I hope you guys like this chapter, because I had fun writing it. Also, I changed the name because How Long Is Forever doesn't make sense unless they talk about forever before that. I don't think I mention the word forever in this except for in this author's note and the title, so I made it a reference.
Chapter 8 – Forever Ends Now
It was one of those days that Robin wished he hadn't formed a team in the first place. Bruce was right. He hated it when Bruce was right.
It was Bruce's fault anyway. Robin'd been preened to work with one person and one person only. He didn't mesh well with Beast Boy's perkiness or Cyborg's constant second-guessing, and even Raven's sulkiness and refusal to speak in anything but cryptic sarcasm was wearing on his nerves.
The two boys had been fighting over a video game. They always fought. Whether they insisted on fighting over meat or tofu- he really didn't understand why they had such a big problem with the other's dietary habits- or what to watch or when to play video games. Robin was about to send a birdarang through the damn television just to shut them up.
Raven hadn't been helping, putting in sarcastic comments and nasty remarks. And of course she completely turned on him when he tried to shut them up.
He revved the R-cycle's engine as he put on a burst of speed, pulling ahead of Cyborg's car competitively. Cyborg didn't indulge him, though. He got kind of touchy about speeding in it. Robin didn't need a race. He was happy to blow off some steam by driving ridiculously fast without adding the possibility of racking up a win, anyway
He glanced back at Cyborg, who shook his head at Robin's competitive nature. He looked back at the road, swore violently, and jerked the handlebars to the side. The T-car continued past him. The AI kept the R-cycle from toppling, but he did spin out, stopping just before he hit the wall of a building. He let his forehead touch the body of the bike between the handlebars, letting out an exasperated sigh.
"What is this odd hat?" the curious voice belonging to the person he'd just narrowly avoided hitting asked as a tan hand rapped its knuckles on his helmet, apparently completely unbothered that he almost smashed up his bike and possibly- although, th is wasn't likely- himself.
Robin sighed again, his breath fogging up the reinforced plastic on his helmet. "What are you doing?" he snapped.
Starfire looked wounded. "I noticed that you and your team-" she flourished her hand at the T-car, which was disappearing down the street, its driver and passengers unconcerned for their leader- "were on your way to the mission."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Yeah? And?"
She tilted her head at him and narrowed her eyes right back. "I am still doing the owing of one to you."
He gaped at her. "Um. Oh." Owing of one? "You owe me one?"
She waved her hand arbitrarily at his correction. "Yes, that."
He glanced over to where he could still hear the T-car's engine going. He had to hurry to catch up. But… "Why do you think you owe me one? I'm not… holding anything over your head, or anything."
He frowned as she actually glanced above her head briefly. "You saved me from the Centauri police," she said dully, like it was obvious. "It would be remiss of me not to do the favor for you in return."
"That's not why- You don't owe me. No one I ever help out is gonna owe me, ever. I help out because I like it."
She rolled her eyes. "I cannot allow you have the 'hand that is upper'."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "I don't-! I wouldn't-!" He sighed for the third time. "You wanna help out?"
"Ya know you could just j-"
"Just this once. I do not intend to join your team any longer after this," she interrupted.
"Fine, whatever," he mumbled, somewhat embarrassed at her constant rejection. He shook the feeling- which was stupid and unfounded- away. "Get on, hurry."
Her eyes widened in confusion. "What?"
"Get on the bike!"
She wrinkled her nose at it, narrowing her eyes and tilting her head. "Oh. No, thank you."
"No?" he spluttered. It was like she was just rejecting him for fun, now. "But I'm trying to get to-"
"I am capable of flying up to the speed of sound," she snapped. "I will follow in the air."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Fine." And with that, he took off, forcing himself not to crane his neck to make sure she was keeping up. The T-car was parked and Robin pulled up next to it. Cyborg was just finishing locking it up- Robin had been pestering him about finding a faster way to secure it when they were on a mission, or else he'd consider it a liability- and the half-robot glanced at Starfire questioningly.
"She… owes me one. Or something," Robin mumbled.
"Well, alright," he said approvingly. Robin wasn't sure if he liked what Cyborg was implying, or even if he was really implying anything and it was just Robin's own paranoia kicking in.
They joined Raven and Beast Boy inside, slipping into the shadows. A man in an odd suit made of what looked like sturdy bronze with an odd, thin mustache waved his arm at two guards, who froze. Literally. They became encapsulated in ice. Which was worrying. Robin started calculating as he watched, holding up a hand to his team to indicate that they weren't going to attack just yet. How much power did that take up? Robin wanted to be sure that he couldn't just freeze all five of them in one spot.
"I didn't journey back in time one hundred years to squabble, I came to steal," the villain told the now-frozen guards. Huh. That was interesting. The villain turned his gaze to the clock in the display case before him, predatory. "The Clock of Eternity," he said to himself. "Valuable in the past. Priceless in the future." He stretched his hand out toward it and Robin threw a disc at him. He couldn't risk any more time observing.
"But for the present," he growled, "you'll keep your filthy hands off it."
"Ah. The Teen Titans. This is a treat." As he spoke, panels opened up on his shoulders, looking suspiciously like lasers. "I read all about you in the historical archives. And now you're all history!"
Ignoring the slightly creeped out feeling he got, Robin let out the command as two red beams shot toward them. "Titans, go!" He heard Starfire make an unappreciative noise behind him, but he ignored her.
