Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans.
Author's Note: This one's been difficult for me, as I'm much more comfortable in Beast Boy's shoes than anyone else's, and he's not the one the camera is following here. Raven here is a tad more… scheme-y than the norm, and a whole hell of a lot more flirtatious—which is to say, at all, more or less. Also, I totally stole the idea behind my one and only inclusion of Terra in a story of mine from Caprichoso.
I regret nothing.
To say that Raven had changed over the course of her time on Earth—and arguably more importantly, her time as a Titan—would be a painfully obvious statement. Yet each of these changes, she would argue, was merely a modulation of her already established persona. If a stream becomes a river, has it really changed its essential nature? Or has it merely become more of what it already was? Is a hill really very different from a mountain, except as a matter of degree? Years of meditation, introspection, and contemplation had made Raven very aware of who she was and how that person had developed over the years, and to each of these "changes" that could be catalogued she would respond that she had merely grown, in one way or another. She was more trusting, less sarcastic (sometimes), more patient (occasionally), and in a million other ways that she had painstakingly observed either more or less of one thing or another. Only two true changes would she admit to, and one only to herself.
The first—and most obvious—change was that her father's influence had been marginalized, if not eliminated. While she still had her inherited traits—his magic, his temper, and his occasional need to eradicate all life (her Spring Cleanings were legendary)—she no longer had his voice and essence corrupting her thoughts and actions. What she did, she did of her own volition.
The second—and secret—change was that she had fallen a little bit in love. As in almost all things, however, Raven was (and is and always will be) eminently practical, and she knew that to dive in headfirst would be the height of folly. For one thing, she knew that, at the time of her realization, any romantic relationship of hers would be doomed to failure, as the coming of her father would turn it to so much dust. When this obstacle came and went and disappeared in the rearview mirrors of life, however, she had to confront her next hurdle: the subject of her amorous ardor had never so much as entertained serious thoughts of entering a romantic relationship with anybody following the fallout of his last disastrous liaison, much less the prickly half-demon. After all, their early relationship could have best been described as "tense," and while they had warmed up to each other considerably, she had never given any sign of her feelings. One thing that hadn't changed since she was fourteen was that she still had a great deal of difficulty in expressing how she felt.
What also hadn't changed was that Raven was exceptionally brilliant, more than a little devious, extremely determined, and rather disinterested in the notion of fair play. The years since that fateful night had been spent gradually insinuating herself into Beast Boy's life so subtly that none of the other Titans had noticed anything unusual until the two of them had become best friends right under their noses.
And now that she and Beast Boy had grown up (or done a reasonable imitation of having done so), Raven decided it was time to advance to the next stage of her plan.
The poor boy never would never see it coming.
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.
The Acme of Skill
Six years after "Things Change"
The words were tumbling out of Terra's mouth before the portal in her kitchen had even closed behind Raven.
"I've kept up my side of our agreement, I swear!" The empath noted that the terror her presence inspired in the geomancer hadn't diminished since their deal had been made in the days following Trigon's banishment—and Terra's subsequent resurrection.
Raven hadn't made any threats then, and would not make any tonight. She didn't need to.
"You have," she said, "Apart from that incident at your high school, you haven't even been seen by one of us while on patrol." A hand emerged from behind her cloak bearing a sheaf of papers. "There are openings for geologists and archaeologists in Phoenix, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, and Toronto. The contact information is here, as well as a list of references and an updated copy of your résumé. The compensation for each of these positions is significantly greater than your current situation. You should encounter little difficulty in being hired for whichever job you find suits you best."
Terra blinked in shock as Raven levitated the documents over to the kitchen table. "This… this wasn't the deal we made. You… you said I could stay in the city as long as I-"
"I am altering the deal," Raven interrupted, allowing a hint of impatience to enter her voice. Walking forward, she backed the trembling blonde against the counter and leaned in close, never breaking eye contact.
