Jason closed his eyes against the push of panic and anger that threatened to take control of himself. Next to him he felt Starfire's body alight with 'Righteous Fury' and her starbolts burned hot against his skin. Of all the places Faux-X could have attacked Jason again, he had to choose the hospital where Raven and over a thousand other innocent people were simply trying to survive. Jason clenched his hands tightly against his sides and stared into the mask he used to wear, his stomach wrapped in knots. What in the world we he going to do?
"Not here, dude. Anywhere but here." Jason motioned to the crowd of people that had simply stopped and stared at them, eyes wide as they muttered things about the pure evilness of Red X. After all, what kind of monster would start a fight between apocalyptic-grade superheroes at a hospital?
He tried to tune out the slurs and jabs against his own persona, holding onto some shred of hope that maybe, just maybe, he could save his image. But it was too late. Jason knew the truth - "Red X" was destroyed forever, and there was no way he was ever going to salvage his alter ego, it would be impossible after a stunt like this. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to mourn the death of his former life. No, he had a far more pressing issue - like saving all these people.
"Not here?" Faux-X leaned back on his heels and laughed, the modified noise sounding infinitely creepy as it echoed in the silence of the hallway. He motioned to the cavernous halls and spectators around them. "I think this is a perfect place, lots of light, space… collateral damage to prove a point with the little Titans…" He gave an overly dramatic sigh as his hand fell back to his side. "But if you're going to be such an ass about it, I suppose I can change our party location. But to where? I mean, we really should settle this once and for all, and stop all of this stupid fighting."
"I agree." Jason's lips pressed into a thin line and he placed a hand on Starfire's arm, startling her enough that she dropped her power. She turned and looked at him, confused, but he didn't return her stare. Instead, he continued to look straight into Red X's mask and glared. "I absolutely agree that we should end this, but a hospital filled with innocent victims is not the place to do this. I suggest the industrial park."
Faux-X snorted. "Please, how cliche are you?" His head tilted as if he was sizing Jason up, and then he shrugged. "Fine. I'll give you that at least. You have one hour to meet me at the industrial park on the east side of town. One hour exactly, little boy. And, if you don't meet me on time, I will come back here…" He paused for dramatic effect. "... and I will level this entire building, with your invalid girlfriend inside."
Starfire's shocked gasp was coupled with the bright burn of her starbolts again, and she raised her hands above her head. Jason touched her arm again and shook his head, motioning to the crowd still gathered around them. In the background the loudspeakers were calling out a "code red" and giving instructions for all guests and non-essential personnel to vacate the building.
The whole situation felt surreal, like a bad dream he just couldn't wake up from. He kept falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, trying to find his way out - but there was no way out. No, this twisted, demented wonderland was real, and that was a fact that he was going to have to face. He just wanted all of this to be over, but even more than that… he wanted to be done with Red X. All of him. This bastard in front of him had destroyed the entirety of his personality, and the only thing he was left with was Jason Todd. One lonely, boring, typical guy who happened to once have some pretty cool adventures in a stolen suit.
Maybe that wasn't such a bad person to be.
"No, Star. There are too many people here for a fight. Just stay calm."
Starfire didn't look like she could stay calm at anything right now, but she steeled her expression and offered an affirmative nod.
Jason turned and looked at Faux-X, his hands shaking with his own anger as he realized that this was the end of it all. Of this terrible battle between him and this stranger and the other Titans. This was it - all of this was over, and Jason was fine with that. Even though it meant the end of his life as a thief, it meant that Raven and all of these innocent people were safe from psychos like him. He nodded. "Fine, Red X. If that's the game you want to play, then I will play it for you. But you have to stay out of the hospital and away from innocent victims."
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." He waved his hand dismissively before reaching down to his belt. "I'm not making any promises, Sunshine. But you also have to uphold your part of the bargain… One hour, don't forget it." With that, he teleported out of the building, leaving Jason staring at a hundred sets of shocked eyes, watching him.
