Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans or any DC characters appearing here.
I don't usually do this anymore, but tonight I am again walking down memory lane, back to my last days with the Titans. It's been over four years now, since the business with the Brotherhood of Evil was concluded, as we froze the majority of the villains with their own machine. We saved ourselves, an entire generation of young heroes; the Teen Titans. It was a great victory, one that eventually claimed the original team. Six months afterwards, we had not had a real emergency other than an odd bank robbery or two. Slade continued to lay low, we knew he was out there somewhere but we had not seen him since our fight with Trigon, except for Beastboy who had an encounter with one of his robots. Neither Raven nor Herald could find any trace of Malchior the dragon, whom Herald had sent into a different dimension during the final battle. The team did enjoy the first few weeks, but eventually we began to become restless and bored. After five months of nothing to relieve tension on, the arguments had escalated; little things that usually had gone unnoticed began sparking heated arguments. And six months after the Brotherhood we had an actual fight, Beastboy pushed his luck one time too many by entering Ravens room uninvited. I remember running through half the Tower after the pair, dodging the debris that Raven loosened from the floor and ceiling along with any furniture we passed. Beastboy finally escaped her by shrinking down to a microorganism while he was out her sight, leaving me to calm the irate half-demon down. A few days later came the first leaving note, Starfire; I still remember that as if it was yesterday; she had asked me to meet her on the roof when she laid it on me.
"You wanted to see me Star?" It was dusk, the sunset was beautiful that day, the sea looked like it was on fire and the night was slowly crawling towards the horizon from the east. Starfire had asked me to come at a time where we were sure we wouldn't be disturbed or overheard.
"Friend Robin, I have received most sad news from my home planet of Tamaran." She looked as beautiful as ever, I remember, even if she also looked so sad.
"What is it Star?" How she got news from that distant planet was mystery I had never solved.
"My sister Blackfire has perished, in an attempt to seize the throne of my home." Last I heard Galfore was still in charge up there, I still remember how intimidating the huge Tamaranian was the first time I met him; the same size as Cinderblock, but all muscle and heart for Starfire, who he had looked after while she was a child.
"Is Galfore all right?"
"He was grievously injured in the battle; he has asked me to return home, to take up the throne in his place." I knew becoming the Grand Ruler was not a thing my former girlfriend wanted to aspire to, because it would take her away from Earth. Our relationship was another casualty during the last couple of months, I had grown ever more restless over time due to lack of activity, and in the end I couldn't take it; having her hovering over me. I ended it the best way I could, before I risked I exploded in her face over something really insignificant, it still pains me to remember the heartbroken expression she wore on her face as she fled from me that day. I never wanted to hurt her, but that day I had to, for the both of us. On the roof that evening she was talking to her team leader and good friend. I knew the situation those past couple of months had taken also taken their toll on her, especially after our break. I remember thinking of any way that could make her stay when it dawned on me what she was doing, for purely selfish reasons, but I could not, so I asked her the only thing I could to keep her for a little while yet.
"Do you want to?"
"I wished it could be otherwise but our friends and us" she gestured with one orange hand to me and herself "are acting like we are not friends anymore. And this last time I have been feeling more and more of the homesick." I knew she was trying to make me say the magic words that would make the world go back to the way it used to be, so that we could be together, so that she could feel compelled to stay on Earth. I don't know those words yet, I doubt even Raven knows any magic like that that could be done without consequence. But that evening I could only look Starfire in her big green eyes as I put one gloved hand on her shoulder, like Bruce used to do when I needed to hear something important than usual.
"Star, I know how you feel because I feel the same and I think you should do what your heart tells you to. If you decide to return one day, I will be here or in Gotham." I can see the tears beginning to form in her eyes, I take one step forwards and hug her. She of course hugs back, gently for once. We hug each other for several minutes, she's was crying openly, I was fighting to hold them back as well. We then slowly release each other, ending with holding each other's hands. As we again look into each other's eyes, she slowly begins to rise into the night sky, slowly letting go of my hands. She rises about 5 meters into the air still looking at me with tear filled eyes before she rockets into the sky trailing a green beam of light like a falling star, never to be seen again. I stood on the roof looking after her till long after she has disappeared, before I walked back inside announcing to the others about the meeting I wanted to have in the morning without telling them of the departure.
