For once, it's a canon story. Enjoy, everybody, and I might just do it again.
The story starts just before the end of Things Change, and directly borrows several lines of dialogue from that episode. For foreign readers: a G.E.D. is the American and Canadian equivalent of a high school diploma, no matter what Beast Boy says about them.
Season Six: Burning Bright
Episode One: Prodigal
A normal guy, Beast Boy knew, would be embarrassed to have his cell phone go off while he was talking to a girl. He had one worse. He had a familiar voice coming in loud and clear over his communicator. Terra already looked ready to run, and this couldn't help his case. Beast Boy wasn't ready to remind her of Robin and all the others yet, but Robin had already called.
"Come in, Beast Boy!"
Beast Boy flipped his communicator open quickly. When the static settled into an image, he saw Robin, standing near a damaged cinderblock wall. The second monitor notified him that the Titans were in the Murray Recycling Center, just half a mile away.
"We need your help!"
Robin's image disappeared into static without leaving time for a reply. Beast Boy closed the communicator and looked up at Terra, trying to not sound too desperate.
"Come with me."
Terra shook her head. "You go. You're the Teen Titan. That's who you are. That's not me. I'm not a hero." She finally looked away from her shoes, but with an expression that made her answer clear before any words were said. "I'm not out to save the world. I'm just a girl with a geometry test next period, and I haven't studied."
She backed away, and he barely noticed the high-pitched bell. He saw her in the crowd, for just a few seconds, and then she was gone. He'd lost her. Again.
Numb, he pressed the side of the communicator and raised it to his mouth.
"Beast Boy to Robin. I'm on my way. Over."
He clipped the communicator to his belt. That felt right. He took a deep breath and started to run. He entered the brilliant sunlight with a leap, and an osprey soared upward on a thermal, gaining enough altitude to fly across the bay.
Cyborg fired a blast from his sonic cannon. It didn't do a thing to harm their opponent, but it gave Raven time to get out of range. "Where the heck is the grass stain?" He was tired of this game. They had been fighting the robotic slime-thing for three days, and hadn't left so much as a dent. He couldn't find any vulnerability in the electronics. Starfire had only hurt her fist delivering a hit at full strength. Raven could barely move the robot with her full concentration, and Robin was staying at a distance. None of Robin's usual tricks had worked, and he couldn't fight something this big with a staff.
"Miyazaki High School," Robin said grimly.
Cyborg shook his head. He didn't need to ask why. "We need backup, Rob. We're barely holding the thing off." Cyborg fired another blast when the thing moved towards Robin.
Robin had to agree with his friend's assessment. "Who should we call?"
"We need someone here fast." Cyborg's eye narrowed when Starfire was pushed back again. "We might be able to handle this thing at full strength, Robin, but we're not."
"I am in agreement," Starfire called from the air, throwing another burst of starbolts at the thing. "We will require assistance, perhaps even with friend Beast Boy's aid."
Raven answered through the communicator. "I can barely touch this thing, Robin. Bring in someone not expected in Jump City."
Robin pressed the side of his communicator. If they weren't asking for anyone specific, then he'd ask everyone. "Calling all Titans, we have a situation at the Murray Recycling Center just off of the Jump City Bay. The opponent is some kind of robot able to adapt itself to be any kind of matter. Starfire has hit it at full strength, Cyborg can't touch it, and it's resistant to Raven's attacks."
"I'm on it."
Robin resisted the urge to glance at the time. If Kid Flash was coming, they'd have backup fast.
"I'll bring Jericho on over with me, good timing for a jam session. Herald out."
Raven's attention remained on the strange robot. It was a technology she had never seen before, and was too smart to be solely programmed. She dropped to the ground beside Robin when Starfire and Cyborg took her place battling the robot directly. "Advice?" she asked curtly. "I can't budge the thing, even with the nastier magic I know. I can open portals beneath it and it doesn't sink."
"You can't move it to another dimension?"
"Can't move it to another dimension, can't pick it up, can't contain it with shields." Raven's eyes flashed, but there was no red in sight. "It's mechanical, it's better than anything we've seen, its builder knows about demons, and it hates us."
Raven glanced over her shoulder, turning back only when Starfire drove the robot back several feet. "I don't have a better guess. The best I can do is block it with a force field when it tries to blend in."
