The thick, overwhelming stench of dirt and body odor flooded Robin's senses as he stepped through the doors and down the hall. He paused for a moment, listening to the shocked whispers turn into a turbulent storm of screams. Hands wrapped around the pale, painted bars, shaking the doors with such force, that they threatened to break. Robin nodded at the warden to his right, signaling that he was fine to continue down the hallway.
"You say he's been moved from his original cell?" The sound of his voice was barely audible over the noise of the inmates shouting at him. He kept his head high and his shoulders squared, as he felt the eyes slide past him, screaming obscenities and making obscene gestures. Not that he blamed them, he had put most of them behind those bars anyway. "Was there a problem with his previous arrangements?"
"He's been relocated to solitary confinement." The warden walked next to him, his posture stern, but almost relaxed, as if this visit and this noise were normal, daily occurrences. "Two days ago we found him hunched over his cellmate with a makeshift scalpel in his hand… it looked like he was trying to dissect his cell mate the same way… that…" The warden drifted off, his eyes quickly moving away. He winced and cleared his throat, returning his face to blankness. "Sorry, I didn't mean to stir up memories."
Robin's lips pressed into a thin line as his fingers twitched, reaching for his weapons out of habit. Behind his eyes, he saw the splatters of blood on the pavement, the crushed communicator, and the torn cloak, and the stench of hot, summer rain filled his nose. Somehow, he managed to keep his face blank.
"Those memories are too fresh to be forgotten already." He glanced at the warden, lips tugging down into a frown. "You can't stir up something that still hurts."
"I suppose you are right. I have lost a few great friends fighting the good fight." There was a long pause before the warden spoke again, opening another door into a quieter hallway. Through windows, Robin could see a few inmates eating lunch. They glanced up at him, but quickly looked away when they saw who was walking the halls.
"The funeral is tomorrow, right?" He didn't wait for Robin to respond, deciding that giving an informal eulogy was suddenly called for. "You know, she was an amazing fighter. I've seen a few superheroes in my day, I used to work in Metropolis… but she… she was something else, and it was an honor to have her protecting the city."
You didn't know her. Stop talking as if you did. You have no idea what she was really like. How her laugh sounded, how her hair looked when she rolled out of bed on a Sunday morning, how she would bite her lip during a gory scene in a movie… you know nothing about her.
Robin pursed his lips, biting back his scathing retort. "We're burying an empty coffin. Her body was never recovered." Behind his mask, he felt his eyes burn. When was the last time he slept? God, he couldn't remember. "That's why I'm here."
"You're hoping he's gonna talk? About where he stashed the body?" The warden shook his head, snorting loudly. "I hate to say it, but I think that's pretty much a lost cause, Robin. He has lost all semblance of sanity, and I'm no shrink, but I know that he's pretty much off his fucking rocker. Not that he had much of a rocker to being with."
"I have to try at least." He looked over at the warden and frowned, his hands tightening into fists. "I need to know what happened… I need to see her again. To have some semblance of closure."
"I understand." The warden's voice was soft and he put his hand on his shoulder. "It's been a long week, Robin. Are you sure you want to do this?"
He nodded and stopped at a guard station before a heavy, metal door, before pulling out a basket from a safe under the counter. "Sorry, Robin. I have to ask that you place all weapons in the basket so we can lock them in the vault. I know you can control yourself… but it's him I'm worried about."
"I'm glad you have some faith in me." Robin removed his utility belt and stared the warden in the eye. Rage was bubbling up into his stomach the closer he got to Professor Chang. He knew that psychotic freak was behind bars, and yet the only way Robin would ever be satisfied was if he crushed the bastard's windpipe with his own hands, and felt his slimy neck snap under the pressure of his fingers. He deserved every minute of pain for every second he had pained Raven.
The warden opened another doorway, leading to a short hallway lined with steel doors on either side. At the end of the hall sat the interrogation room, and Robin could see the shadowy outline of Professor Chang, wrists handcuffed to the table. It took every ounce of Robin's control to not run down the hallway, shouting obscenities and throwing punches. All he wanted to do was to tear something apart and scream like a heathen. He needed something to release the energy that was building inside him. There was anger and hate breeding and multiplying beyond something he could control.
