A/N: My muse keeps dying and I'm afraid that it's a bit of a struggle to find these chapters but after a longer wait than I promised, I finally caught a bit of inspiration! Things are about to get pretty exciting soon within a chapter or two (I think)…
Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Titans or any of its characters; those are the sole property of DC Comics. Nor do I own any other non-original references made throughout the story.
Chapter 18: Some Clarification
The first thing Raven knew without a fraction of a doubt was that she was dreaming.
She was wary because she had never really been able to tell before when Satan came and the place in which she had materialized was not the normal cool emptiness, but a heavy stifling darkness that seemed alive. It pressed in on her on all sides and yet she sensed no malevolence from it. It was not darkness as an extension of evil, but something far older and more primeval than that. She could hear whispers that were not whispers—tribal songs, the muffled snarls of wildcats, the moans of underwater behemoths, the unfettered cry of some winged thing—the voices of the wild. They coiled and twisted around her, offering themselves to her in ways her human half could not quite understand—and she did not dare unleash her demon.
And it all seemed strangely familiar.
Even though she had no body, she felt as if her skin was beginning to itch, prickling with sweat in the humid atmosphere and every breath threatened to stifle her.
It clicked a moment later.
She was in Beast Boy's mind.
But this was not a pure mental connection, this was something else. Perhaps she had unconsciously reached out to him in her sleep and pulled him in with her. Or worse she had crossed that boundary which Azar had warned her to never cross and had entered his dreams without his permission.
By Azar what sort of protector was she? She had dragged her innocent teammate back into the spotlight and put him somewhere dangerous. She could not even protect her own mind from Satan's attacks and now she could have drawn his attention to Beast Boy in the worst way or destroyed any small protections he might have had from Satan through this mental connection. She had unwittingly established it when she had pushed the Beast further into Beast Boy's mind, without regard for the consequences.
And furthermore, she had violated his mind now. It didn't matter that it was unintentional—a sin was a sin, regardless of the intent in her eyes and she had entered his mind without his say-so. Minds were not trifles to be toyed with, nor were they reserves into which any magician could or should delve simply because they could. They were private sanctuaries and crossing into them went beyond the simple crime of trespassing—it was reaching out and touching someone's very essence and potentially influencing or changing it. It was the most protected and nontrivial of sanctuaries and she had just entered that of one of her closest friends without a misgiving or hesitation.
She didn't care if she brought herself to some night terror or face-to-face with her tormentor himself, she was going to get out right now and leave as little trace of her presence as possible. She gathered herself to do so but unlike in most of her dreams where she found herself pushing against the bubble of sleep, there was no confining barrier. Rather something seized her and held her presence immobile in this half-state. Frustrated she tried to rip herself away but the presence shook her a little, and she realized what exactly it was in that instant and froze.
A long growl coiled around her and the voices of the instincts grew more excited, their frantic whispers increasing in strength.
She had been wrong.
This wasn't just Beast Boy's head.
This was the Beast's domain.
She looked for it but there was no sign of the pale lifeless eyes of the Beast. Yet she could sense its presence rearing over her, trying to establish its dominance. She neither rose to challenge it nor allowed the press to continue until her submission. She held her ground.
"Beast Boy." Her voice was a stern reprimand and the Beast reacted accordingly, its growl cutting off as suddenly as if a switch had been thrown. She felt some of the mounting pressure lift to be replaced by tendrils of curiosity.
"Were you trying to scare me?" she asked scathingly, as if the very thought of it was laughable—which considering her own true side it kind of was.
Blotches of color formed before her eyes and painted themselves into familiar shapes—verdant ferns underfoot, vines and other growths hanging down from mind-staggeringly tall trees where the sunlight barely peeked through. The chirp of insects and howls and cries of other creatures provided the auditory backdrop and the wet pungent odor of damp dirt and growing things and decaying things all rolled into one filled her nostrils. This was the Beast's private sanctuary. She turned about, taking in the lush jungle, and caught sight of the Beast pacing slow circles around her form about twenty feet from her.