The villain continued shooting beams, which Robin deflected by spinning his bo-staff. He wasn't lying about coming from the future- the beams snapped his staff in half, which was almost unheard of. He groaned in surprise, but green starbolts shot over his shoulders, followed by a red and black blur.
Starfire's bolts were deflected simply by the villain sweeping his arm back at her, hitting her squarely in the chest. She let out a squeak, sounding more surprised than pained, and she dropped. Robin chucked the two pieces of his bo-staff to the side and stretched out his arms to catch her. She thudded against his chest, and he peered down at her to make sure she was all right. She shook her head once to jar herself and he placed her back on her feet, ignoring the look she gave him, which was something between a curious glance and a scowl.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos!"
Raven brought his attention back to the criminal, who had a lion-shaped Beast Boy caught in an electric field from the hourglass-shaped device on his wrist. He dropped the changeling as he simply knocked the display stands Raven had levitated at him to the sides, then shot a blue beam at her from a white circle on his forehead. She crumpled.
Blue light shot toward him, followed by a triumphant, "Booyah!" Robin squinted into the dust, only to find the villain had thrown up a forcefield and was completely unscathed. He threw a device at Cyborg's chest, which swathed him in white light. Cyborg groaned, moaning, "It's draining my power cell." He fell to his hands and knees.
"You cannot defeat Warp; I am from the future." The villain reared his arm back and threw a heavy disc. Robin countered with three of his, thoroughly annoyed at this point, but Warp's disc ripped through his three, continuing to explode behind him. He saw Starfire hit the ground in a roll. "And you relics are one hundred years out of date." With that, Warp simply reached his hand through the glass, which turned somewhat liquid as his hand passed through it, and snatched snatched up the clock.
"Ta-ta, Titans. I've enjoyed our time together, but I have a very bright future ahead of me." He pressed a button on his chest and a black wormhole opened in front of him, white light emanating from it with a flick of Warp's wrist.
Starfire was crouching in front of Robin, and she charged up starbolts in her hands. Uh oh. Robin really didn't want to get mixed up in time travel. Yeah, the clock was important, but time travel was dangerous and it was more important that the Titans- and Starfire- stayed safe. She let out an angry shout and pushed herself onto her toes. Robin acted quickly- he was her leader, at least temporarily, and he wasn't about to let her risk herself. He tackled her, getting a face full of soft, red hair as they tumbled. Starfire twisted in his grasp, confused and annoyed, and she pushed him off her.
Right into the wormhole. He heard her frightened shout of, "Robin!"- then everything went dark.
He hadn't meant to follow Warp, but there was nothing to do about that now. He might as well get the clock. Besides, the Justice League or whatever variant of it that would be around in a hundred years would just beam him back. He wasn't worried. He grabbed Warp's wrist, their strangled grunts echoing around them.
"Let go!" Warp grunted, putting a foot on Robin's stomach in an attempt to kick him away.
"Give me the clock!" Robin countered.
"Stop!" he said sternly. "If you damage the suit before we reach my future-"
That wasn't a bad idea. Maybe they'd just reappear in the present. Well, the past. Robin's present. He closed his fingers around the circular device on Warps chest and yanked it off. Immediately, Warp fell through a hole that opened up in the blackness. Robin could only watch in surprise, lifting the circle to his eyes to inspect it.
He didn't have much time to look at it before he started falling as well. He didn't know how high up he was or how bad the impact would hurt or even where he was. He grabbed at his belt, reflexively palming his grappling hook gun and putting the device in his belt in an empty compartment. He shot it at random and he felt the line pull. He flailed his feet, pedaling the air to try to feel for a foothold. He swung and his line snapped, and he fell maybe five feet before landing in-
"Snow?" he murmured to himself, wiping the cold substance away from his face with a gloved hand. He closed his cape around his shoulders. It was a meager comfort. He glanced up and his breath hitched. Titans Tower was in ruins. "What the hell?" he asked himself, running a nervous hand through his hair.
For a hundred years in the future, Jump looked pretty much the same. Snowier. He wandered up to the front door of the Tower, where there was a bundle of newspapers. That meant someone had to be there. He brushed snow off the soggy front page of the one on top. That couldn't be right- this paper indicated that he'd only traveled forward twenty years.
At least that left him more options. He sighed. He'd have to do it. Digging through the compartments in his belt, he palmed another device- a bat-shaped device with a button in the middle. It should still work. He pressed the button and his heart plummeted when nothing happened. His eyes were wide, terrified behind his mask. It should have lit up. Beeped. It was an emergency signal that connected to Batman's belt- time travel shouldn't have affected it. Even if he updated the technology, the device should have connected to the Batcave.
He pulled the front door open manually, the metal creaking as it slid into the wall. "Hello?" Robin shouted, cupping his hands over his mouth like a megaphone. The sound echoed in the empty foyer. It was freezing in here. Still with his cape closed in front of him, Robin padded through the Tower. It was so familiar, but so not at the same time. It was dark and depressing.
The ops room would just depress him. He didn't know what had happened, but he knew just by the fact that the elevators weren't working that it would be a husk of what it had been. No technical updates, no Beast Boy and Cyborg arguing over video games, no Raven attempting to be social by being there in the first place, but ultimately hiding behind a thick, dusty book anyway. He felt a pang of guilt. They really had been fighting more lately. Maybe he was taking them for granted.