The morning after I looked at my gathered friends seated at the kitchen table, Raven, with her hood up because of the fight with Beastboy, Cyborg and Beastboy, all are wondering why Starfire has not shown herself yet. I cleared my throat, announcing the meeting has begun.
"Guy's last night Starfire returned home to Tamaran at the request of Galfore, to take up the throne." I announce in a short fashion, nothing grand, just facts. I see their eyes widening, Cyborg's and Beastboy's jaws drop. After the news has sunk in they return to more confused expressions, except Raven who just closes her eyes, why? I don't know, possibly I was just confirming what she had already felt but not dared speculate about.
"Dude, she didn't even want to say goodbye to the rest of us?" Beastboy sounds like he is in disbelief, to tell the truth I still was as well, but most of all of what I had to say next, which had distracted most of my night before and I ignore Garfield's question.
"Guys in the last months, we have seen less and less action in the city, instead we have begun to see tempers flaring here. And last week we had a real fight between ourselves." Cyborg eyes the two combatants he is sitting in between, Raven at one end of the table, Beastboy at the other and Cyborg with his back to the wall. Beastboy sinks a little under the table, fearing the reminder would have Raven leap across the table at him. But Raven doesn't move, as if she wasn't even listening. "At this rate we are going to be at each other's throats in a matter of weeks and Starfire couldn't tell if we are really friends anymore because of it all."
"Dude, she's just overreacting." Back then I was thinking it was so like Beastboy to try and turn a serious matter he knows is there into something insignificant or just temporary.
"Yeah, she puts too much into the way we act around here." I was hoping Cyborg wasn't going to side with his best friend on this one, but he did.
"No she isn't, I have noticed the same thing. You and Cyborg's jokes and pranks have become more and more vicious in nature, your fights over food and the Gamestation have also escalated into something the rest of us had to intervene in before either of you throw a punch at each other almost daily now. I seclude myself more and more from the rest of you to ignore it, I even get aggressive when I am interrupted in anything I might be doing. And as we saw last week, even Raven is easier to anger." I deliberately named her flaws last for the same reason. "Look I have known you all for a good few years now and I really do consider you as much family as I can, but I really need a break from you, from the Titans and I'm not sure I will come back." Raven still doesn't move as I say what had been eating me for weeks, it's like a statue with her cloak over it is sitting where she is, I remember being slightly annoyed at the lack of response from her. Cyborg and Beastboy were the exact opposite, eyes wide and jaws on the table.
"Dude you can't mean that…say this is a joke?!" Beastboy was still in disbelief, I just shook my head at him. "But what about us? What about the city?" By then green teen had gotten up waving his arms, first at us then at the windows where the city can be seen from.
"I have known you guys long enough to know you will be fine if you stay, as for the city, if it really needed us, we would have been called out a lot more than we have these last months." I said as Cyborg edged around the table getting up and walks over to where I was standing. We look into each other's eyes for a moment, his brow and red into my masked ones, before he speaks.
"Rob I understand you, I've been feeling the same for the last few weeks too, I guess I just didn't want to be the first to go. I wanted to save this for as late as possible, but now is as good a time as any to announce it; I have applied to Metropolis High, as I never got to finish my education before I became what I am today, so I'm starting next term." Beastboy's frantic waving ceased moving immediately, a look of confusion and disbelief in his wide eyes. His look reminded me of the day Cyborg brought in a phony newspaper with 'Tofu declared illegal!' written on the headlines.
"You guys aren't joking?" His last hope of flushing out the joke, me and Cyborg shake our heads. "But what about me. And Raven?" He had stopped calling her Rae after she had chased him around the Tower in fear of a repetition. For the first time during all this, Raven responds, her voice cold and dead.
"I will remain here, what you do is your choice." Truth is I didn't know where she would go if she had decided to leave. Beastboy just took on a defeated look before sighing at the realization.
