Raven watched them work with mild interest. It was somewhat entertaining to see Cyborg wrestling with the tent. This was the guy who built a spaceship for Azar's sake, you'd think he'd be able to handle some nylon and PVC.
She herself was assigned the mundane task of gathering water from the stream a few minutes away, though for what she didn't know. They had a cooler full of water bottles and soda cans, though when she pointed that out to Robin he snapped at her. She didn't argue further out of pity as she watched him construct his fire. At least now Beast Boy had come over to offer information from a webpage he had pulled up on his communicator. Yeah, we're really roughing it, she sighed to herself.
She looked to the sky, which was currently streaked with pinks and oranges from the setting sun. It was a good thing the boys were just about done, they had only a few minutes worth of daylight left.
"Alright, the tent is up! Grab your stuff and come on in!" Cyborg announced, standing next to the heaping mass of fabric proudly. Raven rolled her eyes, grabbed her sleeping bag and duffel, and marched inside the tent.
There was a central area with two smaller sleeping areas to either side. Raven saw two air mattresses in the one on the left and threw her stuff down on one of them, presuming Starfire would take the other. She had packed a spare uniform, several books, some basic hygiene items, and a bottle of allergy medication.
She assumed it was a result of growing up in another dimension, but she had terrible allergies to plants and animals. Fortunately, she lived in a city, spent little time outside, and the pet larva was hypoallergenic by nature. During times like these, when she knew she would be exposed to her triggers for extended periods, she always took the precaution of medicating herself against it.
As Starfire entered and began to unpack, cheerily chatting away, Raven pulled a book from her bag and settled down on the mattress, ready to continue the mystery novel from where she left off. The mystery aspect of the story was entertaining, though she couldn't say she liked the romance. Not that she didn't enjoy romance novels—a good portion of her bookcase was filled with them—but this particular storyline had her rolling her eyes. Somehow two people who were complete opposites went from arguing to in love almost overnight.
"Raven, are you coming?" The girl looked up at the sound of her name to find Starfire at the zippered entrance to the tent, beckoning her with bright eyes.
"To what?" she drawled, sure she missed something important hidden in Starfire's babble.
"We are going to partake in the tradition of sitting around flaming tree parts and using the heat to prepare our meal," she explained with a smile.
Raven sighed. "As fun as that sounds..."
"Please, you must join us!" Starfire insisted with a pout. "Afterwards we will share tales of ghosts in hopes of frightening one another!" Raven furrowed her brow, wondering how Starfire thought that was going to entice her.
In the end, it didn't matter. As usual, she relented and joined her friends.
Robin leaned back in his sturdy folding chair, munching contently on his second s'more. Those, of course, came after the parade of hot dogs that Cyborg had roasted to grilled perfection over the fire. He watched Starfire giggle from across the fire as she received a lesson in marshmallow roasting from Beast Boy.
"Oh come on BB, you're making this too complicated!" Cyborg interjected, sliding a marshmallow on his stick in preparation for a demonstration. "All you gotta do is stick it in the fire, let it burn for a few seconds, and bam—it's ready." He blew on his flaming marshmallow and held the charred ball out proudly. Robin grimaced.
"Uh, I think Beast Boy's method is a little... better," he said slowly, watching with equal parts disgust and fascination as Cyborg popped the blackened treat into his mouth. Cyborg merely shrugged.
Robin turned to the girl beside him, who unsurprisingly sat with her nose in a book.
"Raven, you don't want a s'more?" he asked politely, though he could anticipate the answer.
"Pass," she drawled, closing her book as she turned her attention to the boy's antics. At least she doesn't look miserable, Robin thought optimistically.
Robin's eyes turned to the woods around them, where he could see the flickering light of the campfire dance among the trees. The sun was almost set; all that was left was a hemisphere of red light on the horizon.
"Know what it's time for?" Beast Boy asked loudly, causing Robin to turn back to the group.
"Bed?" Raven quipped flatly.
