A/N: Sorry this took so long, school's back in full swing, and I have to keep up. I was hoping to have this all done by October, but it doesn't seem likely. Let's keep our fingers crossed though! Please review when finished. (You know, I only need one more review, and then this story has finally become my most reviewed story, overtaking Don't Let a Mary-Sue into Titans Tower at last. It took three times as many chapters. I wonder what this says about Mary-Sues in fanfiction?)
Obligatory disclaimer: Insert something witty about not owning the Teen Titans here.
Chapter Fourteen: Warrior
"He bled?" Changer's voice—now roughened with shock and rapid aging—demanded. She pulled off her sunglasses in order to have a better look at Joseph Wilson's unconscious form.
Her icy blue eyes took in the cut on his throat. Clearly a knife wound, she thought, reaching out to touch the already drying blood. It was obviously real. This was not good.
"I already said that," the Nightmare Child sulked. Was it just Changer's paranoia, or was it starting to grow bigger?
"I know," she muttered. It was times like this that she regretted recruiting the creature. That thing was a game changer. Powerful, impatient, and containing the mind and attention span of a six-year old, it was, in Changer's mind, the worst possible combination.
And now it was gaining yet more abilities. Changer rubbed her temples, wishing that things would just follow the plan for once. This was going to force her hand on some very dramatic measures.
She looked over the steps left in the plan and decided with a cautious flinch that she could speed up the final stages. There hadn't been much of a point for the wait, anyways.
She looked at her hands, now wrinkled and ancient, and sighed. She had a week at the most. Why now, when her entire existence hinged on the success of this plan, did everything have to go wrong?
The Nightmare Child had to go. The sooner the better. That much was clear.
An old idea, one rejected a while back, before she'd even arrived at Jump City, suggested itself. With the information she had now… yes, she decided. It would work. She refused to allow the smirk that wanted to materialize show on her lips.
"Put him with the others," she said flatly, rolling the finer points of her plan around in her head.
The creature tilted its head to one side, looking utterly baffled. It was an amusing expression on its face, she had to admit it. "But the blood—?"
"I'll look into it," she said shortly, not voicing her theory that the dream monster was actually starting to be able to recreate fears not just in dreams, but in the real world as well. Terrifying thought, really.
"Hey Jade," Speedy said into the phone, deliberately using the deeper voice that he'd used whenever he'd had to play the role of Roy Harper.
"Hey Roy!" her lovely voice came in through the phone. He smiled, even as he examined the bruise on his forearm where Cheshire had shoved him into the concrete.
"How're you?" he asked, holding the phone between his ear and his shoulder as he examined his bow for any damage.
"Fine, thanks Roy. How's Jump City?"
"It's great. I hate meetings." That was his cover-story, always was. Oliver wanted him to take over the company some day (sadly true) and had him go to conferences, meetings, and the like (thankfully, not true.) He kind of wished that he could tell Jade the truth. But Ollie had a strict, "No telling your girlfriend" rule. The idea being that, when the relationship inevitably went sour, his girlfriend wouldn't do something stupid, like let it slip to her best friend, who happened to be a super-villain, that the reason that the relationship had gone bad was that he'd valued playing hero over her. (Ollie swore this had never happened to him. Speedy wasn't so sure.)
"Poor Roy." He thought he heard the sound of metal against metal over the phone.
"What was that?" he asked without thinking.
"Oh, I'm just getting ready for dinner," Jade said lightly.
Roy laughed. "How's the school? Get any bruises from those new recruits?" Jade ran a martial arts school in Steel City, teaching kids self-defense. Mainly judo.
"Just one," Jade laughed. "It's from the one I told you about."
"What was his name? William?" Roy said, examining one of his arrows with a critical eye. The energy level was off… he took out his screwdriver to fix it.
"Yeah, him. I swear, every time I work with him he's either going to kill me or kiss me."
Roy rolled his eyes. "Sounds like a charmer. Why do you teach him again?"
"He's cute," Jade said, her voice teasing.
