I'm not dead! I was working on another TT story for a long time. And then I woke up one morning and starting writing this. I know people hate when a story is uploaded bits and pieces, but this is the only motivation I'll have to keep writing. I swear, I will finish this. It's just a matter of when... I hope you enjoy it. A completely different angle than my first one, but I'm enjoying writing it.
I do not own Teen Titans or anything half so amazing. Don't sue. All I've got is a half-full box of Bottlecaps.
Paralipophobia. Fear of neglecting duty or responsibility.
In the months following the downfall of the Brotherhood, all of the Titans across the world had been thrown a little off routine. While a select few were sent to their homes, most had been scattered across the globe, trying to restore what the Brotherhood had almost destroyed. Even those cities untouched by the Brain and his compatriots had suffered from the lack of heroes with mundane criminals having made their marks on the unprotected. Gangs had claimed territories which made some sections of cities dangerous or a villainous plan had gone awry, leaving some parts of the country uninhabitable. Even after the battle the fighting wore on, taking its toll on the heroes.
Some of the villains had escaped in the last confrontation with the Brain, which meant tracking them across oceans to get them locked up once more. Sometimes the Titans were given a city to cover or a target to chase. In most cases, when heroes were assigned somewhere, they would end up crashing at whatever Tower was closest until they got a new assignment. Friends were split up and sent to other sides of the world, not out of spite, but out of necessity. Even those who had been frozen were on the loose. Someone, they had yet to discover who, had rigged the airplane carrying the villains. It had crashed over Mexico, killing the pilots. And there was no sign of any of them, except the Brain. Apparently without Mallah he wasn't much of a leader and had been left behind.
Raven, of the original Teen Titans, woke to a loud pounding on her door. It wasn't her door, of course, but the door of the room she had been staying in for the past four days. It had been the longest stay in one place since after the Brotherhood fell. Just last night, or early this morning, she had finally caught up with Kyd Wykkyd and managed to contain him. As of yet, she hadn't been assigned any new posts, so she had planned to try and recuperate for one day. Apparently it was too much to ask for. She rolled out of bed with a groan, heading towards the door.
She swung it open, only slightly surprised to see Aqualad on the other side. It was his
home, after all. Raven couldn't muster up the energy to feel embarrassed by her ragged jeans and sweatshirt. She had ruined quite a few uniforms chasing after Adonis – had that been a nightmare and a half – and she had lost her pack containing the rest of her uniforms on her 18th birthday. She had been flying over the Pacific when she got waylaid by Trident.
Aqualad wasn't a new face in this Tower. He had spent most of the past weeks here, trying to clean up the aftermath of a tanker spill, thanks to Johnny Rancid. She pushed her hair out of her eyes, "What is it?"
He smiled easily, sleeping in his own bed seemed to make him a little happier than most. "Good morning to you, too."
Raven just glared, waiting.
"I need you and Starfire to meet me in the main room. I've got a big announcement."
"This couldn't have waited?"
Aqualad shook his head, "Trust me, it really can't.
With that cryptic message, Aqualad left her to get ready. She really wasn't going to be doing much. She brushed her hair and put on her cleanest pair of jeans. She wasn't going to get excited about anything before she knew what was going on. She tugged on her boots and managed to hide her yawn beneath her hand as she left her temporary bed.
She acknowledged those who called her name as she walked by. Dozens of Titans were posted here in Steel City. It had been one of the worst hit. The Hive Five, minus Jinx, and what suspiciously looked like the work of both Plasmus and the Puppet King had run rampant in the City. Raven had been sent here initially to deal with the puppet master and had taken him down easily enough. Some, like her, had been sent to other corners of the world afterwards, but others had remained here to keep an eye on things. She hadn't been able to get too close to any of the newer Titans. By the time she had gotten a chance to talk to one of them, they'd be ordered somewhere else.
