Sorry for the long delay, everybody! Medical school ate half of a year between the constant exams and the threat of the even bigger national exam at the end of it, one (hopefully!) conquered just this week. If there's still interest in Teen Titans, I have a few ideas left. Please leave a review if interested.
Special thanks to Kayasuri-N for help with Beast Boy and Raven's conversation.
Chapter Eleven: Status Quo
Beast Boy had come out of a near-Beast episode with nothing more than a few strained places in his shirt. The same couldn't be said about the rest of them.
Cyborg was shaky on his feet (with Jinx of all people helping him keep upright), and Starfire had her arm firmly around Robin's shoulders. All of them couldn't seem to look away from the space that had held Raven just a minute before.
"Dibs on talking her out of her room," Beast Boy said as he hopped to his feet. "If everybody else has cleanup, I might even manage by the time you all get home."
Robin promised to talk to the police, Starfire agreed to set the bank back to rights as best as she could, and Cyborg was already directing suspicious looks toward the cops that looked similarly leery about Jinx's presence at Cyborg's side. Beast Boy wasn't sure just what he thought about Jinx yet. He'd think all that out when he was sure that Raven wasn't thinking herself into a very unhappy corner.
Flying was exhausting and he hadn't spent enough time as an orca lately. There were faster morphs, maybe, but nobody messed with a killer whale speeding toward the island in the middle of the Bay. He switched to gull form at the apex of a leap and flapped his way high enough for a falcon's wings to start gaining a true advantage. At the level of Raven's window, he changed to a hummingbird and rapped several times against her window. She might have been ready to ignore someone at her door. He'd have the advantage of novelty this way.
A portal opened just in front of him. It might lead to his room, or to the roof, but if he didn't trust Raven now she wasn't going to trust him back. He flew through and found himself just past the closed door of Raven's room, facing the open window. The tiny aquarium she had brought back from the mall was all the inspiration he needed.
"The sea monkeys are looking good, Raven! Er—the brine shrimp, I guess. I don't know how much you remember about being eight with us." It could have been yesterday, he knew. He didn't think that was the case. If she remembered just how happy that she'd been with them she wouldn't be sitting on her bed wrapped in a blue cloak, one knee drawn up to her chest.
"It was eight years ago," she said quietly. She didn't have to say anything else. He could hear the misery coming through the five words just as if she'd shouted her feelings to him. He might not be the brightest guy on the team but long practice at making her mad had given way to skill in telling just when her emotional state was about to change.
"We'll get your memories back." That drew her attention; Beast Boy started talking fast when her eyes snapped to catch his gaze. "I mean, not the cool way that you could probably manage if it was one of us, but we have all the security recordings from here and from the mall, and if we cut them right, it'll be just like home videos!"
She didn't smile, of course. He hadn't done that well. He had made enough progress that the tightness around her eyes vanished and her knee inched away from her chin. "I do remember making friends with Jinx of all people."
"We're giving her a chance to go straight," Beast Boy assured her before she had to ask. "She got her arm broken by Slade defending you. The police shouldn't be too hard to talk around. Anyway, I'm guessing that you don't really want to talk about this." The agreement with that statement couldn't have been more obvious if she'd made a sign. "So I thought I'd talk."
Raven relaxed further. Her legs shifted to her usual posture, crossed, and she looked pointedly around her room. "I'd offer you a place to sit, but…"
But why would a girl who could float keep chairs handy? "I won't talk at you that long, promise. I just have to say something before I lose my nerve and before I pretend that you're right if you fight me on this.
"The people that raised you? Raven, I don't think I ever understood how much of you came from trying to be a kid around adults like that. Not when they thought that you were… that you could ever… if you're any kind of danger? It's only to people that probably have it coming. They were wrong and you thought they were right and I wish that someone really had been able to take you out of there."
Raven hadn't interrupted him, which was surprising enough. He was stunned when she inclined her head in further agreement. Her left eyebrow lowered slightly in a visible sign that she was gathering her courage. "My mother was the same. She was afraid of me and she wished that she'd never ran away from her parents when she was just a teenager. That's why it was so easy to believe them and why it's always been hard to…"
"To believe that you're good."
Yet again, her lack of disapproval meant that he was right. "I don't even know where I sent Slade."
"Considering what he was going to do? If you sent him to Trigon to deal with the double-crossing thing I wouldn't argue."
Of everything he'd said, that was what crossed the fine line between 'everything is fine' and 'Raven doesn't enjoy the current topic of conversation.' "Thanks." The word was genuine even as she was retreating back into herself. "I should keep meditating, though, or the brine shrimp will get it. They shouldn't stay here anyway—glass tank, bad temper."
He wasn't going to let the self-deprecation pass him by this time. "You didn't hurt them when you were eight years old and you won't hurt them now."
"It's a nice sentiment, Beast Boy, but it's not a sentiment I can trust. I've had fourteen years of people… well. And less than two weeks of you all telling me that Azar and everyone else were wrong."