The muscles of its raised forefoot uncoiled as it planted the paw on the ground and then froze. A wind blew past them, whipping Raven's cloak around her ankles and ruffling the Beast's emerald green coat like a plain of grass on the prairie. Beyond that it did not stir and Raven thought she felt some other presence tickling the back of the mindspace before it withdrew. The Beast blinked once and sat back on its haunches. After regarding her for a moment, it tilted its head at her with ears pricked. The image was so reminiscent of a puppy, albeit a puppy with the body of a wolf, and the mane to rival a lion, not to mention the size of a bear. She couldn't help the smallest of smiles from tilting her lips. In fact, the look was so strangely Beast Boy… Following that line of thought, she opened her mind further but to her disappointment could feel no trace of the changeling in the creature before her.
"You're holding me here, aren't you?" she asked it, crossing her arms. Its ears drooped at her disapproving tone and again she was struck by the similarities to her teammate. 'This is not Beast Boy,' she reminded herself before forging onwards. "Let me go. You're putting your host in danger."
If it understood any of her words, it seemed to scoff at the notion. Like an arrogant cat, it lifted its forepaw and began licking at the fur of its wrist, its eyes on her the whole time. The haughty cat-like impression made her smirk. It was so like Beast Boy to try and piss her off by minimizing the threat she presented to him—she shook her head. The Beast was Beast Boy's instincts. Beast Boy was another being entirely.
"Can you take me to Beast Boy?" she asked gently. It didn't drop its paw but made a low rumble in its throat. 'What is the use to this?' she thought. 'I can't tell if it understands me or not—it is instinctual, not sentient.' Yet she knew that wasn't true. She had felt understanding and thought process behind the Beast's actions and it confused her. Two sentient beings in one host body could and would not end well. It was an abomination. Only one could survive and only one could be dominant for any period of consciousness. Yet the Beast integrated itself into Beast Boy's actions and yet they acted like two separate units. How could this—
Raven wheeled around as she felt the unknown presence from earlier announce itself. Fear clogged the words in her throat and her stomach felt as if it had dropped out from under her.
"Amazing creature, isn't it?"
Satan had come.
And it was all her fault.
She didn't hear the Beast's movement behind her but she felt it and the speed for a creature of such size was astonishing and quite frankly terrifying. She had a fraction of a second to decide how to deal with the fast approaching Beast behind her—but she didn't even consider a course of action—she trusted it completely maybe because it was part of Beast Boy, or maybe because it had only ever protected her. This might have struck her as odd had she not been so preoccupied with what was in front of her.
Satan tipped his hat at her. His suit and fedora seemed inconspicuously out of place in the jungle setting. He wasn't sweating or uncomfortable looking at all, despite the fact that he was fully clothed, but then again why would he be? It was a lot hotter back where he was from.
The next moment the Beast reached her and she found herself caged in the protective circle of his arms. Her back was pressed against the fur of his chest and she could feel the tight barely controlled growls vibrating through her. She could hardly see Satan's form from the gap between the fur covered arms and her situation certainly wasn't making for a very intimidating position.
But she was in a different environment. She was partially grounded in reality, the reality of Beast Boy's mind, and Satan's influence was considerably less here. And furthermore, he had no control over Beast Boy beyond what the changeling gave him—he had no demon's blood like she did.
Her powers didn't even flare to life around her. She didn't dare to whisper her mantra and besides her intent was crystal clear and she did not need the extra focus those words lent her. She knew exactly what she was going to do.
