Disclaimer: The Teen Titans are not under my ownership.
What I'm hoping for this story to be is a series of one-shots going into depths of the personas behind the heroic or villainous persona and describing how that has shaped them into what they are today. I'm also hoping to get most of these written in the first.
Chapter 1: The Demon in Me
When one looks in the mirror, he sees himself, features flipped. I can only guess what the Titans see when they glimpse into the reflecting glass.
Beastboy, to others' eyes would probably be that of a carefree soul, eager to please and make people happy. Heh, that makes him sound like he's a butterfly, or maybe a dolphin. There's also his cocky and flirtatious side as he tries and fails to make a girl like him. He's like Speedy, only his self absorption is much less than the archer's on a broad scale and his humor...well, if you could call it that--how Star and Terra find him funny is beyond Cyborg, Raven and myself--balances it out pretty well.
Yet, I know that this barely scratches the surface and there's way more to Beastboy than he's ever let on. Actually, Raven 's the only one who doesn't know what Beastboy's been through and he says he isn't willing to divulge that information to her because he doesn't want to burden her any further.
When he was younger around three or four years old, way before Beastboy even met the Doom Patrol, he was Garfield Logan, the son of scientists Mark and Marie Logan. The three of them were on a trek to Africa and he had come down with a rare disease his parents believed only animals could survive. I remember the look of pain and fear that had crossed his face as he mentioned lying helpless on a threadbare cot, fever ravaging his body leaving him weak and resigned to death.
Though he made a recovery, there were some prices Beastboy had been forced to pay. The result of his bite left him with green skin, pointed ears and fangs. "I looked like some demonic version of the Jolly Green Giant, dude!" He recalled. Soon afterward his parents were killed in a boating accident. Because his shape-shifting abilities had already manifested at that point, Beastboy felt that he could've saved his parents' lives. "I already saved my mom once before," Beastboy said. "She had been cornered by a snake and knowing that I wanted to protect her, I had transformed and got her away from the danger." He hung his head. "If only I had been on that boat! My parents would still be alive!"
To my slight surprise, Raven had placed a hand on his shoulder. "Beastboy," She said in a quiet, comforting tone. "Do you really think you could have predicted that your parents were going to die? Who's to say that your freshly manifested powers wouldn't have gone haywire and that you would have died along with them?"
He didn't look at her as he answered. "It would have been a risk I'd have gladly taken." He put his hand over Raven's. "But thanks for trying to make me feel better Raven."
Cyborg, from what I gathered from visits to his room used to be a regular teen. He went to high school and played varsity football. His birth name is Victor Stone, the son of Silas and Elinor Stone. Just like Beastboy's parents, Cyborg's parents were also scientists. He doesn't like to talk about his past often but from what Cyborg was willing to share, there had been an experiment in S.T.A.R Labs-- Mr. and Mrs. Stone's workplace--that had gone horribly awry. The disaster resulted in the death of Elinor Stone and Victor so horribly injured that it left Mr. Stone no choice but to outfit his son's injured body with experimental cyber kinetic armor.
"When I awoke from the surgery and saw what needed to be done, I wanted to die," Cyborg had confessed one afternoon. "I hated my dad for saving me and letting my mom die. I thought myself to be monster. All I saw myself to be was this mass of metal, wire and hardware. My friends shunned me and my girlfriend Marcy broke up with me." He hung his head. "They were afraid of me."
Beastboy and Starfire who had been with me, listening to Cyborg's tale immediately began consoling him. "Fear not Cyborg," Star began, floating up to his height and placing a hand on his shoulder. "As I have told you before, you need not worry about your appearance on the outside, it is what is on the inside that truly matters."
I nodded. "Star is right," I said. "And we like you for you. You can always count on us to be there for you Cy."
"Dude we're all weird in some way, shape or form," Beastboy put in. "That's just part of life." He put an arm around Cyborg's lower back, the highest he could reach. "C'mon ol' Buddy, ol' pal. Let's go have a Mega Monkey's marathon!"
As the two walked out of the room, Starfire placed her hand on my shoulder. When I turned to look at her I saw concern in her eyes. "What's wrong Star?"
