Disclaimer: You guys should know the deal by now. I don't own Teen Titans. DC do, sadly (or not sadly; after all, we need to get the comics from somewhere.)
And so begins the sequel to 'Clandestine'. As always, feel free to drop a review telling me what you thought, and say a big thanks to Concolor44 - after all, he has gone through this and tried to get rid of all those nasty typos for you guys!
On another note, some of my older readers might recognise the title 'Changes' from a previous idea I had a stab at, then discontinued and took down. No, the two aren't related. I just thought the name suited the plot for this thing.
"Try again. You need to focus more."
"Focus more my ass! I can't do it!" The young woman sat down on the forest floor, ignoring the twigs and roots that dug into her as she crossed her arms, watching her girlfriend with an expression that could best be described as a cross between a glare and a pout. "This is stupid."
"Stupid is giving the enemy a tool with which they could defeat your team mates, then teaching this particular enemy how to use it." Raven smiled. "It's simply a matter of control. You need to learn how to direct the energy, and how to control how much is released."
"But my abilities aren't about control. It just … happens! BAM! An' things blow up or malfunction."
"Your hexes don't work like that, and you know it. They're specific, concentrated waves of energy that you direct."
"S'not much different from walking though. It's … I dunno, instinct or somethin'," Jinx muttered. "All I have to do is focus on whatever I want to hit."
"And that's all you have to do here. Instead of focusing on just the direction, you need to focus on the energy itself, too. Make yourself aware of what you're doing. Think of it like breathing. You do it automatically, but if you concentrate, you can slow it down or speed it up. The concept is exactly the same." She offered the meta human her hand. "It is an amulet of power; it is not supposed to be easy to wield."
"Well can't we like, find a different target or somethin'?" Jinx asked as she let Raven pull her to her feet. "You tell me all this shit about how dangerous it is if I don't learn how to use it, then expect me to practice against you?"
"No. Even with the amulet your hex energy isn't powerful enough to do me any permanent damage. If you're unhappy about it, think of it as an incentive to learn faster."
"Incentive?" She frowned. "What kind of incentive is that?"
"One very similar to what my teachers gave me."
"Well it's a great incentive to make me not want to learn altogether, and simply not use the damned thing."
"If you'd prefer." Raven shrugged. "But then, what would have been the point of stealing it for you? I know you can do it, Jinx."
"Why so eager for me to be able to use the stupid thing?" Jinx frowned, tugging on the pinkish stone hung round her neck.
"Because I know what you're like; if you don't learn how to properly use it, and it's just sat in your room, you're going to eventually pick it up, and I don't want you to make a serious mistake."
"You know what I'm like, huh?" The meta human grinned as she took a step forward, putting her only inches away from the empath.
Raven quickly stepped back out of reach, shaking her head. "You're impulsive." She pointed at the amulet. "You know the rules."
"No going too close to you while wearing the amulet." Jinx recited, rolling her eyes as she sighed. "Why are you so worried about touchin' it?"
"I have enough problems controlling my powers as they are. I do not need them to be any stronger, even for a second."
The woman frowned for a moment, before shrugging and glancing up at what sky she could see between the tree-tops, noticing the suspicious looking grey clouds that had moved in. "Once more, before it starts pissing it down. Then I'm callin' it quits for the day."
Raven nodded, taking a few more steps back from the pink haired villain. "Remember – focus on the energy itself. Take your time; there's no rush. When you think you've got it, try releasing just a small amount of that energy. We'll worry about aim later."
Jinx closed her eyes and concentrated on the surge of energy that constantly seemed to run through and around her. She tried to build up an attack, slowly feeding the thought with the negative energy. She opened her eyes when she figured she'd made it strong enough for the energy to appear physically, her brow pulling together as she tried to keep that ball of energy separate from the rest flowing through her. She motioned towards Raven with her right hand, the static arcs of pink harmlessly hitting one of the empath's shields.
"Better." Raven smiled. "It was much easier to keep my shield up this time."
"But it's so hard. How am I meant to use it to fight if it takes me so long to let off even one attack?"
