Sometimes I feel really down and then I go on my emails to find a collection of wonderful reviews. Thanks to everyone who's contributed a review to this collection of one-shots, as always! It really does make my day.
Melvin and Jinx this time (with some Raven). It's kinda turned into a mini-story but I'm sure that's fine. Next chapter will involve more Raven!
Thanks to Stormplains, Concolor44, Firedon, Discb, XxRin-sanxX, I'm a Lover not a Hater, chaosrin, Spikesagitta, mttmercado, Deathnoteuser, and gnurd for the reviews (a double thanks for those who helped clear up the legal smoking age in the USA. Kinda forgot different states can have different laws.
The heels of Raven's boots clacked loudly against the polished floor as she quickly made her way from the school's reception to the head teacher's office. She knew the way well despite having never entered the school before enrolling her two eldest; Timmy had given her plenty of reasons to be called in at the end of the school day. It was, however, the first time she'd been called in because of Melvin.
The head teacher – a man by the name of Brian Summers – had his office labelled with a simple bronze plaque. She knocked loudly, her impatience showing even through the simple movement, and was greeted by the head teacher's gruff voice.
Raven pushed the door open and took in the room – the tired slump of Mr Summer's shoulders that made the tall man seem small and Melvin, avoiding her gaze and staring stubbornly at her lap, sat across from the head teacher.
"Ms Roth," Brian Summers nodded, and Raven took a seat next to her adopted daughter.
"This is becoming too much of a common occurrence," she muttered. "So, what is this about?"
"Melvin put her class mate in hospital this afternoon," Brian said calmly, and the girl's head snapped up, blue eyes seeking out the empath for her reaction.
"Jason was bullying Robert like he does every lunch break! I-"
Raven didn't have to say anything – the look she gave Melvin was enough to silence her – and the teacher looked on with the smallest feelings of pity, only able to imagine the telling off the girl would get later.
The ex-titan looked at the man. "How serious were the injuries?"
"A broken wrist and a few bruises."
"And the bullying?"
"We've taken statements from the students who witnessed the fight. They all commented that Jason was picking on the lad, and Robert has reported similar incidents to staff members before. Jason's parents have been informed of their son's behaviour and when he returns to school he'll be punished correctly, don't worry."
"And Melvin?" Raven asked.
"Violence, no matter the intent, isn't tolerated in this school. She's been suspended for the next week starting tomorrow, and will sit in detention for her breaks for the week following."
Raven let out a heavy sigh but nodded. "This will be dealt with at home as well, I assure you."
The man nodded, before commenting, "She says she's training to become a Teen Titan."
"Emphasis on the training. We've told her she's got to finish school first."
"She excels at gym class, so I'm told," he looked at Melvin. "She's an all rounded good student. It's a shame this has happened. Let's try to avoid a repeat of this, hmm?"
"So, are we finished?" Raven asked.
"I have nothing more to say on the matter."
Raven nodded and stood, Melvin following her. As the door shut behind them the empath spoke. "No doubt your brothers are already on their way home."
Melvin knew Raven hadn't decided to downplay what had happened, or ignore it, and she kept her head down as the woman's soul self enveloped them, as embarrassed as she was angry. When the black cleared she found herself in the kitchen of the small town house they'd been living in for the past few years, Jinx already preparing dinner.
The blonde turned to look at Raven. "Jason had him on the floor and was kicking him! He does it every day just because Richard's fat! I couldn't just stand there and let him do that!"
"No," Raven replied, her voice calm; so calm Jinx flinched before putting down the knife she'd been using and turning to observe the pair. "No, you had to break his wrist."
"You did what?" Jinx asked as she took a few steps towards them.
"That was an accident! I only meant to make him stop but he turned on me and-"
"Jinx isn't teaching you to fight so you can beat up kids on the playground! You're supposed to be training to be a hero – so start acting like one."
"How is this any different from what you used to do when you fought the H.I.V.E, or Johnny Rancid or Red X or… any of the others?!"
"They knew how to fight, well enough that the police couldn't detain them on their own – well enough that our help was needed. You attacked an ordinary human boy who has probably never been in a real fight instead of going to your teachers and handling the situation probably. Melvin, I have taught you better than that."
"I helped a friend!"