"Robin, before you and Beastboy entered here, Cyborg had asked me to come in because he had something to show me." She pulled a thin black box off of a nearby stool. "He knew how much I liked jewelry and gave it to me."
Upon opening the box, there lay on a bed of velvet was a thin silver bracelet with a heart hanging on a charm. "When I looked carefully at this bracelet I noted two inscriptions." She removed the bracelet and carefully turned it so I could read the thinly carved message. To my beloved Marcy. On the heart it read in calligraphy a "M" and V" intertwined.
Looking back at Starfire I said quietly, "He must have been planning on giving this to her. How did Cy not catch you Star?"
"He had his back turned at the time," She replied, voice equally quiet. Sadness was drawn on her face.
"Robin, I do not understand. How could someone who is so loved be so cruel like this Marcy? Cyborg had needed her presence perhaps most of all, yet she chose to not look past the armor. Is this what you mean when you make the remark that people have their eyes wide shut?"
I sighed. "Some people just can't see past their noses, or as Cyborg said, Marcy was just too scared to look beyond the armor and see the Victor she loved was still underneath. She ran away."
Starfire was deep in thought. "When I traversed to the future, Cyborg said he was obsolete and was alone in the tower." She looked at me with hope in her eyes. "Now that we have knowledge of the future, we can prevent him from becoming obsolete and alone. We will be there for him, won't we Robin?"
"There's no need to question it Star," I replied. "The Reckmas will not affect this team. I promise."
Now that I think about it, I know a lot more about the guys on this team than I do the girls.
Raven is understandable. She says she can't be too open with her emotions or her past because she requires to be in complete balance with her emotions otherwise her powers will overwhelm her. Both Beastboy and Starfire have had experiences getting to know Raven and they understand her better than I or Cyborg could despite the latter being with Beastboy when they got lost in Nevermore.
Starfire had entered Raven's body when her essence was switched thanks to the Puppet King's underhandedness. She and Raven whom was trapped in Star's body took the time to truly get to know one another in order to better understand how to give rein to their respective powers. Starfire confided to me that had they not had that discussion, it seemed very unlikely that Beastboy, Cyborg and I would be released from our wooden prisons and be human once again.
Starfire herself I find to be quite an enigma. To everyone, meaning myself, the other Titans and the citizens of Jump City, Starfire is this sparkling, effervescent creature who has a bountiful amount of love and a strong desire to protect the innocent. She always this wonderful curiosity, those emerald eyes of hers brimming with innocence. Innocence, not ignorance.
Yet it's those same eyes that held a furious flame within them when Starfire first came to Earth. At first, given the fact that she and I were speaking different tongues, I didn't understand that she was an intergalactic fugitive and was merely desperate in trying to get her handcuffs off. What I still don't understand is why she was offered up as a prize in the first place. I mean, maybe if some pieces of this puzzle are put together, a feasible answer would be that it was because her planet had been in battle and she had been offered up because she is royalty. Then again so is Blackfire and she is the elder of the two, the first in line for the throne as Star has mentioned. So why wasn't she taken as a prize like her sister? Or had Blackfire too, become a prisoner, broke free and left her sister behind?
I long to understand Starfire better, she's my best friend, but I only understand her on the surface. Then again I myself am pretty complex. Though I wouldn't go so far as to call myself as the Minotaur's Labyrinth. But I guess it's time to talk about my mirror image.
To the Titans, the citizens of Jump City and Gotham alike as well as villains, I am Robin. I am a vigilante, a protector, the Boy Wonder. I'm also Batman's former protégé, warrior of the night and to those with an annoying sense of humor, the Human Traffic Light. Then there's the boy beneath this strip of black and white. Richard John Grayson. Richard is the boy I was before I met Batman and became Robin. Well, I guess it's rash of me to say Richard is who I was and not a part of who I am now. It's just that when I was solely known as Richard, I witnessed events I cannot suppress from memory as Robin.
