A/N Wow, so three years later I finish this chapter… I am terrible. But, finally, this chapter starts really getting into the plot. Sorry, this chapter is more on the serious side and the next one will be too. Six is slowly coming together but I’m hoping to finish and post it in August (if all goes well).
Thank you all so much! I’m thankful for those of you who continually come back to read and review my story. It’s really appreciated!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Teen Titans, only the plot, Viola, and Squeaks!
(3rd Person POV) Covered in Red, Black, and Blue
“So wait. You have to put your hand like this?” inquired a very confused Kole. The blonde mute nodded excitedly and mimicked her hand form. “So this is how you sign ‘P’!” she gushed with enthusiasm and proceeded to continue until she signed ‘Z’.
“Many congratulations, friend Kole,” a gleeful alien, Starfire, remarked and proceeded to clap her hands a few times.
Kole just smiled bashfully and pretended it wasn’t a big deal. Around them the grass rustled, one of the many features to make Jericho’s virtual home more realistic. From behind a large boulder, out hopped a pure white bunny with two giant black circles. One circle was on her right hip while the other engulfed her left ear. She twitched her nose curiously and inched closer to Jericho. “Viola,” Jericho spelled out slowly and stuck his hand out with a blade of grass.
“Isn’t that an instrument?” Kole asked curiously, Jericho just laughed silently.
“What a strange fuzzy creature!” Starfire stated, attempting to poke it with her index finger. Viola twitched her nose and hopped off behind the central boulder.
Jericho shook his head and handed Star the grass as he pulled up more. Using two fingers, he pointed at his eye and then his chest before laying on his stomach and sticking out his hand. Slowly, the skittish bunny made its way toward his hand.
“Ah!” but clamped her mouth shut with her free hand. Star mimicked Jericho and soon she giggled softly as the bunny grazed lazily from her hand, its long ears wiggling back and forth. “Nice to meet you friend Viola,” the red-headed alien whispered. Viola happily nibbled on the green blade and soon hopped closer to Star very expectantly. Star, Kole, and Jericho took turns feeding it grass even though it was surrounded by the tasty treat. Jericho felt a quiet breeze brush against his skin, strong enough to rustle his blonde curls yet not to disturb the grass. There was only a split second in which his brain registered that as odd but he pushed it back.
After an hour of feeding the rabbit, Kole glanced around and scrunched her nose in disgust. “Am I the only one who smells that?” she asked while quickly moving her head from side to side-her pink hair flopping into her face. “I can’t tell where it’s coming from. Ewww, it smells so gross.” Jericho was too enveloped in the bunny to notice; however, once he straightened himself up, closed his eyes, and inhaled slowly, the smell was obvious and painful-smoke. The mute stood to locate it but the sky was clear. “I don’t see anything either.”
“Allow me.” Starfire leapt up and scanned the group from above. She gasped and pointed near the entrance, “There!” quickly relocating herself over it. The rest of the group rushed over from the center and stomped on a small fire, smothering it in its infancy. The purple clad alien stared at the door in front of them, “how did this happen?”
“I didn’t hear the door,” Kole commented. Jericho motioned he didn’t either. The door always produced a whooshing noise when opening or closing. There was only one door into the hologram room, the room repurposed to mimic Jericho’s mountaintop home.
The three super teens were on high alert as they made their way back to the middle where Viola was, but began to relax after a few minutes.
The three had just settled in the center again when Kole asked “Do you all still smell smoke?” Her eyes darting around the room. “The smoke may not have dissipated,” Jericho commented. Kole merely shook her head. “No, it...smells stronger.”
Then out of the corner of Jericho’s eye, red danced. He quickly rose and faced the red, rushing towards it to stomp it out.
“There’s another one!” Kole shouted, hopping up and jumping on the second fire opposite to Jericho.
“A third!” Starfire called, repeating the actions of her friends. Each were on opposite sides of the room desperately putting out the newly sprouted fires.