But releasing those emotions would be doing a disservice to Raven.
"Ah! Little Boy Wonder!" Professor Chang looked up as Robin entered the room. "I'd stand up and greet you like a comrade, but… well…" His chains rattled against the table and he gave an apologetic smile. "You see how they treat me here. I mean… is it too much to ask for a fresh set of sheets? Maybe even a radio? It's been quite a while since I heard news of the outside world."
"Mm." Robin gritted his teeth together and sat down across from him, examining his face. He looked weathered and tired, but his one, good eye was bright and fevered, almost maniacal. His monocle had been removed, and in its place was a deep, gnarled scar with wires poking through.
"But enough about me!" He touched his fingers together, the chains rattling around his wrists with the movement. "Tell me, Robin… it's been so long since I've seen you, tell me all about your friends. How are they doing? Still hanging in there?"
How dare he bring up his friends? Robin's eyes narrowed, his hands clutching the edge of the table. "I am here to ask you a question, and I am requesting that you give me an honest answer."
"All business I see… no time for catching up with old friends? Such a pity… now, let's see… a request?" Professor Chang smiled, displaying his aged, yellow teeth. In the stark lights of the room, he looked frightening. "Like you requested the xynothium from me?" He leaned forward as his thin lips closed over his teeth. "Payment was all I requested, Robin… and when you refused to give me that? Well… I decided to take matters into my own hands. It's just a pity that my payment had to come in the form of a teammate."
Robin slammed his fist on the table and leaned forward. "That wasn't payment, Chang. That was revenge."
"Ah, tomay-to tomah-to." He twisted his wrists around and shrugged with what little movement was available. "You say revenge, I say payment… and such a fine payment. I have to say that I absolutely got the better end of the deal… wouldn't you agree?"
Robin growled low in his throat and leaned forward to look into his eyes, asking the question before he had time to stifle it. "Why Raven? Out of all the people you could have had… payment from… why her?"
"She's different. Strange. Special." His fingers tapped on the cold metal of the table, eye wandering off as he seemed to ponder something. "Her whole genetic make-up is just utterly bizarre. Half-demon, controls magic, telepathy and telekinesis… Oh! Just thinking about her gets me all excited to learn. Think about it, Little Robin… just what makes her like that? How do her powers work? How does her mind exude such energy? I just needed to see how she ticked inside. To learn something new. You can't blame me for that, can you?"
"If it involves that safety of my friend? Yes." Robin's eyes narrowed at him, and his fingers twitched as he unconsciously searched for a weapon. "You destroyed my friend, my team… for a whim. For some pathetic interest you have. You dissected her like she was some kind of lab rat for your own amusement. Forgive me for saying so, Chang, but I have every right to blame you for whatever I see fit."
"Dissect! Is that what you want to call it? I call it more like… scientific art. Didn't you enjoy the diagrams and photos I sent to you and your team? Such beautiful photos! Her skin pulled open so you could see the cogs and wheels inside the clock! And such glorious clock making too! It's like opening a Rolex to peer inside."
"Raven is not a clock! She was a person, she was my friend!" Robin slammed his fist on the table, glaring into Professor Chang's good eye. "I'm done playing games with you, Chang."
"A game… is that how you see things, Robin?" He pouted. "I was unaware you felt that way."
"Where is her body?" Robin forced his question out between clenched teeth, staring at the scars on Professor Chang's face. How many more scars could he add to the collection? "If I'm going to bury my friend, I'd like to have something to bury."
"I left her right where I found her, Robin…" He looked genuinely shocked for a moment, as if his lab rat had suddenly escaped. "Right where I left her things. You should have found her."
"Don't lie to me, Chang!" He stood up, knocking the chair over in the process. It clattered to the floor with a deafening sound, silencing any rogue noise in the room. "She was gone! Nothing but a broken communicator and a pool of blood. I saw what you did to her, you made it very clear what you did… all I want is a body to bury!" He reached across the table and grabbed Professor Chang's orange jumpsuit, pulling his body over his handcuffed wrists. "Where. Is. She."
"I haven't a clue, Little Robin." He looked up into Robin's face for a moment, before grinning. "Maybe she got up and ran away? Lab rats tend to do such things on occasion."