"Your lessons with Jinx are cancelled until further notice-"
"And consider yourself grounded for the next two weeks."
"This isn't fair! Jinx, tell her!"
"Sorry kid – I'm one of the bad guys remember? I have no voice in this."
"What if it had been someone picking on Uncle Gar or Victor of Aunt Kory? You wouldn't have just let it happen! You think you're so above everyone else but you're not!" Melvin's voice had risen to verge on screaming, Raven's calm expression only angering her more. "Timmy's in trouble almost every week and I do one thing – I stand up for someone – and-"
"You're older than Timmy. You should know better."
Melvin stood deathly still for a moment before ripping her school bag off her shoulder and throwing it onto the floor. "You act like you're our Mom but you're not!" Frustration filled her and made her arms ache until she picked up the bag again, this time throwing it at the empath.
It hit the woman's legs, and Jinx took several angry steps forward. "Hey! Don't throw shit! You're not two!"
"I hate you!" Melvin declared, angry tears rolling down her cheeks as she backed up towards the front door, glancing at Jinx. "I hate both of you!"
Raven didn't react at first as Melvin yanked the door open and went outside before slamming it behind her, frozen in place, but then she was moving after the girl, her heart in her mouth. Jinx grabbed the woman's arm, stopping her.
"Don't. Trust me. Just let her get some air for a few hours an' if she's not back by then I'll go find her. She won't last long – she didn't even take a coat."
"But we need to go after her-"
"No buts," she interrupted calmly. "If you drag her back here she's never going to let it go. Let her come back in her own time. She's a teenager, honey. This is what they do. When she's calmed down it'll be like nothing ever happened. Besides, someone needs to be here when Timmy and Tyler get back."
"She hates me…" Raven muttered after a moment of silence. "I knew I never should have adopted them. It was selfish," She pulled her arm out of her girlfriend's grip. "They deserve better than this. A normal family."
"What are we? Chopped liver?" Jinx asked irritably before she took hold of the woman's shoulders gently but firmly. "Those kids have more of a stable environment than most of the kids at that school, and you know it. We're financially secure, we have a reasonable house, Melvin's top in her classes and Tyler is one of the most caring people I have ever damn met. Sure, Timmy's got some issues but he keeps it out of the classroom and he's not a bad kid. I know what Melvin said, but she didn't mean it."
"How do you know? I'm a bad parental figure. I'm a demon for hells sake. Why have I been so stupid, thinking I could-"
"Enough!" Jinx interrupted, scowling at the woman. "Enough with the self pity already. So she said some things, big fucking deal. You just grounded her; of course she's going to be pissed off. Hell, she said she hates me too but I aint losin' my shit over it. I need to finish dinner, which means you're going to meditate. I'll bring you a cup of tea in five minutes, alright?"
The empath just blinked at her in shock before wandering further into the house, shoulders slumped. Jinx sighed and moved back into the kitchen; switching the kettle on before turning back to the tomato based paste and spices she'd been browning in the bottom of a wok. She'd only just added slices of chicken breast when Timmy and Tyler walked through the door, both lads dumping their bags and coat by the door before kicking off their shoes.
"S'up guys? How was school?" Jinx asked over her shoulder, and Tyler came running up to her, holding a pink sheet of paper.
"I got an insidedence form!"
"Incident," Jinx said slowly, before frowning. "Why? You hurt yourself playing football again?"
"He ate a pencil," Timmy muttered as he wandered into the kitchen and peered into the wok.
The youngest boy grinned as Jinx looked at him, and the thief resisted the urge to bang her head down on the work surface. "We've talked about this, little dude. Just 'cause you can bite through it doesn't mean you can digest it!"
He just smiled and shrugged. "Where's Mom?"
"In one of the rooms meditating," Jinx replied, and as Tyler started to wander off she spoke up, "Make sure you give her a hug!"
She knew there was nothing to worry about. Despite having celebrated his tenth birthday Tyler remained very affectionate, and would often try and sit on Raven's lap while she was meditating or insist on leaning against her side while they were sat watching TV. The same couldn't be said for the eldest boy, however.
"Where's Melvin?" Timmy asked as he stepped back out of Jinx's way. "She wasn't on the bus."
