Chapter 5
[Next day]

Edward spent some time after breakfast and the morning training session to cut up the chicken wings into segments, 10 for him and 10 for Cyborg. He was going to spring the challenge on Cyborg for lunch.

He used some hot sauce first to wet the wings down, then, used a basic flour, salt and pepper mix to coat the wings and set those in his personal fridge. Then, he went over to Raven's room and knocked politely.

There was no answer, though, so, he opened up the link and realized that she was meditating. So, he closed it temporarily and entered the override code to go in.

The door opened and he went in quietly. Sure enough, she was there, floating above the bed and as Edward opened the fridge, she opened an eye for a second. She recognized who was raiding her fridge and resumed her meditation session with a soft smile.

Edward turned and saw the smile on his girlfriend's face and recognized that she knew he was there.

He went to the door and it hissed open.

Edward was walking back to his quarters when he ran into Kole.

"Hi, Kole," he greeted, "How are you and Gnarrk today?"

"Still tired from yesterday," she admitted, "What's ya got there?"

"Part of Cyborg's lunch," he replied.

"Can I see?" she asked.

"You can't tell him if I do tell you," he warned her.

"I won't say a word," she promised. Edward nodded.

He carefully opened the lid and Kole looked inside and took a sniff. She reeled and said, "What's in this stuff? Lava?"

"Pretty close to it," Edward said, "It's a mix of Habanero peppers, hot sauce, Cayenne, chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic, and Ghost Chile extract."

Kole looked lost as Edward said, "It's extremely hot...The extract is pure heat, no flavor."

"It doesn't look hot," she said.

"Hot as in spicy, Kole. The only way to even start to cool this is with milk. You'll have to see what I mean," Edward said.

"Can I taste it?" she asked innocently.

"That, I won't subject you to," Edward said, "This is hot enough you might yell and ruin the surprise."

He reached into his pocket and handed Kole a clean handkerchief as her nose was running.

"Wow!" she said, "That little sniff has my nose running!"

"Keep it," Edward said, "I have more."

It was getting close to lunchtime and Edward needed to prepare the Titans other meals as well. He was going to use some other wings he bought and use a milder sauce for those, as well as regular breading materials.

After a quick stop in his room to get the prebreaded wings, he headed to the kitchen and started the fryer.

[30 minutes later]

Edward hit a button underneath the counter that sent a signal through the Tower, alerting the team that lunch was ready. Edward smiled to himself as the team came in, Cyborg at the lead, of course.

"Ah, Titans," Edward said, "Today, we have something different planned. Today, we have an eating challenge. It's a surprise challenge for Cyborg, though. One I spent considerable time in looking into.

"It's now time to reveal what this surprise challenge is."

He lifted a lid on Cyborg's plate and continued on, "We all know that Cyborg's an eating machine when he wants to be and while this is only 10 jumbo wings, you'll see a large cup here as well.

"But, here's the rules of the challenge: Cy, you have 20 minutes to finish the wings. They must be completely stripped of meat as well. If you go for the milk, you lose the challenge automatically. There is also a 5 minute period after you finish the wings. If you are able to do that successfully, Terra's off the hook for doing your chores as I will do your chores around the Tower for a week instead. Should you lose, though, I not only get bragging rights, I will enjoy watching you doing my chores for a week as well as yours."

Edward held out his hand. Cyborg looked at the plate then looked at Edward's outstretched hand and said, "You're on. But, you gotta do it as well."

Edward smiled and said, "I was expecting that, so, here's the rest of the deal: Should I lose, I will, for one week, not only do your chores, I will do the rest of the team's chores. If I win, then you do the chores of everyone else for a week. No going into anyone else's room, though, especially Rae's. The first one that goes for the milk loses. This means that if you pick up the milk and drink any, you lose. You can change your mind at any time before the glass touches your lips."

Cyborg smiled and said, "You're on!" and shook Edward's hand. Edward pulled up his plate and large glass of milk.

Edward handed Robin the kitchen timer, already set for 20 minutes.

"Whenever you're ready," Edward said to Robin.

"Go!" Robin said, pressing a button on the timer.

Edward picked up his first wing and bit down. The pain was intense as he chewed through the first wing and he could feel his face starting to heat up right away.