Robin didn't even hesitate, he yanked him forward, slamming his face on the table. His carefully guarded control finally broke, and he continued to yank and pull and swing until Professor Chang's face was a bloodied mess, puffy and purple. His good eye was swollen shut and the scar over his other eye socket had been ripped open, oozing blood and something black. The guards finally broke in and pulled him away, Robin still screaming at the dazed, disfigured face of Professor Chang.
"She was my friend! A Titan! She's kicked your ass more times than you care to count! You got lucky!"
Professor Chang's smile was smeared with blood. "Science, Little Robin, not luck."
Two days later Robin sat at the front of the chairs, holding Raven's broken communicator in his hands. His suit felt too tight, and he tried to remember the last time he needed to wear it. Was it Terra's makeshift funeral? Or… His thoughts trailed off. God, it had been too long and not long enough.
The sun beat down on his back, making him uncomfortably warm in the summer sun as the stench of fresh-cut grass filled his nose. It would have been a beautiful, serene place to lay someone else to rest, but not Raven. She would have liked it at first, and then made some subtle, off-handed comment about it being too quiet, and Robin would have known that was a sign she missed her friends. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he wiped them away with the too-short sleeve of his jacket.
It might have been a million degrees in this sun, but inside, he felt too cold. Up on the stage, the police commissioner was trying to give some heartfelt speech about a girl he'd only met twice, as if she were some long-time, personal friend. It was all about honor and integrity and doing what was best for the people. Some sweetened nonsense the commissioner gave at every funeral, something that really didn't sound anything like Raven. Robin glared behind his mask, hating the feeling of being put on display.
If Raven were here, she would know what to say to make him feel better.
But, she was gone, and in her place was an empty casket filled with her bloodied cloak and favorite possessions. Robin closed his eyes and held his head in his hands, trying anything he could to tune out the buzzing noise around him. Police officers shifted uncomfortably, tugging at their collars in the heat, the eulogy seemed never ending, and some ways away, he could hear the reporters trying to corner people and crane their necks to get a few glimpses of Batman reunited with Robin. This wasn't a funeral, it was a circus.
He never wanted this public display masquerading as a funeral, and he knew Raven wouldn't have wanted it either. But, Batman swore up and down that doing this would give him some form of closure. That it would put his emotions at ease. It didn't. The only thing it made him feel was anger that he had to put up with these stupid people pretending they knew his best friend. It just made him sick.
"I can't do this."
Robin's train of thought came to a screeching halt as he looked over at Beast Boy. "What?"
"I said… I can't do this." Beast Boy tugged at his gloves and looked over at Robin, his eyes red and swollen from crying. "I can't… I can't do this anymore. I can't sit here and pretend that this is okay, Robin. Because, you know what? It's not okay. It's far from okay." He wiped at his eyes and turned his stare back to the casket draped with red roses. Raven didn't even like roses.
"We've buried too many of our friends. Watched them suffer and die. Terra… Raven… Hell, we almost had to bury Raven twice. And you know what? I shouldn't have to do this kind of thing at the age of seventeen. We're kids, Robin. We're supposed to be worrying about prom and thinking about college and who we're going to go out with on Friday night… we're not supposed to be wondering where some psychopath hid our friend's body. We're not supposed to be filling an empty casket with pictures and trinkets. We're not supposed to bury Raven!" A sob broke through his speech and Beast Boy had to fight himself to keep it under control. "I'm tired of this, and I'm done."
If there was any warmth left in Robin's heart, it disappeared. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that the eulogy had stopped and there were now hundreds of eyes staring at them, trying to understand what was happening and listen to the argument. But all Robin saw were his friends, each red-rimmed pair of eyes staring at him, waiting to see what their leader said, and he couldn't seem to find the words to stop Beast Boy. Deep inside him was the fear that they were going to turn away and leave him.
Just like Raven had.
"What… what are you saying?"
"I'm saying I quit." Beast Boy handed over his communicator, hands shaking as he dropped it in his friend's lap. "That's all I can say. I can't do this. I can't bury you, or Cyborg, or Starfire… and I certainly can't bury Raven." His eyes closed and he held his head in his hands, tears falling from his eyes as another sob wracked his body. "I can't do it any more… I quit. I'm done with the superhero life. I'm done losing my friends to freaks like Chang.
