A/N: Okay, we're back. I was in the middle of working on the next chapter for this story, when I realized I've been kind of ignoring somebody in this story, which I really shouldn't be. So I decided that I should create a little chapter that focuses on Raven for a little while, but it turned out to be a little longer than I had originally intended. Anyway I hope you enjoy this chapter that sees the return of an old enemy of the Titans.
Chapter 10: Turning The Page
"Alright, before you guys showed up to save me from Barbara, she told me a couple things that I think you should all know about." Animal stood in the Titans Tower briefing room, before him sat all six of the current Titans listening attentively.
"Strange. It kinda looked like you two weren't doing that much talking at all.", Raven said coldly from the edge of the couch she was sitting on with her arms folded in front of her.
Animal raised a hand in front of his face and started to come up with a smart aleck response, but decided against it and let it go. "Anyway, she mentioned that she was part of a larger group of people, people with power and with money, who have decided to target Jump City. Now, they made a bad move by sending Barbara after me, because without her we wouldn't even know they existed, so were pretty lucky that she was the one they sent."
"Of course you feel lucky about it.", Raven said again.
Animal made an internal sigh, clearly Raven was still upset about this whole thing, and he still couldn't really figure out why, but whenever something about Barbara comes up, she made a snide comment to belittle him in some way. "Alright, and because they're going after Jump City, they have targeted both me and you guys as a threat to their plans, and have apparently decided to kill us. Going even so far as to develop technology that can somehow limit my powers."
"How the hell does that work?", Cyborg asked.
"I don't know. I am not an expert in biogenetics. Wish I did know. Would probably be useful information to know."
"Wait, how do we even know this chick was telling the truth? She could have been lying or just crazy, I mean she didn't exactly seem like the most stable person.", Bumblebee added.
"Ok, I will be the first person to admit that Barbara might not have been playing with a full deck, but I know she wasn't lying, at least not then."
"Well of course, you two are so close after all", Raven again interrupted.
"OK, you know what?!"
"I have said I was sorry over and over again for something I'm pretty sure isn't even my fault, so if you're just gonna keep acting like a moody, little brat then you mind as well leave, because I am done apologizing!", he yelled.
Raven glared at Animal with eyes that could kill, and stab and maim and all that good stuff, before she got up from the couch and silently walked out of the room.
Animal felt a small twinge of guilt as he watched Raven's back leaving the room, but shook it off with his own stubborn anger. Animal looked back at the other Titans who held faces that were mixed between worry and just general discomfort.
"Dude." Cyborg said in a somewhat chiding tone.
"What? She started it, I'm not the one in the wrong here.", Animal defended himself.
"Sure man, whatever you want to tell yourself."
I'm not, right? Of course I'm right. She has no reason to still be giving me a hard time about this. Whatever, I'm not apologizing. "Ok, look, whoever these people are, they're dangerous. They sent Slade after you and when I interfered, they sent Barbara after me. These people mean business and they're not gonna stop until they get what they want."
"So, what does all this mean?" Jinx asked curiously.
"It means that until we figure this all out, and find some way to stop these people, I'm gonna be in town for a while."
The faces of all the titans brightened visibly at this news, well except for Kid Flash who didn't really care all that much about what Animal did, but somehow actually looked a little disappointed at this news. Jinx, Cyborg, and Starfire now wore smiles on their faces at the news that their friend would actually be sticking around this time, and even Bee looked happier, thinking this would be good for the whole team.
Meanwhile Animal was just a little bit worried that the team wasn't taking this new threat as seriously as he was.
"So?", Animal sat alone in the main lounge room in Titans Tower, he was spread across the long, half-circle red couch relaxing. A mindless commercial about a new line of dolls that were shaped like sticks was showing on the giant TV screen in front of him. Animal ignored the ad, instead he talked to his partner over his earpiece.
"Uh, welllll...", the voice on the line buzzed in.
Animal gained a defeated look on his face, "Oh please tell me this 'uh, well' is followed by some good news."
"Do they ever?"
Animal made a defeated sigh to accompany his look, "Nooooo."
"Well I've dug up all I could find on Barbara Minerva, looked through everything from known acquaintances to financial records to what she named her cat when she was eight, it was Mr. Fluffles by the way."
"And I've got no solid leads to this group or their plans, any income she has gotten has either been from legitimate sources or covered up so well that their actual source is basically nonexistent. "
"So we've basically got nothing except what Barbara's already told us?"
"In a nutshell."
"Great, well we'll just have to do what we normally do, wing it."
"Yeah, because that always works out wonderfully.", the voice said in a sarcastic tone.
"I don't appreciate your cynicism." Animal sighed again, "Keep looking, if you find anything; a name, an address, hell a fucking receipt for Evil Villains Monthly, let me know."
"I'm telling you already picked through everything on Bar-"
"Well, look again!", Animal interrupted, "Start with the stuff they were moving in the warehouse where they had me chained up. I want to know where they got it from and who it was going to. Understand."