"As cute as me?" he asked, faking hurt.
"Not even close," she reassured with a laugh.
"Well then, I can live with that."
He heard a small tune play the beginning of Another One Bites the Dust, and he could hear her gasp slightly. "Crap. Got to go, Roy! Love you!"
"Love you," he echoed, pressing the end button on the phone.
Kid Flash stared at the ring, still in its box. She'd never got to put it on… he thought sadly as he ran his gloved fingers over the silver band. Another tear made its way down his cheek.
"Jinx…" he whispered. He could almost hear her making fun of him for talking to himself again. She did it a lot…. He tugged off his mask, flinching internally—taking off the mask was Jinx's job. Had been ever since he had told her his name, the same night he had told her he loved her for the first time. A small smile played at the corners of his lips as he recalled that night.
He put the box down, leaving it open. The bathroom door swung open, and Jinx walked out.
"Brooding again?" she teased, wrapping her arms around him. He twisted his own arms, lifting her up into the air, and onto his lap.
"You know me," he said, kissing her. Jinx moaned slightly, pulling at his hair with her fingers as she returned the kiss.
"Yes I certainly do, Wally West," she whispered as they surfaced out of the kiss.
"Jinx West. Jinxie West. Jiiinx West. Nope. That just doesn't sound right."
"No, it really doesn't," his fiancé agreed.
"What was your name before the HIVE? Did you have one?"
"How should I know? This is your dream, remember?"
"Oh. Right." He lay down, staring at the ceiling. "Why don't I know your name? Don't you trust me?"
'I'm a production of your subconscious mind, how should I know?" not-Jinx said, laying down next to him so that they were looking at each other.
"Good point. But, as my subconscious instead of as my girlfriend, what do you think?"
"That you're talking to yourself again?"
"Besides that, please?" he asked.
"She doesn't know, she doesn't trust you, she doesn't think it matters, or you never asked. Take your pick," not-Jinx replied.
"But that's basically every option," he complained.
"Maybe you should ask her, instead of wasting your dreams attempting to converse with your subconscious," not-Jinx suggested.
"Sounds like a good idea,' said Kid Flash, nodding.
The bed disappeared, and he was suddenly standing upright. Jinx was now at his side, wearing her uniform instead of pajamas, ready for a fight.
In front of them were the Brotherhood of Evil's so called "crack troops." General Immortus, however, was nowhere to be seen. Probably had run off, and left these behind to distract them.
"Open fire!" one of the soldiers yelled, and the blasts of their guns flew through the air. Kid Flash dodged them, laughing with the exhilaration of his speed as he smashed into them, stealing their energy weapons and destroying them easily.
As he smashed the final gun into the concrete floor beneath his feet, he turned his attention to Jinx. She was swaying on the spot, clutching her abdomen, her face completely ashen. "Jinx!" he yelled, running to her side as she collapsed.
He pressed his fingers to her neck, feeling her pulse. Her heart beat was slow, far too slow. He tugged her hand away from the place that it was covering, and saw the savage burn mark from the energy weapons. He swore. "Jinx, why didn't you duck?" Why hadn't he noticed? He should have been faster, should have been able to stop whichever soldier had fired the shot…
She didn't answer, her breath was coming hard.
"Raven!" he screamed, cradling Jinx's head in his lap. "Raven!" She needed help, she needed a healer, where was Raven?
"I love you," Jinx whispered, looking at him. Pink met blue.
Something died in her eyes. The light, the thing that was Jinx faded away. He was holding a corpse.
Her mouth was lolling open, her eyes vacant, and her body heat leaving too quickly. Kid Flash took her head off his lap, and gently laid it on the ground, weeping openly. He staggered to his feet and leaned against the wall, balancing himself against it as he cried for the girl he loved.
He turned back to her, to see her again, to try to reassure himself that she wasn't really dead. But she wasn't moving. He fell to his knees beside her again, unable to stay standing.