Soon, small fires sprung up, multiplying and conquering the grassy room. The teens did their best, but the fires worked quickly to decimate everything. Sparks of red hopped along the far-reaches of the mountain and the smoke soon billowed towards to sky. The red flames rose from the ground leaping onto everything as if they were bouncing from a springboard. It was like a race and each ember was trying to consume more- destroy more than its competitors. Soon the mountaintop was almost completely devoured by smoke and the ashes of grass. Just a moment ago it was fine.
“The stomping isn’t helping! Where’s Aqualad when you need him!” shouted a distressed Kole, hopping away from the flames that licked at her feet. She stomped at the flames uselessly to save what little she could before being pushed back. Some flames had already nabbed part of her white left boot making it slip off her leg. “Gah, my boot!”
Jericho was horrified-it was as if his home was being destroyed again yet it was more painful. He was powerless to do anything; he couldn’t even shout. His legs wobbled and he immediately searched for Viola. He had been so focused on the fires that he completely forgot about her. Had she gotten away or…?
Starfire hastily grabbed Kole and Jericho’s arms and flew them out. Although Jericho fought with all his strength, the alien dragged him along like he weighed nothing. He uselessly signed and mouthed Viola’s name until the door to the hologram room closed behind them. Everyone was coughing attempting to rid themselves of the thick smoke in their lungs. Starfire recovered quickly and zoomed out screaming “Aqualad, Robin, friends! Fire!”
Kole, through her hacking, asked if Jericho was still alive which he just nodded. He finally spit up some black gunk and laid dejected on the floor; a shiver raced up his spine as the frigid tiles connected with his right shoulder. His chest struggled to rise and fall. It barely registered in his mind that his clothes were ripped-eaten away by the conflagration that was currently overindulging itself on his home. Or rather what was his home.
A distinct scent of salt accosted his nose and tongue while the sounds of a waterfall followed moments after. Aqualad, completely focused, sped through on top a torrent miraculously keeping everything dry in his path. Speedy was carefully hanging onto the aquatic man’s shoulders so he wouldn’t be swallowed by the floating water beneath his feet. He did not waste a moment, the doors wheezed open and Jericho felt an odd sensation of cool salt and heated malice mix before the doors slid shut leaving him empty again.
“It’s gone,” he absentmindedly signed to no one in particular. As if his body was trying to confirm the event that had occurred yet his mind could not be convinced. The minutes ticked by and every growing moment he felt more insecure. If he opened those doors it would confirm what his body was saying, his mind would have to begrudgingly accept it.
Footsteps. Lots of them. “Friends, are you hurt,” a worried Starfire asked, her hair was tangled and a thick layer of soot was splotched across her roots and face. Part of her left boot had unfortunately be eaten leaving strange holes of her orange skin exposed.
“It’s gone” he signed again, somehow managing to lift his small, disheartened frame from the floor. Starfire knelt next to him and wrapped her arm around his shoulder pulling him in.
“Gnarrk…” the Neanderthal, Gnarrk, moaned pulling Kole into a hug.
The silence was unbearable but Beast Boy quietly mumbled “Dude”. What more could be said?
Robin finally asked “how did this happen?” His eyes through his mask represented that of sympathy. They were gentle as he addressed Jericho.
“How could there be a fire in the hologram room? The way I see it, the only way it could have started is if someone…” Cyborg trailed off leaving everyone to finish his sentence mentally.
“But, how could someone enter? There is only one door and we were standing right next to it,“ Starfire commented with concern.
“And the Tower’s security system should have picked up any unusual activity,” Cyborg added, opening up his arm to double check. He shook his head, “Nothing.”
“Even if it didn’t, one of us would have,” Raven added in her usual gloomy voice. She glanced at Jericho, who was still slumped against Starfire, for a moment before letting her eyes wander.
“There has to be a reason behind this. No, there has to be someone behind this.” The Boy Wonder evaluated his options and concluded by pounding his right hand into his left. “Slade. It has to be.”
Jericho’s eyes were downcast; he knew Raven was thinking the same thing he was but she responded with “Robin, you have to let it go. Do you have any proof?”
“Slade isn’t the only one who’s hacked into or infiltrated the Tower,” Cyborg added calmly.
“No, it HAS to be Slade.”
“But why, and for what?” the Tamaranian asked quietly.