Animal pressed the button to turn off the earpiece as Cyborg happened to enter the room. The large, metal man walked around and plopped himself down on the other side of the couch that Animal was sitting on.
"So.", Cyborg started conversation.
"You're actually back this time?"
"For a little while anyway."
The two super powered beings sat in an somewhat awkward silence for a small while.
"Things are a lot different than they used to be, huh?", Cyborg said, "Robin's gone, I'm in charge of the Titans, and three new team members. Things have changed a lot since you left."
"I don't know, it doesn't feel that different, sure some of the smaller details have changed, but in the end, this place still feels like home."
Cyborg looked at Animal contemplatively for a second before a smile came across his face, "You still suck at video games?"
Animal gained a glint of deviousness in his eye, "Heh, in your dreams. I always beat you, and I always will."
"Alright tough guy, you talk a big game, but can you back it up?", Cyborg tossed a controller at Animal.
The mercenary caught the controller with a grin on his face, "Oh, you are so on."
It wasn't long before the two were caught up in a fighting game, throwing out insults and laughing over their struggle to beat one another.
Cyborg just recovered from laughing over one of Animal's jokes when he said, "So what are you gonna do about Raven?"
Animal eyed Cyborg for a second before returning his attention to the game. "What do you mean 'what am I gonna do'? I didn't do anything wrong, so why would I do anything?"
"Mmm hmm", Cyborg hummed out in a way that seemed kind of condescending.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Man, who're you trying to fool? I know its bugging the shit out of you. Especially with how it ended this morning."
Animal stayed silent for a couple of seconds, "So what if it is? What can I do about it? I don't even know why she's mad at me in the first place."
Cyborg laughed to himself at this.
"What?", Animal asked in confusion.
"Four years away and you still don't know anything about women do you?"
"Wha-?! I do too know about women! Wait- do you know why Raven's mad at me?"
Cyborg just kept silent.
"You do. Tell me."
"Dude, if you don't know, then I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to."
"What? Why not?! Tell me!"
Cyborg just shook his head sideways.
"Fine. Don't tell me. I'll figure it out by myself. I don't need your help.", Animal said in a tone that just came off as childish.
Cyborg started laughing again.
"What is it now?"
"Hahaha. You're supposed to be this badass mercenary now, but deep down your really just the same goofball you always were.", Animal looked over at Cyborg with a slightly confused look, "Even after all this time, I still have to take you school! Boo-yah!" Cyborg mashed his controller and his character decapitated Animal's character in the game, a large 'Victory' plastered over the screen.
Animal's eyes went wide for a second before he jumped off the couch, "No fair! I was distracted!"
"Not my fault you weren't paying attention."
"Fine. I demand a rematch!"
Cyborg laughed out loud again, "Sure, I'll always have time to whoop your ass."
"Yeah, you'll see, this time I'll knock your ass into another dimension."
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK, Animal stood outside the door to Raven's room waiting for any kind of response. He sighed when none came.
"Raven, it's me. Can we talk?", he shouted through the door.
"Raven! I know you're in there!"
Still nothing. He sighed again.
"Fine. You don't want to talk, then just listen.", he took a deep breath, "I just wanted to say that I was really sorry for what happened this morning. I got a little hot-headed and I shouldn't have attacked you like that. I'm still not exactly sure why you're so mad at me, but what I do know is that I don't like it. I miss the way things used to be- I just want us to get back to that."
There was a prolonged period of silence again, Animal sighed again.
"Look, I know a lot of things have changed since four years ago, but one thing that's the same is that I'm still an idiot. So I don't know why you've been so mad at me, but it probably is my fault. All I can really do is say it again so, I'm sorry."
With that Animal walked away from the door and down the hall with a slightly depressed look on his face. The hallway remained silent for a few moments before Raven's door cracked open a little and the female empath peeked out.
Kid Flash leaned against one of the railings on the roof of Titans Tower, just watching the water around the building sway. He started to let out a long sigh, but was surprised when another sigh was made simultaneously with his own. He turned to see Animal leaning against another nearby railing doing the exact same thing he was. He narrowed his eyes a little before turning to walk away from the former Titan.
"Hey", Animal said to Flash in greeting.
A quick 'damn' flew through Wally's mind as his retreat was hastily stopped. "Hey", he replied back.
"So what's bugging you?", Animal asked.
Flash narrowed his eyes again, "What do you mean?"
Animal made a small grin, "You're standing alone on the roof, staring at the ocean and making long, drawn-out sighs." He turned to Wally with an amused face, "Those aren't the telltale signs of a happy guy."
Wally shook his head, "You're one to talk."
"Oh, I know what's eating at me, I asked what your problem was."
"Tch, why the hell do you care?"
"Well, you're the guy that has the back of all my old friends, I figure I ought to get to know you a little better."
Wally let out a forced laugh, "I thought you were supposed to be back, shouldn't you have their backs now?"
"Well as much as I might like to, I can't stay here forever, I've got other responsibilities."
"Uh-huh, and the real reason?"
