Let's all say it together now: Tsubasa Hane hates writing fight scenes. Hates. Hates. Hates them. The only thing I hate more is my continued insistence on including them in my stories. Why must I be so stubborn? Why can't I just be one of those lazy authors who glosses over the action parts of an action series, hmm?

(Oh, and for the record: my source of inspiration this time around was the Tramp vs Rat scene in Disney's Lady and the Tramp. It's shockingly violent for a 1950s children's animated film.)

A couple of reviewers have asked whether or not there would be any Romantic elements to the story. To be honest, that's actually somewhat of a loaded question. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that there is a definite "connection" between Raven and Beast Boy, but I can neither define nor elaborate on what exactly that connection is. They're not exactly an obvious couple, like Robin and Starfire. Under normal circumstances, both with sooner fight a genuine attraction than ever admit it to themselves, let alone each other.

However, keep in mind that I am a BB/Rae shipper. I just don't write them the same way I do R/S.

-o-o-o-


"Hey, Raven...while you were under Phobia's spell...did you have any 'nightmares' about us...maybe, oh I don't know, something possibly perhaps perchance involving...Valentine's Day...or even...the use of mistletoe?"
-Beast Boy, Teen Titans Go! #55


-o-o-o-

The call came in a little past two in the morning

Sleep deprivation aside, Robin often considered late-night attacks to be a blessing in disguise. Not as many civilians roamed the streets, which meant fewer distractions and even fewer casualties. He tended to be more of a night owl, anyway, given his childhood upbringings; between circus life and his days as a vigilante sidekick, it was a wonder he ever went to bed before sunrise.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for his teammates. Starfire and Cyborg sleep-stumbled their way into the communication room several minutes after the alarm sounded, a haze of yawns and wild bed hair. The latter was shooting dark glares at anything and everything in sight, not bothering to hide his distain.

"This better be good," he muttered.

"Depends on your definition," Robin stated casually, sounding far more awake than their liking. With a few clicks at the keyboard, he had live surveillance feed of Jump City Park on one monitor and mission statements on another. "Giant hellhound wreaking havoc in the middle of town good enough?"

The half-robot was suddenly much more alert. "That'll do."

Low-quality, black-and-white images gave each of the Titans a preliminary assessment of damage. The park appeared vacant—a fact Robin once again attributed to the late hour—though bits of trash and dirt were scattered everywhere. Clumps of metal and wood were all that remained of the decimated park benches, concrete walkways had been demolished, and street lamps lay in ruins. Even a number of trees had been stripped of branches and bark alike.

Despite a lack of audio, they were able to spot glimpses of a suspicious shadow flashing across the screen. It didn't look human.

"Please, I am curious." Starfire eventually spoke up, attempting to tame her auburn locks in the process. "Does the name of this Hound of Hell not suggest we should consult with Raven? I believe she would be most knowledgeable regarding such a creature."

"Yeah, where's she at, anyway? I thought she was a light sleeper." Cyborg darted his head around the room in search of their missing teammate.

"Raven's not feeling well," Robin told them vaguely. His eyes remained focused on the monitor directly ahead. "She's been excused from missions until further notice. It's just the three of us tonight."

Behind his back, Cyborg and Starfire shared a disbelieving look. They knew Robin well enough to recognize when he was keeping something from them. More importantly, they knew Raven well enough to recall that she never got sick. Not even a head cold. Something about her half-demon blood making her immune to most common human diseases.

For the time being, however, they mutually chose to remain silent. Maybe Raven had asked him not to say anything. And besides, if something was really wrong, Robin would eventually fill them in on the details when the time was right...

...they hoped.

-o-o-o-
-o-o-o-

By the time they arrived, most of the park had been plunged into a darkness so black that even their flashlights offered little aid. Thick clouds obscured what would have been a full moon-lit night. The temperature was unseasonably chilly as well—the kind of cold that seeped into a person's bones until he or she forgot what it was like to feel warm.

Of course, none of this would have particularly raised any red flags, had the forecast not predicted clear skies and Lows in the mid-sixties at worst.

"I know they got a reputation an' all for this sort of thing..." Cyborg paused mid-step to let out a violent sneeze. He wiped at his nose, teeth chattering as he added, "But you'd think the weatherman would've at least seen this coming."