"She's gone out," Jinx replied simply, checking on the wok before making the cup of tea she'd promised her girlfriend. "So how was your day?"
"Alright," he shrugged. "Someone set off the fire alarm so we got to miss an entire lesson.
"Someone, or you?"
He grinned. "Someone. A senior, I think."
"Good. Think Rae's more tired of seeing your principle than you are."
"About that – we've got a parents evening comin' up. Why don't you come this time?"
"Why? So Rae doesn't have to see your grades?" Jinx smiled, before saying seriously, "I'm a wanted criminal. The cops'll be there the moment I walk into your school. You know that."
"If they wanted to arrest you that badly wouldn't they just come here?"
"I don't officially live here. I'm not on the contract, I don't get post and I don't officially pay for any of the bills; I give Rae the money in cash. They'd need a warrant to search this place an' to get a warrant they'd need an actual reason. Not to mention Rae knows how the law works better than some of the cops."
Timmy frowned. "Don't you get tired of it?"
"Sometimes," She shrugged. Jinx smiled slightly and passed him Raven's tea. "Take this to your Mom and give her a hug too." The redhead pulled a face, but before he could complain Jinx shot him a warning look. "It won't kill you, and she needs cheerin' up."
"Alright. Fine. But you owe me."
"The fuck I do! She's your Mom – you're meant to hug her every now and then. You just need reminding."
"Still think you should come to parents evening," Timmy said as he left the room.
"You tryin' to get me arrested?" She called after him and he paused long enough to reply.
"No, it'd just be nice for once. I mean I know only Tyler calls you 'Mom' but you still are, right? And it is parentS evening."
Jinx stared at the empty doorway for a moment before shaking her head, wearing a small smile as she went back to cooking dinner.
Leaving the house Jinx had bet Raven she'd find Melvin within half an hour. It took her fifteen minutes. After calling a list of the girl's friends to check she hadn't taken shelter at any of their homes Jinx took to the streets and used her own experience and familiarity with the city to check likely spots someone without money might go to for the night.
Jinx found her in the third spot she checked, sat huddled near the extractor vent to someone's air conditioning. She unfolded Melvin's coat from over her arm as she approached the girl.
"Rule number one. If you're gonna run away, dress warm. You can always take layers off but you can't put on what you don't have." Jinx threw the coat at Melvin as she looked up. "I've seen people with full bellies die from the cold."
"How did you find me?"
The thief laughed, ignoring Melvin's glare as she sat down beside her, making herself comfortable. "I've been on these streets since I was half your age – they haven't changed much in all those years. As comfortable as this spot is, it's Chad's, and he aint gonna be happy if he comes back to find us here."
"Don't see his name anywhere," Melvin muttered.
"Rule number two. Everywhere belongs to someone, especially if it's a spot as good as this. And people only keep a spot by fighting for it. Or by paying up to the right people."
"So I'll fight for it."
"You could try. See only thing is Chad's a bit too old now to fight for himself, and everyone knows Lucky owes him her life. No-one wants to fight Lucky."
"Who's 'Lucky'," Melvin frowned.
"A lying, thieving heartless bitch. And a good fighter – even with Bobby you couldn't take her out."
"How do you know?" The girl asked, and Jinx just smiled.
"I don't know what you think it'll be like, but you won't get to be a hero. You'll need food, and no-one gives to a street rat. You'll turn to stealing food or money eventually, and you'll be caught. You'll get it on your record and maybe spend a while in jail before finding yourself back on the streets. You could try begging but you won't get much. Not enough to clothe and feed you every night. Sometimes not even enough for a meal a week. You sure you wanna do this?"
"No," Melvin muttered sourly. "I just… it's not fair. She's always telling me to stick up for myself and what's right – to help people. Then when I do she yells at me for it."
"She didn't yell," Jinx grinned.
"Exactly. Sometimes that's even worse."
"You don't need to tell me that," The woman replied. "I would have done the same thing in your place. Probably. Or maybe not – I wasn't exactly the nicest kid at school, but you get my point."
"Then why doesn't Mom?"
"She spent her childhood in a monastery, she feared her own emotions, was taught to favour logic over feelings. I understand because I remember being your age. Your Mom never really got to be a kid – never got to be anything shy of who she is now. And you know why that is."