"Pray I do not alter it further."
For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
Based on Deception
Two months before "The Acme of Skill"
"I don't know how you talked me into this… this inanity. Obviously, I am losing my mind." The video game controller dangled from her hand as though she expected it to rear up and bite her.
"Quit bein' so dramatic, Rae! Besides, I didn't talk you into playing, you lost a bet, remember? Faster time on the obstacle course ring a bell?"
"Simply making that bet is evidence of my diminished mental faculties, let alone losing it." Letting out a sigh, she put both hands on the controller and looked over to her green teammate. "So how does this game work?"
Two hours, the pair of them were still playing, Beast Boy enthusiastically mowed down wave after wave of hostile aliens while Raven gamely shot in the general direction of the enemy without much effect. Finally, the sorceress threw up her hands in disgust. "This is ridiculous, Beast Boy. You spend more time resurrecting me than actually firing your weapon. I'm done."
"Ah ah ah, Raven! The wager was that you would 'spend the day' gaming. By my watch, you've got twenty two hours left." Raven stared at him, incredulous.
"You're going to take that literally?! That's more than a little absurd, Garfield." The changeling grinned sheepishly, running a hand through his hair.
"Fair enough. Still, though, two hours is almost no time at all. Heck, you spend more time than that choosing a book to borrow from the library every week." Raven grumbled under her breath, but couldn't deny that he had a point.
"How about this, then," she countered, "you pick a level. If I kill more of whatever aliens come hurtling at us, then I can go try and undo the damage I've done to my brain this afternoon with a book. If you win, then I'll keep going without complaint until grey matter oozes out of our ears."
Beast Boy looked slightly discomfited. "That hardly seems fair to you. I mean, I'm not against near-certain victory in most cases, but-"
"The loser must obey all requests and or demands by the winner for twenty four hours that don't violate local, state, or federal laws."
A low whistle came from behind them, causing both Titans to turn around to see Cyborg standing in the elevator doorway. "Oh this, I have got to see."
Twenty minutes later, it was all over but the shouting. Cyborg's jaw had dented the floor, and Beast Boy was in a similar state of shock. He wasn't entirely positive what had just happened, but he was reasonably certain it violated some article of the Geneva Convention.
"Well then," said a smugly satisfied Raven as she set down the controller and stood up. "I do believe that takes care of that."
"Wha…but… bwa… huh?" Beast Boy shook his head and gave up trying to figure out how… how that… had just happened. "I guess you've got your twenty four hours, huh? What do you want first?"
The boys' blood chilled slightly at the smile on the empath's face. "Oh Garfield," she said in a fond—and somehow terrifying—voice as she laid a hand on his shoulder, "I never said which twenty four hours you would owe me—or even that they would be contiguous." With that she sauntered out of the common room and disappeared into the hallway, softly humming to herself all the while.
Cyborg and Beast Boy stared after her for several moments before the larger Titan broke the silence.
"Suddenly, I don't feel so bad about the fact that I lose to her every time we play chess."
Beast Boy gulped audibly. "Hey Cy? What's 'contiguous' mean?"
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
Several hours after "Based on Deception"
"What's your game, Raven?" The named Titan, who was reclining on her bed, looked up from her book to see her cybernetic teammate standing outside of her door. "I looked over the recordings of the obstacle training course when you lost that bet with the grass stain and I saw something interesting." Cocking his head, he silently asked permission to enter Raven's room. She gave it in equal silence and quietly closed the door behind him as he walked through.
"You see, you completed the course six tenths of a second slower than Beast Boy. Admittedly, he was bringing his A-game to the table, but he also went first, letting you know what time you had to beat."
"And I failed to beat it, just as I fail to see what point you're trying to make."
"My point, O' scary sister mine, is that you threw the race. There are no fewer than three recorded instances of you taking the oh-so-slightly indirect route from point A to point B, slowing you down just enough to lose, but not so obviously as to be noticed by anyone not looking for it." Raven made no response, simply staring impassively at her accuser.
