Disclaimer: Yeah, you know I do not own the Teen Titans, but I gotta say it anyway.


Ascension of the Beast

Chapter XX

Arella

Home is a fairly subjective term at times. Really, a person's home can be whatever they feel it to be—as the long-cliched proverb says, it's where the heart is. For Raven, Earth had become her new home in recent years, but she could not entirely detach the value of her first home. After all, had it not been for the monks of Azarath, she would never have been born to begin with. She had to thank the fates that the Azarathians valued life so much and were conscious enough of their own culpability to step in.

The tragedy of Raven's origins underlies the reality that she was by no means the first in her line to have a painful childhood. Her mother, Angela Roth, was born in Gotham City some sixteen years before Raven was herself born. Angela knew absolutely nothing of her father, and little more of her mother. She was the bastard child of an unwilling mother, who abandoned her at birth. With no family to care for her, Angela became a ward of the state, growing up in the foster care system. Being passed from family to family, from one home to another, Angela knew no stability in her youth, and received little, if any, love. The only constants: change and soul-crushing loneliness.

The instability and pain in her life numbed her by the time Angela became a teenager, breeding an apathetic outlook. Eventually she began to seek out something to fill the void in her life that love and family should have occupied. She tried the conventional religions, but they left her still unfulfilled. She kept looking for that fix to fill the void in her soul and eventually found herself in a Satanic cult. In a ceremony designed to summon Lucifer, Angela was offered as a bride for the Prince of Darkness. Unfortunately, something far worse was summoned.

The being summoned by the cultists initially took a form angelic in his beauty, but he was no angel. Trigon the Terrible had been created when the citizens of Azarath exorcised the dark passions of their souls. These passions together came to form a demonic entity far more dangerous than even the Satan himself, for while the Prince of Darkness merely wanted to make people shun the Presence, Trigon wanted to conquer and destroy entire Universes. Unaware of who this being was, Angela was nevertheless wed to him. The marriage was fortunately short-lived, of course, as Scath abandoned his bride the moment their horrible union was forcibly consummated. In her womb, he left his seed; the demonic sperm eventually found the egg and the Gem was conceived.

Later Angela discovered the true horror of what had happened. Her unborn daughter was not just any child—no, the fetus Angela now carried in her womb was prophesied to be the portal that Trigon would use to enter Earth's dimension. The cultists' ritual had not merely doomed Angela or her unborn child or the cultists themselves—no, all living things in the Universe were now imperiled. Much worse, she hadn't even consented to the sex; what had happened to her was nothing short of rape. Unable to live with the horror of what had happened, Angela sought counseling, but every state agency she went to refused to help. Ultimately, she attempted to kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills; that was when the Azarathians intervened.

The Azarathians saved Angela's life and brought her to their interdimensional home realm. There, Angela was taken in by the community's leader herself, Azar, and given a new name: Arella. Azar's intent was two-fold: she wanted to give Arella a chance at a fresh start on life, and she needed to shield Arella's child from Trigon's influence. Where Angela had never known a family life, Azar extended herself as a motherly influence in the pregnant teen's life. The void that had been omnipresent in Angela's soul would be remarkably absent in Arella's; finally she had found home.

But Arella's presence was by no means uncontroversial among Azarath's population. Although they were due to accede to Azar's wisdom, they nevertheless feared Arella's unborn child. Despite the pacifistic tendencies of their state philosophy, some felt that Angela should have been left to die rather than rescued so she could bring Trigon's seed to fruition. But Azar knew better: Trigon was their fault, not Arella's and certainly not her unborn child's. She could not justly allow them to be punished for the mistakes of the people of Azarath.

Nevertheless, both Arella and her child would pay a price. Azar knew that Trigon's hold over Arella's child would come in the form of an influence over her emotions, so when Raven was born the decision was made that everything possible had to be done in order to minimize the girl's experience of emotion. Unfortunately, there is typically no stronger emotional bond than that between mother and child, so Azar dictated that Arella and Raven had to be separated. This devastated Arella, who, unlike her own birth mother, had already begun to experience love for her child, but Arella, knowing that Azar knew best, conceded.

