Disclaimer: Alas, I do not own Teen Titans or DC Comics. Monocle smile!
A/N: I'm so sad that this is the last chapter!
"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
-1 Corinthians 13:4-8
The New Oxford Annotated Bible
The New Revised Standard Version
Jump City, California
It took Beast Boy a lot of self-talking and self-encouragement to call the Doom Patrol. For a few minutes he simply sat at his desk, his fingers tapping the keyboard impatiently, before finally summoning the mental willpower to do it. The webcam flickered to life. Steve's face appeared on the other end.
"Hi Steve," Beast Boy said.
He should at least give Steve another chance. Although Steve could never replace his real father the man raised him like a son. He taught Beast Boy everything that he knew before he joined the Teen Titans.
Although he disagreed with Steve on many things, Beast Boy knew that it would tear his heart if the Doom Patrol was attacked. Yes, he sometimes he felt as though he wanted to punch Mento in the face, but they were his family. Both the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans were his family.
"I heard from the JLA that you were infected with the dust that made Robin go psycho," Steve said. "What's the story behind that?"
"Does it matter?" Beast Boy asked. "I'm alive, aren't I?"
This wasn't why he wanted to call the Doom Patrol. He didn't want to go into much details about the events of last night, of how Robin ended up becoming the perpetrator himself. Like always, Steve would always have something to lecture about. Beast Boy didn't call for a lecture. This time he wouldn't let Steve take control of the conversation.
"I want…I was going to call you anyway," Steve said. "I wanted to know…if you were all right."
This time Beast Boy was surprised. For once Steve was actually asking him about how he felt? The snappy reply he had in mind died on his lips as he considered Steve's question. Back in the house of mirrors Slade threatened to kill the Doom Patrol. Only through mental willpower did Beast Boy manage to fight off the hallucination.
Both Beast Boy and Steve sat in silence, both afraid to say something. Come on, Logan, Beast Boy thought, scrunching his hands into fists, you can talk to Steve.
"Actually, I wanted to talk about last week," Beast Boy said. "I wanted to talk about Terra."
It was such a touchy subject. He saw Larry shake his head in the background. Steve opened his mouth to say something scathing, but at a glance from Rita he shut his mouth.
"Yes, Steve, I loved Terra," Beast Boy said, "and nothing could ever change that."
In the background Rita smiled. For some reason Beast Boy felt a great weight lifted off of his chest. Admitting this to the Doom Patrol—to Steve—was what he wanted to do. He wanted to prove to Steve that he was old enough to make his own decisions.
Steve coughed uncomfortably. He didn't have to say anything. Was Steve, perhaps, a little bit sorry for saying such unkind things to Beast Boy before? Beast Boy waited with baited breath.
"You know, Garfield, I didn't give you much chance to explain yourself last time. Why don't we start over?"
After a moment of consideration Beast Boy began to talk. He liked to talk. He liked to tell jokes that no one thought was funny. But instead of trying to crack a funny joke he spun a tale of rise and fall of the girl named Tara Marko. He told of her redemption, of the ultimate sacrifice she made in order to bring down the Titans' greatest enemy.
He didn't spare any details. Why should he? Terra's story was one that had to be told. The Doom Patrol had to understand why he loved this young woman. Like anyone else, she had her own problems. Anyone can make a mistake. Beast Boy made them all the time. Even Robin made mistakes. Beast Boy didn't know how long he talked for, but he didn't care. When he was finished the Doom Patrol stayed silent for a moment, drinking all of it in.
"Thanks for calling, Gar," Steve said. "Maybe we'll come and visit sometime."
"That would be…uh…nice."
That was nice coming from Steve. And if Steve actually kept his promise…then that would be great. The Doom Patrol wasn't one to take vacations.
"I'll call again," Steve said.
Both of them logged off at nearly the same time. Beast Boy leaned back in his chair and thought back to the time he used to work with the Doom Patrol. They were good times. Perhaps not his glory days, but his experiences with the Doom Patrol made him the person he was today.