"Be careful, Raven," Robin warned. "If this is Slade, you're his other likely target."
She nodded curtly. "This isn't your kind of fight. Tell Herald that he should be able to send this thing somewhere else."
Raven flew back into the fight, black energy streaming from her hands. Robin was left waiting for just a few seconds before his communicator blipped. Kid Flash was approaching, then. Robin didn't flinch when the Titan blurred into being beside him, and tried not to look surprised that Kid Flash was carrying Jinx. He set her down in the next instant, but the image of a one-time enemy in a bridal carry wasn't going to leave his mind soon.
"Ugh, that is not the way to travel," Jinx said, eyes already on the giant robot. "What is that thing, nanotech?" She watched it smoothly take on the characteristics of the cement floor, then shift into air in an attempt to lose Cyborg's heat vision. "Damn. Slade."
"That was fast," Robin said, tearing his eyes from the fight to glance at her.
Jinx grinned at him. "Nanotechnology in Jump City with a hate-on for Titans? Slade. I'll go see if he remembered how to protect his toys from me, shall I? Flash can actually chat about strategy." She darted into the fight, taking a position partially protected by Starfire and Raven.
Flash didn't look away from the robot. "Got a plan?"
"Not quite yet," Robin said. "Herald's coming. If he can open up a portal, and you can push him in… that might work. Raven can barely budge the robot, but it resists all of her attacks. I don't know if Jericho can overshadow something with artificial intelligence."
"Are you sure that's AI?" Flash asked. "It's too smooth, and it reacts way too fast. I think that's artificial intelligence assisted by a remote operator, which means that Slade's watching." Flash shrugged, keeping his eyes on the fight. "If all else fails, we can get Cyborg clear and blast an electromagnetic pulse. The designer might not have planned for that, because he knows you guys can't kill all the electricity without being really careful."
"Good backup plan, but we need—" Robin broke off when Herald arrived, Jericho beside him. The pair of them had started patrolling together, and when they weren't on duty they had music to replace conversation. "Talk to Herald about the first plan, I'll see if Jericho has any ideas about whether he can take over."
Robin kept his eyes toward the fight as he walked the ten feet over to Jericho, but stopped in a defensive crouch just halfway there. The thing had been entirely across the recycling center, and Raven and Starfire had been keeping it at bay. The robot, however, saw an opening between the rest of the Titans, and moved forward too fast for anyone in the fight to react. Starfire screamed a warning, but she couldn't make her way between the lunging machine and Robin.
Jericho ran three steps forward, and he stared defiantly up at the machine. Jinx blasted the robot from behind with a rush of pink when it paused, slowing its next movements. That was the only opening that Herald and Flash needed. Kid Flash had explained the plan very, very quickly, and Herald was nearly as quick in understanding.
Herald created the portal with a blasted note from the trumpet, and Kid Flash knocked the robot through before it started moving again. Even the best AI had no chance of snaring Kid Flash.
The portal closed, and it was a full second before anyone reacted.
Starfire dove for Robin, and lifted him from the ground with her enthusiastic hug. Raven and Cyborg also made their way over, to be sure he was okay in more reserved ways. Cyborg clapped him on the shoulder, Raven gave a small smile. Jinx skipped close enough to Jericho to kiss him on the cheek.
"Good work, Jerry," she said. "You saw ownership straight off too, huh?"
The blonde guitarist nodded, but didn't return her smile.
Herald raised a brow. Jinx only shrugged. "It's rude to gossip, and I'm with the good people now. This one's Jerry's story."
"Anybody else up for debriefing over pizza?" Kid Flash asked. "It was fast, when we threw other powers into it, but… I see what you mean. That thing was built so that your team would have a heck of a time taking it out. I'll give the point for this one to Jericho, for staring down that thing… how'd you know it would stop?"
Jericho shrugged, refusing to look at any of them.
"Gossip's rude, folks, let's move," Jinx said. "So, er… pizza. How far has the rumor mill gone about me switching over to the cool side?"
The waitress at the Titans' favorite pizza place might have been a little surprised to see the additions to the usual party, but she only asked if Beast Boy would be joining them later. Jinx instantly awarded said waitress a rocking tip for no comment about the ex-criminal in the party. She wanted to give the woman a medal on top of that for leaving a legal pad and a pen at the end of the table, right where Jericho could reach.