"Ghost stories!" he announced. Robin smiled. He loved a good ghost story, and especially loved telling them. He had a few good ones up his sleeve that he was eager to share.
The each sat down in their folding chairs as Beast Boy stood near the fire, letting the illumination add drama to his act.
"Okay, I'm going first. Once, on a dark and stormy night, a guy and his girlfriend were driving on an empty road through the woods in the pouring rain. It was a downpour, and when the dude tried to slow down, the car skidded and they spun out of control."
"Seriously? Guy can't drive in the rain?" Cyborg interjected, earning a glare from Beast Boy. "Sorry," he said sheepishly as Beast Boy cleared his throat to continue.
"They spun off the road and into a ditch, slamming to a stop as they ran straight into a tree. They were startled and afraid, but they were both okay. The guy—"
"Please, might we perhaps give these two characters names? It is most confusing to continue to refer to them as 'the guy' and 'the girl.'" Beast Boy rolled his eyes, but conceded.
"Fine. The guy's name is... Steve, and the girl's name is, um..."
"East!" Starfire suggested enthusiastically. Robin couldn't help but join the others in giving her a confused look.
"Uh, Star, that's not really a name," Robin explained slowly, trying not to embarrass her.
She drew her brows together as she frowned. "But I was watching the program 'Entertainment Tonight,' and they described a child born to Kim Kardashian who was given the name 'North.' Are directions not acceptable names for human children?"
Cyborg and Beast Boy burst out laughing. Robin tried to help her understand over the noise of their chuckling. "Um, normally no."
"How about we just call the girl Suzzie," Cyborg suggested.
Beast Boy rolled his eyes. "Anyway, Steve got out to check the car and found that it was totaled. They were stranded with no one in sight."
"Couldn't they use their cell phones to call for help," Raven said flatly, looking up from her book.
"There wasn't any service!" Beast Boy shouted, exasperated from the interruptions. "Can I please just finish the story?"
The Titans nodded. "Go ahead Beast Boy," Robin added as encouragement.
"Okay, so now they're stranded in their car when Steve says he's going to have to go look for help. 'Turn off the headlights and lock the doors,' he told her nervously. Suzzie didn't want him to go, but they both knew they had no choice.
"Steve was gone for a few minutes before she heard it. A shriek, a thump, and a strange gurgling noise. She turned frantically, looking to see what had happened, but she couldn't see anything in the darkness. Frightened, she shrank down into her seat.
"She sat in silence for a while, and then she noticed another sound. Bump. Bump. Bump. It was a soft sound, like something being blown by the wind.
"Suddenly, the car was illuminated by a bright light. An official sounding voice told her to get out of the car. She thought that Steve must have found a police officer. Suzzie unlocked the door and tumbled out of the car. As her eyes adjusted to the bright light, she saw it. Hanging by his feet from the tree they had crashed into was Steve's dead body. His bloody throat had been cut so deeply that he was nearly decapitated, his blood dripping onto the hood of the car. The wind swung his corpse back and forth so that it thumped against the tree. Bump. Bump. Bump.
"Suzzie screamed and ran toward the voice and the light. As she drew close, she realized the man behind the car was no police officer. Standing there was the figure of a man with a smile on his face and a large, solid axe in his hands. She backed away from the man until she bumped into the car. 'You've been very naughty. Now you must be punished.' The last thing she saw was the glint of the axe blade in the eerie glow of the flashlight."
Robin gulped. There was something about telling ghost stories in the dark woods that made them that much more frightening. He snuck a glance at his other teammates, who mostly looked terrified. All but Raven, whose face remained impassive. He noticed though that her book was closed on her lap, her eyes focused on Beast Boy as he finished his tale.
"Dude," Cyborg breathed.
"That was most frightening!" Starfire exclaimed, eyes wide. "You have done a wonderful job friend!" Her face softened as they all recovered from the tale.
Beast Boy grinned. "Thank you, thank you. Ten bucks to whoever can top that." He strode over to his chair and plopped down, confident in his victory.