She ripped a small hole in the fabric of the Beast's sanctuary back to the outside—a teleportation hole if you wanted to look at it that way—just behind Satan and shoved him hard towards it. Surprise was etched on the devil's features as he was hit by the gale-force push and flung back out of the hole. She then proceeded to reknit the torn edges and restore the mental state when—
She slumped over in the Beast's hold, his arms the only thing holding her up, as the spasms of pain split her frame. She bit her tongue and clenched her jaw to keep silent but the soft whimpers escaped her throat and a cat-like scream of rage burst from the Beast's throat. Through hazy vision she watched as a clawed hand, dark crimson and scaled and monstrous, gripped the edge of her open portal and pulled. She blinked for one long dreary moment and could not stop the hoarse screams from tearing out of her ragged throat as the pain intensified, liquefying her insides in unquenchable fire. The Beast released an ear splitting roar that shook the world around them and sent waves of fear rippling through her. It lifted her up so gently, mindful of its deadly claws, and her face pressed into the soft musky fur of its shoulder. She tried to push a hand against its chest to restrain it so that it would not attack—this was not a foe that it could face—but nothing intelligible beyond whimpers came forth from her throat.
The Beast snarled a challenge to Satan, who was standing there calmly, the portal gone and closed. Even in her pain-filled state she recognized that both his hands were completely normal.
"That wouldn't have had to happen if you were just a bit more accommodating," he sniffed disdainfully. "My," he said, looking her up and down and taking in her position, scooped up in the Beast's arms. "You're awfully trusting, aren't you?"
She did not deign that with a reply. She prepared herself to touch her powers again and throw him out of the mindscape at whatever cost to herself when he spoke as if he sensed her intentions.
"That wouldn't be too wise. And you have no need to worry; I have no business here. My only business is with you." She tried to uncurl her form from the Beast's arms and stand, the residual ache making her gasp, but the Beast's arm at the fold of her knees tightened like a band of iron.
"You're the one who dragged him into this," he continued, tipping his head at the Beast. "And if you choose to stay with him here, you may find that you're not really as safe as you think. After all," he said, pacing closer, and she noticed that the jungle had fallen silent, not as if it sensed the coming fight, but as if everything had been cut off. She felt herself become hyper aware of the Beast's chest pressed against her aching body and his diaphragm did not move to take in air. Satan had frozen them all in time. "He's nothing more than a glorified animal. I mean, look at him. Beast Boy. As if he were half beast and half boy. But he has millions upon millions of animal forms and only one form to anchor him to humanity. It's an impressive feat being able to turn into all those creatures but at what a cost! Do you know why?"
His dark black eyes glittered at her malevolently as he approached, now close enough to touch. She thrashed futilely in the stone prison of the Beast's arms in an attempt to kick him or inflict some sort of physical pain—stupid and pointless, she knew, but she wanted the satisfaction—but stopped as her whole body screamed in protest.
"You know as well as I, that he has no free choice," he said, his words dripping with satisfaction. Up this close she could see the darkness of the stubble beneath his shave, and his pointed incisors. "Every animal listens to their instincts and if those instincts were to change…"
The voices she had heard initially came back in a whirlwind of sound, but their intent had darkened and become bloodthirsty. She knew the beast could rip her to pieces in this mindscape and she would survive but the mental scarring? She didn't think she would be able to trust Beast Boy again. The strange thing was that she didn't care. Even as the instincts became more malevolent, thirsting for the hunt, and the kill, and blood, she couldn't make herself feel fear.
The Beast would never hurt her.
She trusted him with her whole being. Even if it would be her downfall, she could not bring herself to do otherwise.
Satan reached up and stroked the top of the Beast's head. Of course, there was no reaction, frozen as he was in time. "What happens when I make your little pet mine?" he leered at her, pointy grin widening as he rocked back on his heels.
Anger exploded in her, a more violent reaction than she could have anticipated. "He's not my pet and he's not an animal!" she retorted, her grating voice harsher from her earlier screams.
"My, possessive, aren't we?" He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Now then, m'lady," he said, sweeping into a half bow, "you and I are going to have our little discussion in our usual place without any more distractions…" He reached forward and began to free her from the prison of the Beast's arms even as she clung to it, knowing that it could do nothing for her. She lashed out, both physically and with her powers, and that earned her nothing more than another bout of pain which had her vision flickering black and red. The world became a blurred and indistinct outline, and she distinctly remembered feeling Satan's sleeves whispering against the fabric at her back as he placed his arms beneath her to lift her from the Beast's arms.