Animal stared at Flash with narrowed eyes for a second before relenting with a sigh, "Fine, everybody here seems to know the solution to my little problem, but for some reason nobody seems to want to help me with it. So I figure what the hell, I'll help someone else with their problem and then maybe that 'someone' could possibly, I don't know, return the favor?", he hinted at with a suggestive tone.
Kid Flash gave Animal a deadpanned stare for the man's simplistic way of thinking. He sighed deeply before letting out a annoyed-sounding, "Fine."
"Great. So no matter how much I think about it, I just can't figure out why Raven is so mad at me. Do you know?"
Wally stood in silence for a few seconds before breaking out into laughter, "Yeah dude, it's pretty fucking obvious."
Animal's eyebrow twitched in anger, "No, it is not 'pretty fucking obvious'. If it was, I would have figured it out by now. Look, will you tell me why she's so mad if I help you with your problem."
"Sure, I guess, it don't really care."
"Great. So, once again I ask, what's bugging you?"
Flash let out a sigh, "Well, it's just... ever since Robin went crazy-"
"Ha, that's an understatement."
"Yeah- well, ever since he did, I don't really see much reason for me to be on this team anymore. I mean, I only ever really joined the team was because Robin asked me to, and everyone has their own things going on, I've really only stayed this long because of...", Flash didn't finish, just left the statement hanging.
"Because of what?"
Animal gained a strange contemplative look on his face about what Flash just said, "What?"
"The girls, man. Chicks, ladies, women. I thought I could get somewhere, but now I'm not so sure."
Animal burst into uncontrollable laughter, "That's- ha ha ha- that's the only reason you stayed on the team?"
"So what? Everybody's got something that their passionate about, mine just happens to be the fairer sex, why is that a problem?"
"No, it's not- heh heh- I just thought you were going to say something more serious. So what's the problem with the girls?"
"Well I first thought about leaving when Robin did, but then I thought maybe I could make some way with the ladies here, but now I'm not so sure. The girls here are just..."
Animal furrowed his brow at Flash, "What's wrong with the girls here?"
"Well, I mean, look Starfire is beautiful and all, but there is the whole issue with her not being human..."
Animal stared at Flash with a small look of disbelief that this was a major issue for a guy who could move faster than normal humans could even see, "That's your problem? Could any of us really be considered human anymore?"
"Well the other thing is that she just got out of that weird relationship with Robin, and I bet that has a shit ton of baggage to sort through, and besides, I can't even understand what she's saying half the time."
"Ok, I kinda see your point, but to be fair, she's gotten a lot better at that than she was when I left."
"And then there's Raven."
"What about Raven?"
"She creeps the hell out of me, man."
Animal stared at Flash in silence for a few seconds again before breaking out into more laughter.
Unbeknownst to either of them a certain hood-clad heroine had been following Animal and started eavesdropping at the mention of her own name. The laughter was making another cloud of miasma form around her in the hall where she was listening from.
Animal immediately stopped laughing when a cold shiver ran down his spine, he thought about it for a second but ignored the feeling and went back to his conversation with the other troubled hero.
"What's so funny about that? That chick is seriously creepy."
Miasma started to cover the walls around where the empath was standing.
"No I get where your coming from, it's just funny to me because I used to think the exact same way about Raven. Yeah, I was kind of an idiot back then."
Well, good to see not too much has changed, Wally thought to himself before saying, "C'mon, you can't tell me that she isn't scary as hell."
Animal sighed out loud, "Yes, at times, Raven can be a little scary, but I think the problem is that a lot of people write her off because she's a little different, but they don't really know her at all, and I kinda think you're doing the exact same thing. There's no one on this team, or who I've met out in the world that I admire more than Raven."
The miasma slowly receded as Raven's face clouded with slight confusion at Animal's words.
"Sure, the rest of us have all had our problems, pasts we've had to deal with, but I really don't think anyone has it as hard as Raven does."
"What do you mean?", Wally asked confused.
"Raven's powerful, she might even be the most powerful person on the team, and because of that she's always had to struggle with controlling her powers. Raven's abilities are effected by her emotions, and if left unchecked they would cause a whole shit load of destruction. We don't have to worry about that though, because Raven controls her emotions better than anyone. She has so much willpower just to keep herself in check every single day. I wish I could have even a fraction of the strength that she does. So sure, she might be a little dark, but she's definitely not creepy. She's one of the few people I can actually say I trust without question."
Flash stared at Animal with a slight look of amazement for a second, "Wow, sounds like you actually know Raven pretty well, huh?"
Animal laughed again, "No, if that was true, I would know why she was so mad at me. No, it'd take a lot more time to get to really know Raven, more time than I've ever had. Maybe someday though."
Meanwhile, Raven pulled her hood up more to hide her slightly pink-tinted face and small smile from no one in particular.
"Aww, those were quite the sentiments, weren't they? It's as if he stole the words right from my tongue.", she heard before some type of material wrapped around her mouth and pulled her back into the shadows.