Robin tried to appear unaffected while simultaneously retreating a little further into his cape. Beside him, Starfire was actively rubbing the goosebumps from her bare forearms.

"This weather isn't normal, that's for sure," he agreed. "It can't just be a coincidence."

"You think the hellhound creature's got something to do with it?"

"Or whoever set it loose in the first place."

There was little doubt in the boy wonder's mind that there was a connection. It fit. The problem was, he had no idea what that connection might be. Unexpected changes in weather. A vicious beast whose very nature was demonic. Raven's illness—or was that irrelevant? His exposure to the mystic world was impressive, but his knowledge of its workings was limited at best.

Wracking his brain in search of answer only further served to remind him of how little he really knew about these sorts of things. Even worse, it reminded him that Raven should have been right there with the answer. If not directly, than through her cast library on the occult and other source magiks.

He knew it wasn't her fault. Really, he did. He had seen with his own eyes just how sick she'd looked. It had even been his suggestion that she try to get some rest. She almost never missed out on missions, and when she did, her reasons were always justified.

And yet...the more he thought about it...the angrier her got. Frustration. Uncertainty. Helplessness. Emotions that normally remained buried deep within were rapidly bubbling to the surface, even though he had no idea why. He hated feeling this way. Hated that he allowed himself to. Hated the situation that forced his hand. Hated that Raven wasn't there.

For a fleeting moment, he almost hated her.

"Damnit!" He cried out, punching a nearby tree.

His teammates simultaneously jumped at the sudden, unexpected outburst, staring at him with mirroring looks of shock.

"Whoa! Easy, man!" Cyborg held up both hands in defense. "What's got into you all of a sudden?"

Tentatively, Starfire took a step forward. She had seen him like this before: "Robin, do you...recognize the opponent we are up against?"

But that was the problem. He didn't.

Breathing deeply, Robin closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the very same tree he had just attacked. The pain in his hand had had less of an ameliorating effect than hoped for, and was only just beginning to register in his mind. Great. His fist had struck at an awkward angle, causing far more damage than it should have. A rookie mistake. No, even a rookie would have known how to punch a damn tree so that—

He felt a hand lightly touch his arm. Soft, delicate fingers brushed against bare skin. A silent presence right behind him, warm and comforting.

Starfire.

His shoulders slumped, the anger slowly melting away. Though she had yet to say a word to him, he could picture in his mind the sad, concerned look in her eye as she stared at his back. She was waiting patiently.

"I'm sorry, Star," he mumbled into the tree. "I just..."

A loud roar interrupted him mid-apology.

Seconds later, the creature was before them, its eyes burning like cold fire. Even in the shadows, its fangs glistened with dripping saliva as it growled, crouching low. Dark fur allowed it to blend in with the night, making height difficult to ascertain at a glance, though it easily towered over the lot of them.

"I was wondering when you'd show up," Cyborg quipped, readying his plasma canon. "Here, doggy! Here, little demon pup!"

The hellhound let out a ferocious growl, snapping its jaws together loudly. Glowing irises darted from one Titan to the next, as if sizing up each potential opponent. But while Cyborg was the only one with a visible weapon at the ready, a sudden jerk of the head had it aiming straight for Robin.

The younger boy was too caught off-guard, veins still flooded with lingering norepinephrine, to properly defend himself. Less than an inch separated him from the sharp talons as he clumsily twisted out of the way. He then ducked a series of slashes vying for his throat, retreating backwards, but could do nothing more. A patch of overturned earth caught his ankle, sending him to the ground in an undignified heap.

When he looked up, his eyes locked with those of the demon beast—blue meeting white—and saw nothing but pure, instinctual rage.

"Robin!" he heard Starfire cry out.

Just as the hound leaped at him, a starbolt knocked it aside mid-air.

Starfire swooped in, following her initial attack with an onslaught of blasts. Each one drew a howl of either pain or annoyance upon contact. The hellhound's head thrashed about, trying to escape. But then she flew to close and received a claw directly to the face, dragging her forcefully to the ground.

A cry of pain escaped her lips as her lower spine struck against a particularly sharp rock. Biting her lip, she closed her eyes in an effort to avoid tears. The blood rushed to her head just as could feel an unpleasant warmth beginning to spread underneath.

The hound slowly advanced on his fallen opponent, like a hunter stalking its prey.