Everything felt still for a moment, and the only sound that could be heard was the constant call of "code red" over the system. Jason looked around at the crowd, waiting for the other metaphoric shoe to fall. A minute passed and then the noise started, people shouting obscenities at him, running for the exit, throwing things at his and Starfire's heads. He really didn't blame the crowd all that much, he would be pretty pissed too if he was in their position - having a stranger practically invite danger into their lives. Brushing off their screams and anger, he looked over at Starfire standing next to him.
She glared into his face and clasped her hands in front of herself, her whole body shimmering with barely-contained power. Jason winced, of course was was upset at him, because that was how the rest of his day was going. Pretending not to see the raw power crackling like green lightning at her fingertips, he spun on his heel and began walking to the stairwell. If he was going to go and fight a maniac who wore Red X's clothing, he was at least going to say goodbye to Raven first.
"Jason. You cannot go!" Starfire flew next to him, following his racing feet up the stairs and onto Raven's floor. "This is the worst possible decision you could make given the current battle situation. If you engage him in combat, it is likely that he will not hesitate to kill you-"
"That was kind of a given, Star. Considering how easily he said he would level the hospital." He tried to keep his anger in check and not take his anger out on her, after all, it wasn't exactly Starfire's fault that his entire persona was now reduced to a snobby little kid trying to get his way. He felt a snarl tug at his lips, but managed to put it back under control before Starfire sat it. "I get that you're worried about me, Starfire, and I appreciate it. But this is between me and that douchebag that calls himself Red X. So, please, just do your goody-two-shoes job, save this hospital, and let me take care fucktard over there."
A starbolt whizzed by his head, and Jason ducked out of the way just in time to avoid having his hair singed off. He whipped around and stared into her glowing eyes, feeling his heart start to speed up and his eyes widen. Oops. Maybe he should have held his tongue. If he knew that pissing off a Tameranean was going to be this dangerous…
"I will not allow you to throw yourself into danger, Jason!" She snapped at him, her finger stabbing into his sternum as she flew closer to him. "I appreciate your concern with the safety of those residing in the hospital, and I understand the trust you are putting in us for taking care of Raven, but please do not dismiss our friendship."
Jason blinked. Since when were they friends? Last time he checked Robin was trying to throw his ass in jail and Cyborg practically wanted to castrate him for having an intimate relationship with Raven. He bit back a curse and raised an eyebrow, looking into her bright, green eyes. "I… I didn't realize we had a friendship, Star. I'm… touched." Try as he might, Jason was never going to be able to check the sass around the Titans.
Starfire seemed to realize her error, and she pulled her hand back, trying to catch the words on her tongue before the flew out of her control. "Perhaps friendship is not the best word I could have chosen, but…" She drifted off, her eyes looking her her side as she pondered exactly what she was going to say to him. "But, Raven trusts you. Raven is my friend, my best friend, and I care for her most deeply. If she trusts you - if she loves you - then I will trust you too. Because I trust Raven."
His eyes widened and he felt something warm and strange bubble up into his chest. A moment of silence passed between them, and Jason found himself fumbling for words like an idiot. "I… I didn't know…"
Starfire blinked and returned her stare to his face. A flash of danger sparked in her eyes and she closed the space between them again, threatening him with her proximity. Energy continued to crackle around her, snapping with the strength of her emotions. "It would also do you good to remember that this trust goes both ways, Jason. I will trust you because Raven does, but you should also trust me for that same reason."
Ah, that was where she was going with that.
He nodded slowly, picking up his stare to look her in the eyes with as much confidence as he could muster in that exact moment. "I trust you, Starfire."
She nodded in the way only a warrior could, reminding Jason that Starfire was a superhero and that she was someone bound and determined to save those that she loved. "Good, then we are in agreement." She flew ahead of him and glanced down over her shoulder. "We should alert the others, discuss a plan, and then we will make appropriate choices on how to handle this situation. That is what a team does, and although you do not like to consider the idea, you are indeed a part of this team." She paused and continued up the stairs before adding, "If only for Raven's sake."