"And your performance last week and your bet?" he shook his head and chuckled slowly. "Playing that well takes more than skill, it takes practice. Of all people, you prepared for a video game showdown, and you did it before you even 'lost' the first bet. You've got an end game, and I don't think for a minute that it involves BB taking your turn to do the dishes."
Raven shrugged slightly, "He'll probably clean a few dishes along the way, but you are correct in your assertion that last week was a means to an end. As for what end that may be… I'm curious as to what you think it is."
"I'd have to say that you're either planning on eating him or seducing him, and given that you've stopped ordering pepperoni on your pizza when we all go out, I'd gonna go out on a limb and say it's the latter of the two." Raven blushed faintly, but otherwise did not react. "So allow me, if you will, to engage in a little blackmail. Why should I keep quiet about this?"
Raven rolled her eyes at her teammate but decided to play along. "Because if you don't, I'll disassemble you and scatter your parts throughout time and space?"
He had the audacity to yawn.
"Because you'll get to experience the joy and thrill of being part of a conspiracy?"
He considered it for a moment. "Nah, I get to be in a conspiracy with Beast Boy at least twice a month whenever we decide to mess with Rob. Third time's the charm?"
Raven mulled the situation over in her head, pondering the problem before her. In the end, as unpleasant and highly distasteful as found it, she could only see one solution.
Pulling her knees up to her chest and hugging them, she looked at Cyborg with her eyes as large and vulnerable as she could make them. "Because… it might work?" she asked in a small voice.
"Aaaah! Turn it off, turn it off!" he shouted, turning away and covering his eyes with one arm. "You win! I surrender! Je me rends!" Hesitantly looking back, he found—to his relief—that Raven had resumed her normal posture, albeit with an air of smugness. "Starfire taught you that, didn't she?"
Raven snorted. "Hardly. I saw Jinx do it to Robin several years ago in a fight with the Hive Five. If it could make our Fearless Leader stumble…"
Cyborg laughed. "Well then, I suppose you have this well in hand, don't you?"
"Not really," Raven replied, shaking her head. "I have almost no idea about getting him to see me in a romantic light, and I don't want to start using my twenty four hours until us going out and doing something would feel more like a date than like two friends hanging out."
Cyborg tapped a few fingers along his jaw, thinking. "Alright, I suppose I could give you a few pointers in the fine art of flirting, if you'd like."
Raven looked skeptical. "Are you claiming to be an expert on getting boys to notice you? Because if that's the case, you're even better at keeping a secret than I thought."
"Hardy har," he replied, rolling his eye. "No Raven, what I have is experience in girls flirting with me, and I can tell you what's been effective at getting my attention. For instance, the male sex drive is driven in large part by visual stimulation, so a large part of getting your foot in the door is presentation."
"I am not going to tart myself up and parade-"
"Geez, Raven," Cyborg interrupted, "of course not. Have you heard of moderation?" He leaned against the wall and chuckled under his breath. "You're already naturally beautiful, so take advantage of that to make it easier."
"Excuse me," Raven said disbelievingly, "but I'm naturally what?"
He sighed, muttering something under his breath that Raven couldn't clearly make out about "self-image" and "girls." Getting a hold of himself, he looked her in the eyes. "Yes, Raven, beautiful. Now you can choose not to believe me and I can present you with reams of data about symmetry and proportions that would make both of us very uncomfortable, or you can admit that you may not have the most unbiased of perspectives regarding your own appearance and take my word for it."
Raven blinked. "That was… unexpected. Even still, however, I don't want him to be interested only because he thinks I'm... pretty."
"Of course not," was the response. "Think of it like this: the initial physical attraction is kind of like bait on a fishing hook. It'll get you a bite, but it won't set the hook or reel in the fish for you. If you'll pardon the metaphor."