"Well, Mento has been asking me to come home to the Patrol." I knew why Beastboy didn't want to go there, but he had little choice that day, staying with Raven in the Tower would eventually have drive him mad or gotten him killed.
"I guess it settled then, I will hold a press conference this afternoon, after I inform the police and mayor. If you guys don't want to be there, I understand." But Beastboy and Cyborg wanted to be there, Raven didn't, I knew why and didn't pressure her about it. Announcing to the Jump City press that the city's own team of superheroes where disbanding was going to spark a lot of questions, especially at the only one that was staying in the city.
The conference was held at 15:00 in front of the front doors to the Tower that same day. Beastboy and Cyborg at my sides, I guessed Raven was in her room or on the roof. By then I had already informed the other Titan teams of what was happening, the last thing I wanted was to have them yelling at me, or Raven for that matter, for not telling them before they read about it in the papers the day after.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for coming. I have an important announcement to make. Over the last few months we have seen a rapid decline in crime, something I am sure all of Jump City is enjoying today. But it is also invalidating the need for us to be here, it is therefore with heavy heart that I today announce the disbanding the Teen Titans." The uproar from the press was amazing, everyone waving hands and pens to be the first to have a question answered. I point at a woman with a yellow block of paper, her name tag states she is from the Jump City Tribunal.
"Are the Titan members staying in the city?"
"Cyborg, Beastboy and I will be leaving the city, Starfire left for her home planet last night. Next question." I pointed to a man in a blue suit with yellow hair, I cringed inwardly at the choice a second later, it was a talk show hosts, one that loves drama, he immediately start stirring some up in usual fashion.
"So you are leaving the city defenseless? What about when the so-called super-villains come back?"
"With majority of the villains currently inside Jump City Penitentiary for the 6th month running, I am confident Jump City's finest will be able to handle them. I have already submitted an extensive file on each of those currently known to have operated here, on how to deal with each of them in case they break out. Next question." I point out a dark skinned fellow with a pencil, from the Herald.
"Robin, does this announce your return to the side of the infamous Batman of Gotham?" He asks.
"As of right now I don't know where I will go, or if I even will remain as Robin. Next question." A few questions were thrown at Cyborg and Beastboy, mostly about the future, some of them ridiculous. Cyborg the auto mechanic, for instance. I end up pointing out small, young, brown haired women who has been trying to get my attention since the beginning, I admit I picked her because of her size, I knew a lot of those present had saw blades for elbows, she wasn't one of them.
"Robin you have yet to tell us about your last team member or if she is leaving the city as well?" Out of all the journalists present, she seemed to be the only one who had noticed Raven's absence. The others begin to look around them for her, obviously they hadn't.
"Raven will remain in the city, and before any of you ask, she is unavailable for comment until she chooses otherwise." I knew this was true even if I hadn't asked her, if she wanted to talk to anyone, she would be coming to them. The slick talk show host from before yells, drowning out everyone else.
"You mean to tell us that you are leaving the entire city to one girl?! A girl we have yet to be properly introduced to?" It was my choice to do the opposite of what Bruce does, in Gotham he is an urban myth, or close to one, and it helps him, keeps the petty thieves scared. I chose to be public because Jump is not the dark city of Gotham, people here are different and I am not Batman. The other Titans, except Raven, liked the lime light well enough; I guessed that as long as we where there, the press would leave her alone. But he was right, Raven never talked to journalists and had a very low opinion on them in general, I think she called them vultures at one point.
"We are more than confident in Raven's abilities to defend the city should the need arise…" The guy was already getting on my nerves as he continues yelling, cutting me off.
"How can you be sure?!"
"Simple, really, because we know she can. I want to thank you all for coming today; it was an honor serving this city, thank you." Without another word we walk back inside, ignoring all the unanswered questions that were thrown at us.
I remember Beastboy was the first to leave after that, after we forced him to clean up his room that is. I guess since there was no hope of the Titan's staying together, he couldn't get out fast enough. The last person he talked to was Raven, an attempt to mend fences; I had enough decency not to pry too deeply into their hallway conversation.