Jinx looked over their table. She didn't comment, but she read just what was happening. Starfire and Cyborg had claimed the end seats nearest to the window, as the two Titans most likely to shrug off a direct hit. Starfire had her arm looped through Robin's, and even Raven looked the slightest bit spooked. Herald and Kid Flash had the spots closer to the main Titans, more luck to them, which left her next to Kid Flash and across from Jericho. She didn't remotely envy Kid Flash's place next to Robin. She and Robin were on the same side of the fight, now, but that didn't meant they were all that friendly. The really interesting part was that the Titans had pulled an extra chair over to the table, but that chair was at her end. Somebody was on the shit-list, and his name was Beast Boy.
It was surprisingly easy for the table to start getting along. St—Cyborg broke the ice. She had to stop thinking of him as Stone, sometime, and then maybe they could end up friends. He started talking about plans for an all-Titans party somewhere down the road, and it was weird to see Raven involved in that. Jinx knew she hadn't had the most accurate ideas about her one-time enemies, but she had never imagined that Raven would talk about the merits of volleyball against dodgeball on the Tower roof.
"Not so bad?" Kid Flash whispered.
Jinx poked him in the arm, mostly because his whisper was accompanied by a smirk. "Fine. You were right, I did want to come along on this one, but if you want to turn this into a competition…"
"I know, I know." That time, his smile lost all traces of smugness. "It's just nice, you know?"
Jinx did know, but they were starting to have an entire table of Titans staring at them, which wasn't how Jinx wanted to spend her afternoon. "Hi. So, we haven't talked much, so we never talked about the most important question when getting to know somebody."
Even Kid Flash looked like he was expecting something serious; he really should know better. When Jinx looked serious, nine times in ten it was a joke. "Round or deep-dish?" She left a beat, and was very pleased that Cyborg chuckled, Flash smiled, and Robin unbent a little. "We're not in Chicago, so I like round."
One light-hearted squabbling match later, with Jericho writing down his requests in increasingly larger letters, they had the order all set. Cyborg had added a small cheese pizza on at the end, muttering something about vegetarians, and Jinx decided that the green guy had a chance. Robin looked irritated, but Starfire looked wistful. Raven... just looked like Raven.
Beast Boy didn't find them until everyone was leaning back from the table with the satisfied air of a teenager that had just gorged herself (or himself) on pizza. Jericho smiled at Beast Boy, setting the bar for the warmest reception. Jinx didn't mean to be nice, exactly, but nobody else was doing it and she wasn't going to begrudge someone a second chance. She slid the cheese pizza close to Beast Boy's seat.
"Thanks," he said.
The rest of the conversation had been going on without her for a while, so Jinx decided to do the thing properly and talk to the late arrival. "The takedown ended up being a combination of out-of-towners. Slade's been fighting against you guys for too long, and he knows all your usual tricks for destroying robots."
"We're not sure that it was Slade," Robin interjected, but Jinx didn't need to make her case.
Jericho ripped off the top sheet, which had been gradually covered with his part of a conversation with Herald and Kid Flash, and wrote a curt message before shoving the pad at Robin.
"Jericho, guesswork isn't-" Robin stopped at the sheer force of the glare directed his way. Jericho's glare wasn't on par with Batman's worst, but the glare was very impressive coming from an unmasked, green-eyed teenager. "Okay. Slade."
"As I was saying," Jinx said, unruffled, "Slade decided to make a robot for unknown reasons, and all of your classic moves weren't working. I'd still like to know what on earth he did that Raven couldn't touch it, as a professional curiosity, but he didn't think to guard it against some bad luck and getting shoved into one of Herald's portals."
"I have a few ideas for how he learned about my abilities." Raven's expression didn't change, and her voice sounded the same as ever, but Jinx had the feeling that the girl was very unhappy about the situation. "We haven't faced him since he decided to deal with my father. That would have been enough."
There were entirely too many fathers wrapped up in the mess, but Jinx could be tactful when the mood struck. She had the feeling that Raven wasn't exaggerating with the insinuated daddy issues, and Jericho definitely wasn't making a big deal of the fact that Slade was his father. She wouldn't, either.
