Replacement
Chapter Five

)O(

Wally had the strangest dreams. He saw the walls of the safe house shatter around him, and then there was a fuzzy black and red figure looming over him, sputtering off some nonsense about Raven and her heritage. And then there was intense, burning pain rippling though his body. Bright lights, a surge of power, and silence. There must have been nothing but darkness and silence for a long time, because the next thing he dreamt was the rhythmic sound of someone talking to him (he distinctly recalled the word "idiot" said several times), humming to him, chanting to him… the cool taste of water, the feel of a soft, wet cloth on his skin. It was all so surreal.

The weirdest part was that he couldn't remember falling asleep. The last thing he recalled was standing around talking to Raven about her stupid decision to sacrifice herself. And then…ugh. He couldn't remember anything after that. Had they been attacked?

He grunted and sat up, holding his head, and trying to keep his brain from pounding through his scull. "Damn. What happened? I feel like I've been crushed by a truck."

"You were stepped on by Deathstroke… but I suppose the feeling is the same."

Wally jerked too quickly out of surprised and hissed as his side burned in pain. The skin around his abdomen felt tight, pulled and swollen, as if he'd gotten stitches. He cursed and looked into a pair of deep plum eyes next to him. A breath escaped his lungs and he smiled. "You're all right."

Raven's eyebrow peaked and she leaned back in the chair next to him, examining his face. "Yes. I'm fine. But you were the one crushed by debris and was trampled by Deathstroke. The fact that you're awake, let alone alive is amazing to me."

His eyebrows knitted together and he looked at his hands. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Three days." Raven stood up and hobbled over to his bed. Wally looked down at her feet and noticed that her left ankle was bandaged tightly. How bad had their fight with Deathstroke been? "Your team has been in here every five minutes, checking to make sure you're healthy and annoying the hell out of me. I can't help you heal if they keep breaking my concentration." She sat down on the edge of his mattress and looked into his eyes.

"Yeah, well… M'Gann can kind of act like a mother hen, I guess."

"Starfire's… concern is not helping her either. That girl is worse than your team." Raven reached over him and handed him a Styrofoam cup with a straw. "Drink this. It's water and your body needs hydration after your sleep."

Wally sucked on the straw, glad to be putting something into his stomach. Silence fell around them and he allowed himself the pleasure of examining Raven's face. Whatever happened must have been intense. There was a red cut down the middle of her lip and a fading bruise near her right eye. She looked beaten, scarred, and paler than usual, as if she was both physically and emotionally drained. "Raven… what happened?"

"We met up with Deathstroke." She leaned forward and raised the hem of his shirt, exposing his abdomen. Color flooded his face, but she remained stoic and analytical. "He blew up the safe house, we were crushed by debris, and I completely drained myself trying to keep us safe. On the bright side, I scared Deathstroke off with my scary demon ways." She glanced up and him and smirked before she pressed her hand to his side. Her touch was gentle and cool, and Wally could feel something warm and thick spread through him, like blue syrup.

"What are you doing?" He looked down at the top of her head, glad she couldn't see him blush.

"Healing you. You took some rebar through the ribs." Her finger tips moved upwards, and Wally both shivered and cringed. Bad. This was very, very bad. "I've been trying to keep you as healthy as possible with what I have left. I'm sorry it's not a lot, but it's all I have right now. You're safe for right now, but you'll need to take it easy for a little while, at least a week."

"Wait… what?" His hand closed on her wrist and he pulled her away. "What are you talking about? You're wasting what little powers you have on healing me?"

"It's not wasting. I want to help you." Raven shrugged and looked at him as if this wasn't a big deal. "You got me to the safe house so I could heal myself. The least I could do is make sure you healed properly. Call it… returning the favor."

That didn't help. Wally glared and his hand tightened on her wrist, and his arm twitched as if he were going to pull her closer. There was something strange growing in the small space between them, and he wasn't sure if he liked it or not. "You still have a gaping hole in your chest."

"So do you." Raven swatted his hand away from her wrist and pulled up his shirt again, her fingertips touching the pale skin underneath. "Now, shut up and let me heal it before it gets worse. Jeez." Wally closed his eyes and tried to think of manly things, like football, and spiders, and running really fast. Anything at this point to keep his mind away from her skin against his, and to keep his body from reacting to her soft touch.

"Raven, I…" Wally's protest was cut short as the door to the room flew open and M'Gann and Starfire walked in. Raven pulled away from him, letting his shirt fall back down to cover his abdomen.

"Wally! You're awake!" M'Gann set a manila folder on the table next to the door and started toward them, her face alight with excitement and relief. Wally frowned. How beaten up could he have been that M'Gann was that concerned for him?

"Hang on." Raven sat up and held up her hand, frowning at the two of them and stopping their pursuit. M'Gann pouted and Starfire seemed genuinely curious. "He's not fully healed yet, and his body is a bit weak. Be careful, and no hugging, Star, or you'll tear out his stitches. I don't have enough power to put them back in. Are we clear?"

