Raven rubbed her eyes. Really, she could just take a nap. But if she wanted to be exhausted enough to sleep through the night, she couldn't. Besides she needed to figure out her small demon problem. She flipped through the book for a couple more pages. Nothing helpful was coming up. It had been several hours of research and her lack of sleep was making it hard to focus. With one last desperate effort, she started reading out loud, forcing herself to concentration on the words. Minutes ticked by, and her eyes grew heavy.
She threw the cover shut and huffed. This happened every year. But just because she knew it was coming doesn't mean she was happy about it. Standing up, she stretched out and stifled a yawn. There was at least hope there were people in the common room to keep her awake. Maybe even extras, the younger titans that had begun to be recruited. Their wild emotions could wire her up more than anything else, and right now she could use exactly that.
"Good Afternoon Raven!" Kory cheered from the kitchen as Raven entered.
"Hey." Raven started to yawn again before she could get another word out.
"We have lunch left over." Robin pointed to the sandwich stuff laid out. Per usual, he was at his own table, surrounded by gadgets, data, and several communicators.
"And I'm making dessert!" Kory added, sniffing a pot.
"Thanks." Raven quietly replied. Everyone was enjoying the quiet afternoon with no trouble, and a chance to relax. Of course. She wanted loud energetic teammates. Something to pull up her own energy and wear her out. Not half awake zombies going about a boring day. The irony of how many times she had wished for exactly this was not lost on her. Gar sat at the table with the food. His eyes scanned over her as she approached. The comic book in front of him laid askew, almost tipping off the table. He had been lazily flipping through it, disinterested.
Raven apathetically threw together a small sandwich and headed for the couch to be alone. A little disappointed to say the least. But Gar followed and sat down close to her.
"Hey," he said low enough for just the two of them. In the background Robin started coughing and Kory tried explaining what was actually in the food.
Raven smiled between bites. That was more like it.
"Are you alright?" He whispered.
"Yeah. Just tired." Raven shrugged, knowing he was probably picking up on a few things. As his powers had grown he had almost gotten a sixth sense about a variety of things. Including, body temperature, heart rate, hormones, and fear to name a few. He nodded like he had expected that answer.
"Alright, well what do you have planned for today? A nap?"
"No, that's the last thing I need. I was trying to do some research but failed miserably." She chewed on her bite thinking over a few options. Shrugged she looked at Gar, "you?"
"Ah," Gar leaned back into the sofa, "not much. Are you looking for something to wear you out or something that takes little to no effort?"
"Wear me out."
He pretended to ponder it, "Well, we could play some racquetball…." His voice was lost in thought, like he had no idea why it had even come to mind.
Raven rolled her eyes, "Has no one wanted to play you?" A small whimper came out of his mouth. His lower lip stuck out a tad and he gave the most sorrowful shake of his head. "What a pity." Gar had made sure to break in the new racquetball room with anyone who would be willing to play. Unfortunately, he had tired everyone else of the game.
But before she realized it, Gar was gone from the couch. Turning around a couple times she only saw a giggling Kory and a slime covered Robin. A light tap at her leg drew her attention. His tiny paw was soft on her bare leg and the look of pure hope on his tiny fluffy face was unbearable.
"Fine." Raven levitated the ball from the green puppy's mouth. "But we're getting a ball you haven't chewed on."
He radiated pure ecstasy as he bound away, wagging his tail. "Good luck!" He hollered back. Looking back at the ball, Raven formed a black force around it and spun it so fast the slobber came off onto the black shield. At least that's what she told herself as she reached out to grab it.
Standing to follow the mutt downstairs, Raven had to smile. She tried her best not to pry into her friend's feelings. Although her various abilities, empathy included, had grown stronger, she had a better grasp on how to control them. And retreating her empathetic reach, was a wonderful first step. After a fight, Robin's anger, or stubborn determination to not let the fight go, couldn't rub off on her. And Kory's quick changing emotions couldn't mess with her even control on everything. But Gar's positive emotions were different. He was so willing to seize life and draw upon any bit of positive he could find, that she couldn't help but feel it. She had learned of his dark past in their years together, and appreciated his positive outlook even more now.
Raven walked down the last set of stairs slowly, trying to stretch out a little bit with each step. A rush of footsteps had her pressed up to the wall. They passed, but then Gar came speeding back down the stairs. He was so unbelievably excited and just purely happy to be playing with someone that Raven easily saw him as the animal he currently appeared as. The green dog bowed on his front legs, lowering his head to the ground, and wagged his tail enthusiastically.
Raven tried to hide her smile and waved him away. This would definitely wear her out.
But it didn't
Raven felt a rib crack as she slammed into the wall. She slid to the ground and wheezed out a groan. Luckily she had slid behind a fallen wall and had some time to recollect herself. Gingerly she touched the forming bruise and hissed. The sound of a grappling hook clinking above her echoed, and Robin landed beside her.
"You okay?" He leaned over and tried to examine her side.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." she waved him off. Assessing her state, he hesitated just a second. Then quickly left and returned to the fight as Kory let loose a series of shots to cover him.
A few more hits came, each knocking the wind out of her. She couldn't seem to catch a break. As soon as she caught her footing, she was blown down again. The metal of Cyborg's arms hurt her already bruised body as he caught her. He tried to gently put her down, but grimaced as he saw her pain.
"Sorry, girl. You doing alright?"