"You can't quit, Beast Boy… what would Raven say?"
"She'd say I was right, Robin!" Beast Boy stood up and turned around, growling at him, his voice echoing off the surrounding tombstones. "She'd say that I have every right to back down from this. I lost my friend. To a freak who tore her open just to see what was inside! I lost her. She didn't run away, or stop talking to us, or grew up! She died. She's gone and we're never going to see her again. And I am not going through that again. I don't care what you, or Starfire, or Cyborg, or even your stupid Batman has to say about it. I'm done."
"No!" Beast Boy shoved a finger into his chest and snarled, fur erupting from his exposed skin as his emotions broke their chains. "No! I am not going to listen to you. I am through with listening to you. You let her die, Robin. You are the team leader. You were supposed to protect her. You brought her back from Hell, and yet somehow a psychopath with a scalpel managed to destroy her? You did this."
"I tried to save her!"
"You didn't! This is your fault!" Beast Boy's face contorted with the force of his emotions. "You let her die. And I lost her. And… and I quit. I'm done. Don't ever talk to me again, Robin. I never want to see you, or hear from you, or think about you. I never want to think about the fact that you could have saved Raven… and you didn't."
He walked away, and Robin didn't have the strength or courage to stop him.
But most of all… he didn't have a reason.
That wasn't the end.
Months passed and Cyborg left, leaving Starfire and Robin alone in the tower with the echoes of a different fight, but with a similar context. He was mad. He was sad. He was looking for someone to blame. He knew it wasn't Robin's fault, knew that there was nothing he could have done to prevent Raven's death, but it was so hard to blame nothing. Staring at those pictures of her defiled body, skin stretched open, scull shattered like glass, eyes scarred and lifeless… Cyborg had come to the conclusion that someone besides Professor Chang had to take the fall, and Robin willingly accepted that mantel.
He was the leader, and he had failed them. And, he had failed Raven most of all.
Two years later, Starfire left. Her reasons were different, or at least she played them out that way, saving Robin some amount of sanity. She had gotten the opportunity to train with some of JLA's best heroes, and she couldn't turn it down. She would learn all about Earth culture and have the opportunity to hone her powers with the best of the best. It was everything she had ever wanted, and Robin (now Nightwing) couldn't refuse that smile anything. He let her go, feeling as though he were losing more than a companion… he was losing the one solace he had left in his life.
And so Nightwing was left with a handful of new recruits and a wide-eyed, innocent Tim Drake running the show. He tried his best to keep them under control, to keep them together and coherent, but he couldn't handle it. It was like babysitting a bunch of children with superpowers, while trying to train them that there was collateral damage when you used a whole building to attack a bad guy. More often than not he wondered if his own team used to be this disorganized and rambunctious.
But then he remembered Raven's calm, cool eyes, and her rational voice as she brought them all down from their anger. He remembered the almost-not-quite-bordering-on-something-resembling -a-smile she used to give them from under her hood, the almost inaudible chuckle at Beast Boy's expense, and then he remembered that she was the whole reason the team functioned. She was the emotional glue that kept them all sane… and he had lost her. He lost her because he'd been careless and stupid, and nothing that resembled a leader.
And so he left, running away from memories and responsibilities as he searched for something to do. Something that would keep his mind away from the fact that he had damaged or destroyed everyone in his life. Blüdhaven seemed a good enough start to keeping him occupied. It was thick with crime, teeming with the disgusting slime from the underbelly of the population, and it needed someone to save it, and Nightwing needed someone to save.
Three years after he had left the tower, he found himself on a rooftop in Blüdhaven, staring into the crime riddled city with a detached feeling in his chest. The streets had grown common, the sounds like white noise to him, and the skyline was so familiar he could draw it in his sleep.
"You won't think one girl has the ability to break you up, would you." Robin swung his legs over the side of the building, staring down at the river, something black and foaming was rippling along its surface. "I mean… I know I shouldn't think the girl is cute. I've got a million different things to worry about now. I mean, the team is really coming together! But she's got these dimples… dimples, Dick."