Sighing and shaking her head, she stood up. "Okay then, you've convinced me," she said with a smirk, "let's assume you know what you're talking about. Teach."
He eyed her critically. "First things first, we have to get your security blanket out of the way," he said, gesturing a hand towards her cloak, the edges of which she gripped tightly, pulling the garment around her. "That means when you're wearing it, hood down and-"
"When I'm wearing it?" she almost shouted in surprise. Cyborg nodded.
"Yep, you're going to have to ditch it a few times." He tilted his head in thought. "You can just wear civilian clothes a few times to get used to it—you do have civvies, right?" She nodded. "Okay, good, that saves us a trip to the mall. And since it's summer, I can also have the A/C 'break down' to give you an excuse to ditch the cloak."
"Okay," the empath breathed, "I can do that. What else do you have for me?"
"Well, in addition to attire, there are some simple—and otherwise innocuous—actions you can take. For instance, you can try stretching."
"Stretching? As in workout and training stretching?"
"No, not that kind of stretching, the kind you do after waking up. Here, give it a shot and I'll tape you to show you what I mean."
Shooting him a dubious glance, she complied, reaching both hands over her head and arching her back. She even got up on tiptoe, although she wasn't completely sure how that would make any difference.
"That felt nice," she said when she was done. "Okay, let's see what that accomplished" In response Cyborg opened up a hatch on his arm and displayed the visual spectrum recording his cybernetic eye had made of the exercise. "Oh," she exclaimed in surprise. "Oh. That's… I suppose you might know what you're doing, then." She glanced over to her grinning co-conspirator. "I don't suppose, if I were to do this on the day that the air conditioning were to suffer an unfortunate breakdown, that you would be willing to record his reaction for me?"
"Raven," he said, his grin growing even wider, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used.
The Victorious Strategist
Four days after "Enemy Agents"
"Yo, BB! You're getting milk all over the table!"
The flabbergasted changeling blinked slowly at Raven's uncloaked back as she made her way to the refrigerator to make her breakfast, his best friend's outraged exclamation fighting with the memory of what he had just seen for his brain's recognition. The battle continued to rage on as Starfire reached across the table and righted the jug in his hand before any more of its contents could escape into the overflowing bowl of cereal sitting before him. Her intervention, however, came too late to prevent some of the wayward dairy product from spilling off the table and onto his lap, immediately snapping him out of his stupor.
"Dude! What the? How did?" He stopped and took a breath. Looking between Cyborg and Starfire (and somewhat furtively at Raven, who was half hidden behind the door of the fridge, still seeking her morning repast) "What just happened?"
Cyborg replied by way of laughing so hard that he fell out of his chair and onto the floor, and continued laughing even as some of the milk on the table made its way over to him and began to drip onto his face. Starfire merely looked back and forth between the perplexed changeling and Raven—who was taking a suspiciously long time to find what she was looking for—before a look of dawning comprehension lit up her face.
"Friends," she asked, smiling from ear to ear, "does anybody know the whereabouts of Robin at this moment? I would like to retrieve him for the breaking of the fast this morning."
Beneath the table, Cyborg's laughter redoubled while Beast Boy—not understanding the source of his amusement but flushing nonetheless—began to lightly kick his best friend in the head on principle.
The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
Lies in Wait
Two weeks after "The Victorious Strategist"
"Oh dear Azar, it's finally happened." Beast Boy looked up from his comic book just in time to see Raven haphazardly toss her book to the side. The two of them had been sitting on the couch reading for the past forty minutes while Starfire merrily cooked up another culinary atrocity in the kitchen.
"You've finally come to appreciate my comedic genius?"
Raven rolled her eyes. "Secondhand television exposure may have rotted my brains out to the point where I can't come up with an appropriately scathing dismissal of your ridiculous proposal, but I haven't completely lost my mind quite yet. No, Garfield, I am bored."