"That's the part I didn't understand. Motive," Jinx said. "It's pretty easy to protect electronics from electricity-based attacks, Robin hasn't come out with a new utility-belt trick for a while, and Starfire has brute strength on her side. Make the robot-thing compressible enough and a full-strength hit won't matter much. Herald uses some different magic, Kid Flash breaks the laws of physics constantly, and the robot didn't try for lethal force if I'm guessing right."
Everyone except Jericho and Kid Flash was staring at her. Jinx scowled, especially irritated that Cyborg was surprised. "HIVE anybody? I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that my team was the most profitable in academy history. I just about had to muzzle my idiot teammates to keep them from bragging at the wrong point. We made bank on a bunch of robberies we did out of costume."
Even Kid Flash looked surprised at that, which was no great surprise. She hadn't told him all her secrets.
"My point is that I've led before, and I know about Slade," she continued. "He hired us to break into the Tower, and the only real point was that he was pre-obsessed with Robin and wanted to make an introduction the weird stalker-ish crazy man way." Jinx crossed her fingers under the table, but Jericho didn't look mad at her for the insult to his father. Jerry only looked sad.
"Do you still have... contacts?" It looked like the words were painful for Robin to say, but he did sound polite about it.
"A few," Jinx admitted. "Mostly they're holding out in the hopes that I come back and do something nasty to get my old rep back, to leave them first in line for my list of favorite people, so I don't have anybody powerful on my speed-dial. I'll talk to the guy that ranks above bottomfeeder to see if he has the latest."
It had never been easy to read Raven. In Jinx's experience, the Titan came in "default stoic," "crap we just made her angry," and "if you squint and tilt your head to the right a little she maybe looks a little less gloomy." It didn't help that her voice sounded more like a robot than Cyborg's. Raven was polite, though, and if she hadn't gone out of her way to be welcoming, she hadn't been openly hostile.
Now, Raven looked mildly curious. "Do you know anything about more traditional magic? Spellcasting."
"I took an elective at HIVE, but I was never going to be more than mediocre. We had Wykkyd for magic eventually, but he was like a useless knockoff of you." Jinx was gratified that Cyborg, Kid Flash, and Robin snickered. Raven's expression didn't change at all, but Jinx didn't think there were any traces of disapproval.
Raven nodded thoughtfully, but Jinx would have sworn that the girl sounded happy for once. Maybe she was vulnerable to honest compliments. "I don't know if Slade will be able to block your abilities," Raven said. "I can try a few things, and if nothing else work I can resort to using traditional magic against him."
"He'd have to figure out how I can do this first," Jinx said lightly, wiggling her fingers pointedly. "I was born with funky eyes and pink hair, this isn't a phase."
"Unique manifestations are harder to protect against, even with magic. He would have much more trouble using technology." Raven paused, looking contemplative enough that no one interrupted her. "I might look myself, to have an idea what he might be able to try."
Robin had been talking quietly into his communicator for most of the conversation about magic. When he left, he only took the time to nod to the rest of the table, but none of the main Titans were at all surprised. "He's playing damage control with the mayor and the chief of police," Cyborg explained. "He has the most experience, he's the most famous, and he actually likes cleaning things back up afterward the bureaucratic way."
Jinx scratched the back of her neck, feeling a tinge of guilt. Maybe she could have diverted a small percentage of profits toward the resurfacing several of those banks would have needed, but it hardly seemed worth it when their insurance covered so much. (She was almost directly responsible for several hikes in the insurance rates, but she rather thought that was a compliment.)
The conversation moved onto less interesting things while she kept wondering just what Slade had been trying to gain. He'd gone after Robin given the opening, but there must have been several chances over the days of fighting. If he'd wanted to play freaky Jr. Slade games with Rob again, then Slade would have done something a little more directed to that purpose. That hadn't been the job Slade would take for himself. That was the kind of thing for-
"Flunkies," Jinx said abruptly, interrupting a talk about video games that had left Raven staring at the crowds and Starfire trying gamely to follow along. She had everyone's attention with the interruption, which made her feel benevolent enough to explain her theory without any further theatrics. "This isn't the kind of thing Slade would usually do himself, he'd farm it out to flunkies. He wants to prove he's back on the map and obnoxious as super glue in the oil can. The problem?"