Taking full advantage of the distraction, Cyborg had rushed to his team leader's aid. The boy was slow to sit up, a hand held to one side of his head. He looked more confused than injured, though that didn't stop Cyborg from staring down at him in concern.

"You okay, man?"

"Y-yeah. I think so." Robin frowned. "Where's the hellhound?"

Another ferocious roar answered his question, drawing their attention back to the battle at hand...only this time, it came from Starfire.

The Tamaranian warrior summoned every ounce of Fury into her attack, so much that the sheer force of it send the hellhound flying head-first into a nearby tree. Rising into the air, she lit a bolt in each hand and tossed them at several of the heavier branches. They came crashing down in one giant wave. Next, she picked up one of the fallen street lamps and swung it like a baseball bat; a sickening 'crack' echoed into the night as cold cement made direct contact with skull.

Cyborg visibly winced. For a fleeting moment, he almost felt sorry for the hellhound. Experience told him that the receiving end of Starfire's wrath was a place he wouldn't wish on anyone.

Robin, on the other hand, openly smirked in approval.

"Thatta girl." The sight of his female teammate fighting with such passion renewed his own battle spirit, and he rose to his feet feeling like himself for the first time since entering the park. Taking out his bo-staff, he twirled the beloved weapon around once before sending Cyborg a knowing glance. "What do you say we go give her a hand?"

Metal knuckles cracked in anticipation. "I'm down."

Together, they charged in just as the hellhound sliced Starfire's makeshift bat in two. She rose into the air to avoid getting hit again, this time under the cover of Cyborg's plasma canon. From the left, Robin came in with a set of strikes. Few actually made contact, but every swing served to push the beast a little further back.

Until it caught the staff between its teeth.

Robin let go before he was pulled along with it, backflipping away from the spray of wooden chips. Cyborg was less fortunate in the exchange, catching a head-butt to the solar plexus. The hellhound snapped at the circuitry in his left hand, gnawing at any exposed wires it could find. A zap of electricity eventually repelled it, but only after the damage had been done.

"I am not a chew toy!" Cyborg shouted in a huff, pulling off the now-useless arm canon so he could smack his attacker repeatedly in the face with it. "Got. That. Fido?"

It tried to back away from the assault, only to run into a set of explosive birdarangs. Howling sharply, it clawed at the patches of fur that had been singed and glared up at one of the higher tree branches, where Robin was proudly brandishing more at the ready.

"Bring it," he taunted.

The hellhound charged wildly, but Robin was able to see it coming in plenty of time to somersault out of harm's way. More birdarangs burst from his cape that, couple with a pair of starbolts, sent the beast crashing into the base of another tree trunk. Hard. Several moments passed before it could get up this time, and even then, Robin noticed it stumbling.

"We've got it on the run, Titans!" he called to the others, instinctively falling into an offensive fighting stance. "Keep going!"

Slowly pulling itself to a stand, the hellhound let out a series of whimpers as it struggled to regain proper footing...then abruptly howled in pain before an iridescent, black glow pulled it into the ground.

"...well, that was unexpected," Cyborg stated after a moment.

"You both just saw what I just saw, right?" Robin asked rhetorically. "I haven't gone completely crazy?"

"Not completely." Cyborg half-joked. Tapping at the cracked screen on his arm, he furrowed his brow in confusion. "But my scanners say she's nowhere near here. In fact, she hasn't even left the Tower."

Starfire lowered herself to the ground, face set into an uncharacteristically grim expression. "I fear Raven is not the only person whom we may need to question."

"What do you mean, Star?" Robin asked.

"While it was attacking me, I was able to get a good look at its fur in the light." Her voice lowered to an almost whisper. "It was green."

-o-o-o-
-o-o-o-

Raven was lulled back to an awakened state by the smell of fresh grass and earth. Rolling her head to one side, she inhaled deeply and felt the soft blades caress her nose and cheek. A warmth like she had never known blanketed her whole body, dry and soothing. Somewhere in the distance, crickets chirped.

Fluttering her eyelids open, she looked up to find a deep indigo sky peppered with bright stars. Pale, golden grass spanned the field in every directly as far as she could see. When she sat up, she caught sight of a few baobab trees and rock formations surrounding a water hold, all outlined by the glow of a setting sun.

Africa.

Or, rather, someone's memory of Africa.