He went straight to his room, which was mostly untouched. All pictures of himself were gone, though. Not that he had many, but a picture of him and Batman- capes flowing in the wind, hands on their hips- used to be perched on his desk next to his laptop, which wasn't there right now. His bed was made nicely, his uniforms folded in his closet. He'd come in here for his laptop. He must have left it in the interrogation room, and it was weird that it hadn't been moved. He wondered if anyone had gone in there since he left.
Something caught his eye as he turned to leave. The hinge on his walk in-safe was broken . He opened the door, which yielded under his touch without the electricity keeping the lock in place. The only thing that should be in here was his Red X suit. He saw the containment field he'd made for the xynothium core- but the suit was gone.
Robin felt misplaced anger. His whole room was untouched, who'd come in here and take that, of all things? He was angry with himself, mostly. That stupid thing was such a mistake. All of it- the deception, the embarrassingly futile attempt to trick Slade… where was he, now, anyway? While he was here, he might as well look into it.
He went into the hall, heading for the investigation room. If he could get on the Batcave's frequency with it, he'd have his ticket to Bruce and the JLA. He'd be home free, easy-peasy. Of course, only jumping ahead twenty years and not a hundred might mean that they didn't have time travel yet… but he didn't think about that. He'd get home. He'd find a way. He always did.
He stopped in front of an unfamiliar room, the door half-open. An odd, circular bed stood in the middle of the room. This definitely was not some weird, touched up version of Raven's room. Regardless of how much one might change in twenty years, he knew definitively that Raven would never deck her room out in so much pink.
Robin approached the dresser and pulled open a drawer. Empty. Another- empty. All empty. On the dresser, he found half of the picture that was on his desk. Just Batman, though- it had been cut carefully in half. He picked it up, wondering what was going on.
Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink. Whirrrr.
Grabbing in his belt for his bo-staff, he turned. A spider-looking creature with a glowing red eye looked up at him. He recoiled. It stepped closer to him and he smashed it with his bo-staff. Two more entered the room, and he smashed those, as well.
"Yo!" a familiar, yet strange voice shouted, and he jumped. "Who's in here, smashin' up my-"
"Cyborg?" Robin demanded.
It had to be. But he looked… he looked horrible. There were bags under his eyes and these terrible, thick wires poking into his back. He wrapped both hands around the pipe he was holding and brought it to his chest. "No way…"
"It's me. Robin," he said nervously.
"Damn, kid," Cyborg muttered, his eye wide. "You… you haven't aged a bit."
"What happened here?" Robin demanded, strangely on edge.
Cyborg walked over to the dresser and pushed the drawers Robin had pulled open closed. "About nineteen years of disrepair?"
"You lasted one year without me," Robin concluded dully.
"We tried, man. Especially Star. But-"
"What?" Robin's throat tightened as Cyborg used his usual nickname for her.
"Oh, yeah. Starfire joined after you left. Said you would've wanted her to."
He gulped. "Is this her room?"
"Yeah," Cyborg said fondly.
Apparently, Cyborg slipped into his memories, a small smile on his face and a faraway look in his eye. "Um, is she…? Are the others…?"
"Not here," Cyborg answered with a shake of his head. "BB and Rae went to Azarath after… Huh, probably shouldn't tell you about that. Just in case."
"Together?" Robin asked, scrunching his eyebrows together. He so couldn't imagine that.
"It was me and Star with Speedy, Bee, and the twins for a little while. But she… she changed. Her memory started slipping. She got so distant. I tried to help her. She went back to Tamaran and got married." Robin ignored the way his stomach twisted at that. "But she came back here here in the end. Now she hangs with Arsenal and Red X."
"Red X?" Robin demanded.
Cyborg chuckled. "We thought he was you. It wasn't until Star-" Cyborg cut off. "It's a lot to take in at once."
"What happened to you, Cyborg?" Robin asked softly, firmly pushing alien princesses to the back of his mind. Where they belonged.
"What, you mean all this?" Cyborg clarified, gesturing to his back. "I'm obsolete. Technology got better and I… I just didn't. You can't play the original Call of Duty on Gamestation 12." Cyborg glanced at Robin, who was unimpressed by the analogy. "That's how I had to explain it to Beast Boy."
Robin was vaguely annoyed. "You can't crack jokes about this kind of stuff. I can help you."
"It's too late, man. Doing an overhaul of all my systems would-"
"No, I mean when I go back. We'll prepare for this."
Cyborg looked at him doubtfully. "How do you plan on going-?"
Robin brandished the piece of Warp's suit. "I have this. He'll be needing it. If I can find him, I can make him take me back."
"How are you gonna make him take you back? Don't you think he'll just jump to the future and leave you?"
Robin cracked his knuckles. "I have ways. It would probably be easier if you could help me. Find him with your sonic-"
"I can't. I can't leave this Tower, Robin. I'm draining all the power into my generator- I can't help you. I'm sorry."
Robin crossed his arms, trying to think of something else.
"I can tell you where Star is. I can get you contact with Beast Boy and Raven, but they haven't left Azarath in fifteen years."
Robin was speeding through the empty streets on a stolen motorcycle. He was going to love bikes in twenty years, assuming he got back. Which he was. The R-cycle was more advanced than this motorcycle, with the AI and the interfacing. But this bike was more streamlined, and it drove smoother, and it was pretty awesome looking. He couldn't even imagine what his own tricked out motorcycle would look like.
Cyborg called her and told her where to meet Robin. He wondered vaguely what had happened to her. Married? And something about Red X and Arsenal. Cyborg wouldn't tell him anything in great detail. Something about time paradoxes.