Now it was Beast Boy's turn to roll his eyes. "Oh no, what a tragic misfortune. Are you seriously telling me that you've never been bored before?"
"I've read every book in the Tower at least three times—including Cyborg's auto repair manuals—and if I spend another minute meditating, I may very well scream."
"Too bad the bad guys are being so quiet lately; I usually find a hefty dose of adrenaline does wonders for getting out of the doldrums."
"A visit from Cinderblock would be nice," Raven conceded, "but seeing as I have no control over that, do you have any suggestions?"
"Well," the changeling drawled, "what I do to satisfy my inner adrenaline junkie probably won't work for you, Rae."
The empath raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And what exactly do you do?"
"Usually, I provoke you into attempted homicide," Beast Boy replied, grinning mischievously.
"I thought Robin started assigning you extra training for doing that," she mused, not in the least bit surprised at her teammate's revelation.
"I convinced him that escaping you should qualify as survival training," he shrugged. "Now I just get extra training if you manage to catch me."
"I suppose I'll have to try harder; I wouldn't want to risk you getting shortchanged."
"You're too kind," Beast Boy quipped, returning his attention to his comic book.
Several moments passed in silence.
"I could go see a movie," Raven proposed. The green Titan looked up and blinked. "Horror movies are the best for getting your heart pumping," he remarked, then turned back to his comic.
"I would hate to go by myself."
"That would probably suck," he agreed.
"You could come with me," she proposed.
"But Raven," he protested, his voice dripping with false sincerity, "I can't possibly tear myself away from this engrossing reading material of mine!"
She gave him a flat look. "You're mocking me," she growled.
"Only a lot," he replied, grinning. "You can always use up one of your hours to make me go."
"Just so we're clear: you're willing to go of your own volition, but you're insisting on being forced so that you can make me waste some of my 'winnings?'"
He shrugged. "Twenty three hours hanging over my head isn't much different than twenty four," he admitted, "but every little bit counts, you know?"
Raven sighed, conceding defeat. "Very well, it's twenty three, and you're buying the tickets and the popcorn."
"Your wish is my command," Beast Boy said, springing off the couch and bowing low. Raven briefly blushed, but it was gone by the time he stood upright. "I assume you'll be wanting butter and salt on the popcorn?"
"What are we, barbarians?" she asked, arching her eyebrow.
He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
Skilled in War
Five days after "Lies in Wait"
"Dude, I think I'm having a growth spurt," Beast Boy told his best friend excitedly. The statement was enough to pull Cyborg away from the T-Car and turn his attention towards the changeling.
"B, you're twenty-four. You're not going to get any taller than you are now, no matter how much you want to."
"Well that's easy for you to say, mister 'six-four,'" the green Titan groused. "I'm stuck being the shortest person on the team, even with my shoes on!" Cyborg snorted in amusement. Nobody else but the changeling thought anything of the fact that Beast Boy had apparently stopped growing at thirteen years old, but to him it was a cosmic injustice. Robin and Cyborg occasionally teased him about it, but only because it bothered him so much.
"Well aside from the anatomical impossibility—remember when you made me x-ray you to see if your growth plates had ossified?—what makes you think you've somehow stumbled upon a post-adolescent growth spurt?"
"Well," Beast Boy started, "you know how people get all clumsy when their legs get longer?" Cyborg nodded. "Well, I've been tripping all over for the past four or five days! Seriously, I think if I land on Raven one more time she's going to break my legs or something."
With a flash of realization Cyborg understood exactly what was going on. But how to capitalize on this? With a mental shrug, he opted for the usual route: teasing. "Oh, so you're 'landing on Raven' a lot, are you?" he asked with a smirk and suggestive eyebrow waggle. "Well I hate to tell you buddy, but you're still five foot two… and a half… so I can only think of one reason for you to be having so many accidents around little ol' Rae-Rae."