"Her father," Melvin mumbled, and Jinx nodded. "Why did you run from home? You never told us."
"I stood out. A lot. You know I'm Indian. My village is tiny, probably doesn't even house a thousand people. They'd never seen a meta human before and most feared me, called me cursed. The parents of the man I was betrothed to called off the wedding and it was a huge blow to my family. It was embarrassing, and the other family had been richer than us – it was an alliance they needed. My parents tried moving to a town but it didn't help much, so I left. It wasn't my parents fault and I thought that maybe without me they might be able to live a better life. They had my two brothers and were expecting another kid – a daughter, according to the local doctor. They didn't need me."
"That's… not what I expected," The blonde said quietly after a moment, and Jinx smiled.
"What did you expect? An angst-y tale of rebellion? Unloving parents?"
"…Yeah. Kind of."
Jinx grinned. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Melvin frowned. "I've heard Mom say that before."
"I should think you have – she loves that proverb, and for a reason."
"Don't you miss them?"
"I did, at first," Jinx shrugged. "Haven't really thought about them in years, to be honest. I don't even know if they're still alive. Maybe they were better off for me leavin' and maybe they weren't. To be honest I couldn't even tell you what they looked like anymore."
They sat in silence for a moment, Melvin eventually putting her coat on.
"She loves you, you know. All three of you, as though you were her own."
"…I know." Melvin muttered.
Jinx and the girl both looked up at the sound of the rough voice, the young blonde tensing up while the thief rolled her eyes.
"That's my fuckin' spot! Go find yer own!"
"Evenin', Chad," Jinx called back, vaguely waving at the man stumbling towards them.
Melvin winced and fought the urge to cover her mouth and nose with her hand as a sour smell reached them, Chad just feet away. Building blocked out most of the light from the streetlamps but the girl could pick out some features – an un-kept beard and long tangled hair showing from beneath his hood. He opened his mouth to speak, and Melvin could see black gaps where several teeth were missing.
"Your missus kicked you out again?"
"Not this time," Jinx shook her head as Melvin stared at her in disbelief, the old man forgotten.
"You mean all those times..? Mom always told us you had somewhere to stay."
"Who the hell is that?" The man grunted.
"One of mine," Jinx answered, deliberately ignoring Melvin.
"Does this look like a fucking daycare to you?"
Jinx laughed. "Chill – I'm not leaving her here, Rae would kill me. There was a little family disagreement and I just happened to find 'er here."
"Yeah well you're still in my spot. I don't care how long you've known me, it aint free."
"Alright, fine!" Jinx got to her feet, but when Melvin tried to follow her she stopped her. "You stay here. Don't you dare move, understood? I'll be back in ten minutes, tops."
Melvin watched Jinx tug her hood up before walking off. After a moment the stranger sighed and sat himself down where Jinx had been, Melvin looking away as she tried not to gag.
"So, what ya running from?" Chad asked, and Melvin shrugged, staring down at her hands. "I aint gonna bite kid. Me 'n Lucky go way back."
Melvin's head snapped round and she stared at the man. "Jinx is Lucky?"
"You sound shocked. Name mean somethin' to you?"
"Earlier she told me…" Melvin scowled as she tried to figure out if the woman would have really fought her for a homeless guy. "She said she owes you her life."
The man smiled, looking strangely bashful. "She's too modest. T'weren't nothing. Even at ten that gal knew what she were doin', even if she didn't understand a word o' English."
"You knew her when she was a kid?"
"Too right I did. Came home ta find her sat right where you are, all skin an' bones, not that that's exactly changed much… Dunno why I didn't run her off like everyone else. Musta caught me in a good mood. Taught her English, I did."
Whatever discomfort Melvin had felt regarding the stranger slowly vanished, and she asked him, "Why are you… you know. On the streets?"
"Wife kicked me out. Went through a rough patch in mi life. Turned to alcohol and never looked back. Want a work of advice? Stay at home kid. Lucky's a good person. Sure she steals and gets into fights but her heart's in the right place. If you do run though, come here and you're gonna get your ass kicked. Got it?"
"… Why do you call her Lucky?"
"We couldn't talk when we first met and I had to call her something'. I think it suits."
"Her powers are bad luck," Melvin corrected with a frown and the man shrugged.