He released a grappling hook from his gun after parking the stolen bike. He felt kind of bad about stealing it, but when he went back, this future would be rewritten, anyway. No harm, no foul. The grappling hook wrapped around a streetlight, and he pulled himself up to land on the roof of the building closest to it. She was supposed to meet him here.
He was slightly cold, and he wrapped his fingers around his elbows. "Victor?" he turned, recognizing the voice at once. It was less innocent, less hopeful than the voice he was accustomed to, but undoubtedly hers.
"Starfire?" he asked as he turned. "It's me, Rob-"
She landed on the roof, and his shoulders stiffened. She wore a purple metal bikini bottom with a red stone placed between her hips, and her top… if you could call it that… was little more than metal strips. Odd, metallic plating covered her shoulders and neck, a similar red stone set at the hollow of her throat.
"Um…" Robin stammered, quickly trying to determine how old she would be now. "Hi."
"Please, where is Victor?" Her eyes passed over him suspiciously.
"He's in… he can't leave…"
"Oh, yes, that is correct. I forget sometimes." She studied him. "While he does sometimes acquire other people to conduct our meetings, they are usually older."
She didn't remember him? That annoyed him. He'd remember her, he was sure, if their situations were switched. He crossed his arms. "I need help."
"I do not know how I can offer you any. You have the 'hit' on someone? You need an enemy disposed of?"
She seemed to be losing focus in their conversation. "What?"
"I am unsure of our rates- Jason usually handles the monetary exchange. Or Roy."
"Roy?" Robin echoed, annoyed. "Roy Harper?"
"Yes! Are you looking for him? You appear to be friends."
"No! I was looking for you. We're friends." Or something like that, anyway. Robin's expression and voice softened. "We were. Twenty years ago."
"Twenty years ago?" she echoed, confused. She tilted her head. "Friends?" Something sparked in her eyes. Recognition, maybe. "Today is Blorthog!" she announced, smiling. "The festival of friendship."
"Um," he stammered. That wasn't what he was expecting.
She frowned. "Although something happened on this day a long time ago. Something not nice." She tapped her chin.
"Can't imagine what that was," Robin muttered.
"Kori?" a voice called.
"Roy! I told you that I was not to be followed," she scolded, apparently forgetting all about Robin as she turned.
"Yeah, I know, but I know that today's… the day…"
"Blorthog?" she asked excitedly.
"No, hon, not Blorthog. It's- Holy Boy Wonder!" Robin crossed his arms moodily at the exclamation.
Starfire spun, remembering Robin excitedly. "Yes! This is my friend! His name… uh…"
"Roy? Speedy?" Robin spluttered. He'd known Roy back then. Not well, not as well as Wally West or Donna Troy, but they'd met a few times.
"It's Arsenal now," he corrected. Arsenal had gingery hair that fell to his shoulders, underneath a grey baseball hat with the bat symbol on it. He wore jeans, sneakers, and a green zip-up hoodie that emphasized his unmasked eyes.
Robin stared at the bat symbol on his hat. Arsenal turned it around self-consciously, the brim sticking out over the back of his head.
"What happened?" Robin asked, more emotion than he wanted slipping into his voice.
Arsenal winced, and Starfire hovered in front of him, leaning forward with her feet tucked behind her in the air so that she was at eye-level with Robin. "Are you lost?" she asked softly as though he was a little kid. He ignored her.
"You disappeared, dude. Your Titans… they networked. Me, Karen Beecher, Garth… Wally, eventually… But then Batman retired the cowl and it-"
Quicker than he'd ever gone before, he lunged at Arsenal and grabbed his hoodie in two hands. "Retired the cowl?" he demanded, narrowing his eyes.
"Easy, kid," he soothed.
Robin was so tired of being called that. "He wouldn't. He would never."
"He thought you died," Arsenal said uncomfortably, trying to pry Robin's fingers away. "And then… the Robin after you died…"
Robin felt like someone punched him in the stomach. "The Robin after me?"
Arsenal winced. "I… I'm sorry. But he nodded a new Robin. If people found out Dick Grayson and Robin died at the same time…"
"Dick Grayson?" Starfire asked, tilting her head and scrutinizing Robin.
"In a minute, Kori," Arsenal said without looking at her. "He tried to continue. But… that Robin died, and you died, and Barbara…"
He gulped. "What happened to Barbara?"
"She didn't die. She retired, that's all. And then one night, the Joker broke into her house. He was going to kill her, too. Bruce… he couldn't do it anymore. He shut it down."
"Shut it down?" Robin echoed dully, the words rattling around his head even after they left his mouth.
"No more Batcave. He blew it all up."
"What happened to Gotham?" Robin demanded, too stunned to stop Arsenal from finally prying his fingers away from his shirt.
"We did. The three of us… That's me, Starfire, and…"
"Red X," Robin finished.
"Um, yeah. It was pretty bad, at first. We had to use a lot of lethal force-"
"You what?" Robin snarled.
"I know how it sounds. But you weren't there. Scarecrow and Joker gas poisonings were killing hundreds of people every day. Black Glove had the city's narcotics ring wrapped around his finger. We were needed."
"This is so screwed up," Robin groaned. "It's not supposed to be this way!"
Something was tugging on his cape and he turned to yank it back. Starfire's eyes were boring into his mask, curious with some raw emotion quivering behind them. "Please. What is your name?"
"I already told you. Robin. It's Robin, okay?" he snapped.
"No, your true name," she pressed.
