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Jericho quickly turned a corner, desperately trying to outrun his assailant. His heartbeat was so fast that the pounding in his ears was threatening to drown out his pursuer's taunting laughter, which echoed from the buildings above his head.

"How can you train with the Titans and still be a coward, Joseph? I'm surprised they even let you be an honorary Titan!"

Jericho's eyes narrowed as he stopped running, having accidentally ran into a dead-end alleyway. He switched to a fighting stance, watching as the dark-clad figure jumped from one of the roofs to land in front of him. A smug smirk spread across his tormentor's face.

The older man was dressed in grey and black armour and his eyes were completely obscured by thick white lenses in his mask. Jericho tried to possess him, but the white lenses made any eye contact impossible.

He gave the young blond boy a smug smile.

"What's wrong, Joe? Anyone'd think you didn't want to see me."

'I don't.'

"Aw, you'd rather run around with some stupid teenagers then work with your own family?" His grin widened as he unsheathed a sword from his belt. "We can't have that, now can we Joey?"

Bright sea-green eyes widened in fear as the sinister figure drew closer, unsheathing a second sword as he approached the unarmed Titan.

Raising his hands into plain view the young Titan signed the six words that could very well become his last.

'I'll die before betraying the Titans.'

"Shame…But that can easily be arranged."

Jericho took a deep breath and stood his ground, preparing to fight for his life, against an enemy that was both a stranger to him and far too familiar for comfort.

xXxXxXx

"Yeah! Beat you again!" Beast Boy whooped, jumping out of his seat in excitement. "Go BB, go BB. You're awesome!"

"How about we move this battle out of the virtual world?" Robin smirked, watching as his teammate's face fell.

"Dude! We're training and having fun." Beast Boy flopped back onto the sofa and picked up another slice of pizza. "Why d'you have to take it so seriously? I mean with you it's all work, work, work. When do you ever just kick back and enjoy yourself? Once in a while, you should stop taking things so seriously and…"

"You mean as opposed to you, Beast Boy, who smashed up your bedroom last week because Cyborg refused to have a seventh rematch with you." Raven's cool, emotionless voice cut across the room as she entered, effectively silencing the shape-shifter's rant.

He retaliated by shooting her daggers over the back of the sofa.

"When's Cyborg coming back anyways?" BB asked, turning his attention to the back cover of the videogame they'd been playing.

"He should be back as soon as he finishes helping the new Titans south set up shop." Robin answered, jumping over the back of the sofa to grab a drink from the fridge.

"He's been gone forever." Beast-Boy grumbled under his breath, quickly flicking past Cyborg's name on the high-score list before returning to the menu screen to set up the next game.

Starfire burst into the room, carrying five shopping bags and set them down in the kitchen. "Friends! I have returned from the mall of shopping with enough groceries to last for us the whole month…" She trailed off, watching as Beast Boy golloped down the remaining slice of pizza in one swallow, and grinned, adding "…or perhaps just a week."

"Starfire. Where's Jericho?" Raven asked, looking past the bubbly Tamaranian towards to the entrance.

"Has our most recently acquired friend not yet returned?" Starfire looked confused, searching the room for the young mute.

"Star, didn't he go shopping with you?" Robin's eyes narrowed. Jericho was still a new member of the team, and after what happened with Terra, he'd made a point of always keeping tabs on any new members until he was sure they could be trusted.

"Yes. He said something with his hands, but I could not understand his language. I assumed that he was returning to the tower." Starfire explained. "Robin, I am truly sorry…"

"Everybody spread out and search for him." Robin ordered them, sounding annoyed. "I want to know where he's been."

"Dude! What's your problem? If you don't want him around, just kick him out." Beast Boy complained. "We'd be better off if he left anyway. I mean he's not even a proper Titan…" He was suddenly cut off by the Titans' communicators, which simultaneously burst into life.

Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep

"It's Jericho, he needs our help." Robin snapped, already heading for the door.

"Why do you wish not to be friends with Jericho, Beast Boy? He has been nothing but nice to us all." Starfire flew forwards to pick up Robin.