He stood up and stretched. While he normally would be sprawled on his bed asleep, Beast Boy felt wide awake. The Titans didn't really have a plan today. Everyone was off doing their own thing. That was fine with him. There were things he needed to do anyway.
Beast Boy transformed into a peregrine falcon and flew out towards Jump City. Everyone else was doing their own thing. Beast Boy knew what he wanted to do. He stopped in front of a floral shop and stepped inside. He loved the overwhelming scents of a thousand flowers wafting towards him.
"Buying flowers for a lovely lady?" the cashier asked, smiling.
She was new. The young woman hadn't been around here long enough to understand who he was buying flowers for. He handed over some cash and held up a hand when she gave him back his change.
Surprised, the young woman put the change back into the register.
"Yeah, I am," he said. "They're for a very pretty woman."
He clutched the bouquet to his chest as he walked down the road. People who recognized him waved or said hello to him. Beast Boy preferred to give high-fives. By all accounts, he should be feeling down after the events of last night. But for some reason he felt encouraged. Yes, his body still ached from the severe beating he had given himself last night.
He brought flowers.
Jump City, California
Starfire sat on the edge of the rooftop with Silkie in her lap, stroking him softly as she gazed out at the open ocean.
She had seen his face.
Although she did not know his real name Starfire knew that she would not need to. She respected his relationship with the Batman and respected his concern to keep his friends' identities a secret. Slade did not.
Unlike the others, she hadn't yet left the rooftop. She touched her cheek again where he kissed her on the cheek. For the first time in a week she felt incredibly happy. Robin had finally let go of his obsession with Slade. That, above everything else, made her to most happy because she hated seeing any of her friends in danger or emotionally distraught.
In a few minutes she would call Galfore again and discuss what happened last night. He was just the person to talk to. Deep down inside she still had a rational fear of the Gordanians. Even so, it was natural for her to feel fear. It was natural for all of them to fear things. As long as they didn't allow those fears to control their lives then they could all handle it.
She realized that for the briefest of moments she had allowed her imagination to take her captive. Starfire wondered vaguely why she was being held at Wayne Enterprises. That was only the second time she had been the building. But no matter. Nothing else mattered expect this glorious new day ahead of her. Perhaps she would be able to convince Raven to go downtown to do the shopping of dresses and other items. The Titans didn't have a plan for the day.
That was fine with Starfire.
She placed Silkie on the rooftop and ascended into the air, feeling more alive and happy as she thought of his sweet little kiss. Starfire felt as if her happiness would cause her to fly past the stratosphere. There was a new day ahead of her.
Everything was well.
Jump City, California
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos…Azarath Metrio Zinthos…"
Raven chanted as she hovered in front of the open window. It was strange not having to do something, not having to go off and track down some suspect or another.
"You are still mine, child," Trigon's voice said. "You cannot escape your fate."
Her violet eyes snapped open. Even without the dust bothering her Raven knew that she would have to deal with the demon inside of her until the end of the world arrived. There was nothing else she could really do to prevent it from happening.
Instead of speaking back to the demon, she closed her eyes again and continued to chant. Due to the events of the past week she hadn't had much time to properly meditate. Her brush with the dust only heightened her uneasiness about her role in the coming apocalypse, but for now everything was okay. The day was saved. Raven supposed that she would always struggle with Trigon and the coming apocalypse.
She would just have to deal with it when the day came.
Raven looked up when she sensed Robin leaving the Tower. A sense of curiosity enveloped her as she sensed his nervousness. She teleported outside to the rocky foundation of Titans Tower, where he stood in civilian clothes. Robin stood on a rock and looked towards Jump City.
He turned to look at her. He looked different with his hair ungelled and combed neatly back. Robin was dressed neatly in a white button-up shirt and black pants. Raven didn't need to ask to know who he was going to see or why he was dressed so neatly. He did mention yesterday that the man was supposed to be coming to Jump City. Of course, Robin never said who the man was coming as.
"Are you sure you can deal with this?" she asked.