Cyborg left the same evening. Where Beastboy's farewell was short and a little emotional, Cyborg's started off with him telling me how proud he was of us, of himself for being a part of it. Telling me and Raven in the living room:
"If we hadn't met that night, I'm not sure I would be here today." He said.
I knew what he meant, the Titans had made him feel normal; something he had missed ever since his accident. He had been the typical angry teenager that would have ended up doing something stupid if he hadn't met us. He said his final goodbye to me with a handshake and uttered a hope that he would see us again. After letting go of me, he scooped Raven off the floor in a hug telling her how much he would miss her. I knew he considered the ash grey girl his little sister and had so ever since his first car was wrecked, their bond became even stronger after she retrieved him from the distant past. Raven hugged him back and said she would miss him as well.
After Cyborg, or Victor Stone as he would be known as from now on, left the Tower I began packing all the bits and bobs that I wanted to take with me, which wasn't much since I was leaving on my bike which I had spent the afternoon painting neon green. I remember only packing a few clothing and toilet articles along with a picture of us all, my communicator and a normal cell phone. We were leaving pretty much everything else in the Tower for Raven, either as keep sakes or to keep safe. I wonder how I managed to squeeze my years in Jump City into that small bag, and today I regret not taking some of the things I left behind, Slade's cracked mask being chief amongst them. It would have been the center piece of my own trophy collection, if I ever get that started. After I was done packing, I went looking for Raven, I wasn't leaving before the morning, since I needed the rest and the paint needed to dry but I really wanted to talk to her for one final time before I left, I found her reading in the living room, sitting in the huge semi-circular couch with her hood down. She of course knew I was in the room before I even spoke, I was sure I had been quiet, but sneaking up on her was practically impossible because of her powers.
"Packed already?" Giving up stealth, I walk over and drop down across from her, usually moving closer to her usually made her move away or she would move you far away.
"Yeah, I'm not bringing a lot of stuff with me."
"You looked good, delivering the speech earlier."
"Thanks, bad time for you to notice." Getting credit for your looks from Raven was like winning the lottery, statistically.
"Oh I've know that since I met you." Twice in one evening, I knew she was hiding something. I decided to change subject.
"You're worried about the press?" I could imagine she wouldn't be pleased having to deal with those people and their questions.
"I'm more worried about what they will come up with on their own."
"Don't worry about them; Batman has managed to avoid them for years."
"To the most of the world he is a myth, I have a public address." She replies as she stops pretending to read, closing the book and putting it down on the table in front of us.
"No one is ordering you to stay here." I could tell she was annoyed, and I knew why. "You're mad because we are leaving?"
"I am disappointed, not angry." She replies while I detected the look of sadness in her eyes. "You and the others are the closest thing I have left that resembles a family and by tomorrow, you will all be gone. Deep down I knew from the day we moved in, that we wouldn't grow old together, but I guess I hoped that we wouldn't be parting so soon." I guessed she felt like we were abandoning her, we were heading into the future where she couldn't follow because we couldn't let her. Beastboy to his family, Cyborg to his new life, Starfire to the stars and I was going to need a long time to figure out what I want to do.
"Rae, you know I've said this once before, you have your whole life ahead of you, you don't have to stay here, you don't even have to continue being a superhero if you don't want to. And we all gave you contact information, so you can call If you ever need anything. We aren't stopping being your friends, we are just moving along with life." She only nods at the finality of that. "And you are always welcome to call." After that I change subject again to something more casual and we keep talking till late into the night. I knew she was enjoying it, or she would have left after the first rounds.
I still remember the morning after; we both got up early, as usual. We had breakfast together in silence, which seemed odd at the time, since it was the last time we were going to do it. Raven was going to be alone for the first time since she came to Earth and she seemed to try to ignore it happening, putting up the ice cold facade she always maintained around everyone but us. After seeing Starfire drift into the night sky two days before, the parting with Raven was the worst for me. She walked out to me as I was finishing loading up my bike at the front door; I was leaving as Robin, planning on changing into civilian when I got out of the city as soon as it was safe to do so. She stood silently watching me loading the last things on the bike. When I finished loading, I turned to face her, only to find her right behind me. I was surprised when she embraced me in a hug so tight, I didn't realize she could pull that off. I could only hug her back, we stood like that for what seemed hours before we had to break away. We didn't speak, there was no need to as we already knew what would be spoken. As I mounted the bike and started the engines I only say one line before speeding off.