Nightwing rolled his eyes behind his mask and sighed. Batman somehow managed to think that it was a good idea to have Tim follow him around for a few days. Something about bonding and mentoring, or whatever. Batman really just wanted a status report on Nightwing's mental stability, considering it was nearing the five year anniversary of Raven's death. Whatever. If he wanted Tim to spy on Dick, let him. It wasn't like he had anything to hide anyway. It's was painfully obvious that he was still pretty fucked up in the head.
"I'm not the guy to be asking about for relationship advice, Tim." He glanced over his shoulder at him on the other side of the roof. "I would like to remind you that one of my girlfriends was nearly killed by the Joker and another one left me to go train with Wonder Woman and Power Girl. Not to mention all the others in between… although there was the cute bartender I hooked up with a few times…" He sighed and leaned back against an AC unit on the roof. "I'm kind of a failure at love."
"Come on, Dick… you're like Nightwing Casanova… charming and debonair and all that crap." He gave an exasperated sigh, his boots clicking on the brick as he dangled his legs over the edge. "You have to know something I can say to her."
"Just be yourself, Tim. If she doesn't like you for you, then there's no point in trying to please her." He tapped the heel of his boot on the tar roof and sighed, feeling his skin start to crawl with boredom. It had been unusually quiet for the past three days, not even so much as a bank robbery, and he was starting to get antsy in the silence. "Isn't there anything going on tonight?"
"No." Robin shrugged. "But do you want to stay out here, maybe try a different part of the city? We could head down to the industrial park and see if there's anything exciting over there…"
Nightwing sighed again and rubbed the back of his head, knowing that Robin was grasping at straws and trying to keep him and his mind occupied and off of the date looming in the distance. "No. I want to go home, but I know you're on strict orders to keep me on patrol and under control."
Tim blushed and looked away, guilt lining his eyes. "Sorry, Dick… it's just… well, Batman is worried about you."
"Yeah, like he is every year." Nightwing stood up and glanced down at his companion. The innocence that had been there three years ago had vanished with age and responsibility, and Nightwing saw more of himself in Tim's eyes than he thought possible. That thought was frightening. He didn't think anyone should have to bear the responsibility of the weight on his shoulders. "How old are you, Tim?"
He shrugged. "Almost eighteen. Why?"
"Eighteen…" He pondered that for a moment. "Well… I think you're old enough for a beer. Let's head back to the apartment and talk about this girl of yours."
"But, Dick… I mean… I…" He looked sheepish for a moment, as if he was ashamed of something, and his eyes darted away from his mentor.
Nightwing raised an eyebrow and managed to fight off the urge to roll his eyes. God help him if he was that innocent at his age. "What? You don't drink?"
"It's just, I don't like beer…" He winced as if he'd been hurt and looked up at Nightwing, eyes pleading behind his mask. "Please, don't tell Bruce about it! He'll kill me if he knew I was drinking underage. It's just Connor and everyone else drinks and I don't want to be that guy…"
"I get the gist, Tim. No worries." Nightwing snorted and pulled Tim to his feet. "You know, sometime you should ask him what his teens were like."
"Filled with sulking and crime fighting, I'm sure."
Nightwing opened his mouth to make a snarky response, but was met with sirens wailing in the distance. A jolt of electricity raced through his veins as he suddenly felt the rush of a chase, and his lethargy vanished as the noise echoed through the buildings. It was exactly what he needed today, something to take his mind off the darkening chaos that swarmed through his head. He turned to his younger protégé and smiled.
"Sorry, I guess we'll have to postpone that beer. Duty calls first."
"Duh." Robin rolled his eyes but took off down the rooftops, following him as they both moved closer to the sound. It didn't matter if it was a pawn-shop bust, as long as it was something for him to do.
Beneath him, Nightwing could see people in the shadows and flickering lights. Hobos, hookers, junkies and then… wait. His boots skidded to a stop beneath him and he stared into the inky darkness. That didn't look right. The movement was off, methodical, timed, and patient. Not at all like someone who had one too many drinks at the corner bar, or a junkie desperate for the next score.
Nightwing watched as he saw the flash of black slide deeper into the alley, running away from the siren. That was their perp. Some idiot thinking he could run away from Nightwing. Stupid. He barked out orders to Robin, and they both jumped from the roof to the alleyway, chasing after the shape as it slid down the maze. Nightwing knew this snake-like territory ended in a dead-end. The thug was done for.