Animal twitched and looked over to the door leading off the roof. Something felt wrong, but he didn't know what.
"Hello. Anybody in there?"
Animal shook his head, "What? What were we talking about?"
"You were telling me about Raven when you just stopped and stared out into the distance like a weirdo."
"Oh, sorry about that, anyway despite that, I don't really think you should try to hit on Raven."
Flash raised an eyebrow, "Why not? You were just telling me all these great things about her, and now you think it's a bad idea?"
"Well, you're the funny type of guy, right? Your go to is jokes?"
"Yeah, I like to think I'm pretty funny."
"Well, trust me, the one thing I absolutely do know about Raven is that she does not like the funny, charming type of guy, and that is from experience."
Kid Flash gave Animal one of the longest deadpanned stares in history, "You know, I'm starting to reconsider this whole advice-deal thing, I don't really see how you could help me."
"Wha-?! C-mon! That was some solid advice! I really need your help with this, dude."
Flash sighed aloud, "Fine, why not? You clearly know what you're talking about, what could possibly go wrong?", he said in what was a strangely sarcastic sounding tone.
Flash sighed again, "Anyway, the one I was really interested in was Jinx, but now..."
"Well now I'm pretty sure she likes this other guy-"
"What? Really? Jinx likes a guy? And she didn't even tell me."
Flash stared at Animal for a second with a slightly pissed look, "Yeah, he's kind of a tool, and pretty dense too."
"Sounds like a complete asshole. Are you sure Jinx likes him? How do you know?"
"You know how you can just tell when a girl likes a guy by the way she acts."
"Yyyyyyeeee-nnnno. No I don't."
Wally sighed once again, "You know, I'm seriously thinking that you can't help me all that much."
"Wait, wait, wait. I can help. Maybe uh... maybe we... oh I know! You and I will work together to make Jinx not like that guy anymore. We'll make him look like a total idiot in front of her and then she will no longer like him."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure he already does that and she still likes him anyway. I think we should just forget about it.", Kid Flash said as he began to walk away.
"Wait! C'mon! Who is it? Do I know him? I could help you?!."
"No, I really don't think you can", and with that Flash disappeared in a speed that even Animal couldn't follow.
"Well fine! Forget you! I don't need your help anyway! I can figure it out all on my own!", Animal stood there by himself for a few seconds before sighing, "Damn."
Animal closed the door to the rooftop and began to walk down the hallway. The bad feeling he had gotten earlier had remained constant until now and he couldn't figure out why. He started making his way towards Raven's room to try and talk to the girl again when he accidently kicked something that was laying on the ground. He moved over and bent down to see what it was. He picked up the object and immediately recognized it as a Titan's communicator, however it seemed to be slightly smashed for some reason. Animal furrowed his brow in thought as he tried to figure out what this strange find meant.
"Hey, you still there?", Animal said as he activated his earpiece with two fingers.
There were a few seconds of silence before a short sigh came back over the equipment, "Yes, I'm still here. Why wouldn't I be here? It's not like I have a life or anything silly like that to worry about."
Animal gained a slightly confused look at the somewhat agitated tone that came back at him, "Are- are you ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. What is it?", despite the words, the tone of the voice still betrayed a feeling of displeasure.
"Uh, I was just hoping that you could possibly patch me into the Titans Tower security feed?"
"I just want to check something out okay?"
"Fine, whatever, it should already be available through your phone."
Animal started sorting through the files and accessed the feed to the hallway he was currently standing in. His eyes went wide when he saw Raven get grabbed and pulled back out of view of the camera by what appeared to be long sheets of paper? She dropped her communicator as she struggled to fight against whatever enemy had bound her. Animal's eyes glowed green as he sniffed the air searching for Raven's scent, picking it up he took off running before hopping out of a window of the tower.
"MMMMMMMMMPH!", Raven yelled into to the paper wrapped around her mouth. She screamed for help with much futility, finding her magic all but cancelled out by the binding over her lips. "MMMMMPH! MMMPH! MPH! MMPH!"
"Oh come now sweet Raven, such a fair maiden shouldn't use such foul words."
Raven's eyes went wide when a being made of pure paper appeared in front of her. Her expression of surprise quickly shifted to an angry scowl at the face that was the representation of betrayal for her. Though her voice was muffled, she still worded out with her lips the name she despised, 'Malchior'.
"Yes dear Raven, it is I, Malchior. Have you come to miss me yet?"
Raven just glared harder at the paper man.
"Ho ho, you've learned to make such a fierce look since we last met.", Malchior tightened the binds around Raven's body causing her to cringe in pain, "Any more fierce and you might have actually intimidated me. Do not be confused sweet Raven, I may have taught you some new tricks, but I'm still far superior in terms of magic. I am the one in control here."
Raven put on a hollow look of anger to try and mask the small amount of fear she had for this villain.
