel tried to think of some way to get some food. She wouldn't last much longer without anything to eat, especially in light of the weather. Her mind kept wandering, however, to the oddly colored cat whose nose had so abruptly awoken her. She didn't know much about the creatures, but she was fairly certain that they weren't supposed to be green.
"I wonder why?" she asked out loud, before nearly jumping out of her skin when a muffled meow directly behind her caught her by surprise. Whirling about, she found an extremely self-satisfied olive-hued feline holding a wriggling mouse in its mouth. Seeing that it had her attention, the cat released the rodent at her feet. When Rachel made no move to stop the mouse from scurrying off, the Coon pounced on it again, picking it up and carrying it back to the baffled five-year old.
Again, the mouse was dropped, and again she made no move to catch it. Finally, as though disgusted with her (she checked, and it wasn't; just confused), the cat broke the mouse's neck and deposited it neatly in her lap.
And just like almost any other five-year old girl that has a dead rodent deposited in its lap by a green cat, she squeaked and flung the mouse out of her lap. Unlike with any other five-year old girl flinging a dead mouse out of her lap, the airborne rodent exploded.
The cat looked completely and utterly bewildered, and the expression was so ridiculous that she couldn't help but let out a long stream of childish laughter. Realizing that it was being laughed at, the cat stuck both its nose and its tail straight up into the air and stalked off.
When it returned a few minutes later with a sour expression and a pear dangling from its mouth, Rachel decided that antagonizing the creature would be a Very Bad Idea. It wasn't very interested in sitting in her lap, but it was more than happy to wind around her in circles as she stroked its long, thick fur.
"Are you a boy cat, or a girl cat?" she asked, uncertain as to why she would think talking to a cat would yield results. Surprisingly enough, though, it did. The cat froze in place and gave her its best feline deadpan. Realizing that, if she expected the animal to answer she should stick to yes/no questions, Rachel tried again. "Are you a girl cat?" The answering glare and angry tail swish seemed to indicate a negative response. "So you're a boy, then." There was no outward physical response to the query, but the tingling sensation that had been bothering her since the night she left the orphanage seemed to tell her that, if he could talk, the cat would be (rudely) telling her that she was correct in her second guess.
"Don't give me that, it's a perfectly reasonable question, especially since I'm going to give you a name." The cat seemed suddenly uncertain, as though he really didn't want to know what kind of ideas regarding names this five-year old in front of him had.
Rachel didn't know why she was naming him; only that it seemed to be the appropriate thing to do. He showed every indication of not planning on leaving her alone (although she had no idea why he was so suddenly attached to her hip, so to speak), and she'd feel silly simply calling him 'Cat.' Mentally, she went through the (short) list of cats she had heard of. Felix, Hobbes, Tom, Heathcliff, Sylvester, Stimpy…
"I think… I think I'm going to call you 'Garfield.'"
Garfield laid his ears back and sulked.
In an unusual reversal of the usual human-feline roles, Garfield spent the day bribing Rachel with food, running off to parts unknown to return minutes later with some morsel or another. In return, she lavished affection upon him, and even agreed (some small part of her violently rebelled against the idea of coming to an agreement with a cat, but was duly ignored) to call him 'Gar' for short. The day was over far too quickly for her liking, but as the sun set she needed to find a place to sleep and keep warm.
Standing up from where she had been seated all day, Rachel began to head into a nearby tree line in search of some protection from the wind and elements. Quickly, Garfield darted ahead of her and, through some strange system of communication that Rachel didn't at all understand how she understood, indicated that she should follow him. She did so, and very soon they arrived at a small indentation on the side of a hill that appeared to have caught his fancy earlier on in the day as a good place to sleep. Rachel was dubious, but tired enough to sleep wherever she lay down, and so flopped down in the bottom of the dent and curled up into a ball. Her eyes had barely shut when something very large and warm curled up around her, and the eyes went wide open again. She performed a mental checklist.
Garfield was a cat. He was large for a domestic cat, but smaller than Rachel… or at least, he was. While the first point may have still been true, the latter was most certainly not.
She was surprised to find, however, that in spite of her shock at suddenly finding herself sleeping next to a tiger, she hadn't become so emotionally off-kilter as to do any inadvertent damage. As she closed her eyes and scooted a little bit closer to the living radiator next to her, she decided that it would be a good idea to get a hold on this whole "power" business. She didn't want what had happened to Jason to repeat itself.
NINE YEARS LATER
A young woman stood atop a hill overlooking the city. An affinity for the color blue was evident in her dress; she wore blue boots and a long blue cloak that completely covered her body below the collarbone and was pinned by a ruby and gold brooch by her left shoulder. Her purple hair was pulled into a medium-length ponytail that hung over her cloak's hood, from which a green paw would occasionally emerge to bat at the dangling hair (the woman had, in fact, cut her hair to just that length for just that purpose; a bored changeling was more likely to make mischief than a distracted one). The skin on her face was almost unhealthily pale, but the most eye-catching feature was (ironically) her highly expressive eyes, which at the moment were dancing with happiness and relief.
"We're finally here, Garfield." The ferret riding inside her hood stopped playing with her hair and scampered onto her shoulder to catch a glimpse of their new home. "Welcome to Jump City!"
Author's Note: I call my cats 'Boy' and 'Girl' because, let's me honest, there's no real point in naming something that won't come when you call it.