Pools of Compulsion/Stranger on the Mantle

Disclaimer: The Teen Titans are NOT mine. End of story.

I dedicate this fic for ThSamurai, an amazing friend.

Sixteen-year-old Joey ambled into his Advanced Placement Chemistry class and sat on the lab stool next to the one his good friend Nicolette "Kole" Weathers was sitting on. She was bent over her notebook, dutifully scribbling down the notes that were written on the board in her round script, strands of curly ruby red hair falling onto her notebook. Joey tapped Kole on her shoulder in an attempt to get her attention.

Kole looked up, a bit irked that she was interrupted in her task only to have her irritation melt away when she looked into the dancing green eyes that belonged to Joey. She gave him a friendly smile and gushed, "We're doing crystal growth experiments!"

Joey raised an eyebrow and smirked. "Isn't that slightly elementary for a class of seniors?" He teased silently, using sign language to communicate with the eager student.

Kole scrunched up her nose and stuck her tongue out at her blonde friend. "You know how much I love geology and crystals! Pout all you want because we aren't dealing with compounds, ions and catalyst, but don't spoil it for me!"

Joey mock scowled at Kole and playfully poked her in the shoulder. "Now now Nicolette, be nice." Kole's blue eyes narrowed, she detested her full first name even when Joey used it in jest.

Before she could open her mouth with a retort however, Joey's cell phone rang briefly signaling that he had received a text message. Blushing at the fact his cell phone had Glancing up at the teacher's desk, Joey was unsurprised to see it empty. Ms. Yeux, their teacher was hopelessly ditzy and easily distracting. A good many classes have resulted in cancellation because she would usually forget that she had a class in the first place.

Joey flipped open his cell phone and looked down at the screen. The text was from Rose, his younger sister from their father's second marriage. She lived with Joey and his mother, seeing her mother over the summer break in Cambodia.

The text read, "SOS! SOS!!! Addy wrking durng Xmas! Dad tking us to Jump 4 break!"

Kole studied Joey's face carefully watching it go from calm and composed to filled with stress, his eyebrows furrowed and forehead wrinkled. His normally smiling mouth turned into a frown that deepened so much it looked permanent. Joey reached up to massage his throat; his fingers slipping past a slightly thick gold chain. Kole became worried, wondering if his throat was going to close due to a panic attack. "Hey there," she said softly. He jerked his head up at the sound of her voice. "What's wrong?"

Joey grimaced. Seizing his opportunity to escape the suddenly stifling atmosphere, Joey stood up, his fingers flying as he rapidly signed to Kole that he had to leave. Then he fled.

Kole became filled with worry. That text message Joey received must have carried terrible news if his normally bright demeanor were to have vanished that quickly. Stuffing her binder and pen into her backpack, Kole hoisted her bag onto her shoulder and chased after her best friend.

Joey let out a silent moan as he slumped against the ancient oak tree that stood majestically behind the school yet it was distant enough for it to be off the grounds. He let his head drop wearily into his hands, however his energy was draining rapidly from his being. Joey wondered how long it would be before he collapsed. Why? He thought desperately. Why did he have to see his father? Actually the better question was why did he have to spend ten days in his father's presence?

Before Joey could even think negative thoughts about his beloved mother (something he rarely did) for putting him and Rose into such an uncomfortable position, he felt a warmth brush up against his side. He looked to see Kole sitting next to him her ice blue eyes staring into his emerald ones. Normally he would have been grateful for her presence, but this time he did not want her there, to burden her with his family, how broken they all were.

Kole frowned inwardly as she watched Joey flick his eyes away from her. This wasn't like Joey, he didn't shy away from comfort and he certainly didn't shy away from her. Kole remembered a time when her parents were fighting because of her father's intense, almost maniacal…perhaps megalomaniac was a better word…devotion to his work and his neglect for his wife and daughter. Kole had been the one to shy away from the world then.

Ten year old Kole ran as fast as she could up the rolling hill that led to the woods. She stumbled as she ran for her eyesight was blurred as tears stung and pooled in her eyes before spilling down her cheeks. She wiped furiously at the salty liquid before crumbling in front of an old evergreen tree. Sobs escaped the small girl for a few moments until the sensation of a small hand touching her back. Tears abruptly halted; Kole looked up, pushing away frizzy curls of red to look into the concerned face of one Joseph Wilson…her best friend.

Sitting beside her Joey signed, "What's wrong Kole? Why are you crying?" Kole sighed and shook her head, turning away from Joey. The young boy frowned and tugged on her sleeve. Kole made every effort with her tiny body to not budge. Slightly annoyed with his best friend's stubbornness, Joey crawled in front of Kole and placed his hands on her shoulders to prevent her from escaping.

"Look Joey, I don't want to tal--" Kole trailed off as Joey bored his malachite eyes into her sapphire orbs. They locked onto her. Kole couldn't look away; couldn't blink. All else in the world seemed to cease to exist as Kole stared into those green gems. She forced herself to at least remember to breathe. Joey's intense gaze made Kole feel as if she had no other choice but to tell Joey what was hurting her. She fought to resist the compelling feeling. Then a kind, tenor, child-like voice spoke to Kole in her mind. "Tell me Kole, what's wrong?" Kole was surprised, Kole knew the voice couldn't have possibly been Joey's. Sadly the boy was cursed to be forever silent, only speaking with his eyes and hands. Therefore Kole concluded that the voice was a creation borne from her imagination with the possibility of this being what Joey sounded like if he could speak. The voice had gently probed her mind, soothing and comforting her.

