I've been sitting on this story for kind of awhile so I figured what the heck I'll just freakin write it. Even though I have apprx 14000 other works in progress... Don't look at me. The title is kinda cheesy as fuuuck and I hate that but I accidentally fell in love with it when I was using it as a placeholder title so yeah. Also it fits with the story. Very well. You'll see. And then you'll think you get it in this chapter, but then later in the story you'll actually get it and you'll be like OHHHHHH.
And then, my friend, you'll either hate me or love me.
. . .
. . .
The end came. Raven had always known it would. But, in that final hour, something happened which she had never expected—something which permanently altered the landscape of her future. The end came...
And then it passed.
In the moments following the defeat of her father—when the wingspan of her soul still stretched above the cityscape, ten miles across and radiating power measurable by entire suns—the ten seconds before she returned to her body, in the frozen air of a world poised in reverent silence as if basking in the weight of her indisputable victory—an eternal, precarious calm took root in her heart, a breed of hope so foreign she didn't know its name. The world re-expanded as she reigned her consciousness back into her mortal body. The fog of death lifted all at once and, taking the stench and destruction with it, left behind everything else. The world without was unchanged, almost like it had never been ruined at all. Almost.
My friends raised me.
Those very friends were coming toward her now, and Raven could see they were all thinking about the words she'd chosen when defeating her father.
The calm feeling hit her again, harder, a church bell reverberating in her chest. It wasn't hope. She knew Hope—though the soft-spoken girl had been the quietest voice in Nevermore as of late. The feeling surged as her friends smiled (almost as if their Hopes never fell quiet at all), and bathed her in waves of radiant happiness. So overcome was she that she hugged Robin in gratitude, and even played nice when Beast Boy (with eyes like dinner plates) so expertly deduced that she was smiling. As usual, playing nice meant taking a cheap jab at him—for Raven was nothing if not a creature of habit—but to her surprise, instead of bursting his bubble of happiness swelled instead, and a rarer emotion bubbled up from the bottom and stung at her senses. It took a moment to place it, that heavy warm feeling that was positive and yet bit in the way sadness did. When she found the right word she was surprised. The coal smoldering in him was nostalgia.
Then, with a splash like a water snake in the dark, she felt it too—down in the pit of her stomach. She had no idea whether the nostalgia was her own or if she'd used so much power today that her defenses were weakened to the point where a harmless emotion of Beast Boy's had easily broken through and set up camp. Either way, it unsettled her.
No sooner had she realized this when Beast Boy decided this was in fact the Real and True Raven they knew and loved, and threw himself at her in abandon with a cry of "Raven!"
She gently pried him off.
Someone said the word "party." She wasn't sure which of her friends said it first, but soon they were all repeating it, louder and louder as if volume had ever goaded Raven into relenting before. The funny thing was: she didn't have to relent this time. She wanted it. Standing among her friends on the first day of the rest of her life, she wanted nothing more than to make them happy by letting them celebrate her birthday.
Without any fear of future birthdays.
All at once it was there again, full force, that church bell in her chest. Ringing—but soundlessly. A whisper in her heart of things to come or not to come. She clutched the edges of her cloak, uncertain whether she was joyful or anxious or full of grief. Whatever this emotion was, it was something she had never felt before and she did not know how to process it. But what she did know was that for once, just today, mysteries like this could stand by. She had a date.
But fate still wielded her sense of humor like a blade. The celebration was never to be.
It didn't take long (in the grand scale of things) for events to fly back off the rails. In so many words: everything went horribly, horribly wrong. Or, as Cyborg once yelled so eloquently over his communicator, "Don't look now, but shit just hit the fan." Or, as stated more artfully by one of Raven's favorite American poets of the twentieth century:
...so sanguine did he lead her from that state of yielding youth
that they had almost got to heaven when
all hell broke
(A. Lordes 1968)*
Yes. For the second time that day, all of hell escaped its chains.
Robin stepped deftly between Raven and the woman who screaming at her, who clutched a silver cross to her chest. "Listen," he insisted, "Raven is the one who saved us all—"
"But isn't she the one who summoned that terrible—"
"It wasn't her fault, yo," Cyborg cut in. "It's more complicated than that!"