He threw his arms into the air. "What the hell, there's no use hiding it anymore if there's no Batman. Dick Grayson. My damn name is Dick Grayson."
She looked as though he'd hit her. She glanced up at Arsenal and when she brought her gaze back to Robin, she had tears in her eyes.
He instantly regretted how short he'd been with her. "Um, I'm sorry."
"I… you… You are here?"
Robin glanced at Arsenal. "Roy?"
"Sh. She's remembering."
Robin winced. Starfire rocketed away from him suddenly, her hair flaming behind her as she left. "What?" Robin muttered, confused.
"That happens sometimes. I don't know what's wrong with her. After the Titans split up, especially after Raven went back to Azarath after defeating Tri-"
Starfire returned, and she landed between them. She unfolded something and showed it to Robin, who took it distractedly. He took a cursory glance at the paper she gave him before returning his gaze to Arsenal, then double taking.
It wasn't a paper, it was a picture. The picture of him, the one that had been on his desk next to his laptop. It was the other half of it. "That is you," she said, pointing rather unnecessarily.
"Yeah," he said, unsure of what she was doing. She squinted at him before rocketing off again.
"Where's Bruce now?" Robin asked softly.
Arsenal stuffed his hands into his pockets. "We don't know. There are speculations. Jay- um, Red X thinks he might be in France. Or maybe it was Italy. With Selina."
At least he had someone with him. "Oh."
And Starfire returned again, this time dropping something into his hand. His throat constricted as he closed his fingers around the sea shell bracelet he'd given her. He examined it wordlessly as she scrutinized him, judging his reaction.
"You gave me that."
"Yeah, I know," he mumbled.
"That was… so long ago." She gave him an experimental poke in the shoulder.
"You… you are alive." She stood, towering over him. She'd gotten even taller. "You are here." She put her hands against her mouth and her eyes pooled with tears. "You are so young."
"I time-traveled," he offered as an explanation.
She sank to the ground, her legs sprawled around her in an M. "Oh, Robin, I am sorry."
He glanced up at Arsenal before looking down at her. "Why?"
"It was my fault!" she squeaked, tears leaking over hands, which were still pressed to her mouth. "If I did not jump after the Warp-"
"Oh, come on. It's not your fault," he told her, somewhat exasperated.
"It is!" she wailed.
"Come on, Kori," Arsenal soothed, bending down so he was at eye-level with her. "Remember what I said last time? It wasn't you. It was Warp."
She growled, then jumped up. "Warp! If you are here, that means he is here as well, yes?"
Robin blinked. "I think so. Actually, that's what I need your help with, I-"
"I will kill him," she growled, curling her hand into a fist.
"What? No!" Robin shouted.
She didn't listen to him, as usual, and she flew off. Robin gaped after her.
"Don't worry," Arsenal said. "I'll watch her."
"She can't kill him. I need his tech," Robin explained gruffly. "I know that's how you do things, apparently. But it doesn't work all the time."
Arsenal crossed his arms over his chest. "I won't let her," he said in a clipped tone. "I'll find her, you'd better track down Warp."
Robin sighed. "Fine. I just have to make a call."
Arsenal looked at him curiously, but Robin took out his Titans communicator and switched the frequency Cyborg gave him. Arsenal took a fold-up bow out of his hoodie pocket and shot an arrow across to another building, using it as a grappling hook and repelling down the side of the building.
Robin sighed and sat down cross-legged on the rooftop. "Raven?" he muttered into the communicator.
It took a minute, but there was an answer. "Cy?" Beast Boy's voice, somewhat gruffer but unmistakable.
"No. Not Cyborg."
"Are you watching home movies? Cuz that really sounds like-"
"It's Robin." He winced as he heard the microphone crackle and plastic shatter.
"Azar!" he heard. The plastic cracked back into place and the microphone stopped sending so much stack through. "Robin? Is it really you?"
"I need help," he said, ignoring Raven's frantic question.
There was a long pause. "We're in Azarath."
"So? You can't help a guy out?"
"Raven, we should go. It won't be for very long," he heard beast Boy say.
"What do you need help with?" Raven demanded.
"I… I need to get back. Fix this."
"I can't," she answered sternly.
He frowned. "Why not?"
"I know that things seem bad. But Robin, something happened. Something I can't risk not happening."
"Oh, come on, Rae! We'd beat Trigon even easier if Robin was there!" Beast Boy shouted, exasperated.
"Quiet!" Raven hissed. "You don't know that. Anything could happen. We can't risk it."
There was silence. "I… Robin, I'm sorry," Beast Boy mumbled.
"We both are," Raven said softly. "And we're glad you're okay. But, Robin, things have to stay the way they are. It's too delicate to mess with."
"What about Cyborg? He can't leave the Tower!" Robin reminded her.
"But he's alive," Raven answered stubbornly.
"Starfire? She can't remember anything that's not in front of her face."
"Robin, stop," Raven ordered. "It's better than the alternative."
"Look," Robin hissed into the communicator. "I don't know what cataclysmic event happened or didn't happen that you're so anxious to preserve. But we have to fix it. All of it. You know that this isn't how it's supposed to be."
There was silence. "Hello?" Robin called. No answer. He stood angrily and chucked his communicator over the side of the building, where it landed in a snowdrift. He panted angrily, his breath fogging in front of his eyes. As the anger ebbed away a desperate feeling filled his chest like a weight. He pressed his hand to his eyes over his mask, unfamiliar pressure stinging at them. What if he couldn't get back? Shaking his head to clear his thoughts and swallowing until the pressure behind his eyes faded, he jumped off the rooftop and stuck his hand into the snowdrift to retrieve his communicator, snow stinging at his wrist as it slipped between his glove and his skin.