It was not so much about Raven not being able to feel emotion. After all, she was half human, and asking a human not to feel is like asking a fish not to swim. The problem was and always would be control. Until Raven mastered impulse control, her emotions would be dangerous. Azar could train her to control her impulses to a degree, but until either Raven's prefrontal cortex was fully mature or Trigon was defeated, the training could only go so far. Even with the regimen of meditation Azar put Raven on from an early age, emotions—especially rage—would be bothersome.

Still, Raven's progress was remarkable enough that, on her deathbed, Azar decided to reunite mother and daughter. When Azar died, Raven was placed in Arella's care and the two were finally permitted an opportunity to bond. Of course, their bond could have been stronger, and Arella would always feel it more strongly, but Arella and Raven truly did love each other. So much so that, when the prophesy began to come true, Raven sought her unconditionally loving mother for help.

Unfortunately, Azarath had already been destroyed. Arella, though dead at the time, left behind a psychic impression to impart the information to her daughter when she eventually arrived. Although they had been denied a normal parent-child relationship, what could not be denied was that Arella loved Raven deeply enough that even her own death would not prevent her from passing on the information her daughter needed to know. More unfortunately, that information was far from comforting: the prophesy could not be avoided, Trigon's invasion of Earth was inevitable.

And so, when the time came, Raven did fulfill the prophesy—the Gem did serve as Trigon's portal. But prophesied events tend to have major, often ironic and usually unanticipated twists. Trigon's invasion of Earth was not the end—or at least, it wasn't the end for anyone but Trigon and his minions. Raven defeated Trigon after the prophesy was fulfilled, using all of the strengths that Azar, Arella and the Titans had given her over the years. With Trigon's defeat, everything destroyed by Trigon in the sequence of events leading up to the prophesy's fulfillment was restored, including Azarath and its people. Raven had made it a point to return to Azarath more frequently thereafter—although Earth was her home now, a person can have more than one home, and Azarath would always occupy a space in her heart as her place of origin. When Arella spoke of Azarathians as being Raven's people, there was nothing inaccurate about it. Of course, in the grand duality of Raven's life, the people of Earth were now every bit as much her people as the people of Azarath. Still, in as much sentiment as she could feel, Azarath was special.

As Raven walked through the Temple of Azarath, she was fully aware that her mother knew she was there. For one thing, the monks of Azarath had significant precognitive abilities, even if they could not control them; if they foretold Raven's arrival, they would have undoubtedly told Arella about it. But more importantly, Arella was, like Raven, herself imbued with empathic powers; and there is no way an empath is not going to recognize her own daughter's presence. Though Raven certainly wished to speak with her mother, she chose to allow Arella to come to her. She had things she needed to see and places she needed to visit, and she knew her mother would find her.

As Raven walked by a bench near the aviary, a memory involuntarily flooded her consciousness. She was only ten years old at the time, but her powers were already strong enough to inspire fear from some Azarathians, reverence from others. At the time, her empathic healing abilities were well known, but their extent not so much. As the young girl meditated on the bench, a birdkeeper by the name of Theron approached her. One of his birds had been horribly injured. Although the injury was not in itself lethal, like a broken leg to a horse, its consequences otherwise would have visited death upon the bird. Theron, deeply attached to his birds, requested Raven's help as a last resort to save the injured fowl. With a blue glow emanating from the young girl's hands, the bird's injuries disappeared and Raven herself absorbed the poor creature's pain. At that moment, Theron regretted the way that many of his fellow Azarathians had treated the girl. Yes, she was the spawn of Trigon, but even still she had good in her soul.

As the flush of nostalgia dissipated, Raven could not help but shed a solitary tear. The tear invoked yet another memory. It was one of the first few times Raven had returned to Azarath since the defeat of Trigon and she was positively giddy. The moment she saw her mother, she wrapped her in a warm embrace that was so much unlike Raven that Arella knew something was wrong, in spite of Raven's insistence that "everything is perfect!" Raven insisted that she no longer had any evil within her, which her mother saw to be a giant red flag—as Arella herself told Raven, "everyone has good and evil within them."