"Practice. Once you get used to it, it'll be a lot easier for you."
Jinx pulled the amulet over her head, put it in the small pouch Raven had given her and pocketed it. "We heading back to the apartment?"
"I've got to get back to the tower." Raven shook her head. "They'll notice if I suddenly start spending all my time away from the team."
"You know we still need to talk over everythin'." Jinx warned.
"I know, and we will. I promise."
"You'd better." The meta human grumbled. "Mind giving me a lift back to Hive base?"
"Gizmo will kill you."
She shrugged. "You'll be there for like, two seconds. It's not gonna kill him."
"I think he's more bothered about the fact that I am able to teleport in and out of the supposedly secret base at will." She offered Jinx her hand.
"It bothers me too," the woman muttered, though she took hold of the empath's hand, grimacing as she let the cold, sticky energy envelope her.
Jinx was blinded for a moment, trying to fight off the sick feeling in her stomach as her brain struggled to understand which direction she was falling – if she was falling at all; her lungs feeling almost compressed, and her skin breaking out in goose-bumps. She did her best to concentrate on the feeling of Raven's warm hand in hers. She hated travelling like this, even if it was damn convenient at times. It really fucked her over, and the meta human couldn't understand why the titans were able to figure out their bearings and jump straight into action after teleporting with Raven.
The black started to recede, and Jinx moved to quickly rub her arms as her common room came into view. The empath stood in front of her, a slight smile on her face. "You really don't like that, do you?"
"Nope. That is one thing I doubt I'm ever going to be able to get used to. No offence Rae, but it is both fucked up and creepy. How can your team mates travel like that as often as they do?"
"They're used to it." She shrugged. "Several years used to it."
"Point." She moved forward and ducked her head slightly as she kissed the shorter woman, her face becoming as serious as Jinx was capable of as she pulled back. "I'll probably text you in a day or two to sort out a time for us to sit down and talk. You're not avoiding it."
The empath nodded. "I'm not trying to avoid it. Much. Now, I'm going before Gizmo realises I'm here. See you later."
"Bye." Jinx stepped back and watched as Raven sank through the floor into an inky puddle, before the dark energy disappeared altogether.
"It hadn't even been back a month." Robin frowned. "Our original thief is still locked up … I just can't make sense of it. I mean, how many people know such an amulet exists?"
"You mean apart from anyone who's visited that museum?" Raven asked, looking up from her food to watch her leader. "More than you might think. Anyone with an interest in history, mythology or even jewellery is bound to come across a book or website than mentions such an item. As would have anyone involved with sorcery, witchcraft, healing, or any other form of magic. Gemstones are often used as focuses for magic." She tapped her chakra stone with her index finger. "Take mine, for example."
"Which actually leads me to the second thing I can't understand. Surely, if someone stole the amulet, they were planning to use it to aid their criminal activities. Why has no one noticed?"
"Maybe they're not a super villain." Cyborg offered. "No one said it only aids someone with powers. I'm pretty sure it'd aid someone's memory or intellect. Raven?"
She nodded. "Cyborg's right. The effects wouldn't be as obvious, since from my understanding the amulet amplifies energy expelled from an individual, but it would work in theory."
"Someone with powers must have stolen it." Robin shook his head. "The security had been tightened! They left nothing! No finger prints, no DNA, nothing!"
"The phantom thief?" Beast Boy grinned, as he leaned over the table for the salt. "Just chill dude, I'm sure we'll catch them eventually. We always do. We have most of the Justice League members they can spare looking into it too; no thief is that good."
"I know." Robin sighed, before looking at Raven. "It's just, if what you've found out about the amulet is true…"
"It shouldn't have been displayed in a museum in the first place." Raven shrugged, looking away from Robin and back to the plate in front of her. "Out of every planet and dimension I'm aware of, Earth is the worst for its mistreatment of artefacts of power. Now, If you'll excuse me, I'm going to meditate before my patrol shift."