Immediately Kole began to tell Joey of how her father would spend hours in his lab, working on his latest experiment; liquidizing crystals and with the right mixture of chemicals, injecting this formula into humans enabling them to survive nuclear wars. Kole's mother thought the idea to be ludicrous and deadly, demanding that her husband stop the experimentation. But he refused to listen, he continued his work and went so far as to put Kole herself on the treatment, but her mother snatched her away before the needle even grazed her skin. Now her mother was demanding divorce. Kole couldn't believe how quickly her family fell apart and right in front of her.

Joey had hugged her, telling her in his own way that everything would be fine and that he was there for her.

Now Kole realized it was her turn to be compelling. Placing her hand under Joey's chin, she grasped it with a gentle firmness an turned his face toward her. "Joey," she said, softly, seriously. "What's wrong?" She locked her eyes onto his, never once wavering.

They held each other's gaze for what seemed like eternity to Kole before Joey sighed silently and signed, "It's a long story."

"I've got time," Kole replied. Grimacing slightly, Joey stood up and offered his hand to her. After pulling Kole to her feet Joey's fingers wrote, "The story starts at my house."

Kole nodded and gestured for him to lead the way.

Once inside Joey's house, the young blonde led his good friend over to the mantle place and pulled off a silver-framed picture, handing it to Kole. Kole glanced at the five by seven. It was a color photograph of a boy whose facial features were similar to that of Joey's. He had the same curly blonde hair and chiseled face. The only difference were that his eyes were an ice blue, much like Joey's younger sister Rose's eyes. His demeanor appeared to be much more formal, perhaps he was older than Joey. Turning questioning eyes to said Wilson she asked, "Is this your…?"

"My older brother, yes." Joey signed. "His name is Grant and he would have been twenty-three in a few weeks."

Kole's eyes widened with surprise. "What do you mean he would have been?" She let out a gasp. "Don't tell me he's--"

"Dead, yes."

"Did your father kill him?!"

"In a way I suppose he did," Joey mused. "You see, my mother and father met while working for the military. My father agreed to be a part of some kind of experimentation. He was injected with some kind of drug that made him stronger than the average bodybuilding man. Years later after my mother became pregnant with my brother, dad stopped. However when Grant was twelve and I was five, my father had Grant undergo the same experimentation he went through. Our mother strongly disapproved but Grant loved the exhilaration he felt with his newfound strength. However, shortly after Grant turned sixteen, the doctors accidentally pumped him with too much of the medication killing him almost instantaneously." Kole gasped as Joey gave his fingers a moment to rest. "I had never seen my brother so terrified as the drug overtook him."

"You watched your brother die?!" Joey nodded forlornly.

"My father was preparing me for the same treatment Grant had received." He smiled grimly. "Apparently he hadn't foreseen that little complication that took away his eldest son."

"Why do I get the feeling that there's more to this story?" Kole asked quietly.

In response to her inquiry, Joey raised his hand toward his throat and pushed away his chain revealing an old, slightly faded scar. "This," he signed. "Is the reason why I can never talk."

Kole's voice turned sharp. "Joey, you told me you couldn't speak because of a birth defect!"

Joey's smile turned rueful. "How I wish that was the truth."

"Tell me what actually happened," Kole demanded.

"After my father divorced my mother, he joined an underground league of mercenaries. He made a lot of enemies determined to destroy him. They went so far as to kidnap me, slitting my throat in the hopes of killing me. However all they could do was damage my vocal cords because my mother had tracked me down and rescued me. Don't look so appalled," he admonished Kole gently. "My father did break in and take down my kidnappers. I am not bitter because I lost my voice; I am bitter because I lost my brother and watched as my sister nearly became corrupted into following our father. I am also bitter because I wish my father had never made the choices he made in the first place. But he did, and there's nothing I can do to change that."

Kole was silent for a few moments, soaking in Joey's story. Then she asked, "So I'm assuming that text message you received earlier has something to do with your father?"

Joey nodded, "The text message was from Rose," he signed. "She said we have to spend the holiday vacation with him. I highly doubt we will be able to survive two weeks with him, let alone a single day."

"So spend it with my mother and me," Kole offered. Joey shook his head.

"You and your mother live in an one-bedroom apartment and you plan on sharing it with two more people? I refuse to burden you like that."

Kole smirked and rolled her eyes at her friend's chivalry. "I can squeeze in a cot, Rose can take my bed and you can have the pull-out couch to yourself. It's not much, in comparison to the lavishness of living with your father, but at least it'll be cozy and feel like a family."

Joey nodded and smiled his first true smile in hours yet what felt like forever to his red-headed friend. With graceful fingers he signed, "Thank-you, Kole."

Okay, I know that you're a comedy kind of guy, but apparently I can't pull that off. Hope you don't mind the agnsty/fluffiness.