The empath paused at the sound of Starfire's voice. The alien girl had changed in the past months. They had only just met up again three days ago. Raven, having expected Starfire to be her usual boisterous, talkative self, had been surprised to find the girl – almost woman, now – much more subdued. Her hair had gotten even longer, but for now it was bound back. Like Raven, Starfire's uniforms had been ruined and she had to resort to other clothing options. Despite the change in routine, the Tamaranian still preferred feminine cuts and colors. She seemed to enjoy sweaters and leggings at the moment, with low boots. Still, she was rarely seen without a smile, especially now. This was the closet either girl had been to their home since it all began.
"You were awakened by Aqualad this morning, as well?" Starfire asked.
Raven nodded, "Something about important news."
"I hope this important news is not anything sad. I'm not sure I could go through what happened with Argent, Pantha or Hotspot again." Starfire murmured, falling into step beside Raven.
Biting her lip, Raven nodded. She had been in Africa when she heard the news. Speedy had sent out a communication just as Raven had been getting up. They had been tracking the Master of Games through Siberia and there had been an accident – Pantha had fallen, Speedy had been too far away, it all happened so fast. There had been a small funeral for those who had been within range. Raven couldn't attend, but she had mourned for the woman. She had been kind, even if she was a little abrasive.
Hotspot and Argent had been other matters entirely. Brother Blood and Psimon had caught Hotspot unaware and hadn't shown him any mercy. Argent had fallen to Phobia and Mammoth. Raven had been at those funerals. Starfire had been close to Argent, and Hotspot, despite his temper, had made many good friends within the Titans. Raven couldn't bring herself to confide her feelings to Starfire, not when she had been…
Raven lengthened her strides to keep up with Starfire, "If it were bad news, why single us out? Besides, he didn't seem upset when he came to me this morning."
"You are right." Starfire smiled, "I grow concerned without cause."
The empath ignored that. All of them had cause to be concerned. She couldn't count how many nights she had dreamed that her communicator had gone off and she had to listen to the death of one of her friends. She wake up and have to go through her communicator log to make sure that it had just been a nightmare. Even when she had joined up with Starfire, the nightmares still hadn't stopped. There were still three names that woke her in a cold sweat. Until all her friends were home in Titans Tower, she wouldn't feel relieved.
She and Starfire walked into the main room of the Tower, so similar to her own home and yet so different. They walked over to where Aqualad waited. The room was crowded with other Titans fixing their breakfasts, so Aqualad led them to one of the side rooms to talk privately. Despite her encouraging words to Starfire, Raven still felt her heart pounding hard in her chest. Please, she thought, no more bad news.
Aqualad didn't keep them waiting. Perhaps the tensions on their faces reminded him that they had been the original Titans for a reason. "I thought you'd like to know. Robin called us early this morning to say he was on his way here."
Raven's spirits suddenly lifted. She hadn't seen Robin since they had been working together to take down Mumbo in southern China seven months ago. Wow, had it really been over half a year since she'd seen her friend? It had to be; it had been just after her birthday. Raven's thoughts were drowned out by Starfire's pleased gasp, "Really? How far away is he?"
Aqualad was pleased to see that the news had made both girls smile, "He should be near now. Probably tomorrow morning."
"Is he bringing anyone else with him?" Raven asked.
"There were others in the background, but I could only really hear Robin." Aqualad admitted.
"It is the best news I could have heard today!" Starfire laughed, her eyes dancing like they had when they had both been younger. "Thank you, friend!" She lifted Aqualad off the ground in a hug that probably bruised some bones.
Raven smiled as the alien flew away, depositing Aqualad on the ground. He winced and rubbed his ribs, "Been a while since she's done that."
"You mentioned Robin. She'll be flying high until he gets here." Raven said.
"When are those two going to get together?" Aqualad asked.
The empath's smile disappeared, "Maybe when this war is over. Until then, any news on what to do next? Give me a target, a city, an ocean." Raven said.
Aqualad stared at her, "Didn't you hear? Robin is coming here."
"I heard. Doesn't mean the bad guys will stop anytime soon." Raven said. Despite her desire for rest, the memory of those lost had sparked her again. She had to keep moving or she would just break down. Keep outrunning reality, right now that was her mantra.