As it had turned out, an accident in her room had caused the release of physical manifestations of Raven's emoticlones. While Raven and the other Titans hunted, captured and returned all of the other manifestations, Raven kept a secret from the Titans that they never noticed: Rage was still loose. Raven just let Rage continue to be in the real world, choosing to alienate the emoticlone from her person. This was extremely irresponsible on the part of Raven and prompted Arella do to her part as mother in setting her daughter right. "I know it must feel like someone has turned a light on in the darkness," Arella told her daughter as she directed her to a looking glass showing what was happening on Earth, "but it's still dark outside." With her new freedom, Rage had been causing all sorts of trouble and was at the time battling against the Titans. Raven was forced to return to Earth and re-assimilate Rage into herself. Arella taught Raven an important lesson that day: though Raven was free to feel, she had to be responsible and consider the consequences her choices would have on others. Although Raven hated to be challenged by anyone with her mistakes, it did provide a heartwarming example of Arella acting in the role of a responsible mother. As the memory faded, Raven's lips involuntarily curled into a subtle smile.

Continuing her trip down memory lane, Raven neared the Great Door. This giant portal to the nether-realms was not a source of happy memories for the woman. Here, Raven experienced her first brush with death (or second, if you count her mother's suicide attempt), when a food magistrate by the name of Juris took it upon himself to kidnap the infant Raven from her nursemaid, Galya, and attempt to end the baby's life by casting her through the portal. Someone died, although it would not be Raven—the moment Juris opened the portal, Trigon's power completely disintegrated the man. This memory was not her own, seeing as she was still too young at the time to have permanently remembered the incident, but she did get glimpses into the memories Arella and Galya had of the event over the years. Both were marked by one dominant emotion: terror. Terror for the near-loss of the infant Raven, and terror for the destructive force unleashed by Trigon against the man who would dare attempt to kill his Gem before her time.

Years later, Raven was provided with another memory of the Great Door—this time one of her own. Then in her teens, Trigon's influence was building up within Raven and she approached the Great Door. Opening it, she had a very sobering experience, encountering her biological father for the first time. That experience horrified her like no other, and she was burdened with a great sense of guilt upon seeing the reality of the prophesy. At that moment, she resolved herself to do something to try to at least counterbalance the destruction she would eventually cause. It was then that young Raven chose to go to Earth to try to help people until the prophesy eventually fulfilled itself.

Pondering how memories can have such deep emotional significance even for someone who was basically trained from birth, Raven wandered to the final resting place of the person who had given her that training. It had been ages since she had visited the Tomb of Azar; in fact, she had not visited it since before she first left for Earth. As her sight set upon the landmark, she mused as to how improper that might have been. After all, she would not be the person she now was if it weren't for Azar's teachings. The ruler basically raised Raven for the first ten years of her life, until Azar died and left Arella to continue Raven's training. Arella was Raven's mother, but Azar had an equally strong influence on the empath's life—almost like a grandmother to a child born to a teenage mother. That seemed like a fitting analogy, anyway.

"Raven?" a voice called from behind her. Turning around, Raven found someone she could truly never forget.

"Arella," she replied. As the woman began to approach, Raven's lips curled into a noticeable, albeit still subdued smile. "Mother."

"Daughter, you are a woman," Arella observed. Raven had changed much since her last visit and physical maturity had certainly caught up in a big leap. The person who now stood before her was no-longer a girl. Arella gave her own subtle, barely noticeable smile—her baby was no longer a baby.

"It was bound to happen sooner or later," Raven commented. After all, time stops for no one, not even a demi-demoness whose teenage years seemed to fly by as though they were only mere weeks. "If only Azar could see me now, right?"

"But she does, Raven," Arella commented. "She is always with us, you and I. Her spirit was far too strong to be obliterated by something as simple as death. She'll always be there watching over us." Raven drew her mother into a hug. Not the suspiciously overeager hug she'd given the time she'd come while Rage was running amok, but a sweet and familiar hug nonetheless—it was very rare that she ever had an opportunity to display affection for her mother, and she was not in a mood to pass it up. "You know, Azar knew," Arella said.

"Knew what," Raven, now somewhat confused, queried.