Jinx moved. He leaned forward, trying to see what it was. Suddenly, he reeled back in horror. Spiders. Spiders were coming out of Jinx's open mouth, climbing out by the dozens, crawling towards him.
More and more continued to appear, climbing out of Jinx's clothes, her shoes, her hair, even her vacant eyes. All pouring towards him.
He staggered backwards, trying to keep away from the swarm of tiny, little black spiders, the type that showed up anywhere. He tripped, and they scurried over him. He jammed his eyes shut so they couldn't get in, and held his hands over his ears. Screams tried to force their way out from behind his lips, but he managed to keep them shut by biting them.
The tiny little feet scurried everywhere, all over him. They were under his clothes, in his hair, crawling all across his face. He could feel them on his eyelids as they hurried across, one replacing another over and over again. And he couldn't even scream.
Suddenly, one of them bit him. He leapt to his feet and opened his eyes and mouth, screaming in pain. Spiders were sent in all directions by the sudden movement. He started vibrating, trying to shake off the spiders still left on him, but they didn't leave. But no new ones came on, so he kept doing it.
Suddenly the spiders transformed, melting away until they became fabric. The fabric of a tuxedo. Robin appeared next to him, a grin on his face.
"Ready?" the Boy Wonder asked, punching him lightly on the shoulder.
"Always," he responded, grinning. Robin pushed open the grand, wide doors of the church and the two of them walked down the aisle, towards the alter.
Robin grinned at him as the two of them waited. Finally, after about a lifetime, the doors swung open, and Melvin dashed forward, sprinkling rose petals in all directions, beaming widely. Más and Menos staggered forward next, carrying a cushion containing the rings between the two of them. Raven, Argent, and Starfire, the bridesmaids, walked forward next, Raven and Bumblebee in black, and Starfire in purple. Kid Flash poked Robin to stop him from gaping too openly.
Finally, Jinx appeared, in her black wedding dress. (He'd made a comment about marrying in a black dress being bad luck a while back, and earned himself a smack.) Argent was carrying the train, dressed in dark purple. No one was giving Jinx away. As Jinx herself had declared, who was there? Brother Blood (he had offered, when they'd announced it to the world)? Not going to happen.
A bouquet of roses was clutched in her hand, and her face was positively radiant with excitement as she walked down the aisle, in perfect tempo to the music. He felt like the luckiest guy on the planet, no pun intended.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today," Batman droned, sounding as un-Batman-like as it was possible to be. Why was Batman conducting the ceremony, anyway?
He didn't really listen to the long list of vows, he was too busy staring at Jinx. His beautiful, brilliant Jinx. She smiled at him.
"I do," said Jinx, her eyes shining brightly as she looked at him.
It was his turn. "I—" he couldn't finish the two letter word. He tried again, but couldn't make a sound. Jinx stared at him, disbelief starting to force its way onto her face.
What if Jinx was lying? What if she didn't really love him? What if they fought? What if they divorced? What if this was all a part of her evil scheme? What if he let her down? The stream of continuous what-ifs forced themselves to the surface. Jinx was still staring at him, waiting for him to say the other word.
Something tore at his heart. He couldn't do this. He loved her. Tears streamed down Jinx's face. "I see how it is," she said, tossing the flowers onto the ground. She tore down the aisle, closely followed by Jinx, Raven, Bee, and Argent, who had all taken flight to catch up with her.
It felt like someone had stabbed him. He fell to his knees, picking up the rejected flowers carefully. Robin knelt beside him.
"Why KF? Why? I thought you loved her!" His best friend looked confused.
"I just couldn't," he muttered, stroking the edges of one of the flowers. He closed his eyes. "I need to talk to her."
"I don't think that's—"
But it was too late. The fastest boy alive was gone, racing off to find her.
A barrier of black energy slammed into him as soon as Jinx came into sight. She was in a heap on the ground, sobbing, with Starfire and Bee comforting her. Raven and Argent were blocking his way to her.
"She doesn't want to see you," Raven said, crossing her arms.
"Why would she after that?" Argent agreed, glaring at him.