“Yeah, what would Slade gain from this?” Beast Boy asked.
“I don’t know, but I intend to find out.” It was obvious Robin couldn’t let it go. The bird fished a few gadgets from his belt, “I’m going to help Speedy and Aqu-”
“Did someone order rabbit!” Aqualad exclaimed the moment the door opened. He was obviously unaware of how dark the atmosphere was and it took him a while to wipe that silly expression off his face. “Was it something I said?” he asked worriedly, swiping his head back and forth trying to understand what happened. He glanced back at Speedy who just shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s not so much what you said but how you said it,” Herald replied. Bumblebee just sighed and hit her hand against her forehead in defeat.
“We found this little guy digging a hole trying to escape the fire,” Speedy explained calmly.
Jericho suddenly rose, somehow escaping the Star’s insane strength, snatched the poor rabbit from Aqualand, and awkwardly signed something with his right hand before leaving.
“What’d he say?” Argent, who had been quiet until now, asked.
Starfire waiting a few moments before responding. “Why.”
Jericho drifted along, not really aware of anything around him. His feet took him to where he really wanted to be and his brain shut down. The mute stroked Viola who shivered. It took him a while to realized that she felt different. When he finally glanced down he was horrified-Viola was missing patches of her fur! His brain decided to kick into overdrive and he sprinted to his room. He immediately flipped on the lights and placed her on his bed. She stayed where she was laid, probably too afraid to move. There were three sizable patches of missing fur: one on her right ear, one on her rump, and finally one on her right leg. She must have been digging desperately to flee from the fire. Is this why Aqualad said what he did?
Beyond the missing fur, Viola looked none worse for wear. Jericho slowly got up and headed to his mini-fridge to present her with some lettuce. He heard a scratching noise behind and realized Squeaks was protesting Viola’s special treatment. A smile appeared. Jericho scooped up the annoyed pig and coddled her before kissing her on her fuzzy head.” I’m glad you’re okay” he mouthed as he placed her next to the hungry rabbit. He then quickly grabbed another piece of lettuce before Squeaks could even think about stealing Viola’s.
He watched the two of them bond over eating. It always fascinated the mute how Squeaks ate as if in a trance. He probably could have continued feeding the animals, staring at their adorable little mouths work at devouring their leafy greens so adeptly, but he didn’t want to get them sick. He allowed them to hop and run around his bed while he got ready for a nap. He took a few minutes to brush out the ash from his hair and then gave himself a quick shower. He then disposed of his ratty, sooty tunic and replenished with a new tunic. After they had worn themselves out, the blonde scooped the animals up, one in each hand, and gently placed them in Squeaks’ cage. The mute watched as they readjusted themselves inside the cage, Viola exploring each corner and nibbling on the bars before he flipped off the lights in satisfaction. The last thing he heard before he closed his eyes was the sound of his pig purring.
“There have been multiple accounts of criminal activity over the past few days. Three of them happened today,” Robin reported going into commander-mode. “But they’re all random.” He was pacing, rubbing a circular hole into the ground.
“Maybe they aren’t related,” Speedy offered. “Not like all the bad guys are working together just to throw us off…”
Bumblebee was quick to give her opinion, “Or maybe they’re meant to be random. Like a test!” She inadvertently started fluttering about mumbling how it had to be a test and that she would ace it.
“But why?” Herald asked cocking his head to the side. “Are they trying to mess with us?”
Jericho stayed silent, and for a mute it wasn’t difficult. He had just woken up from his nap and had wandered into the main room to find everyone debating about...something. Their giant TV screen displayed 10 red dots scattered across Jump City. Maybe someone robbed some banks, Jericho didn’t know and no one made a move to inform him. Perhaps they didn’t want to upset him and let him have some space.
“It has to be Slade,” Robin repeated. The hole he was creating had gotten a foot deeper and Cyborg was freaking out about the damage to the floor. He obtained a broom and dust plan and followed the Boy Wonder around, dusting the floor like mad. “My Tower, my Tower” he kept mumbling sadly, a never-ending wall of tears pouring down his face.
Jericho tensed at the name and Raven peered at him through the tip of her hood.