She gathered herself to strike, to fight, no matter the cost even as she broke her rules and allowed a useless plea—to what she did not know—to pass her lips.
The jungle was alive again with screams and animal cries and the Beast had awoken as well. It growled deafeningly, and she heard a thwack sound and glimpsed Satan staggering back, with the three quickly fading claw marks across his left cheek. Fury was etched into every line of his face and his eyes became dark pits filled with flame.
She recognized the transformation which was about to take place and flung a barrage of her energy towards him to distract him. She knew he would do nothing more than absorb it or dissolve it but she could only hope it would buy the Beast a moment's headstart.
She turned her face sharply towards the Beast's.
"Drop me, now!" she ordered it. It was an undeniable command and the Beast had done nothing but heed her before. She could not risk him coming to harm for her sake. Whatever tortures Satan had devised, whatever horrible scenarios- she could withstand it. She would awaken eventually. But Beast Boy…she could not risk his protection like this, like she already had by selfishly connecting with him. She felt a tug at her navel which threatened to jerk her from the Beast's arms. The creature did not even look at her, its eyes scanning the woods briefly.
"Let me go!" she cried more desperately, layering her voice with as much power as she could muster. The tugging sensation intensified.
It didn't listen.
The Beast curled one long arm under her form and then turned heel and took off into the woods, loping along on three limbs faster than she could imagine. She knew in part that this was not real and that distance in the mind could be crossed in any length of time the dreamer desired if it was his own mind, but it still impressed her. She tried to feel out behind them for the imminent arrival of Satan but the colors of the jungle about her were shifting.
The sounds of the jungle world faded away into nothingness and the color drained back out of the world. She could still feel the Beast's arm around her and hear the labored rasp of its breath and feel the pound of its heart but she could not see it. She was again surrounded by darkness.
But this darkness was again different.
It was not the darkness of the Beast's domain, but darkness like a sheet of black glass, the darkness of distance and space. The emptiness began to fill with pinpricks of silver light, some shaded with emerald or ruby color like jewels. The stars formed familiar and foreign constellations tracking across the sky and all of sudden she realized that she could hear neither the Beast's breathing nor feel its presence but there were still arms around her.
A familiar voice murmured soothingly in her ear.
Part of her wanted to collapse in relief. She recognized it, in the very way every syllable was spoken, to the timbre of it. The other part wanted to give him the worst tongue lashing of his life. If she could conjure up an imaginary window, she would, without a doubt, fling him through it. But the other half of her which was shaken up and emotional won out.
"Beast Boy?" she asked faintly, feeling unconsciousness coming to claim her. The arms around her had become Beast Boy's and though she still could not see him, she could feel the warmth of his presence. She was no longer in danger of being wrenched from him and the tug from Satan had vanished.
The arms about her form tightened and pulled her in closer to him so his body sheltered her.
And she knew that she shouldn't, she knew that this was no more than a temporary sanctuary, and that she had betrayed his trust besides and was lying and manipulative and willing to keep things from him—but she believed him and let her mind float free in the emptiness.
She wasn't sure what exactly awoke her—her own drifting mind pulling free from sleep, the pounding headache, or the trill of her communicator buzzing at her waist. She released a long sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose in an attempt to clear her head, which still felt half-asleep, and reorient herself. It took her a moment to gather her bearings, which was more than unusual for her—she always had a good sense of her position in both space and time but lately she had been losing that feeling—probably from lack of sleep. She felt disconnected and confused and she couldn't shake the feeling. That and her mind, despite her best efforts, still felt half-asleep, making the slow swim to consciousness. The memory of Beast Boy's arms around her lingered and she felt the warmth in her cheeks before she banished the feeling and focused on the task at hand. Her brow furrowed, trying to work through her thoughts while her brain moved at a glacial pace.
Where exactly was she? With Beast Boy…in the medbay? No, that wasn't it—Cyborg, something to do with Cyborg, and the reason for this terrible headache…
Then it came back.