"Okay…" M'Gann sat in the chair Raven had occupied and looked a little nervous as her eyes darted from Raven's body to his and back again. "I'm glad to know you're up and awake. I'm sure the guys will want to see you and make sure you're okay."

"Oh, yes! Robin was most concerned for your safety and wellbeing." Starfire sat next to Raven on the mattress, looking at him with her wide-eyed innocence. That girl was almost too pretty.

"That's good to know." He rubbed the back of his head and smile shyly at her.

Raven's eyes darkened and her lips twitched as she removed her hand from his skin and stood up, making her way to the table with the folder on it. Wally watched her carefully, while still trying to listen to the other two girls' conversation, but he couldn't stop looking at Raven. Her lips were pulled taught and her brow was furrowed, but it wasn't from whatever data was in the folder. What was wrong with her? Did he do something wrong?

"… even Beast Boy has been questioning your safety." Starfire reached out and touched his hand, making him blush again. Okay, physical contact… weird. "I am glad you are healthy."

Somewhere in the room, he could hear something crack, like a vase or the glass in a picture frame. Wally turned and looked at Raven, but she didn't seem to notice the sound and was way too engrossed in whatever was in that file.

"M'Gann… these are the reports I asked for? The ones from the League?"

"Mm-hm." She turned and looked at Raven, nodding. "I had the League take a look at the hard drive you dropped off. But they said the data was too corrupted to extract any information. Both them and I tried to do what I could to restore the hard drive to a better, Raven… but there wasn't much to work off of. I am so sorry, I know we needed that information against Lex Luthor and Deathstroke."

"Mm… we needed a lot of things that were on that hard drive…" Her lips pressed into a thin line and she started for the door, her knuckles white as she gripped the manila folder. "I'm sorry, but I need a minute alone… if you don't mind watching Wally for a second, I'll be right back."

M'Gann chewed on her lower lip, watching as Raven left the room. She shook her head and turned back to Wally. "Poor girl. She's probably at her wit's end right now. You both worked so hard to get that information to us, and it has all been mangled beyond repair."

"The hard drive from the communicator?" He vaguely remembered Raven trying to pry the thing free of her tacky blood, but that had been moments before his black-out, and everything felt strange and hazy. "None of the information was left on it? But… we risked our lives to get that data. Raven had an arm shoved through her chest to get that data."

"I know." Starfire rubbed one of her arms and looked away. "You both put yourselves in such terrible danger and yet you have no reward or positive outcome to show for all the work you did. It is most upsetting for all of us."

"And the League? Are they taking written reports?" The stress and anger was starting to aggravate his injury, but he didn't care. This wasn't fair. "I know what was on that server, hidden in files with old, boring tax returns."

"No… Raven tried, but no one at the League can listen to her. Besides, she's been a bit preoccupied for the past few days." She looked back at Wally and offered a weak smile, patting his other hand. "And she's been looking after you for all this time, Wally. She hasn't left your side in three days. She's been here trying to keep you healthy and get you healed as quickly as possible."

Starfire nodded. "She is most attentive to you and your needs. She managed to reset and heal your left arm yesterday. It had been broken severely in the fight with Deathstroke."

The damaged hard drive suddenly didn't seem so important. "She's… she's been here the whole time?" Wally felt something twist in his chest and he looked toward the door. Why? She needed her own rest after what had happened, not sit here and baby him. He could heal just fine without her powers, he had done it before.

"Whatever happened between you two…" M'Gann giggled and gave a sidelong glance to Starfire before looking back at Wally. "It must have been something special."

"Um…" Wally suddenly felt a storm of emotions rise up into his throat and he offered the two of them what must have been a very awkward smile. "Well, you know me and my charm."

"Wally West… please stop talking." Raven entered the room again and frowned at him. He enjoyed the slight shade of pink on her cheeks. So, she hadn't forgotten about their kiss. That was good. "You're going to give our friends a reason to gossip."

M'Gann laughed. "Gossip? About you and Wally? As if! You two are on entirely different ends of the spectrum." She leaned forward onto her knees and smiled at Wally. "Right?"

"Ugh…" Raven pinched the bridge of her nose and started to shoo them out of his room. Starfire was giggling behind her hand and that only seemed to irritate Raven more. She shoved them out the door and sighed. "Go find something to do. I'll pack my things in a little bit and we can go, okay?"

"Go?" Wally frowned and watched as she approached the bed again. "Go where?"

"Home. Back to Jump. You know, where I belong. I don't have a mission to complete anymore, I'm not going to hang around Taipei for no apparent reason." She sighed and sat down on the mattress and rolled her eyes.

"Yeah…" He gave a one-shouldered shrug, making sure he was careful with his stitches. Why was this so awkward? "I know… It's just kind of weird to see you go."

She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Wally, you spent all that time talking about how you thought I was here to replace your team and how you didn't trust me, and now that I'm about to leave you get upset. Will you please make up your mind?"

"I just don't know how I feel about you leaving." He sniffed indignantly and leaned back against the headboard. "Our mission isn't technically finished. We know what Lex Luthor was hiding in those servers, we know that there is something else going on, and you just want to go home? That doesn't make any sense."