“Man,” Cyborg groaned, scratching the back of his head, “how many times do we have to tell you, you need to stop thinking about-”
A siren cried out as it engulfed the entire main room in an infinite blinking of red.
Robin smirked, “Slade”. The bird leapt from his foot hole and bolted for the door, his hands already reaching for his gadgets.
The robot dropped his cleaning utensils. “Well wadda you know,” Cyborg said in surprise before he and all the other titans raced after their leader. Jericho just stood there stunned with a piece of toast hanging in his mouth. Raven flew by him and turned. “You okay?” she queried to which he slowly nodded, bit off a piece of the toast, and ran after her.
Specks of orange and purple slowly faded from the sky as the teen heroes made their way to the Jump City port. As they approached, Robin suddenly stopped and motioned for four groups of three: him, Starfire, and Argent; Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Kole/Gnarrk; Raven, the Herald, and Jericho; Bumblebee, Speedy, and Aqualad.
Each group explored one of the four small warehouses that lined the bank. Starfire, Cyborg, the Herald, and Speedy each respectively pulled out a light source for their group and delved into the warehouses.
“We’ve searched this whole thing!” Beast Boy complained as he trudge along. This was their second round around the building and BB was dragging his feet. He moaned as he kept up with Cyborg’s insane stamina. Kole just smiled and patted him on the head. Gnarrk simply ignored him.
“GAAAH! Spider!” he screamed in a high pitch, accidentally transforming into a possum and playing dead. His very soul threatened to leave his body. “Come on BB, quit playing games,” Cyborg groaned and positioned his light on his green friend and then to the crates. “There’s nothing ther- whoa!” Cyborg stumbled backwards and crab-walked away. “That is NOT a spider!”
Before them was indeed a spider, a robotic army of them in fact. One by one, each spider whizzed and whirled before reconstructing into something much more recognizable-sladebots. A few dozen of the untransformed spiders rushed the green possum and carried him off.
Cyborg regained his composure and morphed his arm into his sonic cannon, blasting away at the machines. One was able to sneak up behind the blue warrior and slam him into the wall effectively halting the barrage on his companions.
“Cyborg!” Beast Boy exclaimed before turning into a raptor and biting off several heads of Sladebots. BB and Kole tried but soon they were overrun and found themselves sharing the same fate as Cyborg. With eight total bots, two bots stepped next to all four heroes, each bot pair took an individual leg of a hero and smashed them through the warehouse wall.
An explosion could be heard and seen from the adjoining warehouse. “No more grabbing please,” Starfire said, shaking a bot from her leg and obliterating it with a starbolt. A portal appeared from the wall of the third warehouse and a couple sladebots tumbled through completely dismembered. Water spilled from the fourth warehouse and Bumblebee and Speedy found themselves pushed out the front door, desperately trying to stay afloat. Despite their best efforts, the remaining three groups found themselves evicted from their warehouse and surrounded. However, they were regrouped.
Robin turned to all of them with a smile on his face, “Titans go!”
Robin immediately latched himself onto the nearest sladebot and began beating the circuits out of it, Cyborg, Bumblebee, and Star blasted and punched them away, Raven and Argent conjured up energy and smashed anything they could find into the bots, BB charged them in rhino form flinging them into one of Herald’s portals where Gnarrk waited with Kole in her crystal form to break them in half, Speedy notched several arrows to punch or explode them, and Aqualad commanded the river to swallow several bots whole as he rode on the wave.
And Jericho, he stood frozen. It wasn’t until a bot punched him in the back that he regained his senses and fought back. He focused himself and his eyes naturally morph from his regular white and green into black with green irises; however, his attempt to take control of the bot failed. He quickly switched to plan B and assumed a fighting stance: his legs spread and bent slightly with both his arms up ready to block or attack. With ease, the mute latched onto a bot and judo-flipped it into pieces. The next bot had its face punched into and exploded. Two bots charged at the teen from opposite sides but he swiftly jumped up and did the splits as they neared, his feet tore off their heads and the bodies crashed into each other. He landed on top of them and crunch two boot holes into their chests. One after another, Jericho dispatched the sladebots through tearing off limbs or punching holes in them. His mind slowly sunk lower into his survival training with each defeated bot, his eyes whipped around honing in on his next opponent to dispose.