"I suppose you might be pondering on why I abducted you, well its quite simple. I need your help. While I may have managed to acquire my freedom from that horrid book, I am still imprisoned, trapped in this fragile body composed of old parchment. Over time I managed to actually find a way to finally return myself to my original body, and when I am restored I will obtain all the power I possessed ages ago when I first fought that bastard Rorek." The paper villain clenched his paper fist in the air and squeezed with a slight look of madness in his paper eyes. Until he turned back to Raven with a serious gaze, "However, because of that insufferable wizard and his curse, I seem to be unable to do it on my own. So I thought, who better to help me with this predicament than the person who released me from that paper prison in the first place?"
Raven mumbled out a, "I'll never do it.", through her bindings.
Malchior chuckled a little, "Sweet Raven, you don't have a choice. I can force you to help me you know. With the right spells I can make you do almost anything, but I would prefer if you just helped me on your own, it would be immensely easier and much less time consuming."
Raven remained steadfast in her declaration to not help the villain as she continued to glare at him. "Oh, come now Raven, don't you remember all the time we spent together? All the things we talked about? I'm the only one that understands you, help me and you won't have be alone anymore."
Raven scowled at him again before mumbling something into the paper.
"No? You're not alone anymore? Really? So tell me Raven, who is it that you have now? Those 'friends' of yours? The ones that you spent hours complaining to me about? The ones that called you creepy and treated you like a freak? Those ones? Do you really think that they understand you now? That they care about you?"
Raven just stared intensely at the villain.
He chuckled a little, "Are you attempting to act tough Raven? Are you under some false impression that these friends of yours are coming to save you? Well it pains me to have to return you to reality, but even if they are looking for you right now, they'll never find you. I've put powerful magic around where we are right now, we are undetectable to any sensor and the entrance is invisible to the naked eye. The only way anyone could get in is by knowing where it is, and the only one who knows that is myself. I'm sorry Raven, but you and I are alone here, no one is coming, no one will find y-"
CLANG CLANG CLANG! A loud pounding came from the other side of the metallic door on the opposite side of the room.
Malchior's paper brow furrowed in confusion, "What on earth could that be?"
"PIZZA! I got a pizza here for a mistaaaaaaah... Mal-? Mal-che-? Mal-chee-oar? Is that an Italian name?", Raven's eyes lit up in hope.
"Pizza? What the devil?"
"Don't you think you should tell the rest of the Titans about this?", the voice said over the earpiece as Animal speedily hopped from building to building following the scent.
"I don't have time! Besides I'm not a Titan anymore, I fight my battles alone."
"This isn't your battle, and isn't that a bit selfish considering its Raven's life on the line here."
"I'm NOT going to let anything happen to her, got it?!"
"Yeah yeah, I got it, but I just think-"
"Look, if you want to call them then go ahead, but I'm already here."
Animal stopped where the scent trail ended and stared for a few seconds.
"What is it?", the voice asked curiously.
"It's- it's a wall."
Sure enough, the trail ended at a sheer brick wall outside of a large factory.
"What? Are you sure you followed it right?"
"Of course I'm sure, my nose is never wrong, especially not now."
"Well maybe there's a secret mechanism or something? Try feeling around the wall."
Animal started to rub the bricks around where the scent ended to try and find a secret button of some sort.
"Anything?", the voice questioned.
"No, not really- wait, maybe-" Animal pressed his hand to a brick to the left that seemed slightly discolored. Instead of the flat surface of the wall he expected to feel, his hand just went straight through the wall. His eyes widened in surprise at his missing hand before he felt a tug and the rest of his body was pulled in after it.
"Whoa", he said from his spot on the floor as he looked up and realized he was no longer outside by the brick wall, but in an enormous, long hallway that seemed to lack any doors except for a large metal one directly in front of him. The walls were a beige color, along with the ceiling, and Animal found himself lying on a red carpet that stretched all the way down the hall. The place would have reminded him of a hotel if it weren't for the metal door that looked like it either led to a freezer or a dungeon.
"What? What's going on?", the voice asked.
"What the hell? My body just went through the wall and now I'm in some weird hallway."
"Wait like you went through a hole in the wall?"
"No, I just- went into the wall."
"Some type of transportation magic perhaps, like a portal or something?"
"Magic? Ugh, I hate magic! It never makes any sense!"
"You can turn into animal no matter what the size, shape, or planet it comes from, but magic doesn't make sense?"
"I don't see your point"
The voice sighed, "Just get on with it."
Animal focused again, the scent he had been following was stronger than ever and led straight to that metal door. He pressed his ear against the cold metal of the door, he used his advanced hearing to try and pick up anything beyond the thick steel. It was faint, but behind the door he picked up a voice, a distinctly English sounding voice. The voice sounded strangely familiar, then he remembered, he had listened to this voice before, through a door just like he was doing now.
"Malchior", Animal said with disdain.
"Malchior?", the voice contemplated for a few seconds, "Wait, THE Malchior?! Malchior the dragon?! The dragon that fought the great wizard Rorek of Nol?!"
"Uh, yeah, that asshole."