When I was eight years old, I was a trapeze artist, just like my parents, John and Mary Grayson. We were known as the Flying Graysons, our routine showcased as the final act of Haley's Circus. As I close my eyes and yield to the memories, letting them wash over me, I can still hear the elephants trumpet and the lions roar. I can still taste the salty scent of roasted peanuts as the aroma clings to the atmosphere and feel the fabric of the big red tent, the cool smooth bar or the trapeze. But seeing, seeing as Richard is something I don't want to do.
Whoever said I had a choice?
I'm that eight year old boy again, eyes wide with terror as I hear the sickening, devastating snap of metal breaking, watching my parents fall, no net there to catch them as per tradition of the audacious Flying Graysons! Were we audacious, or were we stupid? The flow of time feels horribly viscous, my body both hot and cold. My heart is pounding. I look at my mother, terror written all over her face. My name passes from her lips before her body strikes the unforgiving ground.
Actually, Richard wasn't said. Robin was. Robin was my mother's name for me, always uttered tenderly. By the time I get off of the platform I'm breathing hard, heart pounding even more. Right now I wish I couldn't either. I knelt by my mother's form knowing no matter how fervently I prayed she wouldn't wake, her blood soaking my….
I snap the mask into place and like a veil, my memories are shadowed. But they will remain, lingering in the recesses of mind. It was foolish of me to think once the mask is in place, the memories of my past would disappear.
However there is another persona that resides within me. He is much darker and more serious than both Robin and Richard. He is also hostile. To me and me alone, he is called Deathwing, fashioned from Nightwing, my future persona Starfire recounted to me from her trip to the future.
I suppose Deathwing was born when my parents were killed. I remember wanting vengeance, the desire to destroy their murderer so great it felt like I was tasting a sweet, yet venomous fire. Batman must have sensed this growing need within me and worked to keep me from harboring the darkness that would nurture Deathwing. Needless to say I have slipped up several times both in Batman's care and while leading the Titans.
The first time I felt Deathwing surfacing while with the Titans was when that robot of Slade's attacked Starfire and sent her plummeting toward the ocean. I guess if one puts it into retrospect, I felt that hostility because not only my comrade and friend was down, but because watching her fall was like watching my parents fall. Fortunately I turned my anger into intimidation as I questioned Slade and managed to keep Deathwing quiet.
If only it would have stayed that way.
As Slade's apprentice, Deathwing surged causing Robin to go to war against him. And I thought fighting with Richard was difficult. I nearly lost control, stealing from my father's company and putting my friends in danger, coming so close to annihilating Starfire.
I remember struggling to keep a rein on Deathwing when I faced my friends on top of Wayne Enterprises. I held back on my attacks, doing things from childishly yanking Raven's hood over her eyes and knocking her aside to completely dodging Starfire, not touching her at all. Yet she is one fiery Tamaranian princess; she won't be deterred. I halt in my attempt to escape, Starfire having alighted in front of me.
"Stop!" She commands. "Do not move." Her voice is cold and steely. I can hear the quiet beginnings of fury building up in her tone. She sounds completely unlike the Starfire I know.
"Robin!" Slade had snarled into the earpiece. "Why aren't you attacking? Use the blaster I gave you!"
As I raise the weapon and point it at Starfire, I start sinking into the depths that is Deathwing. Starfire increased the power of her star bolts in response. She holds the enlarged orb briefly before surprising me and powering down. Her head is bowed, eyes sparkling with the faintest trace of tears. She looks like a lost child, her voice flooded with sadness as she speaks. "Robin, you are my best friend. I cannot be in a world where we must fight. If you truly have become evil, then go ahead. Do what you must." She lowers her arm, leaving herself completely vulnerable.
I surface, able to be myself for a moment. "Starfire no," I deactivate the blaster, my voice pleading. "I-"
I break off, cringing as the microphone screams. I'm pretty sure my eardrums are shattered. I barely hear Slade reprimanding me, the cries of pain emitted from my friends is thunderous in comparison. I watch in horror as one by one they collapse. Starfire is the last to fall, I'm barely able to catch her. I beg Slade to stop hurting them. He replies that the only way to save them is to attack. Feeling drained and defeated, I lay Starfire atop of the Wayne sign. Uttering an apology, I fire the blaster.