"When you were eight—"
"I can't trust those memories," she interrupted. "They're…" He thought that she would let the statement die as something too personal. She didn't. "It's like what I always hoped would be true. I know they're real, and I wish I could remember them better, but I can't help feeling that you'll all expect me to be a better person."
"That's what friends do, Rae, but not in the way you're thinking. We want you to get better and better until you can finally stop doubting yourself, then get even better than that. We aren't going to expect you to ditch the poker face or to start wearing pink. You wouldn't be Raven if you changed all that. I mean, unless you want to."
"I don't," Raven said so quietly that he flicked an ear to catch the timbre of her voice. "I just feel like I'll lose a popularity contest to myself."
This was going to be important and he'd not come at all prepared for that possibility. "Well, no one can just pick you up anymore, except maybe Cy, and I think he'd feel a bit awkward about it."
Raven blinked in response.
"I think all of us are hoping we can sneak into your personal space again when you're okay with it. But it's not a contest with mini-you. It's the part where we saw you happy and it was awesome and we want to see that all the time. And you were really, really cute. Like a tiger kitten. We could still see you but we could see where it was that all of the you-ness came from. Tigers end up all graceful but start out falling all over themselves and… yeah." He drew in a deep breath and took the risk of getting an honest answer. "Do you like animal-me better? Animals-me, I suppose, but… less with the chattering at you, way better at not knocking your stuff over, way better at reading when you need space."
"Beast Boy, what are you talking about?"
"Which way do you like me? Simple question, Raven."
The scowl directed his way was truly impressive. He still held his ground. "If I didn't like having you talk, you wouldn't be here," Raven said with quite a bit of menace considering that she was admitting she liked having him talk. "Don't ask silly questions."
"It's silly to prefer animals-me or human-me?"
"There's a difference. Beyond the part where I like both of you. Eight-year-old-me isn't going to come back."
The muted sorrow in his eyes convinced him to take one more risk. He took the few steps forward he needed to take her hand. "You're our friend, Raven. You're my friend. Whatever size you happen to be, whether you're smiling or not, even when you wish all of us would go to Siberia to give you a break. You're stuck with us. We'd come back from Siberia after we sent you postcards."
"When did you grow up?" There wasn't any bite to her words, no needless wonder. There was a tiny hint of a smile. "You win this time."
"Would it be completely childish if I did a victory dance? Because I think this is the first time I've won against you. Ever."
"Yeah, well, don't get used to it." The hint of a smile developed into a miniature version of the full expression. "The rest of the Titans plus Jinx just got back into the Tower. Maybe you can save the victory dance for another time."
Raven should have known that Beast boy wouldn't just settle for a smile anymore. Instead of feeling at all intimidated, she felt only reflections of her contented happiness when she hugged him from her seat on the bed. They walked down to dinner together, to-go pizza with toppings that Raven liked as a child on half, her more adult tastes on the other half. It didn't surprise her as much as she expected that Jinx shared her current taste in pizza toppings as well as in literature.
The news about Slade's whereabouts came in during dinner. Robin checked a message on his communicator to find a bizarre news notice from the Gotham City Police Department. It took several seconds for him to skim carefully through a medical report before he realized just what she had done.
Raven had teleported Slade all the way to Times Square in the burst of magic that accompanied her transition back into an adult. About one hour later, an anonymous and one-eyed John Doe was checked into a hospital with a black eye, several deep bruises, and a few broken bones. The accompanying police note filled in what the doctors didn't know; one Mr. Slade Wilson was known to have messed with Batman's protege when in Jump City and out of Batman's reach. There was very little talk of investigating the vigilante who may well have found Mr. Wilson rendered unconscious and acted as a good Samaritan to get him medical care. No Titan was at all upset over the news. Raven wouldn't be either.
She left the rest of the Teen Titans to clean up after dinner. She (correctly) guessed that they wouldn't hear of her doing chores after a meal that had been dedicated to welcoming her back home. Maybe the circumstances had been drastic, and maybe she should have realized before, but now she knew for sure that she had a family. That wasn't at all the ending she had expected to the sixteenth birthday that could have ended the world. She wouldn't trade them for anything—not even for her mother.
She could barely watch the search engine's results load onto the screen of the common room's new computer. She had been avoiding the possibility for too long and maybe, just maybe, it could work out just as well as she had hoped.
The fourth result for "Angela Roth Gotham City" was a months-old report about the sixteenth anniversary of Angela Marie Roth's disappearance from her well-to-do apartment near the very heart of Manhattan. The article's ending included a phone number for Diogenes and Diana Roth and the repeated assertion that they welcomed all information about their daughter. Even her newfound assurance that she was welcome with her Titan family wasn't enough for her to pick up a phone and dial in that number.
Instead, she opened up an e-mail and slowly began to type a message to her grandparents. The Teen Titans were her family, now, and they always would be. That didn't mean that she couldn't reach out to someone else. She could take the shot in the dark and hope that they would write back or take her up on her offer of a phone call. Until then… Raven clicked 'send,' exhaled, and went back to rejoin the best friends anyone could ask to have.