Forgetting the how or why, the thought alone of subjecting herself to the whims of another's subconscious should have brought about a wave of fear and uncertainty. She was not in control, and could do little to guard herself outside her own mind. Yet...she felt surprisingly okay with it. Even safe. Like her virtual host was doing everything possible to make her feel at home.

A lone figure caught her attention, sitting with his back to her on one of the larger rock piles. Young, possibly her age or younger, and dressed in traditional safari clothing. The light grey shirt accented his bronzed skin, no doubt from hours spent under the hot sun, with a light breeze wafting though spiky, blonde hair.

There was something oddly familiar about this person, even though she was certain she didn't know anyone with that particular skin and hair combination. Nobody worth remembering, at least. Driven by curiosity, she slowly rose to her feet and approached him.

Then he turned his head.

Her eyes widened. "Beast Boy?"

He also recognized her on sight, eyes lighting up with unabashed joy.

"Raven!" The smile on his face was unparalleled, showing off ridiculously white teeth—human teeth—as he turned back to the horizon. "I've always wanted to show you this. Sunsets at Titans Tower don't even begin to compare!"

At a loss for words, Raven could only stare. Her eyes never once left the strange boy before her as she made her way to the seat beside him. The rock was surprisingly cool, her legs brushing against its smooth surface as she allowed them to dangle over the edge. Beast Boy was lazily swinging his legs back and forth like a child, leaning back on his hands and looking more content than she had ever seen him.

A strange heat rose to her cheeks, which she immediately attributed to the warm rays beating down on them; turning away, her gaze soon fell upon the sunset that captivated her younger teammate.

It was easy to see why he was so eager to share it with somebody (even if that somebody was only her). The sky itself appeared to be burning, each color melting into the next so subtly that it was difficult to tell where red began and purple ended. At this latitude, what remained of the sun above-ground visibly flickered around the edges. She could almost hear the fire roar and crackle with intensity.

"Amazing, isn't it?"

She turned back to find him openly grinning at her. Her own lips twitched, unable to resist, and she gave him a small nod in agreement. Encouraged by her reaction, he jumped to his feet and reached for her hand.

"Come on!" He pulled her up, and for a split second, their faces were only inches apart. "There's something else you've gotta see!"

Not giving her a chance to protest, he took off at a swift run down the rocky hill. She barely managed to keep pace, staring after him with her mouth slightly agape at his brash behavior. Together, they ran for about thirty seconds before he led them to a stop, releasing her hand and falling back onto a slope of soft grass. His eyes floated towards the heavens.

She followed his line of sight, and was amazed to see their haven of twilight replaced by a clear, moonless night. Thousands of bright stars peppered the midnight-blue sky as far as the eye could see, unpolluted by the light of civilization. The trees, too, had magically vanished around them so as not to obstruct their view in any way. Slowly, she spun around in an effort to take it all in.

To her great surprise, she recognized many of the constellations. Her knowledge of the Southern Hemisphere was limited at best, but she never thought that Beast Boy's would be anything other than non-existent.

"Where are we?" she found herself asking.

"South Africa. 'Couple of hours outside Pretoria. Why?"

He was watching her. She could feel his eyes tracking her every movement, silently questioning, yet she couldn't stop staring at the virtual playground he had created. It dawned on her that she had yet to figure out if he knew they were only dreaming, or if his dream-induced haze had bewitched him into believing they really were on Safari. To draw attention to the fact would risk collapsing the world around them, and while the worst that could happen was they wake up...she wasn't sure if she was ready to say goodbye to this world of theirs. Not yet.

Realizing that he was still waiting for her answer, she stalled for time by joining him on the ground. He sat up to meet her, their shoulders lightly brushing together from the close proximity. Normally, such a distance would have caused great discomfort on her part. Now, it felt...right.

"Do you go stargazing a lot?" She asked, purposely changing the subject.

A shrug. "Not in California. The stars look too different." He sighed wistfully. "But when I was little, I would spend hours staring up at the sky. I think I even remember some of the constellations." His eyes darted around the sky in search of something before he grinned and motioned to a small cluster to their left. "Those for stars there make up Crux. It's basically the southern equivalent of the Big Dipper...or was it Little?"

His face scrunched up for a moment in deep thought, and for some reason, Raven couldn't find it in herself to tell him that the Southern Cross actually consisted of five stars, and that he was probably mistaking it with the False Cross. A common misconception.