"I need to talk to her though! I need to explain—"
"Explain why? Explain why you were a coward? A filthy little coward?" Raven's voice seethed with anger. "Wally West, you are nothing but a coward. Always have been. You say you love her, but you couldn't bring yourself to say a simple, one-syllable word? You really couldn't manage that much? You're pathetic. You're nothing."
"And now you've broken her heart. And now nothing will ever be the same," said Argent, turning her back on him.
He fell to his knees again. "But… I love her."
"Then maybe you should have been brave," Raven said flatly, floating over to join the others.
The room swirled, and the scene before him changed. He was kneeling in front of a simple grave. All it read was Jinx. No last name, no birth or death date, no epitaph.
"I don't get why you come here all the time. It only makes it worse," Robin said.
"I loved her," he muttered, setting a single rose on the grave.
"Yeah, and then she played you. Used you. And then she betrayed you. And after all that you still love her?" Robin's voice was incredulous.
He didn't respond to that. Every last Titan had already told him that, and it hadn't changed anything.
"Why Jinx?" he muttered, tracing the smooth edges of the granite with his fingertips. He ran them over the four letter carving. "Why'd you do it? Wasn't I good enough for you? What could I have done to make you stay, to make you good? What did you do that made the HIVE kill you?"
"You've got to move on!" Robin said, dragging him to his feet. "You've got to! This is killing you!"
"I don't care!" he yelled. "I don't care!"
"Well, you should!" Robin yelled right back. "You're just being selfish! It's as easy as that!"
Bushido raised his katana into the air and struck the target dummy again. And again. The calm repetition of the sword dance filled his muscles, allowing his mind to forget the horrid events.
He readjusted his grip and struck out again. He was alone in the training rooms. Speedy had been here not long ago, grumbling something about Queen songs that he hadn't understood, but then had left.
No one else seemed to be able to appreciate how important this was. Exercise was good for the mind as well as the body, as if that alone wasn't enough incentive. Perhaps they thought their powers would protect them, he thought darkly, swinging the sword. They seemed to forget that powers could be nullified. But abilities, such as fighting or swordsmanship, those couldn't be stopped. Robin understood, as did Speedy. Even Jinx had understood, which was why she had learnt gymnastics and hand-to-hand combat as well as her powers. But the others, they didn't. They were so sure that their strength, or their speed, or their ability to channel the elements would keep them out of danger, and they looked down on the ones like him, who channeled the abilities of a human to keep the world safe.
The enemies of the Titans all thought that he was not as good, that he was weak. He could see it when they fought him, the way they always had the henchmen fight him rather than take him on always managed to forget that Batman, and Green Arrow, and their protégés were all like him. They didn't remember that the city he protected, back home in Japan, was safe to walk in at night now. That no villain had been able to pull off a scheme in any form in the area that he protected since before he joined the Titans. They did not notice. They did not look.
And he wasn't about to stop them underestimating him any time soon. That would be their downfall, he thought grimly, swinging his katana through the air gracefully.
Even the Titans tended to forget. But he had noticed that Jinx's luck had failed her, that Hot Spot's fireballs had not been enough, that Bee's flight, stingers, and strength had failed her in battle, and that Kilowatt and the Herald had not been able to escape, despite their powers. It would be the ones like him and Robin that took down the Nightmare Child and its mistress. He knew it.
The door swung open, and he heard footsteps. Slowly, he turned around to see who had entered the room.
Something heavy and metal smashed against his head, and he collapsed on the ground.
"Thought you looked tired," a voice that belonged to a silver haired woman crouched by his side hissed in his ear, as darkness descended.
Kole knocked on the door of Jericho's room, her heart beating in the slightly faster way she'd come to associate talking with her sort-of boyfriend. It felt too soon to be calling him boyfriend, before they'd even gone on that date…
She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to smooth out the errant strands as she waited for him to respond.
A cold, foreboding feeling filled her stomach. "Jericho!" she called out, rapping on the door hard. She pressed the button that would open the door. "Jericho?"