"I think she knew what would happen after the prophesy was fulfilled," Arella answered. "Otherwise, it would not have made much sense to give you the training you needed to defeat your father. But that's how prophesies are—always some hidden twist. In the bleakest prophesies, there is still always some hope; in the happiest, still always reason for caution. But don't ever try to prevent them—that'll only make it worse."

"Did Azar tell you that? About prophesies?"

"Yes. Actually, it was one of the first pieces of wisdom she gave me. I was still pregnant with you at the time and I was asking if there was any way to prevent the prophesy from happening. By that point, I'd already been snapped out of my depressive state—thanks largely to Azar—and I was more worried about the quality of your life. I did not want your life to be short. I did not want what time you did have to be burdened with worry, shame or guilt. That's when she told me that truth about prophesies. For a time I suspected that she may have said that just to calm my own worries, but the more I got to know her, the more I recognized that she was never a woman to sugarcoat things for anyone. She always firmly believed that it was best to be honest."

"I only wish people like Juris and Coman thought that way," Raven noted. The problem Raven had with Juris was obvious, but the High Magistrate Coman was another one who was hostile to Raven from birth. She did not even want to think about what might have happened to her ten-year old self if Azar hadn't have named Arella as her heir. The last Azar had no children of her own, so all power in Azarath would have undoubtedly been passed to Coman had that proclamation not been made.

"What brings you here, daughter?" Arella abruptly changed the subject. "Is all well?"

"Yeah, actually," Raven said. "The Titans West dissolved at the beginning of the year, but life goes on. I've found a new home and things are going good otherwise. I came because I needed to get a special gift for someone."

"Would that someone happen to be a green changeling?" Arella's question absolutely shocked Raven, although she gave little visible sign of it. Arella still knew her daughter well enough to tell, though. "You do remember that I have a portal that can show me what's going on in your life? The seem quite happy in each other's presence," she noted, with a more noticeable smile, "I'm more than aware of your living situation."

"I suppose you've figured out my feelings toward him aren't exactly limited to platonic affections anymore?" Raven inquired.

"You are my daughter," Arella noted. "As much as we were denied a normal parent-child relationship for the first decade of your life, I would still like to think I could read you better than most people. Did you come for advice for a gift to get him, or did you wish to obtain a gift for him from here?"

"I want to give him a mirror," Raven responded, "like my mirror. A portal into his mind. I visited his mind in my soulself form last month and it struck me how similar it was to my own. But he has no way to access his mindscape like I can go to Nevermore, and I get the feeling that he could probably benefit much from being able to visit his mindscape and bring everything into order there. I wanted to get him something that would have both a sentimental attachment and functionality."

"Might I ask what the occasion for which your are seeking this gift for him might be?"

"I want to tell him how I feel about him. I'd been waiting for the right moment for a while now, but we keep getting interrupted. So I figured this would be a way for me to create such a moment myself, in the privacy of a one-on-one interaction."

Raven could feel the waves of pride emanating from her mother, although Arella maintained a relatively passive, subdued smile. "Daughter, you really are becoming a woman. It seems like it was not that long ago when you were a ten year old girl helping a poor injured bird, but somewhere along the line nine years have passed and you're now a healthy young woman who has found love."

"Let's not put the cart before the horse, mother," Raven responded. "I'll admit that I love him, but I have no idea if he loves me."

"Oh, Raven. Always missing what's right in front of you. If he did not care for you in a very deep way, would he have done what he did for you tonight?" Raven merely gave Arella a blank stare. "Yes, I was watching. I do that from time to time, you are my daughter after all. But enough speculation. I am certain that we can have a mirror made for you post haste, though I'm sure you wouldn't want to give him one framed with the same motif."

"No. A demonic motif like mine wouldn't fit him. I would think bestiary would probably be best, if possible."

"I'm sure the mirror-makers can accommodate that," Arella noted. With that, the woman formerly known as Angela Roth led her daughter toward the market section of the city known as the Temple of Azarath. The scene created between the two women picturesque of a mother and her child making up for lost time.