"Yeah…" Robin replied. "It's just one more thing that I have to do."
Robin turned around to face her. Now that she could see his face in the sunlight she thought that she recognized his face. Raven felt as if she had seen that face somewhere before…but she wouldn't be nosy enough to ask for his name. Of course, she had a theory about who he might be, but she wasn't going to go into it.
"Raven…thanks for saving us last night. I just wanted to ask you…how did you manage to fight back your hallucinations?"
"The same way you did. Mental will-power. Sometimes we just need to accept the fact that we are afraid. Fear is not a weakness. It is a part of who we are. It's perfectly healthy to fear something or someone…we just can't allow it to get to our heads."
The Boy Wonder sat down on the rock and pulled his knees to his chest. She couldn't help but notice how different he looked. He put on a different persona when he put on the mask. Of course, after the events of last night, he seemed a little more mellow than usual.
"I'm afraid to talk to him."
Again, she didn't need him to say anything more to understand who he was talking about. Raven sat down next to him. This kind of fear wasn't one of irrationality or fear for one's life. No, this was a different kind of fear: fear of rejection by his surrogate father.
"You just battled the deepest, darkest fears of your mind. I think you can handle this."
He moved stiffly, his blue eyes darting towards her. She tried not to read what was going on in his mind. Robin allowed a small smile to brighten his face.
He gave her another quick hug before she could say no. He got up and went away towards the city. Raven heard the briefest thoughts leave his mind about going to the airport to meet with the man. She wondered whether she should tell the others that he was going to be gone, but then decided against it. This was something he truly needed to do alone.
Raven pulled her dark blue cloak around herself and drifted back to the Tower. Even though she normally would like to be left alone—reading a good book, perhaps—Raven felt it appropriate to spend time with friends. She was certain Starfire would want to do things together.
She was so blessed that have such good friends.
Jump City, California
Jump City Recreation Center
With pride swelling in his chest, Cyborg watched his team of Little League players dominate their arch-rivals: the Jump City Giants. It was a game anticipated by kids and parents alike for the past month. Even though the events of last night tired Cyborg, he didn't want to miss this.
"GO HOME KARL! GO HOME!" Cyborg shouted, nearly jumping up and down in excitement as the handicap kid raced towards the home base. "RUN!"
Excitement rushed through him as the kid ran. The crowd of parents and friends and relatives rose in tumultuous waves as Karl ran. The kid threw himself towards home base, his arms outstretched as the third baseman flung the baseball towards the catcher. The cybernetic teen didn't realize that he was shouting like an idiot as he pumped his fist into the air, adrenaline pulsing through him.
"YES!" Cyborg shouted, dropping to his knees as he threw his hands up in the air. "Oh my goodness! I can't even handle this!"
Encouraged by Cyborg's enthusiasm, the other kids on the team whooped and cheered as the empire called him safe. Even for Cyborg, he knew that he was acting more excitable than usual. Perhaps it was a natural reaction to last night's events. After going through such a harrowing experience with the dust he wanted to be…free. Amidst all of the screaming and catcalling and angry shouts Cyborg didn't even notice a car pulling up to the side of the field.
A middle-aged man stepped out of a car. Cyborg's cheer died in his throat as he recognized the man as his father. Mr. Stone looked around as he straightening his jacket before his eyes found his son. Instead of waving or shouting Mr. Stone walked up quietly next to his cybernetic son.
"I heard about what happened last night, Victor," Mr. Stone said. "The Justice League contacted me."
Cyborg looked down at his father. Mr. Stone looked out of place in his business suit. Dust from the baseball field would get onto his suit. Cyborg frowned a little at the mention of the Justice League. While his secret identity wasn't as secret as Robin's was, why did the Justice League contact STAR labs? When Cyborg didn't speak Mr. Stone decided to break the silence.
"Do you believe that I don't care about your exploits? I care alot about you, Victor."
Cyborg turned his attention back to the kids and shouted some instructions. Honestly, sometimes they listened to him only half of the time. Mr. Stone waited patiently for his son to stop shouting before continuing to speak.