He was shaking out his wrist when two beams hit the ground right in front of his feet. Caught off guard, he was blown back several feet and he only just caught himself in a handspring. He landed heavily, the snow on the ground messing with his acrobatics- he'd been away from Gotham for too long.
"What's the matter, boy?" Warp demanded from the balcony of a building. "Have I come at a bad time?"
Not in the mood for banter, Robin grabbed his trusty bo-staff and performed a few flips through Warp's fire, pushing off sides of buildings until he was level with the villain. Warp seemed unconcerned, putting up a blue shield that glowed brightly when Robin punched or kicked it. It was unfair- Warp's blasts passed through shield easily. Robin felt his breath hitch as he was encapsulated in solid ice. Actually, it wasn't really ice. He was frozen, and he seemed to be surrounded by thick material, but it wasn't cold, and when he hit the ground, it shattered around him. If he was really in ice, that would have been a problem, as parts of his body could have shattered with it. But as it was, he was sprawled on the ground, catching his breath as he had gone a few seconds without air.
He was disheartened and found himself wishing for Beast Boy's light humor to make him feel better. He heard Warp's footsteps crunching toward and his hand lingered over his belt. He looked up into the villain's face, surprised to find wrinkles and other signs of ageing.
"You… you aged," Robin stammered, confused.
"That's what happens when someone steals my vortex regulator," Warp snapped. He held out his hand expectantly. "The regulator, if you please. I really must get back to my future."
"If you want the regulator, you'll take me back. I need to fix this." He grabbed the regulator from his belt and gestured with his other hand, indicating this whole bleak world.
Warp gave him a genuinely confused look. "Fix it? Foolish boy. There's nothing wrong with the past. One cannot damage history, because history cannot be changed." He brandished the Clock of Eternity, his expression annoyed. "I went back in time to steal this because history says it disappeared. And history says it disappeared because I went back to steal it. Past, present, future. It's all written in stone, my boy. And nothing you do can ever change it."
Robin's whole body went numb, his stomach roiling. Warp chuckled and plucked the regulator out of Robin's loose grip. As the thief turned to walk away, there was an incensed yell and he was whisked away in a blur of purple and red. Warp hit the wall of an alley nearby, landing heavily in the snow on his hands and knees. Red shapes whizzed past Robin into the alleyway, landing and igniting in a burst of flames. The flames swirled around and licked into the cold air, blocking Warp from Robin's view. Warp's blue shield expanded, pushing the flames away.
Starfire fell from the air, intending to smash him on the back with two fists, but as she was falling Warp calmly said, "Another time, perhaps," and sank into the ground with the regulator in his grasp. Starfire's fists hit the snowy ground with a loud crunch, and snow melted around her flaming hands.
Robin turned to see who had thrown the exploding devices. "Really, Kori?" a familiar voiced asked. "This is what you were making such a big deal about? A traffic light kid with hair spiky enough to poke someone's eye out?"
Ignoring the insult, Robin squinted at the silhouette. "No," he murmured, his eyes wide and his heart stopping. "You're can't be-"
"Red X," the villain confirmed, stepping into the light of a streetlight directly overhead, his tattered cape brushing his ankles. "I guess I should thank you for the suit. Although you can't take all the credit; I've made some important adjustments." Red X pushed the material of his cape away, revealing a gun holster at either hip, although they were empty currently.
Robin narrowed his eyes at Red X. "You stole the suit?" he demanded.
"It's not like you were using it," the thief reasoned.
"I was-!" Robin started, but he stopped. Dead? Lost in time? "When do you steal it?" he demanded instead of continuing that statement.
"Ah ah. If I tell you that, I'd have to kill you." Red X pointed his fingers into a gun shape and mimed shooting him. "Just cuz I don't have my gun on me now doesn't mean you get a free pass."
"Enough of your prattle," Starfire scolded from behind him. "Roy?" she called. "You have succeeded in planting the tracking device?"
Arsenal jumped down, rolling as he hit the snow near the back wall of the alley. "You got it, princess." He reached into a pouch on the strap of his quiver and pulled out a touchscreen, which was blinking softly.
Red X narrowed his eyes at Robin. "Kid, we're gonna get you back."
"Don't call me that," Robin snapped.
"You're a real barrel of laughs, Chuckles," Red X remarked.
Arsenal ambled over to them, glancing between Red X and Robin. "Guys?" he demanded, waving the touchscreen in front of their glaring eyes. "Hello?"
Starfire sighed. "This is male competition, yes? Neither wishes to give up the glaring first?" She stepped between them, pushing them each back a little with her hand on their chests. "We must make with the haste if we are to catch the Warp before he journeys back to his own time," she told them.
"Yeah, yeah. Let's go." Red X narrowed his eyes at Robin aggressively before stepping back. He and Arsenal mounted sleek, streamlined motorcycles, and Robin couldn't help but look at them longingly.
"Wanna hop on?" Arsenal asked kindly.
Robin shook his head quickly, not wanting to put himself in the rather vulnerable position of riding on the back of Arsenal's bike while Red X rode behind them.