The mental hospital. The security guard. Madness seeping into her with its twisted taint. Cyborg driving. The prison. Terra's possible involvement.
She moved too quickly, lifting her head from where her temple had been pressed into the cool glass of the window, and hissed as the motion exacerbated a crick in her neck.
"I was wondering if you were going to answer that," came the rumble of Cyborg's voice. She quickly took note of her surroundings, trying to place herself and frowned. She could still feel the blush staining her cheeks and she made a concentrated effort to smooth the emotions from her face. The warmth lingered just like the memory of his lean arms around her shoulders, providing her comfort and the promise of protection—
Azar, help me, she cursed, squeezing her eyes tightly shut. "How long was I out?" she asked while still confined to the darkness of her eyelids. Her hoarse voice sounded even more unpleasant than usual.
"Not long," he said. She knew he was either lying or his definition of time didn't fit hers. It took at least an hour's drive to reach this complete desolation and emptiness which now surrounded them. An hour didn't seem like much but it was sixty minutes in which she had abandoned them to their own feeble protections against the enemy. 3600 seconds of opening for Satan. Not that she did much good anyways, but she knew her presence with the Titans held more import than Satan was willing to give it; she could think of several disasters and one lost life that she had managed to prevent.
She silently berated herself while keeping the emotion from her face. She didn't get little rest breaks and breathers. Every free moment was an opportunity and she could not afford for there to be more such openings. She had to protect them. If that was all her presence could offer them, then so be it.
The communicator beeped on but she ignored it and chose to instead focus her gaze to the outside. She knew she was bound to be on the receiving end of one of Robin's infamous lectures for her negligence and how the communicator was not a toy but a very serious tool and needed to be treated as such…but she needed a moment to regather herself. If it truly was that urgent, whichever Titan was calling would have pressed the Alert button. "Where are we?"
"On the way to the prison." Cyborg's dark right eye chanced a quick glance at her though he probably could afford to stare at her if he wanted to—his left eye could overcompensate for the loss of function in his right and besides the car had an autopilot system.
"I could have teleported us there in a fraction of the time," she stated coldly, her words clipped.
"Rae, you're gonna kill yourself if you keep thinkin' like that. It's not like we have any leads to go off right now and 'sides you're dead on your feet." There was a pause and then, though his upper body remained facing the steering wheel, his right eye flicked down to her waist where the buzzing of her communicator had ceased. His one brow crooked in surprise. "You gonna answer that? Or at least call back?"
She crossed her arms, leaning back in her seat. "If it's important, they'll call back." Cyborg's eyebrow went up even higher though he refocused his gaze on the road.
"What is it?" she asked gruffly.
"I didn't say anything!" Cyborg replied a little too defensively.
"Cyborg, your eyebrow is about to fly right off your face," she stated drily. Cyborg shook his head slowly, his lips curving upwards.
"It's nothing, you're just in for a whopping lecture from mother hen Robin when we get back to the Tower," he said with a smirk. She knew he was only grinning like that because he and Beast Boy were on the receiving end of said lectures for the most part because Starfire followed Robin's word like it was law, and Raven felt that Robin's rules were practical and that they followed a common rationale which she would not break under most circumstances anyways.
There was a brief pause and then she delivered her typical one liner in an utterly deadpan tone: "Aren't you the mother hen?"
She left Cyborg spluttering and fuming next to her as her thoughts turned to the person who made such jabs possible…
She just didn't know what to do about him.
Her first consideration upon waking had been to teleport straight back to the Tower just to teach that idiot a lesson. She didn't care if she cut into his recovery time or woke him up while sleeping or whatever; he hadn't listened to her in the dream and had involved himself more fully by pulling her back with him into his mindspace. Though it was still a safe haven for her (though how much longer that would last she could not guess), and he had saved her from further torment and torture, he had simultaneously painted a bull's eye on his forehead. He had made himself a target through his intervention and drawn attention to himself when Raven had been trying so desperately to keep all of Satan's attention on her.