"I am proud of the things you do," Mr. Stone said. "You're doing a lot of good in the world…and I don't just mean your heroic deeds."
The crowd cheered as one of his kids ran towards the home plate. Cyborg crossed his arms over his chest. He made sure that he did other things besides hero work. He knew that being a hero was more than just punching the bad guys silly. He had to be a role model.
"So you flew all the way out here to come visit me?"
"I had a meeting out here in Jump City. I just…thought I would stop by." Mr. Stone adjusted his glasses. "Why don't we have dinner tonight?"
Surprised, Cyborg found himself nodding. It wasn't often that he got to see his dad. And especially after what happened last night, Cyborg wanted nothing more than to spend time with the people he loved.
"Yeah, that'll be great." Cyborg smiled widely.
Jump City, California
Jump City Airport
Dick Grayson waited patiently in the growing line outside of security. He looked a little worse for wear: a purple bruise here and there, partly hidden by makeup. A butterfly bandage on the side of his face caused some to give him a second glance, but he ignored the stares.
He stole a sidelong glance at the people next to him. Some were holding colorful signs with the name of their loved ones. A few businessmen stood in suits with plain cards, looking incredibly bored. He once heard of a lonely immigrant who felt alone when he had no one to greet him. So the man decided to hold up a sign saying "free hugs." What if Dick made a poster? Well, it was too late now. Besides, it was a little childish to do something like that. Star might've done it if he mentioned it…but no.
After the events of the night before Dick didn't know quite what to do with himself. All of the villains were locked up safely in the Jump City Maximum Security Prison. He was sure that there wouldn't be any big villains to fight today. And if there were people still running around, then the Titans would bring them down.
He looked up as people began to come out of security. Several people greeted one another in different languages. Business associates shook hands and exchanged warm smiles. Mothers hugged sons returning home from war. Families were reunited.
Soon Dick became the only one waiting for someone to arrive.
He placed his hands behind his back and waited patiently. There was no doubt in his mind that they would come. After everything that had happened to the Titans during the past week all Dick wanted was peace and quiet. He simply wanted to enjoy the company of people he knew and loved. He stood up a little on his toes as a crowd of people pooled out. These people were from Gotham. His heart leapt as he saw a familiar face come out.
"Alfred!" Dick exclaimed, ducking underneath the rope. "You came!"
Dick threw his arms around Alfred and embraced the older man. Regardless of the people watching, he allowed tears to fall down his face as he buried his face in Alfred's shoulder. This was one man he wasn't afraid to cry in front of. He could never cry as Robin the Boy Wonder, but he could as Richard Grayson. He found himself clutching Alfred's shirt in tight fists, as though afraid that he would lose the old butler too. Alfred awkwardly set down a suitcase and returned the hug.
"I missed you too, Master Dick," Alfred said in a low voice.
After a moment they broke apart. Alfred's eyes slid over the bruises and cuts on Dick's face, but he didn't say anything about them.
"How are you feeling, Master Dick?" Alfred asked.
"Fine. Just fine."
His eyes went over Alfred's shoulder. A familiar dark-haired man walked out of security. Dark circles under his eyes graced the man's handsome face, which caused some whispering among the waiting crowd. Suddenly people began to realize who Dick was. The whispers became excited.
Bruce Wayne approached Dick and stood over him. A plethora of emotions washed over Dick in battering waves. This was the first time he had faced the man for almost two years. Not only that, but Dick knew that they both shared the same experience last night even though both were on opposite ends of the continent. The two men simply looked at each other, as though daring the other to act first.
"You've gotten taller," Bruce said, lifting up a hand to measure Dick's height. "You're almost to my chin now."
A chuckle escaped from Dick's lips. That was really the first thing that came to Bruce's mind? For a billionaire playboy he could be pretty socially awkward.
"Holy strawberries, Bruce, aren't we in a jam?" Dick quipped. "Are you afraid that I'll outgrow you?"