"Very well, Robin, I shall carry you," Starfire offered as she hovered above him. He glanced up at her unsurely, but Arsenal and Red X took off, Arsenal slightly ahead and driving with one hand as the other gripped the touchscreen. He took Starfire's wrist and she reciprocated, grabbing his in a trapeze hold. The familiarity of the grip made Robin swallow, but he cleared his head of all thoughts except stopping Warp.
The four of them tore through the streets of Jump, Starfire taking high into the sky to follow Arsenal and Red X easier, the two of them weaving through traffic and going the wrong way on streets. The civilians didn't seem very fazed by this. The two on the motorcycles pulled up to the Metro Arts Technologies building. Starfire landed, hovering low enough for Robin to comfortably drop from her hold before standing next to the older men.
It was a replay of before- the four of them entered on the high railing, Warp stood down below, two guards frozen before them. Robin hoped those were different guards than the ones that had been frozen when all this started.
"Tick, tock, tick, tock," Warp hummed to himself. "Just a few seconds more and I shall finally-"
He shouted as an X-shaped shuriken hit the back of his hand, and he dropped the tool he was using to weld the regulator back onto his suit.
"The future will have to wait," Red X said as he caught the shuriken back in his hand.
"You just ran out of time," Robin finished, extending his bo-staff with a click.
Warp let out an angry shout and released beams from the panels on his shoulders. The group scattered. Robin flipped off the railing, throwing a few explosive discs. Starfire rose in front of him and unleashed a volley of starbolts. She landed in a crouch next to Robin and they watched as his blue shield flickered and faded.
He continued to fire at them until an explosion pushed him forward. Arsenal stood behind him, nocking another explosive arrow. Warp turned toward Arsenal, who managed to block one of the twin beams with his bow but was knocked back by the other. Red X jumped over Arsenal as he rolled toward him on the ground, throwing three shuriken. Two of them were sliced in half by Warp's beam- still vastly superior to even their technology- but one lodged directly in one of the panels. While Warp was turned toward Red X, Starfire hit him from the back, leaning over him, hands and eyes aglow. Robin's heart jumped- she was going to kill him. While Warp was cowering under her, she teetered slightly. "Wha… Where am I?" she asked weakly, putting a hand to her temple.
Robin raised an eyebrow at that, and Warp shot her point-blank, knocking her back and into Robin. He tumbled under her weight, and as she scrambled off him after a heavy impact, she stared at him with wide eyes. "Who-?"
He knocked her flat on her back as another beam shot at them. She didn't seem to appreciate that, but she was too busy looking at him to voice her protest. Arsenal shot an arrow at Warp's feet and it exploded as it hit the ground. Arsenal took the opportunity to appear at Starfire's side.
"What's wrong with her?" Robin demanded.
"I told you- something's wrong with her memory," Arsenal muttered as he turned Starfire toward him, his hands on her shoulders.
"But it just comes and goes like that?" Robin asked, half concerned, half irritated.
Red X grunted and slid toward them on his back with his arms crossed in front of him, presumably just having been either shot or kicked back. "Annoying, isn't it?" he demanded. Robin scowled at him.
Warp's gaze flicked to the roof above them and Robin just had time to pull his cape over himself and Starfire, seeing Red X do the same for him and Roy as a beam of red light made the ceiling collapse over them. Robin could just barely hear the Warp pick up the soldering iron to weld the plate on his chest back into place, and then a familiar whirring shot over them, followed by Warp's grunt.
Starfire, either snapping out of her spell or being aware enough of her surroundings to take action, shoved a large piece of rubble off them and they scrambled out of the debris.
"Booyah!" Cyborg said proudly. Robin glanced back to see Warp sprawled out on the ground, although he was recovering.
"Cy!" Robin shouted, literally never happier to see anyone in his life.
"Who said y'all could start without me?" was all Cyborg had as an answer. Robin rushed over to his side.
"So sorry," Warp said sarcastically, now on his feet. "Perhaps I should finish you first."
There was a fierce growl and Robin smiled as a green lion appeared, charging at Warp. He raked his claws over Warp's chest, making the vortex regulator come alive with sparks, apparently damaging it. Warp threw his arms up, bent at the elbows to to put the most amount of space between his hands and the sparks while also trying to see how badly damaged his suit was.
Warp was engulfed by black energy as he reared his arm back to reveal another projectile weapon. He was thrown back against the wall, and Robin scanned the room for Raven's signature raven. It appeared, much bigger than he'd ever seen it before. When she appeared, he noticed that she was decked out in white robes. "Keep away from my friends," she warned as she levitated over to the other three ex-Titans.
Warp narrowed his eyes at them. The device on his chest had stopped sparking, and apparently the few seconds of welding he got in before Beast Boy attacked him were essential, because he tapped the vortex regulator- which was perfectly intact in spite of the claw marks on it- and he opened up a white portal, making adjustments as black light engulfed it.
"I'm over this," Red X muttered.
The futuristic thief threw a weapon for good measure, but Red X threw a weapon of his own. One that Robin had not included on the suit. It seemed to be honed on the edges, like a metal cutter, and it was tipped with lasers between the tips of the X. It sliced through Warp's disc and cracked the vortex regulator on his chest. An anguished cry left the thief's lips as the weapon lodged into the ground. Sparks danced around Warp's suit and Robin watched with wide as he started to shrink. The regular stopped sparking and the suit lay on the ground, unmoving.
Starfire leaned forward, squinting at it. "He is… dead?"
Beast Boy approached it warily and opened the hatch on the chest, revealing a baby which started crying immediately. "Okay," he said, eyes wide, "I am not changing any diapers."