But she couldn't find it in herself to hold onto that anger. In all honesty, she was to blame—she had involved him in the first place and he had only done what came as naturally to him as breathing—he would do anything for his friends, no matter the cost to himself. She could not expect him to just stand by and watch her suffer.
It brought to the forefront her guilt and her shame began to gnaw at her. She was again violating all sacred rules and rights, breaching age old laws and doctrine. For as long as there had been telepaths these rules had been set in place and Azar had taught her well, until she could recite every word of these age-old laws on the protections of the mind. And she still was breaking these rules left and right.
Her communicator trilled at her again and Cyborg shot her a sidelong glance. "It's you, not me," he assured her. She unclipped it from her belt and stared at it for a moment as she reordered her thoughts. A very small part of her, not dampened by her guilt complex, hoped that it was Beast Boy who was calling, for a multitude of reasons, the most important being her desire to hear his voice and be certain that he was doing well. And at the very least he'll put me in a better mood, she thought, or at least snap me out of this mood, she added, considering how Beast Boy's silly nature sometimes drove her to the edge of insanity. That thought in turn, brought up the hazy image of the former security guard screaming wildly in his madness and she shuddered before flipping open her communicator and seeing most assuredly that it was not Beast Boy.
She really shouldn't have gotten her hopes up but a joke or two would have been nice—
And unlikely now that she thought about considering that he had just confessed to her and she had practically confessed to him and everything was bound to be awkward and strange between them…
Why did she have to mess everything up?
"Yes, Robin?" she asked neutrally. To her surprise, the Boy Wonder did not make any motions to chew her out for ignoring his initial call.
"I've been meaning to talk to you for a while now." She remained silent. Raven was almost certain she knew what he intended to talk to her about—her lack of control—and at this point as the team leader he had every right to address her about it. Whether or not she agreed with whatever restraints would be placed on her was another matter entirely.
The Boy Wonder took her silence as acquiescence to continue and he forged on. "There are several things I've been meaning to address with you privately but circumstances haven't really allowed us the opportunity. Otherwise, I wouldn't be doing this over communicator or with anyone else present."
He paused just long enough for her to catch Cyborg murmuring for her ears alone, "I can have really selective hearing, if you want, Rae—" probably referring to shutting down his auditory inputs but that was hardly necessary.
"No. Whatever Robin has to say to me, he can say to us both." Her steady gaze met Robin's with a hint of challenge and Robin nodded slightly in acceptance of her defiance before continuing sharply.
"I know that you're currently on a mission right now, and I intend for you to fulfill this but don't think that this means you're off the hook, Raven. The instability of your powers and the fact that this hasn't been fully addressed let alone fixed means you're not fit for the field. It's dangerous to put you out there, do you understand?" Her eyes narrowed.
"Don't patronize me, Robin. I know fully well, better than any of you, the risk I pose to this team." And she did. She constantly felt the pressure of this internal struggle but even more so the choking fear that the only family she had would be hurt, or worse, by her own hands. Her inner demon, in truth, did not hold anger as much as it did a surreal passiveness which showed its true nature better than its anger did. It did not care about anyone or anything and it certainly did not care about her teammates. It didn't even care about itself—as long as it completed Trigon's tasks and fulfilled that duty, it was complete.
The Boy Wonder sighed and deflated and for a moment he looked like an old man, burdened by too many worries and responsibilities. "You know it's not my intention to patronize you, Raven, I just need to get this out and let you know why I'm stuck in this situation. I won't lie to you—" he raised his head and let his hand drop from his nose "—I don't approve of this. And that's why as soon as you've completed this last task, you're back to zero duty hours here at the Tower." He raised a gloved hand in a stopping motion. "And before you can argue that it will be equally dangerous to be so shortstaffed, we've finally got Aquadlad and Speedy here with a bit of backup—"
"Not Bumblebee?" Cyborg interjected, and clearly his mouth had moved before his brain as a guilty oops look transfigured his face. He withered under the force of Raven and Robin's combined glare, mumbling, "Don't mind me I'm just the driver."