"Nothing new yet. Just…get some rest, okay? You need it more than anyone." He told her.
Raven bristled, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You've been going since the fall of the Brain. Everyone else has taken at least a few days for themselves. But you haven't stopped. Just breathe."
"No time for that. Red X slipped the Titans just the other day, Plasmus disappeared into the sewers beneath Gotham, Control Freak hasn't come out a television long enough for someone to snag him, no one even knows if Slade is still alive, but my guess is yes, and-"
"And there are other Titans out there. You're not doing this all alone. You have help and you can take a minute to catch up. Do you even know what day it is?"
She tried to count in her head, but she couldn't even figure the day of the week, let alone the date itself. "It's December now, right?"
Aqualad looked at her, something sad in his eyes, "It's Christmas."
The words barely gave her pause. They had been too busy to buy presents or decorate. Half the Titans were still spread out across the globe, far away from friends and homes. "Oh." She waited the respectful amount of time, "So, have a target for me?"
He sighed. "I don't. Maybe Robin will. Either way, you've got to wait for him. He said so."
"Fine. Let me know when he gets here."
He shook his head, "Sure, Raven. Whatever you want."
She walked away, annoyed that he seemed upset with her. They were fighting a war here and she couldn't just stand on the sidelines when things needed to be done. Starfire had talked to her just the other day about how they used to have lazy weekends in the Tower. She could barely remember what it felt like not to have something to do or somewhere to be. If Robin couldn't give her an order, she'd go looking for one. Kid Flash had contacted her from Brazil the other day, just to talk, but he had hinted that he could use a hand.
Early in the fighting, Cyborg had made adjustments to the communicators. When a Titan was done with a mission, they'd select the option to be 'Waiting for Assignment'. A list of all those Waiting would be sent to Robin and he'd work his way down, assigning places or targets to them. Raven couldn't remember the last time Robin had just said hello to her during a call. All of his conversations had been curt and to the point. Not that she was complaining.
While a Titan was waiting for a reassignment, they'd show up as Available on all other communicators. If someone needed help, they could go down the list and find a Titan with coordinates close to theirs and ask for a hand.
What had quickly become the most popular and used feature had been the chatting function Cyborg had made. When Titans were traveling or between assignments, they could use their communicators to find someone to talk to. It could be a random connection, just between two free Titans, or they could look for a friend specifically. When they had gone for days, sometimes weeks, without seeing a friendly face, being able to talk to someone fighting for the same thing made it all a little more bearable. That was how Kid Flash contacted her last night.
Raven made her way to the roof of the Tower. It was unoccupied as the weather was looking ominous. Grateful for her sweatshirt, Raven assumed the lotus position and began chanting. It was harder for her to find her calm center, but she continued to meditate. Eventually she'd find that place within her that was the eye of her own personal storm, she just wasn't used to it taking so long.
The wind started picking up and Raven shivered, feeling the cold even through her jacket. She tried to distance herself from the feeling, thinking instead on her surrogate family. Starfire seemed well-adjusted enough. A little quieter, a little more controlled, but essentially the same person. She still clearly loved Robin, as she had a year ago. Even if he was a bit harder now. Raven's last real conversation with Robin had been during China and Mumbo. He hadn't spoken much to her, beyond the necessary comments and orders. Though, he had asked how Starfire was.
After the Brain, Robin had spent his time contacting people from wherever he could find a computer. Once, he had been in an Apple store, another time he was in one of Slade's old haunts. Once, Raven suspected that he had been contacting her from the Batcave in Gotham, but he hadn't said anything about it. Cyborg was probably the least changed. But then again, he had been used to adversity before the Brain. He had called Raven just last week to talk. He had been his usual happy, caring, nosy self. Asking questions he shouldn't be, gossiping as badly as Starfire could about the alien and Robin. Raven had gone along with it as well as she could, until he started asking questions about their last teammate. Then she had closed down and Cyborg knew better than to keep prodding. Of course, that didn't mean he had stopped.