Beast Boy gaped at the metal Titan, opening and closing his mouth silently as he turned a progressively darker shade of green. Eventually, he turned and fled upstairs, Cyborg's laughter giving chase.
Once he was certain the changeling was gone, he called Raven's communicator. "Really," he asked once she answered, "tripping?"
The empath shrugged. "What can I say?" she asked with a hint of a smile. "He's cute when he stammers." Cyborg groaned and hung up.
Those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.
Predictable Patterns of Response
One week after "Spellbound"
Beast Boy wasn't used to Raven actually wanting to talk with him very much, but in the wake of that damnable dragon's duplicity it had become a semi-regular occurrence. He certainly wasn't going to complain—after all, he had been carrying somewhat of a torch for her for some time now, and while he wished the circumstances leading up to this point had been different, he had no intention of passing up the opportunity to not only help a friend but also to establish a closer relationship with the sorceress.
This particular afternoon the two of them had met on the roof and whiled away the time chatting about nothing of any particular importance. Nothing, that is, until…
"I never apologized to you." She was facing away as she said this, looking for all the world as though she were watching the seagulls across the bay as they circled the docks. "I mean, what I did was… indefensible, and I never even told you that I regretted it."
"Huh?" came the articulate response.
Turning to face him, she elaborated: "Morphing you. I seized control of your powers—your body—and bent it to my will just to show that I could. It was… a violation," she spat the word out as though it had a foul taste, "and if I could undo anything that happened during that whole incident, it would be that."
To say that he was flabbergasted would be an understatement. True, the incident hadn't particularly thrilled him, but frankly he was much less bothered by it than Raven seemed to be. "Raven, I-"
"Please," she interrupted, "let me get this out in the open, first." A small, uncertain smile flickered across her features before she continued. "You know that I can, to some extent, feel the emotions of the people around me." At this, Beast Boy's heart started to race: did she know how he felt about her? "Like right now: when I mention my powers your fear spikes. Your powers may muddle everything else up, but fear is always easy to read. Beast Boy, I don't want you to be afraid of me."
"Wait, wait, wait… my powers do what?"
"They make it hard to get a read on you. Have I never told you this?" He shook his head. "It's like going to a symphony and trying to hear what the second chair clarinet is playing, but every member of the orchestra is playing a different piece of music: the true emotion gets buried in the confusion, with one or two exceptions that can stick out even in that mess."
"Soooo, you can tell that I'm nervous—not afraid, but nervous—but you can't tell why?"
"In this case," she replied, "the 'why' is all too clear. You were never like this around me before I changed you."
Beast Boy laughed. "Raven, we never spent any real amount of time together before this whole mess started! I'm just worried I'll do something stupid and alienize you away or something."
"'Alienate,'" she corrected automatically, "and you're telling me that my ability to completely hijack your powers doesn't remotely bother you?"
Her green teammate shrugged and lay down, staring at the sky and adopting as relaxed a posture as he could. "Not really. I mean, it'd probably freak me out if someone else could do it, but I'm pretty sure I can trust you not to abuse it." He turned his head to look at her and grinned. "Besides, if you were gonna kill me or something, you'd have done it years ago. You're really not half as scary as you try and pretend to be." As soon as he finished talking he felt a force behind his shoulders launch him into a seated position, at which point he was veritably tackle-hugged by the sorceress. As with the last time she had hugged him, he was surprised enough that by the time he regained his bearing she was already pulling away, giving him no opportunity to return the gesture in kind.
As she pulled back, however, Beast Boy noticed several changes in the empath's appearance: her face was flushed—she probably didn't realize how her complexion made even the slightest blush blatantly obvious—her pupils were dilated in relation to their earlier state, and if he looked closely enough at her carotid arteries he could see that her pulse was elevated. It was gone in a flash, but he had enough innate talent for reading the minutiae of body language to figure out the likely cause… and groan inwardly at the timing.
