Sable Heart 1 - The Demon Who Could Laugh

Inspired by a deceptively simple prompt on tumblr, I begin my latest story. I'm sure you know what to expect by now: pointless fluff, long words and occasional drama. I'm going to be stealing some backstory from the comics as well (pre-flashpoint, there's not enough about Raven yet to use the new 52).

Raven's life was not as she had expected. And for that she was grateful beyond expression, even for her own, extensive vocabulary. As a child, she had been taught the danger of emotions, of reckless feelings. She understood that, she really did. They had done what they thought was right and best for her and the world(s) around her. Control did not come easily, not because of her demonic heritage but for another, very simple reason: she was human at heart. Unlike the founders of the Azarath, the humans who had joined Azar long ago in that other plane, she couldn't rely on mysticism to merely cast out her darker impulses. Indeed, they learned too late that their methods had dire consequences, for them and the multiverse. The evil they had exorcised coalesced in the nether-realms and remained there. Until, that is, it was unwisely used by an alien cult to impregnate one of their members. The unfortunate woman gave birth to Trigon who slaughtered the cult and his own mother in his infancy, conquered and destroyed their world as a child and dominated his entire reality by his thirtieth year. Raven occasionally enjoyed the idea that the monks of Azarath ended up training her, his daughter, to fight him, the demon they had unwittingly fathered and inflicted upon existence. That had been her expectation of her life: to resist Trigon if possible. To die at sixteen if not, which had always seemed likely. She often wondered why she had originally joined the Titans. She never volunteered information about her past so never asked them to help her. Perhaps... perhaps she thought she could add a little good to the world before giving it over to evil.

Anyway, that was all moot now. Somehow, she had resisted. She had fought. She had thrown down the demon and his voice, always whispering in her dreams, had gone silent. He hadn't died. At least, not in a way humans would recognise. In his defeat, he had been returned to the nether-realm and unless someone mustered the power (and stupidity) to try and summon him, there he would remain. Raven didn't especially fear that: summoning a live demon of Trigon's power from that place would be incalculably more difficult than summoning that original, raw essence. So there she was, the girl who had ended the world and saved it in the same day, armed with the hope and love of her friends. And that wasn't all... the most notable difference between her expectation and reality (not including her apocalyptic destiny, of course) were her emotions. She had tried not to feel, to join with her friends in their joys and miseries, their tantrums and exultations. But it was too much. The monks had thoughts as ordered as her own and expressed little interest in anything more than civility with her. These four beings, all unique and amazing, wanted to be her friend.

To know her.

She turned them away for their own safety... at first. Then she stopped trying as hard. After she and Starfire had their bizarre body-swap, she had allowed the girl to remain close instead of pushing her away as she knew she should. Allowed her to become her friend. Perhaps her closest friend. Robin's manner and professionalism gained her respect. His humanity changed that into admiration. His rescue of her child-self from Trigon had changed it again into kinship. Cyborg had wormed his way in there as well, always playing big brother. And then, to her continued amazement, she had reached out to him, consoling him over something as trivial as a car. Only it wasn't trivial, not to him. And so it was no longer trivial to her. She remembered smiling that night, filled with a lightness of heart she couldn't name.

And then there was Beast Boy.

An annoyance in green with appalling jokes and non-existent manners who also happened to be a shape-shifter of astonishing power. He had told her once that his powers came from the Red, an ancient force that connected all animal life in the universe. The notion of something so primal and unknowable being connected to the playful, rambunctious and often all-too-irritating Beast Boy hurt her brain. Still, out of the whole team, nobody could incite emotion in Raven like he could. Granted it was almost always frustration and anger but still a notable talent. She couldn't remember when it had started but one day she had remarked sarcastically after one of his terrible jokes and that had defined their tumultuous friendship from then on. She had denied it for years but there was something about him, something that pushed her to speak her mind, even when it was just a quip. She had even called him funny not long after they had met, and error she regretted almost every day since. Yes, he had drawn her out of her shell, though it was only so she could wring his neck.

Her friends had been her teachers. Her family. Thanks to them, she could feel. She was able to connect to three children, seeing in them an innocence she had never kept for herself. She was Raven, the demon who could laugh, cry and smile. And without Trigon's corruption waiting in the metaphysical wings, she could feel more freely. So she did, relaxing her strict control on her emotions, slowly and carefully. She felt love for her friends. For Melvin, Timmy and Teether. But it had always been slightly detached, like pressing your hand against another with a pane of glass in-between. Now she knew she loved them. All of them. It flowed through her being like shining water. She hadn't told her friends of her efforts but they all noticed, silently agreeing to let Raven grow at her own pace. They noticed when she laughed for the first time at breakfast, caught up in Starfire's joy. Robin noticed how she smiled at Cyborg and Beast Boy as they played and argued, somehow all still friendly. Starfire noticed her comfortably silent acceptance of Starfire's 'talk of the girls', smiling in all the right places. Beast Boy had celebrated loudly when Raven agreed to play a game of hide and seek with him and her kids, visiting the tower. However, there was once change that nobody noticed but Raven. A not altogether unpleasant sinking sensation in her stomach. A heat that flowed through her body as her heart picked up speed. The sensations alarmed her: they were reminiscent of the warmth she had felt for her false idea of Malchior. Also, there were reminders of the embarrassingly girly moment she had when they met Aqualad. Without her emotional control, though, the feelings were more intense and exciting than she was prepared for. In her desperation, she had turned to a magazine left in her room by Starfire, one ostensibly aimed at teenage girls. Conveniently, it had a quiz in its pages to help the reader determine whether or not she really liked someone. Raven quickly disregarded many of the questions: they bore little relevance to her life, not being a typical girl by any measure. She asked herself the remainders.

"Question 1... 'Does your stomach flip when they walk in the room?' Hmmm..." She thought long about this, recalling several instances and forced to admit... "Yes. Yes, I suppose it does. A little." She moved to the next (relevant) question.

"Question 7... 'Do you get tongue-tied around them?' Not exactly... though when I really want to tell him something it doesn't come as easily as it used to," she admitted. She moved on.

"Question 13... 'Do you react strongly when they touch you?' *sigh*... Yes." On a recent mission, he had reached out to help her stand. She had flinched away as soon as she recognised him, later explaining it away by lying about her arm already being bruised, which caused him to apologise for hurting her, which left her feeling even worse about the lie. She shook her head and moved on again.

"Question 16... 'Do you find yourself focusing on one detail of their appearance?' I can't believe I'm saying it but... I think I kinda dig the ears." She moved on to the last question.

"Question 20... 'Without thinking, do you like them?' Yeah... yes, I think I do." With that, she rolled up the magazine and tossed it, carelessly, over her shoulder. She rested her head in her hand and stared glumly at her bedroom door.

"Greeeeeeeeeeeaaaaat... I've got a crush on Beast Boy."

It starts again... Let me know what you think!