The room was empty. Kole's eyes were fixated on the guitar, discarded in the middle of the floor. Jericho would never have left it there willingly. Further proof was the communicator, placed in the center of the room. Kole's hands trembled as they reached for her own communicator to alert the others.
"Is everyone here?" Robin called, pacing. Jericho was missing. This was bad. This was very, very bad.
"I do not believe so," said Red Star. "Where is Bushido?'
Eyes swung around the room, searching for the Japanese Warrior.
Kid Flash leapt to his feet, swearing loudly, taking off the search the Tower. Más and Menos took off after him, crying out in Spanish for him to wait up.
"Who saw him last?" Robin demanded.
"I saw him in the training court not even an hour ago," Speedy admitted. "But I left."
"This isn't good," Raven said. "The attacks are speeding up."
"I have to agree," Robin said, pulling at his hair. "We need to be more careful. Don't go anywhere alone. Don't make stupid mistakes. Carry something flammable if you can, even! We need to be able to fight this off!"
Kid Flash returned. "No sign of him. But his sword and his communicator were in the training rooms."
"Should we search the city again?" Argent said, crossing her arms.
"No," Robin said. "Searching the city again won't reveal anything that we didn't already know. No use wasting energy on that."
"Not to mention that we learned how easy it is for them to set up an ambush," Cyborg said, scowling.
"No leaving the Tower. No going anywhere alone."
"And avoid anything that reminds you of any horror movie!" Beast Boy yelled. "Dark, lonely hallways, never go in, even with a friend. And don't even go near the basement!"
Everyone exchanged glances.
"So what can we do?" Pantha demanded, standing up. "I cannot sit around doing nothing while our friends are in danger!"
"Putting ourselves in danger won't help them at all, Pantha!" Robin said, and Red Star touched her arm gently. She looked at him, and sat down with a huff.
"She'll come to us," Raven said calmly. "She's after something. I don't know what yet, but she is. And when she's ready, when she thinks she's weakened us enough… then she'll strike, full force."
"Raven's right," Robin said. "We have to be careful."
There wasn't a single dark hair left among the grey. Changer growled to herself as she stared into the mirror. Wrinkles were plentiful on her face, her bones creaked, and she tired far too easily.
It would be so much easier if she could actually trust the Nightmare Child to handle the final stages of the plan on its own. But she knew better than to trust the creature at all.
Time was moving far too quickly. Her time was running out fast. At this rate, there wouldn't be a fight. She needed energy.
Luckily she had a source very close by.
She stepped out into the open area, pressing a few buttons on her computer to lower the shield made of the electricity that she'd been siphoning off Kilowatt, and then approached her captives.
Jericho was now awake, jerking at the metal bands that attached him to the wall. The smiles and laughter of the Titans had faded when Jericho, and now Bushido had joined them. Bushido and Jericho were next to each other, a blindfold covering Jericho's eyes, and Bushido disarmed, and so, helpless. He hadn't even woken up yet from the frying pan to the head.
She walked up to Jinx, and smiled. The former villainess looked up at her. "What do you want?"
Changer didn't answer. She instead knelt down, closed her eyes, and allowed herself to prepare for an energy draining.
Her hands changed, fingers pushing out, becoming much longer. She heard the bones scream in protest, but didn't feel the pain. She had learned to ignore it over a century ago. Her hands were now more like talons. Fingernails shot out, long and curving.
She opened her eyes again, and placed one hand on each of the luck-girl's shoulders. Confusion and a little bit of fear showed clearly on Jinx's face. Changer smirked, and pierced the thin cloth of the pajamas with her nails, allowing herself contact with skin. That was all she needed.
Pink energy, the energy of Jinx's powers, flickered up her hands, travelling towards the rest of her. Wrinkles disappeared, the silver hair that she could see, framing her face became brown. Power, enough for the fight, filled her. She released Jinx, who was now slumped against the wall, weak.