As it turned out, the mirror-maker did have a frame with a bestiary motif which Raven calculated would be perfect for her green changeling. It depicted representations of many different animals, both extinct and extant, and both worldly and mythological. The pool of representations was broad, including various avian, mammalian, amphibian, reptilian, and piscine species. It even had an animal which bore a startling resemblance to Gar's werebeast form, located at the twelve-o'-clock position no less. But Raven found herself inexplicably drawn to a representation of a peregrine falcon located at the three-o'-clock position—it caused her too feel something that she really could not describe, except that she had never felt it before and it was almost like a cross between elation and nausea. Either way, the frame was closer to perfect than she'd honestly expected to find. So close, indeed, that she had a nagging suspicion that her mother may have seen this coming and instructed the mirror-maker to create a model beforehand.

It would only take a few hours for the mirror to be fully assembled, so it was determined that Raven could leave with it if she was willing to wait for it to be completed. Rather than having to make a second trip, Raven merely chose to accompany her mother to her quarters, where the two engaged in a long series of conversations about life, philosophy, spirituality, and ultimately love.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm not worthy of him," Raven expressed one concern about her situation with her favorite green male. "I mean, for the most part I feel like it's right as everything is supposed to be, but I still have that tiny nagging feeling that's just telling me 'he's too good for you.'"

"Raven, as your mother it behooves that I must be supportive but also I must in my advice to you keep you on the right path," Arella noted the sometimes contradictory nature of the motivations behind parental advice. "You have always been one to hold candor above so-called 'white lies,' so, despite your sometimes hair-triggered temper, I have never had to worry about a conflict in that regard. I can be honest with you and that is what you want of me, is it not?"

"Yeah."

"At present there is no reason why you should feel as if he is too good for you. As I've told you before, everyone has good and evil within them—including him. Neither you nor he are perfect, and neither should you seek someone who is—that would be an exercise in futility. Frankly, at your current level of emotional maturity, I believe the two of you are probably perfect for each other."

"At present?"

"Yes. In the past, my answer might have been different. Before you reached the level of emotional maturity you are at now, even you must ultimately admit that your stance toward him was far from benevolent." Raven began to open her mouth, but Arella immediately shut her down. "Before you try to argue, tell me how many times, over the years, have you struck him?"

"A few," the younger woman answered without much thought. Her mother merely sighed in response.

"Per day, maybe—or per hour during your Tokyo trip. It's important that you acknowledge the way you treated him in the past. You've defeated your father and gained more control than I or even Azar thought you ever would, but at the end of the day you must remember that you are still a demi-demon. Certain demonic impulses will be there within you, and if you truly do love Garfield, you cannot allow yourself to ever use him as a punching bag again. He seems to have remarkable patience, but if you had treated him like you did in Tokyo for as long as you've known each other, I'd be extremely surprised if he still wanted anything to do with you. Love is a two-way street—you must treat him as you wish he treat you."

'Great. I'm getting lectured about maintaining healthy relationships by someone whose relationship history consists only of a short marriage with a demon who raped her to produce a portal into the mortal realm,' thought Raven.

"You're not the only empath in this family, Raven," Arella reminded her daughter. "I can sense your contempt, but I only criticize constructively. I have observed your friends—including Garfield—much over the years. You need someone like him in your life. Sensitive and patient, willing to put up with everything you throw at him just for an opportunity to see you smile. Any woman would have to be insane to jeopardize that, and I certainly do not want you to be hurt because of a momentary lapse of your own control. I do say, I'd be very proud of you if he were to father my grandchildren."

"What the hell is with everybody's obsession with grandchildren these days?" Raven responded. "I mean, I understand why someone like Ra's al-Ghul would want grandchildren—he's like six hundred years old and those Lazarus Pits aren't going to keep him alive forever. But you...you're a healthy woman in your mid-thirties. Grandchildren should be the last thing on your mind."

"For now, yes. I would certainly prefer that you wait until I'm at least in my forties before you make a grandmother out of me. But it is always beneficial to remain a few steps ahead of the curve. And I would certainly prefer you have children with Garfield today than with an abusive drunkard ten years from now. I've lived in Azarath for nineteen years, but I still remember Earth and I can't imagine that two decades has changed much in this regard: men with Garfield's positive attributes are extremely hard to find."