"Don't mean she can't be lucky, an' either way it's a catchy name."
Melvin didn't argue, just frowned down at her hands and waited for Jinx to come back, wanting to know where she'd gone but not wanting to ask the man. The silence didn't bother Chad, and he rearranged some filthy sheets of cardboard as he hummed to himself, trying to brush off most of the dirt before settling down so he was more comfortable.
When Jinx came back she was hiding something beneath her jacket. Reaching the pair she pulled out the blue labelled bottle and passed it to Chad. "Don't let anyone see you with that – the shop's gonna realise they're missing $200 pretty quickly."
The man smiled. "Johnny Walker? You do look after me."
"Not like I paid for it," Jinx grinned as she watched him open the bottle and take a swig. "How you been doin' recently anyway? Not seen you in a while."
"Good as I can be," Chad replied with a toothless grin, offering Jinx the bottle.
Melvin watched, repulsed, as the woman accepted the bottle and took a drink, the image of the man's rotten gums stuck on her head. It wasn't until Jinx smiled at him that she realised what she was doing - that it made her almost as bad as Jason. She looked away, embarrassed, neither adult seeming to notice.
"Good. You know how to find me if that changes." She passed Chad the bottle back and looked at Melvin. "We'll get out of your hair. No doubt Rae's worried sick by now. You comin' Melvin? Or am I tellin' her you're not coming back?"
The teenager didn't even hesitate as she got to her feet, past sulking and not stubborn enough to sit it out. "I'm coming." Pausing, she looked at Chad. "It was nice to meet you. Sorry about sitting in your spot."
"You too, kid. Don't let me catch your ass 'ere again."
She forced a smile. "You won't."
Jinx led Melvin away with a hand on her back, offering Chad a half wave before she asked the blonde, "Now, what do you tell Rae when you get back?"
"It won't happen again?" Melvin tried, and Jinx shook her head.
"Not quite what I was going for." When she didn't offer anything else the thief asked, "What did you say when you left?"
"…Oh." Melvin blushed. "I said I hated you both."
"Of course not! I was just angry."
"Good. Then you're going to let her know that too, because for some reason she's been taking it out on herself."
"Oh. I didn't mean it though. She's an empath – didn't she-"
"She's an empath. She's also your Mother and a woman with a lot of insecurities. I told her she was being stupid but she doesn't listen to me."
"…I'm sorry," Melvin said earnestly after a moment of walking in silence, and Jinx smiled.
"I forgive you. Come-on, the sooner we clear this up with Raven, the better."
The thief held the front door open and motioned for Melvin to go first. Raven, who had been hovering restlessly in the kitchen since putting Tyler to bed, heard the door open and was there almost instantly.
"Did you-" Raven cut off as she saw it was Melvin and not her girlfriend she was talking to, the worried look in her eyes hardening. Melvin hadn't know what reaction to expect from her, and she didn't know what to do with the one she got either.
"I'm sorry," the teenager muttered as she hung her head. "I shouldn't have run – that was stupid. And I don't hate you. At all. I was just angry."
"You're not hurt, are you?"
Melvin shook her head before glancing up at the woman. Her tone had been distant, as though she were asking out of habit, not out of care, conflicting with what Melvin had seen when Raven first appeared.
She hesitated a moment before rushing forward and hugging the ex-titan tightly. Raven tensed, and for a heart-shattering moment Melvin thought the woman was going to push her away. She didn't, returning the hug instead.
"I am sorry too. I should have listened to your side of what happened."
"Does that mean I'm not grounded?" Melvin asked hopefully, still hugging the woman, so she didn't see her scowl.
"No. You're still grounded." Raven grabbed Melvin by the shoulders and held her back at arm's length for a moment before letting go completely. "Go to bed – I'll be expecting you in the kitchen with your books by half eight. If you want breakfast I suggest you get up before then."
Melvin pouted but nodded and hurried off. With the girl gone, Raven turned her attention to Jinx.
"What took you so long?"
"Bumped into an old friend; an' that was after talking to Melvin. You should try that more, talking. You're just as stubborn as she is, you know that?"
"Thank you, for finding her," Raven said.
"Didn't I say everything would be fine? Come on – I don't think Melvin's the only one who should be in bed."