"What did you do with her?" the Herald yelled, tugging at the wall desperately, trying to check on her.
"She'll live," Changer smirked. "And so will I."
Starfire had her legs drawn up to her chest as she and her beloved gazed out over the skyline of Jump City. Night had fallen already, and the stars were out, but not the moon.
The stars and constellations were so different from the ones in her home world. When she was younger, Galfore had loved to show her the sky, pointing out the ones that had had life. "That," he'd said, pointing at a very small speck, "Is called Sol. A species called humans live on the third planet that star."
"What are they like, Galfore?" she asked, smiling.
"Their people are diverse. They are not united, not together. It is difficult to describe."
"You okay?" Robin asked.
"I was just thinking of Tamaran."
Robin smiled at her. She'd been a bit surprised when he'd suggested coming out here. She'd thought he'd be in his study, attempting to discover more about their enemies. But it was wonderful that he wanted to spend time with her.
"I really miss it, Robin. My people, my planet," she admitted. "Sometimes I wonder if I shall ever return there… but then again, I don't want to. I belong here. With you."
Robin yawned widely, and Starfire stared at him. It was not like Robin to yawn while she was talking.
"Is something wrong?"
"I just never thought you could be so boring," Robin said. Starfire recoiled. This was most unlike Robin.
"Robin?" her voice sounded timid and scared to her own ears.
"'Robin?'" he imitated cruelly. "Aren't you supposed to be the Warrior Empress of Tamaran? Aren't you supposed to be scared of nothing?"
"What is this?" Starfire demanded, glaring.
He smirked widely. "Haven't you figured it out yet?"
He seemed to grow as he stood up. When he did stand up, he was far taller than Robin ought to be. His hair grew, tumbling past his shoulders as it became paler. The mask disappeared, revealing a pair of bright pink eyes, exactly like Jinx's. But it was not Jinx who stood before her.
Starfire scrambled to her feet as she took in the form of the "Creepy Girl."
"You are a shape-changer?" Starfire demanded, shocked. "Where is Robin?"
"In his study, being a good little boy," the other mocked with a smirk. Starfire quickly pulled out her communicator. Quickly, the girl dashed forward, shrinking in height, her hair piling itself on top of her head and becoming bright pink as her form switched to that of Jinx. Her hands extended, Jinx's bad-luck firing out of her hands, shattering Starfire's communicator.
Starfire smiled inwardly. The SOS would sound now. She raised her hands to fight, summoning her starbolts. The girl switched forms to that of Argent, and smirked, summoning plasma.
"You know, I'd almost forgotten how much fun it is to switch forms when I fight," said the other girl idly. "I haven't had enough energy to in ages."
Starfire looked at the replication of Argent, feeling something was off. Then she focused on the eyes. Still pink, still very, very pink. Just like Jinx's.
"You will surrender, and inform me of the location of my friends!" Starfire said.
"Do you really think so?" the other girl said, tilting her head. "I've had enough time to gather the forms—and the powers—of almost every single Titan, not to mention the HIVE Five. Can you fight all of them? Can you beat all of them?"
Doubt flickered in her mind. But she didn't let it show on her face. "The noise of our battle will inform my friends of this. They will come soon enough."
"Oh, I think the SOS that you fired off will bring them much sooner."
Starfire stared. She knew… how could she—
The other girl moved her arms, and something collided into her before she could finish the thought. Kid Flash was now the chosen form of the shape-changer, racing towards her, something in his (her?) hand.
Something sharp pierced her skin. Her form returned to that of the "Creepy Girl" and smirked as she held up the needle for Starfire to see.
"It's a sedative. One of the little goodies I had Gizmo whip up for me. It'll keep even a Tamaranian unconscious for a while."
Starfire, sure enough, was swaying on the spot. The other girl reached out and grabbed her as she fell.
A minute later, when the team arrived, no one would be there.
A/N: And that's it! We've now reached the climax. There's not much left to go, so if you click the pretty little button right below and tell me what you think, I'll want to let you guys know what happens next so much more!