Robin watched the empath leave the common room. "I'm struggling to figure out how the Hive broke out of jail too." He told his team mates. "I know Jinx has used her abilities to break locks and stuff in order to escape before, but since Jump Penitentiary invested in those collars that dampen the individual's energy field … I can't help thinking it's all connected."
"Maybe it malfunctioned? Jinx's almost as nasty to electronics as Raven is." Cyborg offered. "Those collars aren't brilliant. I mean, it has happened once or twice before. I know these collars can stop her from using her hex bolts, but I'm not sure they completely stop all her abilities."
"All her abilities?" Robin frowned.
"Back when I was undercover in Hive Academy … it was kinda like when Raven loses control for a moment … metal would rust quickly, or rubber would dry out and go all brittle. Sometimes lights would smash, or a fuse would blow. It was accidental – Jinx knew she was doin' those things. She told me she couldn't control it, it was just how her powers worked. It wasn't even triggered by something like emotional stress. It's like a natural energy field or somethin' is constantly around her."
"You know, Raven kinda perked up a lot quicker than I thought she would," Beast Boy mused. "She's acting like the whole thing never happened."
"If Raven feels that is the best way for her to deal with what happened, then I am not going to object." Starfire spoke up. "But I do not like that she is once again keeping everything to herself; I do not think it is healthy for anyone to do that."
"She still hasn't spoken to you about any of it?" Robin frowned.
'The girl talk' had been one of the things that had brought the two female team members closer together during the earlier years of the team, and while Robin had never managed to completely figure out what that 'talk' exactly consisted off, he knew the two girls would often talk after something had upset one of them.
"She avoids the topic most skilfully, and I do not want to push the matter, especially now that she seems to be doing so well. I know that Raven is extremely good at hiding her emotions from us, so for all we know, she could be most hurt and upset, but I do not want to risk bringing it up and upsetting her further."
"That girl plays her cards too damn close to her chest." Cyborg muttered. "Even after all these years. You think she would have opened up more, especially after the whole Trigon thing. It's not like she doesn't know we're always gonna be there if she needs us. I'll see if I can get her to open up; I mean she did voluntarily talk to me during the whole undercover thing."
"I'm going to keep in touch with Batman." Robin spoke up, changing the topic back to the missing amulet. "He's been working closely with the local police involved with the case. Hopefully we can figure this out sooner rather than later. Zatanna's told him pretty much what Raven told us, and Batman isn't fond of magic – it's impossible to measure accurately and no one can ever seem to give solid facts to work with. He's eager to have the amulet back under security."
"Don't we know that feelin'." Cyborg grinned. "If we had a penny for every time Rae used 'possibly', or some other version of that damned word, we'd have enough money to support ourselves AND pay the government back for any damage done during fights."
Robin chuckled as he got to his feet. "I'm going back to the drawing board. We've got to be missing something obvious. You know where to find me if you need me."
"Right, then I'll be-" Beast Boy tried to stand, but Cyborg grabbed the changeling's shoulder, pushing him back into his seat.
"-Going nowhere. You're on washing up duty tonight."
"Awh man! But I can't touch any of that! It's had meat on it!" He gestured to the plates left on the table.
"Never stopped you in the past Green Bean."
"Do not dismay, Beast Boy. I shall help by drying the washed pots and cutlery. Then it shall not take you so long." The Tamaranian offered.
"Thanks Star. I guess." Beast Boy smiled, before turning to glare at Cyborg. "What I want to know is why a dishwasher hasn't been installed yet. I mean, seriously."
"Is it essential?" Cyborg grinned. "No."
"And that waffle toaster thing you built is?"
"Yup. Besides, having a set list of chores is the only way we can get you to do anything."
"Chores? Dude, Starfire enjoys every 'chore' you give her, Raven doesn't even have to move off the couch to do them, Robin's weirdly neat anyway, and you have gadgets to help you with half of them. The only one getting chores here is me!"
"You do the dishes once a week. Stop complaining, or I'll find something else to bring to Robin's attention."
"This is so unfair," the changeling muttered, but started piling the plates up, moving the stack into the kitchen with the other pots that had collected by the sink over the course of the day.