"Now that one," he eventually continued, turning further north. "That's Hercules, this guy from Romania who was almost kidnapped by demons as a baby and forced to drink from a magic bottle of strength-enhancing gold spinach. He went swimming in a pool of dead people and gained immortality by inventing this really, really strong type of thread that normal scissors couldn't cut."

She also made a mental note to explain the difference between actual Greek Mythology and Disney retellings at a later time.

Leaning slightly against her, he pointed to another cluster just below that of Hercules: "The one that looks like a house with legs—do you see it? That one was named after some god doctor, I think. O-fickle...O-fluffus..."

"Ophiuchus?" Raven offered, voice coming out in a near-whisper. For some reason, her heart was starting to beat a little faster in her chest as his breath inadvertently blew against her ear.

He nodded. "Yeah, that's the one." But his tone noticeably saddened as he added, "My mom used to make up all kinds of stories about him to tell me, back when I...you know..."

She did know, but in the spirit of the moment, saw no point in dredging up the painful past.

Instead, they lapsed into a peaceful, comfortable silence. Beast Boy had yet to move away, but she had yet to comment on their close proximity. It was almost like they were two normal teenagers enjoying the simple pleasures of life together. No yelling. No fighting.

A memory of her own began to surface, of a time before their relationship had evolved into the snipe-fest it was now. The Titans had just experienced a crushing defeat at the hands of H.I.V.E. Cyborg had been sent flying halfway across the city. Starfire had gone after him. Robin had been lost in the sewers. By the time they had returned to the tower, only the two of them had been left standing. Or limping, in Beast Boy's case.

They were still new to one another in those days, and Beast Boy had been so much calmer in the face of defeat. No inappropriate jokes or dramatic whines. He had very clearly been in pain, but gave no indication other than constantly rubbing at his injured leg. Even as he leant on Raven for support, his only words had been quiet utterance of disbelief. She had taken pity and used her powers to heal him, experiencing first-hand just how much pain he had been in.

But, rather than childish squeals of amazement or the bestowing of some horrid nickname for her efforts, he looked up and thanked her with a soft tone and gentle smile.

She had seen traces of that Beast Boy again not too long ago, after the...incident...with Malchior. In a rare moment of vulnerability, he had quietly stood outside her door to tell her that he was sorry. Sorry that her heart had been broken. When he had done absolutely nothing wrong (aside from the occasional eavesdropping), he still felt the need to not only apologize, but to let her know that she wasn't alone. That he would be there for her if she needed him.

What happened to them? How could things have gotten so bad that they could barely be in the same room together anymore? So bad that even on missions, they sometimes forget who they were really supposed to be fighting?

Before she realized it, Raven had shifted her her spot so that her head was not-quite-resting on Beast Boy's shoulder. Partially so that he could not see the misty look on her eye, but mostly so that they could better share the view.

"What about that one?" She asked, indicating what she knew very well to be the constellation Lyra. "What's the story behind it?"

Beaming with pride, Beast Boy lapsed into some wild tale about how a small child once raced a turtle to see who would win the honor of becoming Mount Vesuvius' first great electric harp-playing rock star. A tale Raven knew fully well consisted of half-truths and whole lies. She paid the story itself little heed, however, just enjoying the sound of his low tenor, as calm and soothing as she remembered it to be.

-o-o-o-
-o-o-o-

"It...could be possible, Cy, couldn't it?" Robin asked for the third time in five minutes, rubbing at the back of his neck . "I mean, that couldn't have been the only vial ever produced. Right?"

Cyborg shook his head. "We don't know for certain. All the research on the stuff was lost in the same boating accident that killed B.B.'s parents."

Pause.

"And there's no way that Raven—"

"For the last time, she's in her room. Probably sleeping."

Above the common room couches they sat on, a large digital clocked blinked some ungodly hour. None of them bothered to check which one. They had spent an unprecedented amount of time searching for the hellhound after its mysterious vanishing act, at Robin's insistence, with nothing but dark circles beneath their eyes to show for it.

The Titans leader was less than pleased by these turn of events, not only from lack of closure to their battle, but because of the lingering questions haunting it.

Starfire sat oddly silent during the exchange, away from the boys on the steps to the room's entrance. Her mind was only half-listening, however, after the constant volleying between questions about Beast Boy and questions about Raven grew repetitive. She had yet to say anything to either of the boys, but the pain in her back had been steadily increasing for the last half-hour, to the point where it was getting harder to ignore. There was no blood, though she could feel the tender flesh around her lower spine beginning to bruise.