Cyborg did the same and let out a strangled "Eeep!" as he quickly chewed and swallowed. His face darkened in color and broke out into a hard sweat.

Both ate through the first two wings in quick order and both contestants were flushed and sweating heavily. Edward saw Cyborg's hand inching towards the cold, soothing relief that the milk would provide.

The third wing was just as difficult for both Edward and Cyborg and in the back of Edward's mind, he knew he'd beaten Adam Richman's attempt.

There was a fire building in both their stomachs from the incredible heat and Cyborg's hand went even closer for the milk before he stopped.

Edward was also seriously considering going for the milk, but, he was determined to either best Cyborg or at least tie him.

Meanwhile the other Titans were slack-jawed watching the torture fest. Everyone was wondering who would go for the milk first. They could see steam coming out of Edward and Cyborg's ears.

[You ok?] Raven asked.

[Feels like liquid fire, hon,] Edward replied painfully, trying not to let her feel his pain through the link.

[I can see that,] she quipped.

"Onto #4," Robin said, "You guys are doing pretty well, 11:30 left."

Cyborg took a bite of wing #4 as Edward did and the next thing the team knew, he was holding the milk in his hand and shaking visibly brought it up to his lips.

Edward had also taken the meat off wing #4 and started reaching for the milk, but, he heard in the back of his mind, [You can do it, sweetheart. Cyborg's in serious pain.]

Cyborg fought the urge to drink, though and set the milk down, untouched and tried wing number 5.

That was enough for him. He grabbed the milk and drank deeply.

Robin stopped the clock as Edward said, "Booya! The challenge is over!"

Cyborg was in too much pain to say a word as the milk was barely starting to take hold, but, was grumbling.

With the challenge over, Edward grabbed his milk and drank just as deep.

[I knew you could do it!] Happy said with a laugh.

Gnaark looked pleased with the result, "Gnarrk!"

Kole said, "Gnarrk's happy. He was hoping Edward would win."

"I was too," Terra said, "I knew my hero would win!" She gave Edward a quick hug.

"Dude," Beast Boy said, "You totally kicked Cyborg's butt!"

"Glorious victory, friend Edward!" Starfire cheered and grabbed Edward into her famous hug.

At that, Edward turned green.

"Star!" Raven said, "Let go...He could puke!"

"Eeep!" she squawked and let Edward go. He reached for a pressure point on his wrist and squeezed.

"Whew!" Edward said, his face returning to normal, "Careful, Koriand'r, that was fire going down and I really don't want it coming back up." He said that in Tamaranean so she'd understand best.

"I'm sorry," she said.

Edward smiled, "No harm done."

"No harm done!" Cyborg gasped, "I won't be able to taste for a week!"

"Well," Robin said, "Serves you right. You shouldn't have been so fast to humiliate other team members and how many times had your appetite gotten you into trouble?"

Cyborg looked thoroughly humbled though, which was the goal Edward had in mind. It wasn't to humiliate him too bad. In fact, one of the things Edward bought to smooth over any ruffled feathers once he thought the lesson was applied was some strawberry ice cream. It would also help bind to the remaining ghost chili extract and cool the palate.

"Your chores start tomorrow," Robin said, "Starting with the breakfast dishes. Edward, you're still the head cook, so, I'll let you determine if Cyborg also cooks for the team."

"That's fine, Robin," Edward said, "If you'll excuse me, I'll be back in a moment. As Cyborg and I have finished eating, I know I'm up for some ice cream. My taste buds are just as toasted."

Cyborg muttered, "What flavor? Hellfire?"

"Nah," Edward said, "They were all out of that. How's strawberry grab you?"

"Booya!" Cyborg said, "As long as it kills the fire in my mouth."

"I think it will help," Edward said and got up.

He made his way back to the freezer in his room.

Several minutes later, he had returned to see the remains of the others meals and started scooping out the ice cream.

Edward gave the first serving to Cyborg who immediately started shoveling it in. Edward had the mental image of Cyborg in the main bathroom hollering "COME ON ICE CREAM!" the next day while the other Titans were laughing. Then, he had a mental image of himself in the same predicament and winced.

Edward quickly gave the other Titans their ice cream before digging into what was left to cool his own tongue.

With that done, Edward felt that his "mission" was accomplished.