"Yeah, I'm just tired. You get in there." She stayed still till he had run by, then crawled off to a good hiding spot. By this point she was sure to be causing more trouble than she's worth. They had all grown smarter, and when it was time to pull back they did. She knew the fight was almost over anyway. Several calls, threats, growls, and explosions could be heard all around her. Then one extremely loud bomb went off and everything came to a nice calm.
"Hey!" Cyborg called in the hole. "Are you in there?"
"Yeah." Raven crawled out. Her body was exhausted. And her knees begged her to start flying again. "Sorry, I was just getting in the way." Robin went to respond, but Cy cut in. Robin could be sympathetic, but in the heat of battle sometimes he came off rough. She smiled at the metal man, knowing what he was doing.
"Hey, man. That's alright. It happens." He held his hands out to lift her up. "Nothing bacon for dinner won't fix!" Robin was already tapping several things in to communicator.
"Yeah. Cy just make sure you check her bones. That one blow looked pretty bad." Robin said, only half paying attention, as he was already mentally sorting things out. He pointed Gar towards the needed clean up and everyone moved about their duties.
"How's that feel?" Cy tapped a spot on her side lightly.
"Hurts." Raven kept her face unreadable. "But it's fine."
"Yeah, scans say it's cracked, not broken. It's gonna hurt like a bitch for a bit."
"I know, I'll be alright." Raven was trying her best to keep everyone from asking questions. They all had their bad days, sometimes they offered explanations, sometimes not. So it wasn't totally out of the question for her to be a bit tired. She exhaled loudly and leaned back against the wall. Surely she would get sleep tonight.
But she didn't.
The tea was almost ready, even though she wasn't convinced it would work. She drummed her fingers on the table. Long before the kettle blew, she snatched it off the stove and started pouring the water. It was close enough.
Before she could pick it up, a soft bit of fur rubbed against her leg. Letting out a few choice words, she jumped back from the animal.
"Oh Azar. What the hell Gar?" She swore. The green cat just looked back, before purring and rubbing against her leg. Raven levitated the tea box over, selected her choice, and threw the trash away with an easy pitch. All the while, the green lump of fuzz was purring on top of her foot. Despite meaning to leave and kick him off, she stopped. Looking down, she watched the little cat. He wasn't radiating happiness as usual. He was purring sure, but something was different.
Raven watched as he looked up at her, remaining perfectly calm and quiet. Something told her, he wasn't going to talk all night. That he was here purposefully as an animal to show he was just here to listen, as a normal cat would be. Reaching down, she scooped up the cat and tea, and walked back to her room.
The candles of her room lit as they entered, and a soothing sent of mint and burning wood wafted through the room. She regarded the chair for a second, but shrugged, if he was here to help her sleep, there was only one place to go. The cat hopped onto the bed as they approached it, curled up, and looked back at her. He had given her a fair amount of space, probably out of comfort. But she climbed into the bed and crossed her legs within arm's reach of him.
"I…" Raven started, looking over at him. The cat kept his chin on the bed, didn't move, just waited. She took a deep breath. "Every year I have bad dreams the week before my birthday. I.." She huffed again. "I know it's over. But for some reason it keeps coming back."
The green cat stretched out a small paw toward her. She reached back, scratching his head as she sipped her tea. And for several minutes they stayed like that. His content purring soothed her uneasiness about speaking to someone. So she set the tea to the side and pulled her hand back.
"I don't like asking for help. I feel like I should be able to handle this. I mean who else would even know how to help?" She fiddled with the blanket crumbled up on the bed from where she threw it. "I need sleep. But I'm afraid to fall asleep. I know I'll wake back up in a couple hours. I'm…I'm just exhausted. But I mean I survive each year. And then it seems not so bad. Well, once it's over." She rubbed her side. "This is the first year I've had a cracked rib though. It makes it harder to sleep or lay down. I can't find the right way to lay. And I definitely don't have the energy to heal it." She puffed, having blurted everything out before she thought too much about it.
Raven started to pile up the pillows on her bed as the cat stood up. She glanced at him, not wanting him to leave. But also not having the nerve to ask him to stay in her bed. The bed audibly groaned as the tiny cat turned in a much larger cat. Despite knowing it was Gar, seeing the tiger circling around behind her made her jump. Sometimes his changes were too realistic. But she had to be a bit grateful for that fact right now. Hadn't it been, she might not have opened up to the little house cat. He nudged the pillows aside and laid down between the headboard and her. Again, he calmly rested his chin on the bed and watched her. Inching back, she scooted herself closer to the large mass behind her. Then as slowly as she could, she eased herself back on to him. His warmth felt good on her sore body. She rolled onto her side and after several adjustments, found the perfect angle to ease her pain.
She glanced back at Gar's face. His eyes were shut, appearing to be asleep. The green and black fur was softer than she thought it would be. For as many times as he changed to various animals, she had never felt his fur. After all, that seemed a strange thing to do with a friend, pet him. Taking the chance, out of curiosity, she ran her fingers through his fur. It was delightfully soft, and for a moment she lost herself, forgetting she was in fact petting Gar.
A slight purring sound startled her slightly and she looked back to his face. He was watching her again. And as she looked back at him, she could see his fur shift. He kept his body the same to prevent her rib from moving. But the fur her fingers were still weaved in was now slightly different. A bit thicker, shorter, and softer. She moved her eyes back to the fur and started roaming her fingers through it again. She hadn't the slightest idea what type of animal it could be, but it was soft, warm, and very comfortable.
After several minutes her head sank a bit deeper into his side. And with a few more runs of her fingers, she felt herself drifting off. His side rose and fell in a gentle rhythm and Raven took this as something easy to focus on.