Robin racked his brain but couldn't come up with a story he thought would best Beast Boy's. Both Starfire and Cyborg also remained silent, until Cyborg's face lit up.
"You know who I bet could tell a mean ghost story?" He grinned. "Raven." Robin's face turned to the girl, who merely shrugged.
"Pff, yeah right," Beast Boy sneered. "Raven may be the queen of creepy, but what I just told was true art." Robin rolled his eyes at his friend's cockiness, then turned to Raven.
"Come on Raven, I bet you could beat him," he said, egging her on. Each of the Titans had their eyes on her, urging her to try. Silently, she stood from her seat to a round of cheers from all but Beast Boy. She held out her hand, asking for silence, and they gave it to her.
"The forest around you is very, very old," she began in her low voice, injecting a twinge of suspense. "It has seen many things, knows many secrets. If you listen closely, you can hear them." She paused for a moment, letting the crickets and hooting of owls make an eerie background noise.
"A long time ago, when native people called these woods their home, a beast roamed the forest that was feared by all. No one knew what the creature looked like, because no one who saw it ever lived to tell. Every night, the people would go back to their homes and lock themselves in as best they could, knowing that the thing only awoke at night.
"One night, a family closed their doors, huddling together as they did every night and praying that the beast stayed away. The mother screamed, noticing with horror that her youngest son had somehow slipped out. The mother ran outside despite her family's cries, calling the son's name and looking for her beloved child. Other people heard her, but no one, not even her own family, dared to leave the safety of their home.
"Suddenly, she heard a howl, a sound of pure anger and ferocity. Her eyes widened and she backed away slowly from the direction it came from. Suddenly, there was a scraping sound to her right. She turned, but there was nothing there. Her bodies shook with fear, but she didn't dare move for she didn't want the creature to see her.
"The hair on the back of her neck stood straight as she suddenly felt heavy, hot breath on her back. She whirled around desperately, but again there was nothing. A thump came from in front of her, a soft but sickening sound. Slowly, she turned to see what had made the noise. It was her son's severed, bloody head, rolling across the ground in front of her.
"She shrieked, running back in the direction of her house. She pounded on the door, but no one would let her in. Her stomach dropped when she heard a growl behind her. She turned around one final time, looking the monster in the eyes before its jaw clamped around her neck."
Raven took a breath, closing her eyes and letting the story sink in. In a softer, quieter voice, she continued.
"Even today there are rumors that the beast still lives in these woods. Campers go missing, campsites destroyed and not a trace of where they went. People say they hear howls late at night, too vicious to be a wolf. Those that are wise never enter the woods, for fear that they'll face the same fate the mother did so many years ago." She smirked. "Robin says we're staying for a week. I guess we'll just have to see if the stories are true."
Robin sat unmoving in his chair, mouth half open. His eyes darted nervously around the woods and though he tried to look unaffected, he failed miserably. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Beast Boy stand, and watched him approach Raven. He dug around in his pocket, pulled out a ten dollar bill and handed it to Raven, then returned stiffly to his seat.
"Raven, did you just come up with that?" Cyborg asked.
She shook her head no, then reached down to retrieve her book. Wedged in as a makeshift bookmark was one of the brochures she had pulled from the rest stop. She held it out and Robin strained to read the front.
Northern Californian Folklore.
"I do not understand. Are you meaning to say that this story was... true?" Starfire asked with a gulp.
"Some believe in the legend, some do not, but there are many unexplained disappearances in the area," Raven said with a smirk.
The Titans sat in silence as Raven folded her chair and leaned it against a tree. Book in hand, she turned to face them. "I'm going to bed. Have a nice night."
Robin looked around at his team's faces, all a little apprehensive. Great, he thought to himself, so much for a good night's sleep.
Okay, a little later than anticipated. Sorry about that. And I totally stole the plot for the first story off the internet, so I suppose I should add a disclaimer that I don't own it. Hope you enjoyed it!