It was Bruce's turn to laugh. Dick found himself smiling uneasily. How long had it been since he said a horrible pun like that? He picked up his suitcase and put an arm around Dick's shoulder. Some of the people holding posters smiled at them as they walked by. For now, though, this was an act. A façade. Both of them didn't want the public to think that something was wrong in their relationship.
Dick was well-aware of how they appeared to the paparazzi now swarming outside the airport. They appeared to be uncle and nephew instead of father and son, but that was okay with Dick.
"Mr. Wayne! Mr. Wayne!" a reported shouted, waving a tape recorder in his face. "What is your business in Jump City?"
"Just family business!" Bruce called out, waving the press away. He lowered his voice to speak in Dick's ear. "How are you, Dick?"
"Fine," Dick replied, feigning a smile.
Why didn't he feel okay? The Titans saved the day. Everyone was safe. Bruce was safe. So why did he feel so uneasy? Was it because this was the first time he had seen Bruce in almost two years? What was he afraid of? Rejection?
"I'll go get the car," Alfred said, sprinting a little to catch up to them.
The dynamic duo walked quickly away to avoid the press and now-squealing fangirls. Why had Bruce decided to take a plane instead of a private jet? It was an odd choice, but Dick didn't say anything. As they walked outside of the airport reporters began to snap pictures of them. He stole a quick glance towards Bruce's face as they hurried to the waiting car.
How could this man be the same person as Batman? As both the ward of Bruce Wayne and the protégée of Batman Dick could see and understand both sides of the man better than anyone. Bruce was a hard teacher, sure, but Dick much preferred to be a protégée than an apprentice any day. The label "apprentice" held a more distant connotation. Now protégée…well, that just held a more positive connotation that pointed towards a loving relationship.
They got into the back of the car and sat there in silence as Alfred drove them towards Bruce's westside penthouse. Dick found himself twiddling his thumbs and wondering what to say. Should he talk about what happened last night? Should he continue the conversation Bruce so rudely interrupted yesterday morning?
Bruce appeared to be struggling with the same questions. The two of them deliberately looked away from each other, as though afraid to offend the other with a single word. Aside from their superhero antics, what else was there to talk about? Did they ever discuss anything other than their secret superhero lives?
They turned onto a road running alongside the boardwalk. People frolicked on the beach while chicks in skates zipped by slow walkers. Most people on the boardwalk headed towards the pier, where a small carnival was located. This was the same carnival where Starfire was attacked by the alien probes looking for her sister, Blackfire.
"Hey Alfie, can you stop here?" Dick asked, leaning forward and tapping Alfred on the shoulder.
As he suspected, Alfred frowned slightly at the nickname. No one else besides Dick was allowed to call him that, and even then it was stretching his patience. He pulled the car to a stop in front of the boardwalk.
They stood on the pier and looked out towards Titans Tower, where his friends were waiting for him. Dick still hadn't told them his secret identity. Whether or not he was going to tonight was up to Bruce. All he knew was that tonight the few villains not rounded up last night by the JLA will be surprised to find the Titans accompanied by a particular bat.
Dick and Bruce stood in silence, simply enjoying the wonderful view and each other's company. He stole a sidelong glance to his mentor. Bruce must be sweltering in that business suit. It was a hot day today. It was a good day to hang out at the beach. He really should spend more time out here in California.
"Dick," Bruce said, "I want to ask you something."
Dick looked up at Bruce. "What?"
"I just…I wanted to know if those early years we spent training and fighting crime…as Batman and Robin…they were good, weren't they?"
Dick looked towards the open ocean. Memories of his time in Gotham City flashed through his mind. He remembered the pain he felt as he watched his parents fall to their deaths. The scum they had to fight on Gotham's streets. The Joker's antics. Robin's bad puns that became iconic and repeated throughout Gotham. Despite all of the violence he had seen and all of violence he had to deliver, Dick realized that he wouldn't take it back for the world.