It didn't matter. The Titans had already made the mistake of trying to explain to the confused citizens what exactly had transpired. Attempts at further explanation were only serving to rile them even more.
"We don't care that she saved us," someone yelled, interrupted by the girl hanging off his arm with, "not if she's the one who almost killed us in the first place!"
An old man pressed forward, obscuring the couple from view, and spat on the ground at Raven's feet. There was nothing menacing about him except the hatred in the cataracts of his milky eyes. "Always did have a bad feeling about you."
"Come on, man—" But even as Cyborg pushed the man back there were three more to take his place. Beast Boy whirled around and jumped; the crowd had encircled them. His stomach flipped over when he saw three hands tugging on Raven's cloak, which was still pure of color, blindingly white. (She looks more an angel than a demon for god's sake, Beast Boy thought). Seeing hands on her brought a snarl to his throat and he shifted into a hulking Caucasian Shepherd, nearly as tall on all fours as a Raven herself. He let loose a deafening bark; an unmistakable warning.
The assailants scattered.
But Beast Boy had been gravely mistaken in transforming; Raven knew this the moment it happened but by then it was already too late. The emotions of the crowd shifted now. Narrowed. They channeled, through a funnel, filtering out the array of anger and grief and uncertainty in favor of a single prominent feeling: the premium fuel for mob-mentality. Fear. The angry whispers rose to shouts that drowned Robin's increasingly desperate attempts at calming the citizens. Cyborg grabbed the foggy-eyed old man around the waist as he made a dive at Raven. Beast Boy closed in, pressing his back to hers while he fought as a human to keep would-be assailants off her, trying not to hurt them. He knew he couldn't shift again without turning this into an actual fight. It hadn't come to that yet.
And all the while, Raven remained statuesque. Frozen.
"Defend yourself, would you?" he hissed in her ear. He didn't mean it to come out so harsh, but what was she doing just standing there and taking all this in stride? "Tell them what happened!"
"They understand what happened," Raven replied, just loud enough for Beast Boy to hear. "Or, enough of it."
"Raven, you must explain to them!" Starfire was still hovering some ten feet above when she echoed Beast Boy's desperate demand. Bright star bolts hung around her hands, but her expression was torn. She could not engage the mob physically or she would break them to pieces. "Raven?"
That strange new emotion she had revelled in only an hour ago was all but gone in her chest, like a pilot light on low. "This is expected," she said hollowly. She reached toward her inner peace and held on. She tried to feel nothing. "You should let them take me."
"How do we know she won't do it again?" someone cried.
Yes, Raven thought, how do we know?
"Robin," she appealed. The crowd was slowly becoming bolder and bolder as they tried to break the barrier her friends had created around her. "They have a point."
"This is not how this ends," Robin snarled. Bitter anger coursed off his shoulders, but under that was sorrow. She knew then that he'd already seen she was right.
Police had finally arrived on the scene, and were looking to each other in discomfort. Raven could feel it the moment they fell under the sway of the mob.
Beast Boy had been trying to block out the words of the crowd, but his ears suddenly perked, picking up on a single word. Arrest.
"No WAY!" he bellowed. If Raven wouldn't defend herself, then they would! He shifted into an allosaurus and bared his teeth with a trumpeting roar. The crowd fell away from the Titans in shock, screaming. The sight of citizens fleeing from them was backwards and wrong, yet Beast Boy roared again. He was winning.
"If you'll just come quietly then we can figure this out—"
"Our friend is not going anywhere!" Starfire was holding back four policeman by their collars and tears spilled freely from her eyes. "Please, do the seeing of reason!"
"Beast Boy, stop." But the dinosaur didn't hear her. He stomped around her in circles, daring anyone to come at her through his Jurassic jaws. "Everyone, stop—" Raven's breathing hitched. The volatile emotions were becoming too much to handle. She would burst if this went on. "Everyone stop!" Her vision went white and she sent her energy outward in every direction, pushing them away, pushing them all away.
But when she opened her eyes, there were four people standing inside the wide radius she had cleared. Slowly, they all turned away from the crowd held back by her bright shield and blinked at Raven inquisitively.