"Hey, Star?"

She looked up at the sound of Robin's voice. "Yes?"

"Do you think..." he hesitated, as if trying to figure a way to phrase his question. "Listen, I know you're tired and all, but could you possibly stop by Raven's room before heading to sleep?"

Sitting up a little straighter, she forced a smile, glad to be of help. "Of course, Robin. I shall make use of the 'girl-talk' to—"

"T-that's not what I meant. Just...I don't know...check and see that she's okay."

Her smile quickly faded. Shoulders slumping, her lips pressed together in a thin line, but she still nodded in compliance. Robin didn't seem to notice her abrupt change in mood, turning back to Cyborg.

"What about you, Cy?"

"I was thinkin' of poppin' in on B.B. Real quick, myself. See if his I.V. bag needs to be switched yet or something."

"Good idea. I'll come with." Robin insisted.

"You're not gonna start drilling him too, are you?" Cyborg quipped as they rose from their seats in unison. "Boy can hardly tell you to shut up in his condition."

"Ha ha," came the dry remark.

They passed by Starfire on their way without so much as a glance in her direction. She watched them go in partial disbelief, surprised at the blatant dismissal. A small part of her wondered if her wearied state wasn't just over-thinking things. Still, it would have been nice for them to at least ask if she was okay

Especially Robin.

-o-o-o-

The walk to the medical bay was a relatively short one, in which time an uncomfortable silence passed between them. Something had begun to nag at the back of Robin's mind. Like he was forgetting something. Or missing it altogether. It was the second time that night he had gotten that feeling, and he didn't like it one bit.

Cyborg sent his friend and teammate a curious glance out of the corner of his robotic eye as they reached the door to Beast Boy's room. Entering the security code from memory, he stepped back to allow the metal door to open with a loud hiss.

And gasped: "What the—"

The entire room was in complete disarray. Every screen was either cracked or broken, some monitors still sparking with residual power. Pillow feathers and scraps of linen were scattered everywhere. The bed was twisted into a heap of near-unrecognizable metal. And in the center of it all lay the bruised, battered, and prone form of Beast Boy.

Robin was the first to react, searching the room for any clues or leads. Following his cue, Cyborg rushed to his fallen friend's aid. He instinctively reached for the boy's jugular before remembering he had no sense of touch in those fingers. A quick biological scan, on the other hand, helped to ease his fears. Slightly.

"He's alive." Legs giving out beneath him, he slumped to the ground. "Still out for the count, but alive."

"What happened?" Robin murmured, joining him. His eyes took in the fresh injuries, secretly thankful Beast Boy wasn't awake to feel them.

Patches of singed fur stuck out from the tears in his uniform, which was also streaked with red. His limbs were twisted in a way that Robin was almost positive they shouldn't, with noticeable bruises already beginning to form. But the worst of it, by far, was the dangerous gash across the side of his head, caked with a mixture of dried and fresh blood.

Robin saw to this first, grabbing the edge of his cape to press against the wound in an effort to stop the bleeding while Cyborg searched for gauze. He had no way of knowing how long Beast Boy had been bleeding, but judging by the dark pool on the floor, at least an hour must had passed. Did that mean he needed a transfusion? Was his skin supposed to be that shade of green, or should it be darker? Robin wished he'd paid better attention when Cyborg and Raven administered First Aid.

"This is bad," Cyborg muttered darkly, returning with some antiseptic and bandages. "Depending upon what caused this, he could have a serious concussion."

"How do we find that out?"

"We need to CT his head, but the equipment—"

A high-pitched scream rang out from somewhere in the tower, and Robin felt his blood run cold. He recognized it almost instantly.

"Starfire!" Rising to his feet, he started for the door before pausing long enough to call back over his shoulder. "Stay here with Beast Boy. I'll go help her."

As dark as the hallway was, it took Robin less than two minutes to locate the source. He almost headed straight for her bedroom, before remembering that he had sent her to check on Raven first. Guilt was something that could be considered later, however, as he was soon rewarded with the site of an open doorway.

"What is it, Star?" He called out, dashing into the room. "What ha...ppened..."

His eyes widened at the sight.