The black portal started sinking. "We gotta get you home, come on," Cyborg said to Robin. The tone of his voice made it very clear that Cyborg took over as leader in Robin's stead, and he was suddenly glad for all the times Cyborg second-guessed him. He had good traits for a leader. Cyborg plucked the vortex regulator off Warp's suit and attached it to his sonic cannon, rewiring his system around it and shooting a white beam at the black hole. He caught it before it closed and it opened obediently under the beam from his cannon. "I'm redirecting the wormhole," he shouted, concentrating. "Robin, go!"
He stepped up to the wormhole, hesitating and turning around. "I'll fix this. I will." His team stared back at him, eyes wide. He flicked his gaze over to Red X, Starfire, and Arsenal. "Things'll change. It'll be better."
"There's no time for this," Cyborg shouted, sounding strained.
Robin nodded and took a step forward, clutching the Clock of Eternity in two hands.
"Wait!" Starfire shouted, and everyone turned to her, except for Cyborg who settled for looking out the corner of his eye. "I remember! You cannot leave again! You are the one I-"
"Kori, don't," Arsenal interrupted. She gaped up at him, her look pleading. "Go, Robin."
He backed up but didn't take his eyes off her.
"She'll be fine," Arsenal promised.
He found that he couldn't move, and he felt something cold push his shoulder back. Raven's palm was out to him, a strip of dark energy pushing him back. He was enveloped by the darkness of the time stream, and he clutched the Clock of Eternity tightly, afraid of what might happen if he let it go.
"Ta-ta, Titans. I've enjoyed our time together, but I have a very bright future ahead of me." That was Warp's voice, echoing around him.
There was a pause, then he heard Starfire's frightened shout. "Robin!"
"Um," he heard Beast Boy stammer. "Where did he-"
A portal opened in front of him and he went through it, tumbling on the ground and landing in a crouch with the clock clutched to his chest.
"Dude!" Beast Boy shouted, shocked.
"Woah," Cyborg added.
"Robin," Starfire said, sounding relieved. She crouched in front of him. And all he could do was smile at her. Unfortunately, that seemed to alarm her. "Are you damaged?"
"Everything's fine," he murmured, looking into her green eyes, which had a clarity that was missing in her older self. "Everything's gonna stay fine."
She furrowed her eyebrows at him. "Robin?"
"Starfire?" he asked, ignoring her. "You don't owe me anymore, okay?"
Robin slid his door closed before flopping onto his bed on his stomach. He was so tired. He did get about half an extra day in with no time to compensate for him. It was like jetlag. The others wanted to know what it was like, but he didn't tell them. It would all change, anyway. There was no point in bringing up Cyborg's disrepair, or Starfire's forgetfulness, and he certainly couldn't bring himself to mention that Beast Boy and Raven were apparently together. Or something.
He squinted at the reinforced door next to his closet, behind which the Red X suit was locked up, preserved on a mannequin. Maybe he should give it to Bruce. He really didn't want to part with it, though. He was kind of attached to it. Yes, it was a mistake, and the repercussions were bad, but he was kind of proud of it. The weapons in it were all of his own design, and even though the suit was pretty simple, it was all his. Maybe that said something about his personality, or the line between heroes and villains, but he was too tired to think about that now. He'd already checked on it a dozen times. He sighed as he flipped his position so that he was resting his head on his pillows and lying on his back.
Deciding he'd just take a quick nap, he unclasped his cape from his uniform, removed his gloves, and took off his belt. Something rolled out of it onto his mattress, and as he squinted at it as he put the belt on the floor.
It was a bracelet, a little worn and discolored, but so familiar to him. The one he'd given Starfire at that stupid dinner. He held it between his fingers and groaned. He really didn't need something of hers with him now. He stalked over to his dresser, forfeiting his comfortable position on the bed for his own sanity, and yanked open a drawer before tossing the bracelet in it. He snapped it shut and settled back on his bed. He rolled on his side so he was facing his dresser and drifted to a tired sleep, peppered with images from his odd adventure that didn't quite morph into dreams.
I had fun writing this. This might be my favorite chapter so far. Actually, I really liked chapter 2, but this kind of ran free. I was surprised that I did an homage to Red Hood and the Outlaws. I didn't mean to put that in here. The outfit that I put Kori in, by the way, is her outfit in Red Hood and the Outlaws, at least before it got touched up. I hate that outfit, but not as much as I hate her 'memory loss', which I played with here. I don't want to turn this into a rant, but I will mention that Kori gets better as Red Hood and the Outlaws goes on. I'm not bashing the comic- it's my favorite of the New 52. I just choose to ignore rebooted Kori in favor of preboot Kory. I kind of pick and choose what I like from the New 52 and mash it together with prebooted DCU, resulting in an odd, mangled headcanon. Sorry not sorry?
"This 'prom' is some manner of duel, yes?" Starfire asked, floating closer to the girl on the screen. She didn't seem dressed for battle, and she didn't look very menacing. "Robin accepts."
"Starfire!" Robin spluttered. He sighed. "It's not a duel. It's a date."
She tilted her head at him. "A date?"
"Yeah," Robin admitted.
She tapped her chin with her finger. "That is interesting. You are the second person today to use that word. Date has many meanings, including the numbered year, day, and month on the Earthly calendar and a fruit. I am unsure as to what you would do with the fruit of a date palm. Is that all the Kitten desires? She is lacking in the essential Vitamin of C? She is in danger of contracting scurvy?" she asked, trying to put the pieces together.