"But that's- that's not possible, Rorek defeated the dragon ages ago, he would have to be like a thousand years old."
"Yeah, he was trapped in a book."
"He was in a book? Wait, was?! How did he get out?!"
"Look, that's not important, the short story is that he escaped the book, the Titans fought him, we put him back in the book, but somehow he managed to pull himself back out."
"Well what are you gonna do?"
"I'm gonna do what I always do, I going to kick his scaly ass."
Animal pressed his ear against the door again just in time to hear Malchior say "you and I are alone here, no one is coming".
"Perfect", Animal quickly slammed his fist against the door and loudly yelled out, "PIZZA!"
"Just a moment dear Raven, I'll just take care of this small annoyance and then we can continue our little chat."
Malchior moved to the metal door and tore it open to see who could possibly be on the other side, he immediately received a black boot to his chest, sending him soaring across the room, landing near Raven's feet.
Malchior looked up from the ground with rage on his face, "Who dares strike the all-powerful Malchior!?"
"That would be me.", Animal said with a raised hand as he strolled into the room with a smirk on his face.
Raven mumbled loudly into the paper wrapped around her face, causing Malchior's brow to crease. "Beast Boy?", he questioned out loud turning to Raven, "This is one of those friends of yours? But that's not possible, you couldn't have found us, not that quickly."
"Well our policy is thirty minutes or less or your pizza is free, and I have never given out a pizza for free. You ordered the large cheese with a side ass whooping, right?"
"Wait. Beast Boy? Where have I heard that name?", Malchior pondered for a second, "Ah yes, now I remember, you're that moron that Raven was always telling me about. We spent hours just discussing how stupid and childish you were."
"Oh good, I can finally scratch 'get insulted by talking newspaper' off of my bucket list."
"You're actually here to save Raven? I distinctly remember that you were who called her creepy back then, causing her to come to me in the first place."
"This might not be the time, but I was just wondering, does your body turn all mushy and gross like a spitball when it rains?"
Malchior eyes narrowed in rage, "Do not ignore me!" Malchior sent many appendages made of paper flying towards Animal, but was quickly surprised when the things he sent forward were sliced to pieces and floated down to the floor in little shards. He looked up to Animal who just stood there with a toothy grin and two outstretched hands with sharp claws attached to them.
"Paper, meet Shredder", Animal said as he flexed his claws in a showy manner.
"Ah", Malchior said coolly, "so not just an idiot, but an idiot with tricks, how quaint. How did you find us anyway?"
"Sorry, doesn't matter what kind of magic you use, you can't fool this nose.", Animal said with a smirk before looking at Raven who was covered by paper, "Don't worry, Raven, I'll cut you down in just a second, I just have to recycle this trash first."
Malchior let out a sinister chuckle, "You actually believe you could stand even the tiniest of chances against me? Do you know who I am? I have laid waste to entire countries, I have killed men with ten times the power you have, and I have conquered nations and achieved heights in power that you could only dream of."
"Ohhhhhh, I didn't realize you were made of autobiography, because you sure do love talking about yourself", Animal said and then starting speaking in a mocking tone, "What's the big bad notebook gonna do? Are you gonna give me a paper cut?"
Malchior wasn't as amused.
"Ahhhhhhhgh!", Animal's body went tumbling back into the hallway at a ridiculous speed as he was forced through the large metal door, knocking it completely off its hinges. He rolled and smacked several limbs on the floor as he finally came to rest a couple hundred feet down the seemingly endless hallway.
"Right," Animal groaned as a little blood came out of his mouth, "Forgot he could do that."
Animal quickly jumped to the left to dodge a large fireball that was flying towards him, it flew past and caused him to cringe from the heat. He looked up and saw a large purple and black dragon with red eyes crawl out of the hole where the metal door used to be and let out a huge roar at him.
"Huh", Animal said before taking off running the other direction down the hallway. Malchior immediately started chasing after him, and soon seemed to be catching up to the hooded mercenary. Animal looked over his shoulder and nearly had a heart attack at the furious looking monster with gaping mouth full of sharp teeth nearly as big as he was. He decided it was time to put it into full gear and took off at ridiculous speed thanks to the help of his animal abilities.
However, as Animal got farther and farther down the hall it almost seemed like the ceiling was getting farther and farther away. Animal looked up to observe this anomaly and came to a horrible realization when he saw the giant dragon now flying after him.
He started having to jump from one side of the room to the other trying to avoid the large blasts of fire that the ancient dragon was now raining down upon him. He found himself avoiding the fiery balls of death and getting more and more tired as he tried to dodge attacks while keeping up this speed.
The creature seemed to let out a deep, warped laugh, "You fool, did you really you could escape me here. I created this pocket dimension, it bends to my will!"
Animal saw this as truth when the long hallway in front of him shortened almost instantly, causing him to run into the dead end of a wall in front of him. He turned just in time to be pinned to the wall by the dragon's large clawed hand, crushing Animal's body and starting to cut off his oxygen flow. Animal tried to scratch at the hand holding him with his own claws, but found his attack unable to pierce the dragon's thick scales.