"Well, I'm not sure that you have to worry about me reproducing before you're forty at any rate," Raven commented. "In case you've forgotten, I'm a hybrid. I could be barren for all I know!"

"Doubtful," her mother responded. "And if you were barren, it would not be because you're a hybrid. The female offspring of a male demon with a female human are almost always fertile. Male offspring and male and female offspring of a demoness with a male human, not so much." Raven gave Arella a look that just screamed for an explanation of how she knew that. "Living in Azarath can sometimes create a lack of stimuli. I occasionally find pleasure in going through the archives here, and there are quite a lot of records concerning demon/human interbreeding."

"Well, then he..."

"I also doubt that he's sterile. If anything, he's probably universally fertile. If his body can transform into any animal form, his sperm can probably transform into the sperm of any animal as well."

"Interesting," Raven now had to deeply consider what her mother was saying. As well as the question of whether her half-demonic genome would be compatible with human birth control options like the pill.

"Would you like more tea?" Arella asked as she rose.

"Yeah," Raven replied, her mind still partly distracted by considerations concerning birth control options. "Sure," she handed her cup to her mother. As Arella left the room to get more tea for the both of them, Raven's gaze scanned her surroundings. She had visited Azarath various times since she's defeated her father, but she had never stayed this long since she first left to begin with. She was sure that little major had changed about Azarath or Arella, but she knew some things were bound to be different. As she pondered that thought, she wondered why her mother never sought romantic love after all of the trouble with Trigon. Certainly Arella was the kind of person who would have gotten back up on that horse eventually—especially as Raven was now an adult who didn't need her mother's constant supervision. Azarath certainly never forbade romantic love; indeed, the Azar who had adopted both Arella and Raven was only the last of a line of women who bore that name, which included her mother, grandmother, etc.

Mind full of those thoughts, Raven almost automatically began to wander the room. She certainly knew Arella deserved to finally find herself a true love. That had been denied to her when Raven was conceived and up through Raven's childhood. But there was nothing holding Arella back now, Raven concluded. Then she noticed it. Sitting inconspicuously in a corner was a sheathed sword. She knew this didn't belong here. Her mother and all of the residents of Azarath were pacifists—they had no use for weapons, bladed or otherwise. At that, it was a very unusual sword—it appeared to be constructed of promethium rather than steel. She had learned to spot the difference after years of living with Cyborg, whose body is made of depleted promethium.

'Who would have a promethium sword?' Raven thought to herself. 'Sure, it would be stronger than steel, but far more expensive. Either way, this doesn't belong here—something's up.' A moment later Arella returned to the room and almost instantly Raven asked the question. "Whose sword is this, mother?"

The question was an awkward one for Arella. She instantly wished he'd taken it with him as he left to take care of his duties regarding Garfield, but alas, such probably would not have been a good idea on that end. Every bit of her being wanted to tell her daughter the truth, except for her reason, which recognized that Raven must not know until after she'd become aware of Slade's meeting with Garfield. There was no way Raven would ever just rationally accept the idea that her own mother was seeing Slade Wilson, unless she were to first appreciate the reality that Slade was trying to better himself. "It belongs to a recent arrival," Arella said, technically not lying.

"You know, Arella," Raven went into the territory of calling her mother by name, "my empathic powers have only been getting stronger over the years. Not only can I sense when you are lying to me, but I can sense when you are purposively omitting facts as well."

"He and I have been seeing each other," Arella said, "but I do not believe I should tell you any more yet. What you need to know is that he is a man who has lived a morally questionable life, but after a set of unique circumstances, found himself wanting to change for the better. Eventually he found his way here, and I saw the good within him. The two of us bonded. Did you expect that I would remain celibate for the remainder of my life?"

"No," Raven admitted. "I was actually just thinking a few moments ago that you deserve to find someone to be with. It just surprises me that you already have."

The two continued to converse for a while longer, until ultimately a messenger arrived with the news that the mirror-maker had finished assembling Raven's order. As mother and daughter went to retrieve the parcel, Raven gave Arella a parting hug of a warmth of which Raven had only recently been able to enjoy the luxury. Returning to Earth, Raven slid the box under her bed, and after determining that her moment with Garfield could wait until evening, proceeding to finally go to bed.