I feel a surge of repulsion, fighting down bile that climbs up my throat as I listen to Slade praise me the way I would praise a dog. I sense Deathwing is pleased as well as I feel a purring from deep within my chest. Once they put the pieces of the puzzle together, my friends came after Slade. When I saw them, my strength came back and I was able to take down both Deathwing and Slade.
This happened a mere few months ago, yet the memory of it is fresh, the emotions accompanying it are raw and painful. I often wonder if Starfire is still traumatized by what happened. Most likely, she wears her heart on her sleeve. I can't consider this to be weakness, it's a part of who she is, but I will have to talk to her about this, probably later tonight.
Whomever said that inner demons can be defeated has never met Deathwing.
Tonight had been the night I faced both of my inner demons, but who's to say I won? I thought I had Deathwing locked down, yet perhaps he lurked because I couldn't shake the inkling I had that Slade still lived despite the Titans telling me otherwise.
Upon first sighting Slade, I became tense and barked orders, determined to take him down permanently. The others were confused, they couldn't see him whereas I could. I would later come to find that the reason for this was caused by a hallucinogen, implanted in one of Slade's masks.
Earlier, my part of this manhunt had been scouring the park, Starfire by my side. The sky had opened up, unleashing a heavy torrent of rain on us. I had to blink furiously to keep the rain from seeping through my mask and irritating my eyes, or worse, causing my mask to slide off and expose Richard Grayson to the world.
My eyes roved the dark, grassy surroundings. With the moon having retreated behind the clouds, this scenery screamed danger and promises of pain. I caught a flicker of metallic orange not too far from Starfire. I yelled out to her, saying Slade was right behind him. She whipped around, her lithe form tense, preparing for a face-off. Seconds passed before she relaxed her posture and turned back to me, confusion written all over her face.
"Robin, I did not see-"
I dismissed her confusion and cut her off. "He's getting away Starfire! You have to go after him!"
She turned once more, looking wildly around, trying to see what she couldn't. "Robin! He is not there!"
By the time I had caught up to her, Slade had vanished into the night. I was furious, how could she let that monster get away!
Before I knew what was happening, I was dragged into the dark recesses of my mind. A shudder rippled through my body as I watched Deathwing take over. He grabbed Starfire by the arm and yanked her toward him. "He was right there!" Deathwing snapped. "How could you let him get away?!"
Starfire's eyes pooled with tears and her voice quivered as she spoke, "Robin, you are hurting me."
"You let Slade get away!" He snarled, tightening his grip on her. "Would you quit playing games you spoiled little princess!"
Starfire's face had horror written all over it, the tears falling fast. "Robin, there was no one there," she protested.
I fought against my bonds. This had to stop, Deathwing was getting out of control. If there was one thing I didn't do, it was threaten my friends and attack them on purpose. Clawing my way back to control of my subconscious, I shoved Deathwing to the back of my mind, knowing that it wouldn't be long before I had to face him again.
My breath ragged, I tore away from Starfire, running into the thicket of trees. This was it, the time I stopped Slade once and for all and I would do it as myself.
We danced, Slade and I. For the longest time it seemed that he would emerge victorious. Even I had the tiniest inkling that this would prove to be true. I felt Deathwing stirring, like the flames in the belly of a dragon, like the molten rock of a volcano. I had to quell his desires to rise and face Slade. For all I know, there could be a massacre as the result of this if he succeeds. I refuse to have blood on my hands.
Just when it felt like my body was going to succumb to its wounds, I finally, finally figured out how to stop Slade. Like Deathwing, Slade was there in my mind. Before I collapsed into Starfire's arms, I had a sickening feeling that she was right, maybe Slade and I are similar after all.
Now thanks to my mounting paranoia and Deathwing's "helping hand", I'm strapped to a bed in the Tower's infirmary. Well, actually Cyborg and Raven did tell me I could return to my room, I requested to be tied down, just in case the hallucinogen hadn't been completely eradicated from my system. Staring at the ceiling, refusing to close my eyes because every time I do I see the fear in my friends' eyes, see the pain on Starfire's face and hear the gravelly voice dripping with scathing poison that belongs to Deathwing.