'So she likes you,' he thought, 'that's a good thing, right? But how much is attraction and how much is due to her emotional… confusion right now?' Beast Boy mentally groaned again. 'I suppose the only way to know that is to see how she feels once she's back on her feet again. Until then, Garfield, just be her friend.' With that thought, he smiled and changed the subject, and the two kept enjoying each other's company until Cyborg came up to ask them their preference for dinner.
Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment—that which they cannot anticipate.
Fall Like a Thunderbolt
Several months after "Skilled in War"
"How goes the campaign, General?" Cyborg asked from somewhere inside the T-Ship. He had noticed that a few of the couplers had gotten a little sticky from the last time they had taken the vehicle out for a mission, and was working on loosening and tightening the requisite parts to ensure smooth separations and joinings.
"Well, we've put the enemy's back up against a river and have laid siege to his forces," she replied in her usual monotone. "However, our artillery batteries have run out of munitions, the men have had their rations cut back, and should the enemy break out into the countryside again morale will be severely damaged. It's time to do or die, Mister President: either he surrenders tonight, or we attack at dawn."
There was a pause as Cyborg translated his teammate's statement. "Am I to take that as 'I plan on asking him out tomorrow if he doesn't do so tonight?'"
"And that I blew my twenty-fourth hour at the State Fair getting another stuffed chicken."
Another pause, followed by a snort. "Is that what you kids are calling it these days?" With a roll of her eyes, Raven waved her hand absently at the spaceship. A moment later, the sound of her friend sputtering and cursing reached her ears.
"Okay," he said once he had gotten the coolant line reconnected, "I suppose I asked for that."
"I haven't the faintest idea of what you're talking about," came the oh-so-slightly self-satisfied reply.
"I'm sure you don't," Cyborg said drily. Seconds later he appeared in one of the ship's pods, wiping coolant off of his face with a rag. "So, what can ol' Cyborg do for you then? Sounds like you've got your path figured out already."
The sorceress began to pace in front of the ship. "Actually, no… I know what I want to do, but not how to do it."
"You just… ask him out? It's not that complicated. Just repeat after me: Beast Boy."
She sighed. "Beast Boy."
"Would you." Raven could almost hear him grinning.
Raven blinked. "… What."
"Satisfaction guaranteed, Raven, or double your money back."
"First of all, you're working pro bono, so that's not much reassurance. Secondly, regardless of you 'guarantee,' I have not yet fallen so—Beast Boy!"
The Titan in question started at Raven's exclamation as he walked through the doorway. "Ah! Raven!" He grinned nervously and tugged at the collar of his uniform. "Hey, I uh… fancy seeing you down here! Helping Buckethead with the, uh," he looked over to where Cyborg was waving merrily, "the T-Ship?"
"Yes!" Raven threw out without thinking.
"Nope," said Cyborg at the same time, grinning.
Raven scrambled to recover. "I mean I'm helping by keeping him company. Right Cyborg?"
"Mmhmm," Beast Boy replied, obviously not believing a word. "I smell a conspiracy. Spill?"
"Oops," came Cyborg's voice from the T-Ship, "and I smell another coolant hose disconnecting down there. You two behave!" With a cackle, he dove back down into the machine, leaving Raven to deal with her changeling problem alone.
"So…" she trailed off.
"So," he echoed unhelpfully.
"Would you, ah, like to…"
Cyborg's eavesdropping was interrupted as the entire ship was enveloped in the empath's aura. Once it vanished and he returned topside, the two other Titans were gone.
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as the night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
A Clever Fighter
One hour after "Falls Like a Thunderbolt"
Cyborg laughed to himself as he wiped himself down from the various fluid spills Raven's powers had caused. "Well," he said to nobody in particular, "that went more smoothly than I had planned." Clicking his tongue, he shook his head at himself, "Certainly took longer than expected, though."
As he turned out the lights and headed upstairs to join his friends, he allowed himself a devious grin. 'Two down,' he thought, 'and two to go!'
What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.