"Take care Rae, be safe." I remember looking back before I had to switch into the aerial mode that allowed my bike to cross over the bay; Raven was holding up one hand in a silent farewell, her small form dwarfed by the shadow of the Tower leaning over her. That was the first time I was having regrets about leaving; that sight of her, but she didn't stop me.
I rode cross country from Jump City to New York, almost two weeks on a bike with the stops I made, and I didn't read a paper or watch the news during that time. I was worried that something in them would drive me back or into something I wasn't prepared to deal with. Pleased when I finally read a paper, that nothing was reported from my friends in it, I finally relaxed. I spent two years on the road, first in Europe then to Asia. I couldn't resist taking a few martial arts lessons along the way, especially with the True Master. I returned to the US only to learn that Alfred, one of my oldest and dearest friends, had been seriously ill. I immediately headed home to Gotham, planning on moving on when I was sure Alfred was ok, I ended up staying. Meeting the new Robin, a Tim Drake, opened my eyes. His spark and enthusiasm made me realize something; I could lead no other life than, that of the super hero vigilante, until the day my body would force me to do otherwise. And that my time as Robin, the Boy Wonder, was over, Robin would always be the sidekick of Batman and that was something I could never return to.
I am now known as Nightwing, the identity was the one Starfire told me I had assumed in the future she had been propelled into along with Warp. If she returns one day, I hope she doesn't think the rest of that future is also true. In one regard it is worse, crime is more rampant than ever in Gotham, and Raven is missing and have been for over a year now.
Malchior, the missing dragon, finally returned and decided to take his revenge on Raven for trapping him again in his tome. I read about it in the paper, Malchior was defeated by Raven after an hour long battle. But her victory came at a great cost both in lives and in money, much of Jump City was heavily damaged because of the battle, Titans Tower was destroyed, utterly. Up till then, Raven had endured three years of her solitary defense of the city and doing quite well I might add, but the public never seemed to warm to her, a feeling mainly fueled by the tabloids, they never showed her the gratitude she deserved because of the silence she met them with. And when Malchior finally fell on the steps of City Hall, after being impaled thought the chest by a black bolt, Raven was reported have hovered above him for a few moments before fading away and hasn't been seen since.
I met up with Garfield and Victor on the island, surveying the remains of the Tower when we learned of it. We had no clue how to find Raven, if she was even alive now or if the fight had drained her completely. We stayed in the city for over a week, looking for anything that could help us find her, and to tell us what had happened to her. Growing ever sicker of the press that kept following us around and occasionally hampering us when we worked. I remember Cyborg's encounter with the slick talk show host, the man Vic had told me was head in the press' crusade against Raven.
"Cyborg, do you feel any regret that you left Raven here alone when you left the city? Was it not irresponsible of you to do so?" I could tell, even after the years apart, that Cyborg was using every ounce of restraint not to pulverize the man.
"Look man, I know what you have said about Raven in these last years, she has given everything for you and this city, at least you could attempt to look sorry that she is missing. And to answer your question, I stand by what Robin said three years ago; we are more than confident in Raven's abilities to defend this city and she has proven that time and again. Now get out of my face, we are searching for her!" Victor had grown, I knew a time when he would not have hesitated to punch the man into the ground. Physically he wasn't much different, as so little of his body could actually grow, but he is now sporting heavier armor and armaments than before but in the same design as before. He had a lot of time to tinker, living in the same city as Superman, left him to only break up the odd fights and smaller kinds of crime he happened upon, anything bigger drew the attention of the Man of Steel.