It wasn't much of a fight, really, but he would take what he could get. Work was work, and whatever he could do to stay occupied was… His mind came to a screeching halt as the form moved into the light from a dingy street lamp, the dead-end of the maze rising up behind her. Nightwing swallowed hard and stared at the petite, slender form in front of him. Behind him he could hear Robin's curse of surprise and the unsheathing of his bo staff.
"Isn't that your Raven?"
Something about the way that he said it made Nightwing suddenly tremble, and he nearly lost his grip on his own weapon. His Raven? His friend. His teammate.
Her head tilted toward the sound of his voice, and in the dim, flickering lights of the streetlamps, he saw her fully.
He had always had fantasies about what it would be like to see her again; all of the team had them he was sure. She was such an integral member and her loss hit them all particularly hard—hard enough to break up them up five years ago. He doubted any of them forgot-indeed her loss left an imprint on all of them, shaping their desires and affecting who they had turned out to become.
He had often thought of what she would say when they were happily reunited or even what her thoughts on a particular situation would be. He carried the memory of her that he'd always known—that of her gracefulness. She had always carried herself in a dignified and refined way. Even the way she fought-beautifully hovering and casting intricate spells at attackers—reflected her carriage. Her head was always held high and, in fact, her posture had always been straight. Now, however…
The Raven that stood before him was grotesque—a cruel mockery of all his memories of her. Her head was still, but there was movement under her skin, as if she was constantly ready to pick up any trace of sound. Her nose would wrinkle after flaring her nostrils—like a mole, she inhaled scents to help place her surroundings. She stood barefoot; her feet coated in the grime and filth that she now lived in. She was almost more animal than human.
But what was the worst were her eyes. The scars that sliced across them reminded him of the photos Chang had sent as tokens to the titans. Her eyes, once a vivid shade of violet, were now clouded, their sparkle and intelligence covered by the milky film that blinded her.
"Raven," he repeated, only this time it was more desperate, like he was calling out to her soul.
She shifted her movements just slightly, and Nightwing recognized the stance immediately. She was preparing to fight him.
"Stop! Raven, Stop! It's me, Nightwing… er, Robin."
There was a moment's pause, a flicker of surprise in her movements, and then a slow smile peeled across her lips. "My mark."
Nightwing didn't even have a chance to contemplate what that meant. She sunk down on her haunches, her fingertips barely touching the ground, and lunged forward. She looked like a feral animal attacking anything in her territory, and Nightwing barely had a moment to be frightened before her knee landed in his gut. Her fingers wrapped around his flesh, squeezing and pulling the skin as she used it as leverage to move herself forward, slamming her elbow into his jaw.
Robin pulled out a bird-a-rang and tried to distract her, but she deflected it easily and countered his movement with a roundhouse kick to his face. He slammed into the brick wall next to him, cursing as blood spilled from between his lips. Nightwing's shock wore of and he ripped Raven's hands off of him, pushing forward against her, forcing her to take a few steps back. His mind was emptying as he slowly had the realization that this was not Raven, this was something else entirely, wearing the skin of his former teammate.
"What are you doing here?"
She crouched down again, tilting her head to the side as she listened to his footsteps. "I would ask you the same thing."
Robin righted himself, holding a hand to his jaw. "But?"
"Now is not the time for talking."
She moved again, scaling the wall before pushing herself off of it and landing behind Robin and Nightwing. Nightwing barely had a moment to appreciate her technique before she moved again. Her shoulder dipped down and she rammed her energy into Nightwing's stomach as her right leg swung forward and hooked behind his. With a powerful tug, he tumbled backward, just barely able to right himself before she attacked again.
He knew this move. Slade had pulled it on him before. It was so common from the mercenary that he had flashbacks of nostalgia as his shoulders hit the pavement. Raven moved again, this time turning her attacks on Robin. He ducked out of her way, barely missing another kick to his face. He slunk into the shadows, hunting for something in his belt.
"Don't hurt her." Nightwing's hand closed on his wrist. "Just… knock her out."