Jason smiled. She knew him too well. "Well, Star. Don't give up just yet, after this debacle is over, I might just meander over to the side of good."
Starfire chuckled, and she threw open the door to the ICU unit, carefully avoiding running nurses and visitors as they attempted to evacuate the building as quickly as possible. "I would find that a very shocking surprise indeed, Jason. I will always believe that even in your more honest times, you will still walk within the 'gray area' as the human saying goes."
He smirked. She really did know him well.
"Starfire!" Cyborg ran up to her, waving his hands as he approached them both. "Star, I'm glad I found you. We've got to get Raven out, and she's starting to wake up, and it's… it's.. it's a fucking mess." He looked completely panicked and frightened, as if his world was collapsing in around him. Jason had never seen him like this ever, and the sight of it sent chills into his own bones. Wait, had he said that Raven was waking up?
"What the hell happened while you two were down there?"
"Red-X showed up, and threatened to level the entire hospital unless I fought him like a couple of kids in a schoolyard." Jason rolled his eyes and walked past him, his pace quick as he rushed through the hallways.
Cyborg and Starfire followed him, chattering on about the most effective way to evacuate the hospital while Starfire relayed the events that happened downstairs, and even Cyborg seemed disgusted with what had happened. He growled under his breath and shook his head. "I can't believe that guy. I mean, you might have been kind of a douche, dude, but at least you never threatened to level a hospital because you didn't get your way. What is this guy, a child?"
"I'm very close to believing that hypothesis." Jason rounded the corner and tumbled face-first into Robin's body as he stood in the doorway of Raven's room. Growling, she shoved at his shoulders and glared. "Come on, Princess Trafficlight. Cy said Raven is waking up."
"She is." He glared up at him, a scowl sewn across his lips. "And she's practically destroying the room trying to reach out for you. Look."
He pointed through the glass, and Jason could see various medical equipment, encased in her black magic, and spinning around the room as if it were a bad scene from The Exorcist. Her back was arched and she was yanking at the tubing on her body, screaming out a strange mixture of words both archaic and modern. Jason just stood there, trying to hold onto his emotions as he watched the world around her crumble slowly one piece at a time.
"Dude…" Beast Boy nudged his shoulder, trying to push Robin out of the way at the same time. "She is not going to calm down until you go in there and help her… having us stand here and look at her as if she is some kind of animal in a zoo is not going to help her in any way." Robin glared at him, but Beast Boy continued, ignoring the sight of his angry leader. "Besides, we should be helping with the evacuation."
"This is true," Starfire agreed. "Our help is needed elsewhere, Robin. Let us give Jason the privacy he desires with Raven. I am sure he wishes to discuss things with her without our intrusion, and I do not doubt that he will be able to calm her down into a state of submission."
Robin just glared. "Jason?"
"Well, I figure if I am going to jail anyway, Princess…" Jason forced an awkward grin and leaned back on his heels, trying to keep up the front of his calm, collected demeanor. Inside he felt like a ball of nerves, staring helplessly into Raven's room. "I might as well have someone know my real name. And your friends are right, you should be helping with the evac. I've got Raven, and I'll help with the rest of whatever crazy plan you guys come up with. Deal?"
Robin continued to glare. "I still don't trust you."
"Well, you should. There's nothing left for me to lose anymore, now is there? So what do you have to lose in trusting me?" Jason let that hang between them before he pushed past Robin and entered the chaos of Raven's hospital room, slamming the door shut in Robin's face as he somehow miraculously avoided a piece of flying hospital equipment. Raven's glowing, white eyes stared at him and watched as he moved across the sterile floor of the room, cautiously approaching her.
"Little Bird," he called out to her, struggling to keep his voice even and calm. Which as difficult given the danger of the current situation. "Little Bird, it's me. It's Jason. You have to calm down for me, can you do that? Can you calm down?"