"I don't want to go home. But, the Justice League has labeled this mission a failure and a waste of resources." Raven frowned and looked away from him for a moment. "We were unable to retrieve the information we were supposed to retrieve, unable to properly extract the hard drive with said information, since I am not affiliated with the League, I cannot submit a report of my findings. The mission is a failure and the Teen Titans are to pack up and head home."

"A… a failure?" Wally thought his stitches might rip out of his body from sheer anger. They had spent all that time planning, searching, and fighting. Raven had herself mortally wounded, Wally had rebar puncture his ribcage, and yet they came out victorious with the information in hand. But due to stupid bureaucratics, the information was unable to be submitted? Where was the fairness in that? "That's stupid. We did all that work just to fail?"

Raven shrugged. "We didn't fail, we're just not allowed to succeed."

"You're so nonchalant about this, Raven… like everything is okay."

"What do you want me to be? Angry?" She sighed again and shook her head. "Being angry isn't going to fix the fact that I cannot submit a report because I am not affiliated with the League. I am not allowed to continue my dealings with your team and the information we discovered. Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, and I are to pack up and head home. We're done."

"It's not fair."

Raven shrugged again. "I know."

Wally cursed and looked at his hands in his lap. All that work, just to come up empty-handed? Just to be told that they failed? After everything that Raven had done? She put herself in harm's way more than once just to keep him safe, and yet she was told she failed. He glanced up at her. "So, now what?"

"Now?" Raven heaved a deep sigh and looked at him. She looked exhausted, not that he blamed her. Doing what she did to defeat Deathstroke and then taking care of him for three days straight, she had every right to be tired. "Now, we pack up and go back to our separate cities. You return to Happy Harbor and I go back to Jump City. The mission is considered a failure by all parties involved. We were unable to retrieve hard evidence of what we found, and so we failed. End of story."

"But we know the truth. So it's not considered a failure."

"By us." Raven sighed and reached into a bag next to her, fishing around in the pockets for something. "I need you to write a report for the League. They won't listen to me, but they will to you. Maybe if we explain why Deathstroke is such a threat, and his ties with Lex Luthor… then maybe we can stop this before it gets worse. Before more people get hurt. You have real connections, I just have illusions of grandeur." Wally was once again reminded of the distance between her team and his, and he cringed. She was an amazing person and an amazing fighter, but she held no weight in his world.

"This is for you." Her face was a deep red and she wasn't meeting his eyes. "Cyborg made one for everyone and I wanted to give you yours." She glanced at him before dropping the yellow communicator in his lap and looking away. "You're annoying, childish, impulsive, and cocky… but you saved my life more than a few times… and I guess you're my friend. So, thank you. You've done a lot for me, Wally. I just wanted you to know."

There was a long pause before let out a long string of Wally laughter, and the movement tugged at his stitches but he didn't care. "Only you can turn a compliment into an insult, Raven." He picked up that communicator and looked at it, somehow realizing this was his only line to his new friends. Okay, Beast Boy was kinda funny, Cyborg was kinda cool, Starfire could be really sweet, and Raven was… well… Raven. And after everything that happened, they had all become his friends. It sucked to know they had to leave. "So, you're just gonna go back to Jump… and I'm going back to Happy Harbor…" He felt Raven's eyes on him and he looked up at her.

"You're upset."

"Well… yeah. I mean… I just met you and the Titans, and even though you can be annoying too… I kinda like you guys." He sighed and dropped the communicator in his lap. "And… I liked our partnership. You're a great fighter and an awesome teammate. This just kinda sucks."

Raven's face colored again. "You too."

"And you're kind of a good kisser."

Raven pulled her hood up, hiding her face from him. He smirked and watched as she shifted uncomfortably under his stare. "One time. I was losing blood and going into shock, my actions cannot and should not be judged as if I were acting with some iota of sanity. So, lay off it. "

"I thought you were acting just fine." Wally pushed the covers of him and moved towards her, trying to rile her up. "What do you say? One kiss before you leave?"

"Not on your life. And get back in bed before you rip out all the stitches I worked so hard on." Raven pushed him away and started for the door. There was a long heavy pause as all the teasing vanished, and she looked back at him, offering a small smile. This was their end, and neither one wanted to reach it. "I'll see you around, Wally."

"You won't…" He sighed and moved back into his bed, shrugging. "But I guess that's to be expected. Seeing as we live on opposite sides of the continent. And have different jobs. And connections."

"Don't count me out just yet." Raven laughed and leaned against the door frame, watching him. "I'm sure I'll need your witty banter for something."

"Of course."

She looked out from the shadows of her hood and cocked her head to the side, offering a small smile. "You're always welcome to visit… just please don't try to stay." And she left without another word. Wally, felt a sinister smile peel across his lips before he picked up the communicator and switched it to an open frequency.

"Raven and I kissed. And she thinks I'm good at it."

"WALLY!"

)O(

The end, I know… you're all very curious as to what exactly was going on with Lex and his list of villains, but that is for another day, perhaps. Thank you so much for reading! And please leave a review.