If possible, Raven's room was in even worst condition than the medical wing. Remnants of books lay in tatters across the floor and shelves alike, some charred around the edges, and every last glass item had shattered so finely that remains sprinkled the floor with razor-sharp crystals. Her bed was equally beyond repair, along with the scorched and scratched wooden furniture pieces that had survived countless power outbursts from Raven herself in the past.

Starfire sat in the middle of the room, trembling as she held the girl in question across her lap. Dozens of cuts spanned across Raven's body, several with shard fragments still deeply embedded. Her legs were horribly bruised—in some places, burned—and Starfire was holding the already bloodied remains of a small pillow against the side of her head.

"She will not wake up," Starfire looked up at him with tear-rimmed eyes. "And I am afraid to move her because of her injuries."

Swallowing a growing lump in his throat, Robin took a deep breath and crossed the room, grimacing as the scent of blood filled his nostrils. He knelt beside Starfire, though his eyes remained focused on Raven as he reached out to gently brush away the hair from her neck. Placing two fingers against her smooth, pale (too pale) skin, he held his breath in hopes of finding a pulse.

"Alive." He reassured Starfire, though his expression looked anything but. "Burned, bruised, and possibly concussed...exactly like Beast Boy."

-o-o-o-
-o-o-o-

Morning Twilight had just begun to fall, when two figures materialized in the center of Jump City Park.

The shorter of the pair, a boy in the mid- to late-adolescent range, was dressed in a typical street fashion. Baggy denims, sneakers, and an orange hoodie pulled low over a perpetual glare. Stubble protruded from his chin in wispy patches. Though slouching, he carried a noticeable aura of superiority over his companion.

Likewise, the second boy's body language told of a resigned submission to their arrangement, though his good standing gave him a good half a foot extra in height. Clean-shaven and dressed in a fitted blue jump suit, his eyes scanned over his surroundings with neither a smile nor a frown. His hair was neatly trimmed, revealing unusually pointed ears.

Yet, there was one startling feature that these seemingly polar opposites had in common: two paris of glowing, red eyes. Each.

"Pathetic," the leader regarded the destruction—or, rather, lack thereof—with disgust. He moved to kick at a loose rock, only to have his foot harmlessly pass through it. "We should've had passage to this world hours ago. I hate it when a good plan falls through."

"You hate everything," his companion lightly remarked.

He sneered up at the taller boy. "Smart-ass. Not my fault the damn kid had such strong mental defenses. Any normal human would've claws his own brain out within the span of an Earth minute."

"Our research tells us he is a normal human."

"Bullshit, he is." Folding his arms across his chest, he retreated so far into his hood that only the glow of his two bottom irises could be seen. "Unless, of course, you think you can do any better?"

"A challenge I readily accept," came the reply without hesitation. Having grown used to his self-appointed dictator's temper, it was easy enough to brush off the constant snide remarks and baiting. "That is, if you would be gracious enough to relinquish your role in our little charade."

The hooded boy gave a mock bow. "As you wish. That is, if you can come up with any decent ideas."

"One is all I need."

Ignoring the watchful eyes of his leader, the second boy swiftly turned around and held up a steady hand. Wave of iridescent, black magik soon shot out from his palm at the ground before them. The resultant pool gave way to reveal the green-tinted hellhound, eyes wild and teeth snarling. Clearly displeased with its last fight, the creature barked several times in warning to the boys before crouching low in preparation to attack.

Not phased in the slightest, he simply raised his arm higher, summoning the power back. The same glow surrounded the hellhound, until a snap of the wrist pulled it all back into fist. As the residual energy dissipated into the air, he blew once on his knuckles to seal the last of it.

Where the hellhound once stood, now there was only the soulless form of Adonis. A quick slash through the air, and he fell down. Dead.

"And just what did that accomplish?" The hooded boy asked in a huff. He hated his companion's showy nature.

"It is my opinion that our little pet was simply not strong enough." Turning away from the corpse, he addressed his 'leader' as nonchalantly as if they were discussing the weather. "Perhaps this time, we should forego the surrogate and unlock the cage directly."

An eyebrow raised, intrigued. "You think he'll be able to manage that?"

"Oh, I am confident that he will do more than merely 'manage'." For the first time, traces of a sadistic grin tugged at his usually stoic expression. "After all, you know how our dear, baby brother takes such delight in his work."

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TO BE CONTINUED...