Raven stood on top of Titans' Tower and looked out over the city as the sun began to set. A cool breeze blew towards her, and she closed her eyes and lifted her face to it, letting it rustle her hair and cloak. She was tired, but could not sleep, not yet- there was too much on her mind. She had crossed an important threshold in her life, she realized. Raven had already defeated and rejected her father- now she had defeated the evil within herself.
"Raven?" a voice asked from behind her, and she turned to see Robin approaching. "I just wanted to see if you were okay." He came to stand beside her.
"I'm fine, Robin," she said. "I just finished moving back in, and I wanted to think, is all."
"I can understand that," Robin said. "By the way- what did you do with the Codex? The museum still hasn't gotten it back."
"And they won't," Raven said forcefully. "That thing is too dangerous to be left lying around. I tried to destroy it, but I couldn't- so I teleported it into space. If we're lucky, it will fall into the sun, and that will be the end of it."
"Probably for the best," Robin replied. "How are you feeling about… what happened?"
"About as well as could be expected. This- hasn't been a fun week for me, Robin. I was trapped inside my own head, able to see what was happening, but I couldn't do anything. And part of me enjoyed all that evil, all that power. But I think I understand better now. I've seen evil from the inside, but I wasn't corrupted. I think I understand it better now, and I can fight it better, too." She smiled slightly. "Maybe that was supposed to be my destiny all along."
"Yo, you two!" A voice called, and both turned to see Cyborg, Starfire, and Beast Boy standing there. "You gonna stand up here all night?"
"Yeah," put in Beast Boy, "some of us are getting pretty hungry."
"And we must have a feast to celebrate friend Raven's safe return!" Starfire said while bobbing up and down in midair.
Raven smiled as she stepped towards her friends. "Let's go downtown," she said. "Pizza's on me."
# # # # # # # # # # # #
engine never stopped.
Day and night in this cavern far beneath the city streets the wheels and gears turned, weights lifted and were dropped, and steam was released from hidden valves. What the engine did, no one could say, but it worked continuously on its mysterious purpose, never resting never pausing.
Others might have found the constant clamor disturbing, but to Slade, it was almost soothing. He and the vast machine were alike in so many ways- restless, mysterious, wheels within wheels, and no one would ever know why they worked so hard until it was too late.
Of course there was the occasional hitch. Several times now, the Teen Titans had disrupted his schemes- disrupted, but not derailed. Slade made sure of that. Trigon had been a greater challenge, but in the end, even the might Prince of Darkness had fallen before his cunning. True, Raven had struck the final blow, but it was Slade who had maneuvered her into position.
Robin had been mystified as to why Slade would work against Trigon, and was probably mystified again as to why he had worked to end Raven's own dark schemes. The boy had potential, but he had a distressing tendency to view the world in terms of pure black and white, good and evil. Heroes and villains. Evil, to his eyes, was a monolithic force of destruction. Slade knew better. In this world there were always only ever villains. Some were just more deluded than others.
But still, sometimes, Robin surprised him. Somehow the Boy Wonder had found a way to drag Raven out of the grip of demonic evil she had mired herself in. He had felt the same long ago, when the fool Beast Boy managed to turn Terra against him. Somehow these children possessed some quality that could thwart him. But really, Slade did not mind. He always had another plan, and having such inexplicable enemies helped keep him sharp.
He motioned with one hand, and his servant approached, carrying a small wineglass in one hand. Slade looked into its depths for a moment, then lifted it in toast.
"To worthy adversaries," he said, and drank.