A/N:Apologies galore for the ridiculous delay on this chapter. I got wrapped up tightly in some other projects and put this one aside for a bit, but I'm back for more fun with the Titans.

Some of you may be enjoying the story so far, but you're wondering where it's going and what it will accomplish. The answers will form soon enough. What are X's motives, have Raven's fighting skills improved since the end of Season 5, and what was in Robin's mysterious briefcase in that one episode—which, in fact, Red helped him to retrieve? Finally, does anyone actually eat sardines? (No.)


Chapter 4: Repeat Engagement


Raven always made it very obvious when she wanted to meditate. She attached spooky artifacts to her door to ward off evil spirits, she would catch Robin's eye a certain way and he would nod, she even told the other Titans "I need to meditate now."

So it went without saying that she was interrupted all the time.

Today she had been very lucky. A hot bath with imported Asian candles made up for the shower she rushed through that morning, then she had three hours of concentration with just a brief rupture at the beginning. (Cy shot his Gamestation controller when he lost to Beast Boy.)

Man, I needed that, said Patience. Raven exhaled one last time and allowed her feet to touch the floor. I wish we could have stayed that way forever, Timid sighed. You could if you just dumped all these pesky non-demons, Rage reminded her.

"Shut up," she muttered. It was too nice a day to be having those thoughts. As much as her friends distracted her, they also balanced her. They kept her mind out of the clouds and her body out of the infernal depths. Starfire's jaunt to the future and the ordeal with Trigon had proven it.

Naturally, Raven was about to risk this precious balance by humoring the crude attentions of a sociopathic vagrant.

Even as she took a volume about chakra down from the mahogany shelf, she doubted that a quiet night of reading was in the cards.

Cards. A man is placing tarot cards on your bare body, then telling your fortune as he takes you…

"Shut UP, Lust!" she slapped a hand over her mouth, realizing what she just said out loud. I don't need any of your twisted fantasies right now.

Wait, it gets better this time. The man is wearing a mask. That mask…

She growled angrily and flipped the book open, forcing herself to read. What was she seeing in him? Nothing. Nothing that anyone would see unless they were young and stupid. And it was time to relax among her forgotten lore and occult artifacts and stop thinking about it.

"Chakras. Interesting." Someone said.

"Yeah," she nodded vaguely, before jumping five feet.

Red-X leaned on the bookcase, arms crossed as he read over her shoulder. The window stood open behind him. "I like the atala myself."

"What the hell are you doing in my room?" she blurted out.

"Don't tell me you missed my note."

"No. I burned it. Like I'm going to do to you if you don't get out!"

"Nice digs you've got here. A little morbid, but nice." Paying her no heed, the outlaw strolled across the room and planted himself on her couch. He leaned forward and steepled his hands elegantly below his chin."I must say you are an intriguing patient, Miss Roth. So much innate hostility. Would you like to touch on these trust issues today? Or if you like, we can continue to explore your feelings about your father…"

Raven felt the red building behind her eyes, begging to come out. Why did he always get to her like this? I know why, a familiar emotion whispered. Raven sighed. Do you ever shut up? Let me handle this.

"Back off a little, X. If you came here for company, I think you need the shrink routine more than me."

"Do tell."

"Your obsession with being places you don't belong, touching things that aren't yours…would you like to talk about your 'naughty little boy' complex today?" He stiffened a little. Wonderful. "And maybe I'll use my powers to plant some nightmares in your head, and we can talk about those when you come back tomorrow. If you ever wake up from them."

I should have been a psychologist. On the other hand, she had just encouraged him to return. Damn.

"Finally there's your disregard for your own safety. I mean, here you are trying to pick up a girl who could separate your soul from your flesh over breakfast…and you're doing a lousy job of it, too."

Red-X moved. He was like a shadow of her own weakness, not just walking but almost gliding across the floor. Raven blinked in surprise and then he was in front of her. "Am I?"

Her heart nearly pounded out of her chest. But she held firm, staring daggers at where his eyes should be. Drinking in his aura was instinctive, almost involuntary, and a rich blend of strong emotions washed over her. The beckoning heat of his desire mixed with the piercing chill of self-confidence made her head swim. And beneath it all, a lukewarm acridity that could only be doubt and a deep, knawing uncertainty.

That part of him felt so…familiar. It could have been her own.

"Well," X spoke up again. He held up a gray metal suitcase with a yellow "R" on it. Raven's eyes widened as she realized it was Robin's. Only he knew what was in it, and he never let it out of the tower. Except for that one time when…

"I hope you don't think you're leaving with that," Raven said.

"But I was always so curious about what was inside," Red-X said innocently. "Anyway, I have to. Otherwise you might not come after me, and then neither of us would have any fun tonight. You understand."

He was going for the window.

She threw an easy chair across his path. He vaulted right over it and kept going. She made the window slam shut and he jumped right through, sending shards of glass spinning into the moonlight.

Raven stood frozen in disbelief for a moment, but hurried to the opening and floated out. X was rappelling down the metal wall with amazing speed, using a cable he must have attached earlier. She took hold of it with her powers, but the thief let go and fell the rest of the way to the ocean.

Oh, the consequences of boredom, Wise lamented.

Nothing we can do about it now, Raven answered herself.

She took a deep breath and soared into the night, hot on the trail of his aura.