[A week later]

Kole and Gnarrk had enjoyed their week at the Tower and outside of a few minor missions, everything had settled into a nice pattern. The training sessions were exhausting on their own anyway.

Cyborg had learned his lesson as well doing the entire team's chores for that week and after a while had realized that it's not nice to get on Edward's bad side...or in this case, his mischievous side. He knew that Edward was not wanting to hurt him too badly.

"That was for gloating over Terra, wasn't it?" Cyborg said in the middle of the "sentence".

"Mmm hmm," Edward replied with a grin, "I knew a quantity challenge wouldn't teach you a thing, but the spicy challenge, I had a 50-50 chance of getting you. Be glad I've been teaching Rae how to cook."

"Yeah," Cyborg said, "She's really been improving since you started teaching her. That first time...Gaahhh!"

"Well, she's improved to the point I'm thinking of letting her try something, probably for just her and I," Edward said with a wink.

[Really?] Raven said, piping up.

[It's going to be within a few weeks at least, dear,] Edward replied, [But, yeah. If you want, start thinking over a meal for two.]

But, as the week progressed, Kole had become comfortable with being around Edward as well. Gnarrk was also less timid around the team and the technology around the tower and, well, that pleased Edward immensely.

However, it was time to take Kole and Gnarrk back to their corner of the world and as Edward emerged from the teleport, he looked around the landscape and wondered how it had not only thrived, but, appeared to be stuck in the distant past. He could see the dinosaurs that lived there, the fruit trees and wondered to himself if he could make a living there if he ever needed to escape from humanity for a while like Kole was forced to.

He felt bad for Kole, being used for her powers like she was. He was worried that this isolation would do long term harm to her emotional state.

[Edward, hon,] Raven said, [Kole's going to be fine. She's been here for years and I'm not seeing any harm to her. Maybe overconfident at times, but, that's par for the course, I think.]

Edward sighed, [I know, dear. But, you have to admit that it's not good to be in forced exile. I was for centuries, remember? Sure, it wasn't the same as here, but, it felt like exile. I longed to be who you see now. At least Kole's got friends now that care about her.]

Edward landed in a clearing and let Kole and Gnarrk off (as well as the others) before bidding folks farewell.

"Don't be a stranger, Edward," Kole said, "You're always welcome here. All the Titans are." She gave Edward a hug and a soft kiss on the cheek, knowing that Raven wouldn't get jealous.

The team left a while later, after getting more of those fruits from the trees, and headed home, content that things would be all right.

Edward Barnes writes...

This was an interesting time with our friends, and, I'm pleased that we didn't have to go out on too many missions. But, I fear that this time will be coming to an end. We, as a team, know that the evil that is out there, whether in Jump City of elsewhere will not stop to allow the Titans long to rest.

What bothers me, though, is that the common enemies of the Titans aren't staying behind bars where they need to be. Slade's sitting in an ultramax prison, but, it's painfully clear that the Brotherhood is back to the whole team. Malchior is still buried under a mountain, so, he's no longer a threat.

The biggest concern, though, oddly enough is Trigon himself. Raven was able to banish him from this realm and while the team thinks he's as dead as Malchior...a demon cannot be killed. He's merely been banished and I fear that he may return.

The flashes of dreams Rae has that I see indicate that she's worried as well, but, isn't saying anything. I'm also seeing flashes of other people...three young men, close to Raven in physical age with four glowing red eyes, far more menacing than when my eyes glow in anger. Are these guys the sons of Trigon?

Time will tell. For now, time to chill. I've talked Raven into an actual date, and, hopefully, that opens up another door to the reclusive empath I've grown to love.

The End...for now!

Hi, Everyone!

Just a few minor things. The first is that I will be taking a short break in this series as my next story is in my primary universe as my writing partner has finished an installment in his series and is close to finishing a major plotline, so, I will be focused on that for a few weeks...Google "Dubois Chronicles" The first listing there is my writing partner's site. Edward is featured in the lower 10-11 stories ("New Ally" and down).

I'm also going to be gearing up in this universe for several major items...One is alluded to above as I am going to try to bring a few elements from "The New Teen Titans" into play here. Trigon is coming back at some point. What will the team do when the sons of Trigon come calling for their little sister? How will Edward react short of tearing through whatever's in his way?

Until then...please R/R as they will help in determining where the next installment leads.

See ya soon!