Author's Notes
Sorry for making everyone wait. Anyhow, we've got multiple chapters giving background on Gar and even the chapter before this one giving background on the Wilson family, so the first half or so of this chapter ends up giving background on the Roth family. I also addressed the question of Raven's fertility—a lot of fanfiction writers seem to assume that hybrids are invariably infertile, which is certainly not true. In fact, for example, scientists mapping the Neanderthal genome have found that Europeans and Asians (and probably all non-African humans for that matter) inherit 1% to 3% of their genetic code from Neanderthals, which would not be possible unless human/Neanderthal hybrids were fertile to some degree. It's also worth noting that a ligress—the female offspring of a male lion with a tigress—will generally be fertile, giving rise to such eventualities as liligers/liligresses (the offspring of a male lion with a ligress). By no means whatsoever are all hybrids as sterile as mules.

I also addressed Gar's fertility. Since Gar is a changeling, I would figure that his sperm could probably transform as well, leading to a situation where he could probably be bred with any female animal. For example, if he were to engage in sexual activity with Supergirl (for the sake of an example), his sperm could probably transform into Kryptonian sperm...although, that's not necessarily an important thing, considering Kryptonians and humans are already genetically similar enough to successfully interbreed within the DC Universe anyway. Gar could actually probably be the progenitor of multiple new species if I were to give him a multispecies harem, actually.

And I can't deny that I've been tempted. I mean, Gar does have the instincts of animals like lions running through him, which would not particularly endear him to monogamy on an instinctual level. I also have trouble believing that demons are monogamous, especially seeing as both Trigon and Belial were both very clearly polygamous (and specifically polygynous). Since demons seem to be polygynous, I don't imagine that Raven would be instinctually opposed to sharing her mate, except that jealousy would probably demand that she be the senior wife. But I don't think I'm going to give in to that line of thought in this storyline. For now I'm fighting the impulse to give Gar a pride. Though I should also note that I am endeared to the line of thought which suggests the werebeast is more feline-like than canine-like—if you look at screencaps of the Beast, its snout looks more like that of a big cat than any sort of natural canine (a bulldog maybe, but they're only short-snouted because humans bred them to have short snouts).

Then it randomly blindsides you with the revelation of a Slarella pairing. Although the Arella x Slade pairing is not entirely unheard of in Teen Titans fics, it does very much cut against the grain of this fic seeing as most of the pairings I've previously revealed have some sort of canon basis, whereas Slarella is totally crack. Arella and Slade only really interacted during the Titans Hunt arc of the comics (which, while there really weren't any romantic implications, Arella and Deathstroke did seem pretty damn comfortable with each other) and NEVER interacted in the cartoon. Hence it was unexpected, and I love to have some unexpected turns lurking in the storyline.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised that the Slarella pairing seemed to blindside most of you. I was somewhat worried that my clues were a bit too obvious. The important thing about the clues I included in the previous chapter is that Slade's source knew Raven was going to Azarath, and there's only really one person other than Raven who could know that: Arella. This also means, of course, that Arella is the third addition to Slade's list.

Epoch95- Thanks. I try to update as quickly as I am able and wish I could have made this update quicker.

JOHNXgambit- Yeah. Deathstroke was always a very complex character—sometimes too complex to understand. Unlike some villains (e.g., the Joker), he was sane. Unlike most others (e.g., Lex Luthor), he was never really guided so much by material gain. Rather, he was just a mercenary whose love for the rush of battle was only really matched by his love for his children, albeit he never knew how to be good with the latter. His initial conflict with the Titans spurred entirely from his grief over Grant's death, and much of his more recent conflicts with the Titans (just before the new 52 reboot) was founded upon his desire to allow Joey and Rose an opportunity to permanently win the trust of the Titans, seeing as he knew the Titans could give them the loving family he always failed to. He was never especially evil in his ends, but rather amorally ruthless in his means. Then again, the cartoon portrayal of Slade really lacked these intricacies; albeit, the cartoons never delved much into the motivations of any of the villains, simply wanting them to just be the bad guys who the viewers never have to understand. And now I'm on a tangential rant. lol

Bluedog197- And now we know what Raven was up to.