"There are no flunkies," Beast Boy said instantly. He hadn't been her pick for the person to figure it out, but she didn't mind surprises. "They're all on ice in Paris under 24/7 guard."
Kid Flash blinked, Herald scowled, and Jericho was nodding slowly.
"He wanted to say hi," Jinx said, disgusted.
Jericho rolled his eyes and made several rude-looking slashing motions with his hands that were not at all complimentary. She thought that the moment where Jericho's hands stilled near his throat was accidental, but she'd already been around Jericho when his trademark scarf was loose and hanging down. The deep scars there had something to do with his father, even if the entire criminal underworld could (reluctantly) agree that Slade hadn't put them there himself, even if he had been closely involved with the event somehow. (The underworld also had agreed completely that whatever had caused Jericho to lose his voice had also been the reason Slade lost his eye. They were pretty sure Slade's wife had been the one to shoot the eye out.)
Jinx picked up Jericho's unused pen on instinct. The rest were trying to figure out Slade's next step, which felt very much like an exercise in futility. Slade had a few basic goals, maybe, but he rarely used the same approach twice. They would do better to talk about increasing security, but it left her time to scrawl out a message. Being Slade's son couldn't be a very comforting secret.
Text me later on the com if you want. Today probably sucked
The message vanished from the pad. A few Titans glanced over when the thin strip of paper was ripped away, but not even Cyborg had enough time to see what had been written. Jericho nodded slightly, which was enough of an answer for Jinx. Their friendship might be odd, but Jinx would never deny that they got along.
Robin picked up the check, which Jinx's meager good-guy savings appreciated, but her goodwill only went so far. She'd been nice to her one-time enemies, and she was pretty sure she'd even come close to making Raven crack a smile. Jinx wasn't going to be the one that reconciled Beast Boy with his teammates.
Starfire was going to join Robin in damage-control, and Cyborg was taking Herald, Jericho, Kid Flash, and Jinx to the impromptu party at Titans' Tower. For all of her rep, though, Jinx was happy to see Raven lagging behind the rest of the team. Someone had to talk to the green man, and it looked like the witch was going to be the one that did it.
Beast Boy wasn't surprised when he didn't merit an invitation in the T-car. He kept his head down while the rest of the group left, and made a bit of a show over putting a second piece of pizza onto his plate. He knew everyone was mad at him, but he had at least expected Cyborg to tell him to get moving.
After Jericho blasted a portal into existence, his teammates walked away, and Kid Flash and Jinx blurred into nothing, Beast Boy was shocked to hear someone clear her throat.
Raven had taken Cyborg's seat next to the window, and she nodded to the seat beside her. Beast Boy knew an invitation when he saw one, so he picked up his pizza and his plate to move up the table.
"You want to miss a little of the party?" Beast Boy guessed. "I know parties aren't your thing, but this crowd is pretty fun."
"I wanted to talk to you, actually. About Terra."
Beast Boy looked away from her level stare, not ready for another lecture on how it hadn't been her.
"I went to the cavern yesterday." Raven was frowning when he turned to look at her again. "So I know that Terra wasn't there, and I think that it's my fault."
"Your fault?" he asked, too surprised to do anything more than parrot her words. With how surprised he was, he was lucky he hadn't turned into a parrot to repeat her words.
"My fault that she's back at all, so perhaps it's to my credit." Raven did not sound sure of that at all, but he thought she was only saying it to be polite. "Do you remember when everyone was turned to stone? Starfire told me about how everything looked, when… you know. Everyone turned back to human when the end of the world was over. I think that happened to Terra, too."
"I suppose that makes sense." Beast Boy shrugged, and put on his best confident look. "She seems happy, too, so… good guys win again. Go us, I'm happy for her."
"You're not happy," she replied simply. He should have known that he wouldn't be able to fool an empath. "I can feel it."
"Well… I can't always be happy," Beast Boy muttered. "It's not like I can resent her over this. She doesn't even remember me," he said dully. "At least she said that she doesn't, and it doesn't matter if she was lying."
"It matters to you." Raven looked impatient to be in a counselor's role, but that might have been because he wasn't ready to listen to wise advice and all-knowing friends. "Maybe she doesn't want to face the one person ready to give her a third chance."