There was only one thing that snapped the now deranged boy out of his trance-a very mocking, very slow, clap. Jericho faced his insulter with a completely blank face but immediately snapped out of it. “Amazing, you all disposed of my bots,” a man in a half orange half black mask remarked to their leader.
Robin growled and charged at the masked man but found himself tripping over Slade’s boot into a stack of wooden crates. Each of the other titans rushed him but he sidestepped, kicked, jabbed, kneed, elbowed, and punched them all as if they were annoying gnats. “Is this all you’ve got Robin?” Slade slowly chuckled. Robin growled and impatiently flung his green clad hand at his nemesis. “You know Robin,” Slade began after he easily caught the punch in his right hand-the masked man didn’t flinch and kept his left arm resting against his back, “you seem to be getting tired.” Slade leaned in and whispered the last word, his eye widening for emphasis.
Robin displayed a moment of surprise but shook it off. “The only thing I’m tired of is you” the bird snarled before fluidly crouching down and swinging his leg out underneath Slade. Surprisingly, Slade did not calculate that move and his back connected with the concrete- a metallic clang rang out. Robin jumped up and planted his foot on the fallen soldier; however, Slade quickly righted himself, sidestepped, and caught his leg firmly. Using the force of his opponent's downward momentum, Slade swung around a few times on his heels before releasing the bird who then went flying into the river behind them.
“Robin!” Starfire exclaimed before flying off the save him.
Slade turned to the rest of the group, presumably with a smirk on his face “Is that all the fight you have?” he egged them on.
Cyborg grinned and declared, “things are about to get heavy!” He rushed the masked man aiming his sonic cannon and releasing a few blasts. Slade dodged and captured the half man, half machine’s hand in his own. “What the-lemme go!” Slade tightened his grip and crunched the metal hand. Cyborg looked horrified at his useless hand. Beast Boy morphed into a lion and rushed to his friend’s aid, but instead got a face full of blue metal knocking the two unconscious.
“Azarath Metrion Zinthos!” black matter engulfed Slade rendering him immobile. Speedy notched three arrows which soared true towards their target and Bumblebee shot off a few stinger bolts. The six shots collided with a surprised Slade and the area around Slade was enveloped in smoke which languidly dissipated. Everyone held their breath
“Did we get him?” Aqualad asked. “There’s no way he could have dodg-”
Shiny pieces of black and orange flew at Raven, Bumblebee, and Speedy and knocked them down. As the smoke cleared completely, Slade stood where he had been captured but there was a pile of his sladebots in front of him.
“No way,” Kole gasped. “Bastard!” Argent snarled and released two red plasma hands. Slade was taken by surprised and did a face plant as the hands smashed him into the ground, his metal outfit finally starting to show signs of the battle. “You’re going to pay for this” Slade groaned as he struggled to right himself, dusting his shoulders off.
“Ha, I’d like to see you try!” Kole taunted. Gnarrk growled.
Suddenly two small orbs found their way into her and Gnarrk’s face and exploded into a spouts of crackling light. Six more found their way into Herald, Argent, and Aqualad’s faces. The five heroes fell with groans.
“I’m disappointed,” Slade said in his mocking tone. “Surely with all your extra members you could have defeated me.”
Jericho shook off his surprise and assumed his fighting stance yet again.
“Oh, and who is this?” Slade glanced down and noticed the titan communicator at Jericho’s side. “Another teen titan come to be beaten by me?” the sarcasm was rolling off Slade’s tongue and Jericho was sure that if he had x-ray vision, that man would be smiling like the Chesire cat.
“Not the talking type?” Again with the smile. Jericho’s skin crawled at the thought but outwardly continued his composure.
“Come,” Slade beckoned and Jericho did.