Back in Slade's old haunt…when the dust had nearly destroyed his mind…Dick's instincts screamed at him to survive. Now that all of this madness was over, Dick didn't want to simply survive on animal instincts. Anyone could survive anything, but living is something quite different. A victim of a car accident could survive but live in a comatose state, utterly unable to interact with the world. A soldier could come back from war and suffer from post-traumatic stress so much that it became a mental illness. Heck, even a prison inmate could come out of jail and pull a heist just to go back to prison. Dick didn't want to be like those people. It just wasn't in his nature.
He had survived Gotham's violence. He had survived the apprenticeship. He had survived the dust.
Now it was time to start living again.
His face broke into a wide smile. For the first time in a year he looked like the small child Bruce took under his wing. Dick thought of everything he wished for while he was Slade's apprentice. Here, then, was a true form of fatherly love that Slade could never amount to. Even if he and Bruce disagreed on many things there was still a strong bond between them that no one could ever break. Much to the surprise of his mentor, Dick wrapped his arms around Bruce and hugged him swiftly.
"They were the best, Bruce. The best."
Okay, so I stole a little line from Infinite Crisis. I just LOVED that little interaction between Batman and Nightwing in that story and felt that it was the best way to end this story. I also felt it appropriate to end with another Bible verse, since I began the prologue with a verse from Ecclesiastes (such an emo book!). The first quote is from the Old Testament and this quote is from the New Testament, so you can see the shift from fear and despair to that of love and hope. My goodness, my Old Testament and New Testament classes are getting to me! Even if you don't believe in Christianity just appreciate the beautiful language of that passage.
Did I ever expect the story to get this big? Honestly, no. I originally thought this would end at around 90,000 words, but then it kind of snowballed into this madness. I then got super into it and sacrificed much sleep to get in my daily word count (at least a 1,000 words). Writing this was a lot of fun, though, and I hope that you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this.
Special thanks to the following people:
My parents: for putting up with my obsession with DC Comics and Teen Titans over the summer even though I'm getting a little old for this.
My brother: for giving me his honest opinion about the plotline of this story. He also enjoyed reading your reviews.
My roomie: who also writes fanfiction for different fandoms. We put up with each other's insane giggling and late-night fanfiction writing when we're supposed to be doing homework. She also gave me her honest opinion about the plotline of this story.
My friends: including a particular suitemate who I would taunt everyday about the posting of the next chapter, people who actually read this when I posted the link to Facebook, and other people I've met online and elsewhere outside of virtual reality who I've converted to this fic. You know who you are. I love you all.
And, of course, to you reviewers: without you, I might not have even finished this. Thank you guys so much for reading!
For those who have been lurking and not leaving reviews, I would like to hear from you now. Review this chapter, of course, but since this is a big piece of work I would also like you guys to review this story as a whole. How was my pacing? Plotting? Foreshadowing? Writing in general? If there is anything I could have done better or different let me know. If you review this chapter I'll get back to you (log in if you can, I don't know how I'll get back to you anonymous reviewers…)! Just so I can personally thank you for reading through this beast.
Well, I think I'll be taking a break and focusing on NaNoWriMo! I'll be letting my creative juices lie fallow for a while on fanfiction. I'll still be around probably, but I won't posting anything than the occasional oneshot. After that craziness is over what would you like to see from me next? I have a poll up on my profile for you guys to vote on which story you want to see next. Here are my ideas:
1) Another "one year later" apprentice story like "Entrapment."
2)A story that takes place between Forces of Nature and Apprentice Pt. 2 that basically explores the idea of Robin taking on the identity of Red X to entrap Slade while Slade decides to take Robin on as an Apprentice.
3)A Season 6 story. I want to do this, but if I do it then it won't come out anytime soon. Extensive planning/outlining would be required on my part. This story will have 13 parts (each representing an episode a la the TV show) with a few silly/filler stories and an overarching plotline circling around Starfire.
4)Or something else? I have what I will and will not write on my profile page. Suggestions always welcome!
Until next time, ladies and gentlemen, this Aes Sedai bids you a fair adieu. :)