Hurricanex14- Thanks. I'll try.

TomMaier- Thanks. Glad you like the story.

Hairul The Nightrage Beast- Don't forget that Gar wasn't just an orphan either. Pretty much his entire childhood from the point that monkey bit him to the point he joined the Doom Patrol was just one hellish trauma after another. A lot of people who aren't aware of his backstory hate him because they find his constant bad jokes to be annoying, assuming that he probably had a better childhood than the other Titans. But if you look in depth at his character, he's been through so many traumatic experiences in life that his funny guy persona is probably the only thing keeping him sane. He's totally the kind of character who I could totally see saying something like "I'd be dead if I couldn't laugh at myself" at some point, and I'd truly believe it.

And a lot of the others had a lot more to bear as well. Roy's heroin addiction and the problems it caused in his relationship with Ollie. Raven having nearly been killed by Juris and having to constantly fight off her father's attempts to influence her throughout her childhood. In general, superheroes tend to be a group with a lot of major personal problems and painful histories, which can only seem to be matched by the villains they fight. I mean, Lex Luthor had his abusive parents. The Joker lost his wife and child. Most of the C and D class villains really didn't have much for families to begin with. Etc., etc. And of course the big three heroes each have their own traumas: Batman losing his parents, Superman literally losing his entire world, Wonder Woman being the soul of the first unborn child murdered by a man, etc.

Annatheavidreader- I have a special affinity for characters who are portrayed as being human rather than being caricatures, and the portrayal of Deathstroke in the comics is definitely a human portrayal, albeit that of a very fucked up human. Unfortunately, at the same time I see the portrayal of Slade in the cartoon to be too much along the lines of a one-dimensional caricature; the cartoon never really went beyond 'he's evil, he's the bad guy' in explaining how his mind worked, which, IMO, is a very unrealistic point of view to take in writing a character.

kronk95- Thanks.

the missing link- Sorry if I kept you waiting for too long.

pikachewy1- I kinda had to go through his entire background in order to make what I was doing in that chapter work either way. The cartoon was way oversimplistic in the way it handled Slade, IMO, so to make the turn I was trying to make work, I had to bring in a lot of his background from the comics, which ended up resulting in a chapter that was mostly devoted to Slade.

OMAC001- The role of the League of Assassins is going to be a long-term plot element leading into the sequels. Although hints are going to be dropped all over the place, and there will be some exhibition here and there, there are some things and particularly twists that will not be addressed in this fic. I'll just say that the plot Ra's, his daughters and their associates are presently engaged in is a very complex, long-term plan. Although, a sense of the ultimate object of such plan has already been exhibited in Slade's conversation with Gar in Chapter XIX.

HeartedJ- Were you anticipating Slarella, or did I take you by surprise too? Anyhow, now that you mention how dedicated Deathstroke tended to be to fulfilling his contracts, the question comes to mind: "why didn't the Titans just give him an open-ended contract to keep him in their retainer?" It would have been a way to keep him out of trouble, plus they could have used him in battle with other villains. Also, I have to admit that, while BBRae is my OTP for Beast Boy, I love the idea of a BBRose pairing as well. I'm actually thinking I might pair Gar and Rose in a story I'm thinking of doing outside this continuity.

shugokage- Thanks. I figured it would shake things up a bit.

JasonVUK- No. Thus far, I have not entered into any Marvel domain. The Wade who is Slade's half-brother has a different surname—usually LaFarge, but rendered DeFarge in one issue of Teen Titans. The Wade Wilson of the Marvel universe, Deadpool, was actually envisioned as a Marvel knockoff of DC's Slade Wilson himself.

LiumD- I was hoping that would be the case. The dude's not a bogeyman; his perspective on a situation can change and he can become less antagonistic as a result, as was the actual case in the comics for a few story arcs.

McDiggity- I was blessed by the fact that the canon material already had Slade having the capacity to turn so seemlessly, so I can't really take credit for that.