Raven turned her attention back to the screen as Robin picked up from where he had left off as if the interruption had never occurred, "and unfortunately we weren't able to get Bumblebee's help, but the Titans needed some form of team lead and Aqualad and the twins don't always get along." She almost smirked at that. Mainly, because the two fast talking speedsters went to great lengths to torture Aqualad with the mass consumption of his former underwater friends, mainly in the form of fish tacos. "All things aside, you're a liability to yourself and your teammates out there—" her mouth formed a grim slash at this but she allowed him to continue—"and you are only being permitted to complete this task because you're the only one able to do it and this is potentially time sensitive due to the structural instability of the cave." His gaze sharpened. "I don't really have any control on what you do once you go down there but promise me that anything else after this will be strictly detective wise, limited power use, and no fighting until we get to the bottom of this problem."
She didn't even entertain the possibility. "I make no promises."
The furrow between his brows deepened. "Raven—"
"No, Robin," she cut him off. "I will make no compromises on this, least of all promises I can't or won't keep. I already had your blood on my hands—" the masked boy didn't flinch exactly, but she still caught the half-motion—"which you seem so eager to forget in your hunt for Slade. I will not put another one of my teammates in jeopardy because you're afraid I can't control my powers."
"I have more than every right to be afraid you can't control your powers," Robin said sternly, and she could sense that he didn't appreciate how she had turned his speech into an insult. "You have done nothing but show me otherwise and you have offered no explanations for your lapses in control."
"First time, " Raven rattled off drily as if reading from something, "I lost control because of a nightmare. That has happened before, just not to so great of an extent, despite my training and meditation. The second time, I was still on edge from the dream the night before and Beast Boy's annoying habits have a tendency to push me over the edge." Seeing his expression she added, "That's not an excuse, it's an explanation. The third time," her mind raced for a way to downplay and trivialize it, but it was hard to do so when she vividly remembered tearing the walls off of buildings and ripping good chunks out of the asphalt. That and that she knew that she had had no control over that occurrence, no warning even. That had entirely been Satan's doing. "I had been under emotional stress and combined with everything else, that pushed me over the edge." She steadily held his gaze as he crossed his arms, unconvinced.
"That doesn't cut it, Raven. I've only seen you this shaken one other time…" he trailed off, unwilling to bring back up the possibility of her father's involvement. "And I can feel it too, Raven." He tapped the side of his head with one finger, referring to the old bond she had created when he was going mad under the influence of fear gas. "It goes both ways."
"I didn't tell you this because I'm hoping you'll understand and release me from these no-duty constraints," she sighed, softening her words so he wouldn't think she was being flippant, "I told you to offer you some form of explanation as our team leader. It doesn't matter to me whether you approve or allow me to again be on mission-ready status—if I feel that I am needed, I will go."
He sighed through his nose but did not offer any argument.
"We'll talk about this when you return. I have one more thing to address with you," he stated firmly. "This is really a more minor thing, but when you discovered the cave you insisted that we leave two team members on the surface. I know, I felt—" and at this admission the Boy Wonder looked a little guilty as if he had just realized his potential intrusion "—that you wanted me to leave Beast Boy so I left Beast Boy. But I just want to clear up the why if there even is a reason."
Her brows raised in surprise. She knew he was perceptive and she had even thought to herself at that time that he would readdress it but she had also thought that since he hadn't brought it up right after the fact, he must not have noticed or given it much weight. After all, it wasn't too far outside of her typical behavior; she often maintained a voice of reason in the group.
Besides, this honestly was not something she thought he would focus on. He had bigger more important things to deal with but that was the nature of Robin's mind—the same mental tic which gave him his powers of perception, once he had noticed something, would not just allow him to drop it.
She lifted her eyes from the screen and let her gaze roam to the blurred desert around them. "It's personal," she muttered slowly, trying to decide her course of action.