Raven's hands touched the pavement and she paused for a fraction of a second, her fingertips touching the grime. Nightwing and Robin realized exactly what she was doing.
"She can feel us." Robin whispered. "Shit."
Nightwing didn't have a chance to respond, and she lunged forward again, this time moving closer to their legs. Her hands grabbed onto Robin's ankles, and he kicked her face with such force that blood began to drip from her nose, but she was unfazed. Her weight shifted again, and she pulled, throwing Robin off of his feet and violently tossing him into the brick wall. There was a thick, sickly cough as blood dripped out of his mouth, but Robin managed to stay upright.
"I'm not going to lose to you."
Raven tilted her head to the side, listening. "Two broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder." She pushed forward again, her elbow ramming into a soft spot on his shoulder and her knee slammed into his ribs. Robin cried out in pain and crumpled to the pavement. Without sparing him a second thought she turned around to the sound of Nightwing.
"I don't want to fight you."
Raven moved to the side, her hands wrapping around Robin's discarded weapon. She fingered the bird-a-rang for a moment before sliding it in between her fingers. Nightwing swallowed hard. When had she learned to handle one of those?
"I don't want to lose my mark, Nightwing… so one of us will have to fail." She moved her head and faced him, displaying her milky eyes. "Which one will it be…?"
"You're not Raven."
"I never said I was." Her feet moved carefully over the pavement, each step careful and planned. "You want me to look like a love lost? That's your own problem, I'm here for a job."
"Who are you working for?"
"Who is he?"
"Master is master. He does not need to carry a name in my presence."
Great. She was just as enigmatic as before, maybe even worse. "What does he want?"
Her head tilted to the side, smile fading as she pulled her arm back. "You."
With that, the bird-a-rang flew sliding past his cheek, scraping the skin. Nightwing ducked in just enough time to avoid a roundhouse to the head, and caught her ankle on his shoulder, throwing her off balance. She slammed into the brick wall behind her, but caught herself before her skull knocked against it. Growling, she balanced her weight on his shoulder and used her free leg to knee Nightwing in his already tender jaw.
He dropped down on his haunches, staring up into her blank face. "I won't lose to you." He repeated it like a mantra, but he could already feel something under his skin start to ooze blood.
She stood in front of him, her lips tugging down into a frown. "You won't lose and you won't fight… tell me, Nightwing, what is it you intend on doing then?"
He looked up into the woman's face, he couldn't call her Raven anymore, this wasn't Raven, just a poor excuse for a doppelganger. He pulled his lips back into a snarl she couldn't see. "I intend on taking you down."
She cocked her head to the side, listening to him. "How?" She dropped down to her haunches again, steadying herself on the pavement. "Dislocated jaw, concussion, and broken right wrist." She paused, her fingers gliding just slightly in front of her, as if she were feeling the air around him. "Two broken ribs and a sprained ankle."
Nightwing scoffed. "If you can lay a hand on me."
Her frown turned into a slow smile. "Is that an invitation or a threat?"
"Come and get me."
The words hadn't even left his lips, and she flew at him. Her left leg connected with his right side, cracking ribs she had already bruised earlier, and he felt them snap under the force of kick. He reached out and grabbed Robin's discarded bo staff from his unconscious fingers, and moved to attack her. She spun out of the way with the grace of a dancer, her hand catching the end of the bo staff and twisting it above his head and behind his back. Using Nightwing's own momentum against him, she twisted the staff until his wrist ended at an unusual angle, and threw him into the brick wall. His bones cracked and he dropped the staff with a scream.
She moved again, maneuvering her body next to his and slamming her elbow up into his jaw. Pain raced from every limb on his body and he crumpled to the ground, staring up at her. She cocked her head to the side, emotions replaced with blankness.
"Miscalculated. Bruised sternum, ankle stays intact." With that, she stomp-kicked his chest sending him flying back into the brick wall, and swung the bo staff at his temple. He barely heard his own scream before darkness surrounded him.
So, no, I am not starting a new story. I had been tag teaming on this one for a while (anyone who read What I Want knows about this), and I reread it the other day and remembered how much I freaking love this. I just had to share it. There's more swarming around in my head, and I would love to continue working on this, so anyone who wants to help, I am open for help.