I frown. I'm Robin, leader of the Teen Titans. A leader is supposed to have charisma and confidence. He's supposed to lead his team, not terrify them because of his or her own paranoia. That's another thing, I'm part of a team and as that old saying goes, "There is no 'I' in team". Being with the Titans, that's where I draw my strength. They give me balance, a balance of life that I've got to start embracing. I wonder if I were back in Gotham and dealing with Slade there, without the team, would I wind up committed in Arkum? How did Nightwing stay sane without the presence of his friends?
Reaching for a bird-a-rang, I quietly start slicing through my bonds. I've got to start making things right.
I decide to start to apologize to Starfire whom, as I've stated before, wears her heart on her sleeve. I wouldn't necessarily call her the most emotionally delicate of the Teen Titans, it's just that she's the most compassionate out of all of us, the one who cares the most.
Standing up from the bed, I stretch, otherwise all of my muscles would atrophy before going over to the small refrigerator where ice packs and medicine is kept. Grabbing an ice pack and wrapping it in a towel, I ventured toward the roof, hoping to find Starfire there. My instinct proves to be right, for my Tamaranian friend is sitting on the edge of the roof, staring pensively at the stars.
"The stars appear to be in a mocking mood," she says as I sit down beside her.
That doesn't sound like anything Star would say. "Star?"
She turns to me. "I usually find stars to be quite beautiful the way they sparkle and wink in the night sky. They bring me joy." She became downcast. "But tonight, even though the stars sparkle, I feel as though they are laughing at me. You were in so much pain, so angry, and I did not know what to do."
I start to place a hand on her shoulder when I suddenly remember the ice pack in my hand, causing my body to shake with massive shivers. Starfire quirked an eyebrow at me. "Robin? Are you ill? Do you require me to escort you back to the infirmary?"
I force a grin to my face as I hand her the ice pack. "H-here Star. I-I got th-this for you. F-for your arm." I looked away from her. "I'm so sorry for hurting you." I can't even look at the bruise I know has flowered over her skin, the guilt is making me ill.
I feel the ice pack leave my grasp, a quiet "thank-you" was uttered. Soon, I feel Starfire slip her hands into mine, absently stroking the back of my hands with her thumbs.
Silence ensued for several long moments before Starfire spoke, "I am not angry, merely confused. What happened in the park, it was like I was facing you physically, but on the inside, was someone completely different. And that someone had locked the Robin I knew away." I raised an eyebrow, had I always been this ignorant of Star's perceptiveness?
I longed to answer her, but how to begin? It's supposed to be simple. You're born and as you age and progress through life, you create an identity for yourself. I suppose that as a hero, a second identity is forged to protect the first one so long as you don't lose yourself to the second persona. That's who Robin is, the heroic façade meant to protect Richard. But then who is Deathwing? Robin's dark side? Or is he Richard's?
Perhaps one way to look at this is not through the assumption of seeing your reflection, but rather it's like looking a jewel and inspecting each facet. Each facet is an aspect of the human personality. For me, I started out as Richard Grayson, the carefree son of circus trapeze artists. In one night both Robin and Deathwing were born. Robin is the seemingly stoic leader of the Teen Titans, mentored by Batman the guardian of Gotham, the Dark Knight. Deathwing is an avenger, but his tactics are ruthless and he won't stand for anyone getting in his way, having no qualms in taking them down. When I think about it, Robin and Deathwing are so similar like a blurred, shadowy shape but at the same time they are so starkly different. And what about Richard? Who is only truly exposed through a pair of sapphire eyes and a love for videogames and pranks? Is he who Starfire is accustomed to being around only she knows him as Robin? Is Richard the part of me that takes the time to answer her boundless amount of questions and take the time to seek her out on the roof and comfort her during either a scary movie or a thunderstorm?
So who am I? Am I Richard Grayson? Robin the Boy Wonder? Or Deathwing?
I am all, and I am none.
I hope you guys like this and are willing to impart some constructive criticism. The next chapter should look very familiar to some readers, only with some editing here and there.