"I think you and I are close enough, Raven; we've been in each other's heads…"
"It's not personal for me," she drew out slowly. Her gaze dropped back onto the screen and Robin's masked face. "It's personal for Beast Boy." She hesitated for a moment longer. "It's nothing serious, Robin. Basically, all you need to know is that Beast Boy has never fully adjusted to my powers, and I didn't want to take him down with us if I could help it."
"I see." Robin blinked once or twice. "That's honestly all there is to it? He just doesn't like it? This couldn't have any negative consequences on the team?"
Just the thought of the horrible screaming of those voices within the changeling's head made her break into a cold sweat. How he could have stood that for all these years without a word of complaint was beyond her. Unless it's happening now because of a darker influence…She tried to shrug that thought away but it remained.
"No," she half-lied, and the Boy Wonder visibly relaxed. She felt bad keeping this from him but she didn't think it was that important and besides she had already breached another's privacy far too much already in her lifetime.
"Well, that's all I wanted to go over with you so—"
"I'm not finished yet, Robin." Her eyes flashed at him and he started looking a little nervous just out of habit. Robin had always been fortunate enough to not be on the receiving end of one of her bad mood swings but he had seen enough to know what it looked like. "Why are you investigating Terra?"
The anxiety dropped from the Boy Wonder's face and he regarded her seriously. "Aren't you the one who said we shouldn't jump to conclusions?" she continued.
"I did but I never said that we should discount possibilities, especially since we have no other explanations."
"The guards all said that the perpetrator was a man," she threw in. Robin nodded once slowly as if he had already considered the fact. "And it easily looks like something my powers could have done. I'm not the only one with telekinetic abilities," she added stiffly, remembering the months of emptiness when he never came out of his room. The broken light in his eyes. The soft sound of an animal pining at night when it thought it couldn't be heard…only it was no animal…
The last thing he needed was a second betrayal.
Robin did look a little uneasy at the mention of the similarity to her powers but he did not address it. "I'm sorry Raven but it's all we've got right now. And I'm fully aware that the person we're looking for is a man but this could easily have been a two-man setup, or more, and the guards only saw one of the perpetrators. They were blindfolded and they could have easily attributed their motion underground to the man rather than to another person." After a terse moment in which they stared at each other and Raven's demanding gaze in no way shifted as if she understood Robin tried again.
"Raven," he said, and his voice dropped in volume as if he was trying to convey this to her and her alone. "I don't want to do this to Beast Boy either. But we have to at least check out the lead. It might be all we have."
"I'll look into it." Her eyes burned into his and even the fact that this conversation was all through a small screen could not reduce the potency of her gaze.
The team leader hesitated. He knew that besides Beast Boy, Raven had taken Terra's betrayal worse than all of them, for what he suspected were a tangled set of reasons. For one Raven had given Terra her trust and it had been dashed to pieces and her trust was not easy to earn as the years of living with the half-demon had taught Batman's prodigy. For another, she felt responsible. She had had her misgivings, strange moments when she stared at Terra as if trying to unravel a puzzle, and Robin understood this deeply. He had put his whole team in danger because of misplaced trust and lack of suspicion. Another of course, and the touchiest of all, was jealousy. And though Raven had made it seem as if it had to do with the ease of Terra's control which Raven struggled and meditated to maintain for years, in truth Robin felt that it mostly stemmed from jealousy over the green changeling in question. And letting Raven investigate was like inviting disaster in the form of a very volatile chemical mixture. In short, it was a very, very bad idea. "We'll see," was all he could manage, if only to placate her and Raven did not challenge him but there was a clear defiance in her cold eyes which stated that she would do it regardless of his approval. He'd never known Raven to be so rebellious before…which only supported his belief that Raven had a greater part in all this than she was letting on…
He nodded at her once to signal the end of their conversation and was on the verge of closing his communicator when Cyborg interjected loudly: "Well, while we're still on the topic of things that need addressing, does anybody want to explain to me why my medbay looks like a warzone?"