"Ha ha ha, what a pathetic excuse for a fight, I doubt I even needed to resort to this form to kill a weak, imbecile like yourself. Did you really think a tiny being like yourself had the chance to fight a true dragon, with such a measly body? Not in this lifetime."
Despite the pain he was now in, Animal's eyes managed to light up a little, and he let out an anguished chuckle.
"Ah, has fear of your own death caused you to fall into insanity?", Malchior asked curiously at the man's laughing.
"Heh heh, no, you just made me think, I didn't believe in dragons before, but you're living proof right in front of me, so I was just wondering... is a dragon considered an animal?"
Animal pulled a full smile on his face before his body started to twist and morph, growing larger as he sprouted scales on his skin and his face elongated into a narrow snout with flared nostrils. Large scaly wings sprouted out of his back and a long tail out near his lower back. When he finished transforming he was the same size as Malchior and basically was identical to the evil dragon, except for one thing, wherever there was purple on Malchior's body was replaced by a dark green on Animal's. The newly transformed dragon let out an ear piercing roar as it stretched it wings largely above its body.
"Wh-what!? How is this possible!?", Malchior said out loud in confusion.
Animal spoke now in a deep, rumbling voice like Malchior's, "Well it's like you said, I'm an idiot with tricks."
With that Animal launched forward, using his massive wings to propel himself up, as he attacked the ancient dragon. He sunk two of his large clawed hands into the side of his enemy's scaly hide, making Malchior roar out in pain.
Malchior twisted his body in a circular pattern shaking off the newly morphed dragon and retaliating by clamping down on Animal side with his powerful jaw. Malchior pulled back, tearing some of Animal's flesh as he bit down on the green dragon. This time it was Animal's turn to scream, but not only did his voice come out but a wave of flames that carpeted the humongous room around them.
Animal smacked Machior down with his powerful tail, knocking the massive creature onto his side, before he once again used his breath to bathe the downed dragon in flames. Animal stared at the mass of fire for a second before Malchior burst out of the flames flying straight up into the air. Malchior still seemed to have control of whatever place they were in because what was a ceiling a few moments ago was now an open sky for the ancient dragon to soar through.
Malchior started to dive bomb Animal, sending waves of fire down as he swooped by and then returned to a safe distance. Animal felt thankful for his thick scales as they protected him from being instantly incinerated by the scalding blasts, but he knew if he kept taking hits like this, his goose would be cooked. He decided to do the only logical thing in his mind and joined Malchior in the air.
The two flew around each other in serpentine patterns, trying to hit each other with flames while avoiding the ones coming at them. Animal found himself just barely avoiding the balls of fire that Malchior was blowing out, while his enemy seemed to be gracefully moving around his own attacks like he was swimming through the air.
Malchior let out a loud laugh at the green dragon, "Ha ha ha, have you figured it out yet? I've been a dragon for over a thousand years, you've been one for a few minutes, there's no way you could keep up with me in the sky."
After saying this aloud, Malchior made a swift dive through the air over Animal, sinking his claws in and dragging them across the morphed dragon's wings, tearing them lengthwise and sending the mercenary falling straight into the ground. Malchior landed on top of the downed dragon heavily, sinking his claws into the ground, one hand pinning the enemy dragon's neck to the floor.
He breathed into Animal's face in a flaunt of victory before giving his winning speech, "You know, I really must commend you, it was quite brave risking everything to save Raven, mostly stupid, but still brave. You see, the fault in your plan was that you were going against me, meaning you were beaten from the very start. Heh heh heh, it's a shame, it's been quite a while since I got to see something of my kind, or at least something close, but alas I'm still going to kill you. Any last words you want me to say to Raven when I go back to tell her how I peeled the flesh from your body?"
Dragon-morphed Animal did as close to a smirk as a dragon's face could get before speaking in a deep voice, "Yeah, you can tell her, 'would you get this scaly asshole off of me already"?
"What?" Malchior said in confusion.
"It would be my pleasure." Malchior turned his head with wide eyes to see Raven floating above surrounded in a magic aura, but the thing that really caught his attention was the book she had with her.
"NO! Not the book! I'm not going in that blasted prison again!" Machior yelled as Raven began the curse to imprison the ancient dragon within the pages.
He sucked in a breath in order to launch a wave of fire at the empath girl but was quickly stopped when a clawed hand sunk into his underbelly and a breath of flames were shot directly in his own face by the green dragon below him. Raven finished the curse while Malchior was distracted and the book opened, creating a swirling vortex that pulled at Malchior's body. He held tightly to the ground as he tried to fight the pull.
"Fine, if I'm going back in that book, then you're coming with me!", he yelled as his grip tightened on Animal's scaly neck.
Animal looked Malchior in the eye as he said, "Sorry, but I've still got more tricks.", and with that Animal stopped being a dragon, morphing back to his much smaller form and slipping from the ancient being's grasp.