Gar is another matter, he had grown in height, he's is almost as tall as Cyborg, missing only half a head, and that's impressive considering how short we thought he would end being. He is still skinny, but none of his weight is fat. Mento must have really begun taking him seriously, or rather; Garfield begun taking himself seriously. He is still in the old uniform, since the Doom Patrol haven't changed theirs, still purple and black. He is still the prankster we all came to know, and his smile would have been ever present if it weren't trying to find Raven. I myself have probably changed the most, I am as tall as Cyborg now but only half his bulk and I've stopped spiking my hair, which is pretty difficulty considering how short I keep it now. After moving to Gotham I changed my costume, a necessity, to not have me confused with Tim. It is now completely black, except for the light blue bird-like emblem that spreads its wings across my chest and shoulders and down my arms to color my middle and ring finger, and I've kept the mask.
We didn't have a lot of time for small talk during that week, but we are still good friends and Cy and BB can still fight over meat and tofu. But as we came up with nothing like a clue we part ways again, returning to the lives we live and hoped Raven would one day show up on her own.
And here I am watching over Gotham once again, taking on any criminals I come across and trying to solve the puzzles I get thrown by life and this job. The latest one seems to be one of the more interesting ones. For over a month now, we have been getting reports of people being attacked by a shadow, or The Shadow as the press called it, scaring them into a catatonic state. Only two attacks had witnesses, both victims-to-be of the night time muggers than ended up getting attacked by the Shadow that seemed to emerge out of nowhere. The victims were always left unresponsive, seemingly only reacting to something that was going on inside their minds. Tim jumped on the first likely suspect; Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow, who has been at large for months now. Batman and I both dismissed him as the suspect, it didn't fit his modus operandi, he scares people to see the effects, and the shadow was gone as soon as it was done. If it had been him, there would have been no witnesses that wouldn't also have received the doctors fear gas. We began dismissing all the suspects that could fit the description or the method of attack, none of the villains we knew of, like the Shade or the Shadow Thief, seemed like the culprits either, neither scared people and nothing was stolen. Barbara Gordon, having been retired from active patrols, now working as an information gathering agent known as Oracle, suggested that Gotham might have a new hero in town. Bruce only grumbled that he wouldn't blindly accept new people other than those connected to the Bat-clan in Gotham, but I know he has put a pin in the theory, allies are after all allies, even if you don't befriend them. The word on the streets seemed to agree with them both; the Shadow seemed to be only attacking crooks, something that scared their colleagues since they knew they were being hunted by it. But besides that, we have yet to figure out what the Shadow wants and more importantly, who it is. But we know it is either a meta, or has some means to get around the city in a hurry as it was spotted twice in one night yesterday in the span of a few moments in completely different parts of the city. The press had their own theories of course, one was that the Shadow was the manifest anger of Gotham rebelling against what it had become, which used to be one of the original ideas thrown out to explain the Batman, others thought it was ghost or simply a rival gang with a new gimmick. And all of us want answers, as quickly as possible.
So now I am sitting on a roof at the western docks looking for any activity from the bar in my sights, a rough place that usually serves as the haunt of Falcone-mobsters and other scum they allow inside. Hoping the Shadow will be bold and strike against such a place, our focus having gradually shifted from the usual to it as it has become the priority target. Bruce has been the only one to see the victims, and that he says it's pretty bad, means it's an understatement. A buzz in my ear tells me of an incoming call rerouted from the Cave.
"Nightwing, it's gotten another one; Crane. Meet us at Arkham, you need to see this." The name is what really hits me, the Scarecrow, a victim of the Shadow.
Author's notes: For all of you who have been reading my other works and perhaps waited for me to post more chapters for some; this is the story that's been distracting me from them, or specifically the Shadow of the Reaper story.
Also I would like to say that this story started out as an idea of a much more modest size and with a completely different tone and goal before it gained a life of its own. There have been several times during the writing when I thought it was time to end it, but instead I continued as new ideas came and more areas demanded to be explored. All that said, this story is something I've written primarily for my own amusement, sometimes to get over my own immense disappointments that sometimes comes with reading comics.
If you are interested in seeing what I have done; send a pm or a review.