"And if I'm around her, I'm always going to be a reminder of what happened." Beast Boy ripped his napkin in half, focusing on anything but Raven. Sometimes, it was really hard to talk to someone who barely seemed to care. He wasn't in the mood to pretend that he could read her non-expressions. "It's probably best that we aren't together, after everything, but… it's not how this should have ended, if it had to end."
"You need to do something. I don't know if you could have helped us today, but you weren't there."
Beast Boy bit his tongue to cut off the tirade he wanted to make. Losing control wouldn't win him any points with Raven, not when she'd barely lost composure through the world nearly ending. "Nobody wanted to listen to me about any of this. You only cared about the robot."
"The robot going after the city, you mean?" Raven asked wryly. "That does tend to draw our attention. To answer you real point, though, we didn't care nearly as much as you do. We haven't forgiven Terra, but you did as soon as she saved us."
"How could I do anything else? I thought she'd died for us!" Beast Boy protested, loudly enough that several people turned to look. Beast Boy sunk into his seat, regretting yet again that he was green and therefore extremely easy to pick out of a crowd. "Well… she kind of did."
Raven's expression shifted subtly, and not in a way that he'd seen before. He didn't think he wanted to see those hints of sadness again, not when she was usually so careful about hiding them. "She made it personal, before she apparently died for us," Raven said coolly.
"Yes, it was persona, and yes, I know she hurt you, and I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry for ever knowing her, sometimes, but it was…" Beast Boy's rush of words stopped. No matter how hurt he was feeling, there was no need to bring up how Raven had been when she had thought Malchior was her friend. "It's hard to explain, but I trusted her."
"It's hard for me to trust anyone," Raven said, so quietly that no one at other tables would overhear. "If someone hurts me, I'm not likely to give them another opening, let alone give them another chance at friendship. I know that you want to have another chance, Beast Boy, but it felt like your next chance with Terra was more important than helping us."
"I felt like she mattered more than the Scooby-Doo mystery of the week," he replied. " I guess… no, it's not a guess. I shouldn't have put the extra stress on you guys, and should have asked if you could work without me for a few days instead of vanishing like that." He sighed, pushing the pizza away entirely. "I feel like at the end of the day, the robots always win."
"At the end of the day, protecting people from someone like Slade will always win," she corrected.
"Do you think that really means that at the end of the day, Slade is the only one that wins? Our entire lives revolve around what the daily villain has planned out, and we're always on call. I'm not sure this is what I want to do anymore," he confessed. "I'm eighteen, I have a G.E.D. instead of a real diploma, and sometimes I really want to have a normal life for a while."
"Sometimes, I wonder how I got here. How any of us got here," Raven admitted. "I usually blame Starfire."
Beast Boy laughed even though Raven probably wasn't joking. "She's going to keep fighting, especially if Robin gets his head out of his cloaca. They both have reasons, big ones, but I'm feeling tired of all of this." He rubbed the back of his neck, because he knew what he had to say. "I know I let you all down today, Raven, and I'm sorry."
"An apology goes a long way," Raven said, and he knew he was already forgiven. Since the world almost ended, and she had been the one to make it better, she'd been more patient with all of them. He supposed it was because the weight of the world had been on her shoulders that whole time, but she hadn't realized that she could share it with them. "Just apologize to the rest and this can be behind us. We're all okay, and we all can move on from this.
Move on. That was the important part. "You're right," he said. "And I'll apologize tonight, I promise, but I'm going to take the long way home. I have to think, and you know getting me to think is hard enough without an audience," he joked, feeling a tiny bit more like himself.
"You're better at it than you think," Raven said as she pushed her chair. "Good luck finding what you're looking for."
"Thanks," he said, already planning what he'd have to do. It was time that he had closure, about Terra, and he knew exactly what he would do. "I'll see you back at the Tower," he promised. "Probably after the party's over, but I'll catch up with everybody another time."
Raven nodded to him before vanishing into a portal, but he knew she could read his emotions. He wasn't ready to talk about what he needed to do; it was time for action.
By the time Beast Boy returned to the tower, he had left a note just where Terra's feet had been, held down by a small pile of rocks. It was vague enough that it might not mean much to anyone else, but if Terra was ready to say goodbye, he would be, too. It was past time he paid more attention to the team he had instead of the dreams that he'd had.
When Beast Boy left that cave and that note behind him, he didn't look back.