Malchior screamed out in rage, "YOU THINK THIS WILL HOLD THE GREAT MALCHIOR!? You're magic isn't nearly as strong as Rorek's! I escaped you're prison once, and I'll do it again!"
"I might not be as strong as Rorek", Raven said as she watched Malchior with cold eyes, "but I've gotten better." The book finished pulling the last of Malchior's body into its pages and then snapped shut before falling to the floor.
As soon as the book hit the floor, Raven and Animal found themselves no longer in the hallway/room that Malchior created, but standing in front of the brick wall outside of the factory. Raven bent down and picked the book up from where it lie in the grass.
Whatever damage Animal seemed to take during his fight as a dragon had apparently transferred over to his normal body, because he was looking pretty beat up. He was covered in bruises and deep scratches and it wasn't visible, but underneath his outfit it had looked like a large dog took a bite out of his side.
Animal walked up to talk to the female Titan, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I guess.", Raven replied.
"Look Raven, I know you're probably still mad at me, but-"
Animal was cut off when Raven quickly grabbed the man around his back in a hug and buried her head in his chest. Animal had wide eyes for a second, hugging was definitely not an action that he expected to be a part of Raven's normal repertoire. After his immediate shock, he did the only thing he really could and wrapped his arms around the girl to return the hug.
After a few seconds of this, Animal sort of let up and waited for Raven to pull away from the embrace, but when she didn't he just ended up standing there confused. He didn't know what was going on, but Raven seemed like she was someplace else, especially when she quietly said, "You've gotten taller."
"Umm... Raven?", Animal said still lost in confusion.
This quickly woke up the empath from whatever trance she seemed to be in and she quickly pushed herself away from the mercenary. She pulled up her hood more and crossed her arms as she turned away from Animal.
"I'm still mad at you", Raven said causing Animal to droop a little, "but I guess I can forgive you for coming to save me.", and Animal's mood instantly shot up again.
"Really?!", he said excitedly.
"Yes, really.", Raven said returning to her normal emotionless tone.
"Woo-hoo!", he cheered, "Man, I was really worried there for a second. What were you mad at me for anyway?"
"Just for being an idiot."
Raven made a small smile under her hood as she started to walk away and back to Titans Tower. "Come on, the others are probably worried about where we are right now."
Animal frowned but ran after the girl who was now starting to float away.
Raven was completely wrong about the other Titans, when the two of them walked back into the tower, they saw the entire team just relaxing the main lounge doing their usual free time activities.
Cyborg looked over his shoulder from the position he was in, splayed out on the couch, to greet them.
"Hey guys, where you be- WHOA! What the hell happened to you?", Cyborg asked as he saw Animal's beat up appearance.
Animal just gained a tired look on his face, "Paper cut", he said before turning around to leave the room.
"Paper cu-?! What?! How is that even possible!?" Cyborg yelled at the leaving figure.
"It was a big piece of paper!", Animal yelled back in reply before the door slid shut behind him, leaving all the Titans sitting there in confusion and looking to Raven for an explanation.
It was the dead of night and the moon wasn't out so it was almost pitch black outside. Animal stood alone in the middle of a dusty field, before him he held the book that Raven had imprisoned Malchior in. Only a little while earlier he had once again risked his life and snuck into Raven's room, stealing the book from where she had it locked away.
"Why didn't you call the rest of the Titans earlier?", Animal said out loud.
"You said you could handle it", the voice echoed over the earpiece.
"Yeah, but you tend not to listen to me."
"Look, you might be an idiot some of time, well okay, most of the time."
"BUT, I trust you."
"I don't know whether to be angry that everybody has decided to call me an idiot today, or happy that you actually have some faith in me."
Animal sighed, "Ok, I guess I'll let it slide. So you're sure that doing this won't free him from the book?", he said to the earpiece.
"No, how could I be sure, I'm not a fucking magician", the voice on the earpiece replied back, "but from what I do know and what I've researched, it shouldn't"
"Well, that's as good as we're gonna get isn't it?"
Animal sighed, "Well okay, let's do this."
"What are you gonna tell Raven when she finds out?", the voice asked.
"I'll think of something when she notices. Hopefully I'll never have to."
Animal looked at the book closely, "What you said earlier had me thinking", he said to the book, "Raven is pretty strong, but that curse won't hold forever. You're going to come back to attack Raven again someday."
Animal tossed the book into an open metal barrel in front of him, then pulled out a box of matches. He lit a single match and held in front of his eyes, "Thanks for the new form. Burn in hell, Malchior." He threw the match in the barrel and a large fire instantly blew up towards the sky. Animal watched the flames for a few seconds before walking away, leaving the barrel to burn out on its own.
What will Kid Flash do now that Jinx seems to like someone else? Will Animal ever get a clue about women? Is Malchior gone for good? And what will Raven do when she realizes the book isn't where she left it? Find out next time on... The Lost Titan
Let me know what you think. Your reviews feed my insatiable hunger for reassurance from others! MUA HA HA HA HA! *Sigh*