She snarled at him, but a few of the supplies still whipping in the air around her dropped to the ground. Jason took the chance and moved closer to her, ducking a few other things until he managed to wrap his arms around her slender waist. She cried out in pain as his fingers brushed against a particularly nasty burn along her left side, and she struggled, but Jason held steadfast to her form. He had to believe that she would remember the warmth of his touch and remember who he was through all of her pain. She was in shock, her brain and memories only catching glimpses of what had happened to her in his apartment, and what was currently happening within the walls of her mind.
Raven continued to struggle against him, her words sharp and harsh against his ears. But slowly, after moments passed in silence, the only noise inside the room became the faint echo of the siren in the hallway and their breathing. Her fingers tightened in the folds of his shirt and she nuzzled her head into his chest, holding onto bits and pieces of him.
Their scents mingled together, and if Jason closed his eyes and blocked out all the other sensations, he could believe that for a singular moment this chaos did not exist. There was no Red X, there were no threats against his life or hers, and there was nothing that could keep them apart. No, he could almost pretend that he was at home and that there was nothing between them but soft laughter and lazy Sunday mornings.
But Sunday mornings couldn't last forever.
"Jason…" Her arms tightened around his neck and she pulled him flush against her body, gasping as he buried his hands into her hair. "Jason. Oh my god, Jason. You're alright. You're safe. I thought… I thought something happened to you. I thought you didn't make it out of the blast."
"Yeah, Little Bird," he whispered into her ear, brushing hair back from her forehead. "I'm here. I'm safe… because of you." He set her back down onto her bed and began removing the tubes and needles out of her arms and legs, working with quick precision. Time was not on their side, and he hated to remember that.
"That's good." Her breath was thin as she pushed at her hair, staring up at him with her wide, dark eyes. "I'm just… I'm glad you're safe."
"You know," Jason began conversationally, a cold bite to his voice as his fingers ran over her limbs, "that was really stupid of you to put yourself in danger like that."
Raven rolled her eyes, her ragged emotions immediately melting into her normal, calm exterior. "I know." Pause. "And I knew you were going to say that, but there's a crisis going on right now, and I don't think that this is the time for us to get into arguments over stupid decisions. So, we're going to put this conversation on hold until all of this is over and I have the appropriate time, energy, and strength to berate you properly." Her eyes narrowed. "Besides, I don't think you're in a position to be pointing fingers at me."
"How do you know what's going on?" Jason wrapped a few of her wounds in bandages and looked down at her, eyes wide with surprise. "I…"
"I was in a healing state… my powers can get a little strange when that happens. Sometimes, even though I'm unconscious, I can still hear and see things of those that are important to me… it happened once a few years ago with Beast Boy, and now with you." She sat up and poked a finger into his chest, her eyes narrowing into his face. "That's also not important. What's important is the fact that you… you… were a complete and utter idiot agreeing to that stupid, pompus asshole's demands."
"I had to, Raven." He pressed his lips into a thin line and glared. "He was threatening the entirety of the hospital, which included you."
"Jason…" She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "I don't need saving."
"Yeah?" He snapped his teeth together, feeling the anger rising up into his throat at the emotions racing through him. "Well, you weren't exactly in a place of being able to control yourself… you know after you sacrificed your safety for both me, your friends, and the rest of the apartment building where I love. You know, after you put yourself in that kind of danger?"
"I don't need you trying to make me feel bad about what I did. I saved you."
"Yeah, at the expense of yourself."
"I saved everyone."
"You almost died, Raven!" His voice echoed through the room, rattling the walls and windows of the space around them. After a moment, the air stilled and Jason could do nothing but pull her tightly against his chest again, holding onto her as if she was his only solace in the chaos around him. "You almost died, Raven," he repeated, softer this time. "I can't lose you. I can't, so you can't put yourself in danger like this. Please."
"Well, don't get used to being alone yet," Raven forced herself up onto her feet and stared at him, her eyes darkening under the force of her emotions. "I am coming with you to the industrial park."
Jason felt panic rise up into his chest. Not now, not after he had just gotten her back. No, he refused to let that happen. He growled and pressed his nose next to her own, staring right into her eyes without backing down.
Sorry for the wait, friends… I hope this doesn't completely suck.
Thanks for being awesome!