"You can't fight citizens," Raven reminded them none too gently. "And they have good reason to be scared of me. There's no need to defend me anymore. What's done is done. Let the people decide my fate."
"But, Rae..." Cyborg had never sounded so unsure.
A gloved hand touched her arm and she was surprised to see that Beast Boy had reverted. "But... we only just got you back." She made the mistake of meeting his eyes, and was immediately blown over with emotion. His were always so much louder than the others'.
"Maybe you could lie low for awhile." Everyone stared at Robin. But he, in turn, was squinting at the mob. They were still clamoring on the other side of Raven's impenetrable shield. "I don't like it either," he added, as though he could feel his teammates stares on his back, "but we're at a stalemate here. I won't hand you over to an angry mob, Raven. But it might take time to convince people of your..."
"Innocence?" she deadpanned. She was far from innocent and they all knew it.
"Perhaps," Star countered, moving to place her hands on Raven's shoulders, "the word Robin is looking for is goodness."
"Are you suggesting I go into hiding?"
Their silence spoke volumes.
She snapped. "I do not run from my problems."
"We know," Beast Boy interrupted. "You're strong, you're courageous, blah blah blah—" (he didn't seem to notice her bristling) "but this isn't about proving anything, Rae." He threw a hand out to gesture at the wild crowd. "These people, they don't understand. Just give us some time to make them understand, okay?"
Cyborg crossed his arms. "Feels weird saying it, but B is talking sense."
When she remained undeterred, Beast Boy's face grew hard, his lip curling upward. "If not for you, do it for us."
Raven bowed her head. Damn. "That's low."
She didn't think anyone had heard her, but Beast Boy gave a shaky laugh that drew her head back up. "I knew that was my trump card."
Raven took a single deep breath, making eye contact with each of her companions in turn. She'd never been very good with farewells. They would understand. When she exhaled, it felt as if all her worldly troubles left with the carbon dioxide from her lungs. It felt like giving up.
The Titans watched with equal parts relief and dismay as Raven waved a hand, opening a swirling black portal in the air beside her. Beast Boy looked over his shoulder at the others, questioning this idea for the first time. Where would she go? What could she possibly do? Would they ever even see her again?
Cyborg watched her go with stoic determination. His feet were planted and there was sadness spelled out across his face, but there was deep-rooted trust there in his eyes. It was obvious he trusted Raven, come what may. He wasn't wondering if they'd ever see her again.
Beast Boy twisted on the balls of his feet, itching to run. This felt wrong, even more wrong than citizens fleeing from them. We only just got her back.
Raven gravitated toward the portal sluggishly. Everything seemed subdued; as if it was filtering through water, sinking down toward inevitable bedrock.
In desperation Beast Boy turned to Robin, wondering whether he'd follow her again. If he would bring her back like he did before. But the hope spluttered out in his throat when he saw the set in Robin's jaw, the clench in his fists. Robin's part was over. He'd done all he could for Raven—Beast Boy could see that as clearly as if it was written on his face in sharpie. His place was here, in the city, doing what he'd always done.
He couldn't follow her. Not this time.
Something faltered in Beast Boy's chest at that. His gaze shifted as Starfire stepped toward Raven. He briefly met her eyes and saw the turmoil there—the need to follow her friend and make certain of her safety, of her okayness. But Starfire stopped just as suddenly as she'd lunged forward, and her eyes flit back towards Robin. It was subtle but Beast Boy saw, and in that instant he understood. Starfire's place was here too. Her fiery eyes met his again, this time pleadingly. Quiveringly. He'd never been the best at communication skills, but in that second he knew exactly what Starfire was asking.
Without turning around Raven mumbled to them, "Thank you. For everything." And then she was gone, just a blank cloak whipping in the wind until the portal swallowed her.
It's always up to me to keep you company, isn't it? he thought wildly as he shifted into a cheetah and threw himself into the closing doorway, taking the plunge into the icy dark without the slightest trepidation.
*Note: A. Lordes is completely fictional. I wrote that quote and made up the author because I'm pretty sure Raven is the exact kind of person that would quote people in MLA format in her head.