"He's worried about you, you know."
Raven had stared at the window, keeping an eye out for Kyd Wykkyd. She had spent two days in the apartment building across from the warehouse already, waiting for him to leave so she could grab him. She couldn't risk running in, now without knowing who else was in there with him. Besides, Wykkyd had been difficult enough before when she had gone up against him. She wasn't going to lose the element of surprise.
"He worries too easily." Raven murmured.
Cyborg's face looked a little disappointed. "You've been ignoring all of his calls. But you take mine. Why?"
"He calls at inopportune times."
"He called just before me and you ignored it."
"Like I said, it wasn't a good time." Raven said, rubbing her eyes. She was going to have to sleep soon. Three days without rest seemed to be her limit. She'd have to find another room. The owners of this one were coming back soon, if their calendars could be believed.
"Did something happen with you two?" He asked.
"Nothing happened. His calls are a distraction. Much as yours are becoming." Raven said sharply.
Cyborg sighed, "Maybe you could ring him up next time you get a free moment. The kid's been having a rough time and he won't talk to me. At least, not about anything important."
"Does he ever talk about anything important?"
"Don't say that, Raven." Cyborg admonished her. "You know he's all business when he needs to be. I know something happened with you, I just don't know what. But you're running yourself ragged and he's been…"
Don't ask, don't ask, don't ask, Raven told herself. "He's been what?" Damn her mouth.
"He's been even worse than you. I know he's been calling you, but he doesn't try to contact anyone else. I ran into him in Mexico last month. He never even changed out his falcon form to say hello. He just kept going." Cyborg got quiet and it took all of Raven's significant self-control not to ask him to keep going. "When I can get a hold of him, when he decides to answer, he barely talks. Obligatory 'how are you, where are you, do you need help' and then 'anyone heard from Raven'. Then he's gone."
"This had been rough on everyone. I heard Speedy was off the grid for two weeks after Pantha's death. Everyone has been changing." Raven said quietly.
"Pantha…what happened to her, Argent and Hotspot is even more reason to make sure you keep in touch with your friends. Or did you forget what happened the first few times you ignored his calls?" Cyborg asked.
Raven remained quiet. No, she hadn't forgotten. He had thought that something had happened to her. That she had gone the same way as Pantha or Argent. He had already been halfway to South America before Robin called him back to his post, letting him know that Raven was perfectly fine. She had gotten eight calls immediately after that, before a week's silence from him. Then the calls had started again. Sometimes once a day for a week, sometimes twice a day, sometimes only a couple times a month. But they never stopped. He was nothing if not persistent.
"I keep in touch with you Robin and Star. Melvin, Timmy and Teether are always calling. Everyone knows where I am if they just look at their communicators. There's no need to worry." Raven told him.
"I always worry. And right now, you two not talking is worrying me most of all." Cyborg told her.
"I can take care of myself."
"That's not what I'm questioning." Cyborg said. "We all know how to fight, now more than ever. I'm worried that some of us have forgotten what it's like to not be fighting. What our lives were like before the Brotherhood."
"I guess we'll deal with that when there's no more fighting to be had." Raven said. She saw a flicker of movement by the warehouse. "Looks like I'm on. Call you later."
"No, you won't." Cyborg sighed, "Good luck."
Raven gave up on meditating. No way she would find her calm now. She went back into the Tower, ignoring Aqualad's voice. He would only want to talk and that was the last thing she felt like doing. Finding sanctuary in her temporary bedroom, Raven decided that sleep would be the only comfort she could find now. This might be the last chance she had for a nap for the next few weeks. She took what she could get.
Never even changing, she fell onto her bed and curled up. December, huh? That explained why she was so cold all the time. She tugged the blanket over her and closed her eyes, ready to get some much needed rest.
With a groan, Raven grabbed her communicator off the floor and flipped it open. It was a request for a chat. She wasn't surprised to see the name on the screen.
She lay back down on the bed, curling around the communicator. She stared at it longer than necessary, letting the call go unaccepted. Soon it went dark and silent, as it always did.