Starfire dragged a pissed off, sopping wet Robin from the river where he coughed up the remaining water in his lungs. “Thanks,” he mumbled and immediately scanned his surroundings for Slade. “Wha-” the bird was taken over by surprise when he noticed his entire team laid defeated, all but one. “I have to go help him,” he struggled to rise but he was pulled back by an orange hand. Starfire shook her head and gestured with her eyes in their direction. “This is a fight that should not be disturbed,” she remarked.
Jericho was swift and released a few punches, each were met with a block and returning punch. The mute kept his defenses tight- ducking, sidestepping, and blocking each income blow. One would kick while the other blocked then returned the favor. The two kept on their toes and began bouncing in circles like street fighters. Slade reached for a metal pipe and swung at Jericho but the mute snatched a broken piece of plywood from a destroyed crates and positioned it in front of his face. The pipe cracked the wood and splinters rained on Jericho’s face. Small, thick, pools of warm red formed and spilled down his cheeks. The weapon had crunched against his right shoulder and Jericho winced in pain. Their fight had gone on for several minutes and Jericho was now breathing heavily, grimacing at the taste of unwanted iron invading his tongue.
“Surely I taught you better,” Slade mused quietly.
Jericho narrowed his eyes and charged his opponent. The two locked hands and struggled for dominance, the two too equally matched. The whites of Jericho’s eyes darkened until just his emerald green irises were the only color noticeable. He reached out his mind to overtake Slade but was rejected. Confused, Jericho continued their dominance battle.
Slade merely smiled, or at least Jericho thought he smiled, “your little mind control powers won’t work on me as long as this mask is on my face. Don’t you think I came prepared?” he spoke in his lax tone. Jericho tried to ignore him and continued pushing, however, his legs were beginning to wobble from overexertion and his shoulder burned. Summoning up the last of his strength, Jericho propelled himself forward, however, so did Slade and the two broke apart and staggered back a few steps.
Beads of sweat matted his blonde curls and mixed with his blood. Jericho tried to portray himself as calm but he wasn’t sure how much longer he could last; his breath escaped his lips in inaudible, ragged huffs. “Come on Jericho!” It took a moment to realize that Robin was encouraging him.
“You’ve got him! Yeah, come on Jer! One more punch! He’s almost on the run!” the rest of his teammates cheered, all too injured to move but offered their verbal support.
Jericho grinned and suddenly stomped at Slade’s knee causing the masked man to lurch forward. Slade merely laughed, “And I thought you were a pacifist” putting unnecessary emphasis on his final word. Jericho was startled by this comment and let his defenses slide. That was all it took for Slade to grab the mute by his throat and dangle him a foot from the pavement.
“Let him go!” Starfire’s voice rang out, her green starbolt glowing brightly. She flew towards him but was met with a line of sladebots.
“I think it’s time our little charade ended here, don’t you think so-Jericho?” Jericho shivered when he heard his name, he knew Slade was mocking his new identity, playing along until the time was right for him. Slade’s grip tightened and the mute’s face transitioned from pale to blue, his now white eyes made their ascent into the back of his head.
A few other titans struggled to their feet to assist their soon-to-be asphyxiated friend but were pushed back by Slade’s minions. The Herald feebly swatted at one with his trumpet but the bot knocked it from his hand.
Strained gurgles escaped his lips and the mute clawed fiercely at Slade’s tightening hands as his vision wavered. His legs kicked uselessly against his captor’s chest. Something seared inside his neck, burning him just as the fire did earlier that day. I don’t think I’ll make it…
Jericho released the last of his breath before his vision tunneled. His last thoughts were of his father, screaming his name, desperately trying to save him from Jackle- “Daddy! Please help me!” Suddenly the pressure on his neck vanished and Jericho desperately inhaled and coughed. He crashed to the ground clawing at his neck, his breathing erratic and body convulsing. Why father, why father, why father? Salty tears had gathered and poured down his cheeks. He could barely register the sting of salt in his wounds.
Everyone gasped, but for a reason different than what Jericho had thought.
“Until next time Titans,” Slade said nonchalantly, backing into the darkness. “You too...Joseph,” his parting word whispered.
Everyone gathered around the battered boy fiercely trying to regain control of his breath. Robin knelt next to him with a stern expression; Jericho was terrified that there was no escape.
“Did you just call him father?”