"The kid creeps me out, okay? I'm telling you, he's up to something." Beast Boy changed into a raven and flew next to Starfire and Robin. "I just… don't think we can trust him."

"He helped you take down the Brotherhood of Evil. If he was going to turn on us, why didn't he strike when we were at our weakest?" Robin countered.

"It's not like Jericho to wander off like this." Raven stated, pulling her hood over her face as she levitated beside them. "Something is wrong."

"How do you know what he's like Raven? I've known him the longest and I'm telling you he's just plain…"

"…Creepy?" Raven cut in, a cold edge to her voice as she sped ahead of them. Disappearing into the growing darkness of the city.

xXxXxXx

"Here is where the emotions are the most powerful…" Raven trailed off as the group turned into the dead-end alley.

Through the blackness of the darkened alley, they could see a vague outline close against the wall. Even though the figure was bathed in shadows, there was still enough light to see that this person's face was completely obscured by golden-blond hair.

As they slowly drew closer - Robin warning them all to be careful and Beast Boy insisting that it had to be a trap - they were hit by the true horror of what had happened to their newest member of the team.

His limp body was suspended a few inches above the ground, held up only by two swords that had pierced through his shoulders, pinning him to the wall. His tattered clothes were smeared with blood, oozing from several minor injuries. His left arm was bent at an unnatural angle: it was clearly broken.

Raven ran forwards, quickly removing the swords with her power and catching Jericho as his body collapsed to the ground.

As she caught him, his hair fell from his face to reveal even more painful-looking injuries. The skin around his right eye was puffed up and turning a deep purple colour, with blood trickling from the corner of his eye. His nose looked as if it had been broken and he had a split lip. His blond hair was matted with blood from a nasty injury on the back of his head.

"I can heal some of the minor injuries, but… he's lost so much blood." Raven closed her eyes, placing her now-glowing hands on the gaping holes in the adolescent's shoulders and stemming the blood pouring from the wounds as she began to heal them.

"But who would wish to attack our friend so very violently?" Starfire asked no one in particular, with sympathetic tears pooling at the corners of her eyes as she took in the extent of Jericho's suffering.

"Don't worry, Star. We'll find who did this…" Beast Boy comforted her as well as he could, placing a hand on her shoulder. He was unable to take his eyes off the broken body in front of him. He didn't like Jericho, but seeing him like this made him feel sick to his stomach.

"Raven, Starfire, fly Jericho back to the medical room in the tower." Robin ordered, looking from Jericho to the rest of his team. "Beast Boy and I will join you later. We have to see if there's anything here that could tell us who did this."

Raven nodded, gently gathering Jericho into her arms. She was careful not to injure him further as she levitated into the air - closely followed by Starfire, who flew beside her silently. Both of them were still shocked at the harm that had been inflicted upon their newest friend.

"So… Any ideas?" Beast Boy asked quietly.

Robin's eyes had narrowed, looking at the two blood-covered swords now lying on the floor.

"Slade." His voice was cold, hatred dripping from the single syllable of his nemesis's name. The same ominous tone he used whenever Slade was involved in something.

"I don't know. I mean, this isn't exactly his style." Beast Boy looked concerned; Robin tended to get obsessed over stopping Slade.

Robin had once become the super-villain 'Red-X' just to try and take down Slade. He had stolen for him and ended up being blackmailed into becoming his apprentice…

Determined, strong, focused - even Robin couldn't deny how similar the two of them were. When they were working together, they had seemed unstoppable.

Beast Boy was afraid that if Slade was behind something like this, it could finally push the Titans' leader over the edge.

"The swords are identical to his." Robin stated bluntly, now looking around the alley for any other evidence. "It has to be him."

Beast Boy watched him silently. Genuinely worried but unable to argue with Robin's assertion, all he could do was follow the Titans' leader out of the alley and watch his back. Even though he didn't get along with Jericho, the 'creepy' mute was still a Titan, and the Titans stood by one another. Beast Boy clenched his teeth in an instinctive motion.

If Slade was behind this, he was going to really regret it.