A/N: Please don't ask where this came from. Originally, it was supposed to be a vignette for It Only Takes A Moment, but it became more than just a moment between them and I figured that the only way to add it to Moment would be to leave it until the end. I kinda wanted to share it with you guys, though, so I figured it was pretty good as a stand alone one-shot. Lemme know what you think. (If I don't think of a better 'ending' for Moment, it might get appended to the end. :shrug: Who knows?)
Disclaimer: What Robin and Raven? (looks around innocently, ignoring where her muse is hiding the two Birds behind the packing boxes in a corner) I don't see any Robin and Raven…do you? (blinks and smiles sweetly)
Lift Me Up…
"Rain rain on my face / Hasn't stopped raining for days / My world is a flood"
- Flood, Jars of Clay
It had been a bad day. One of those really bad days that makes one wonder why they thought it had been a good day to get out of bed at all. One of those days when even the sun had seemed too tired to fight it out with the clouds. One of those days that made her wonder why she worked so hard to keep on living.
Nothing had gone right. Not the boiling of water for her tea, not the tranquility for her meditation, not the rain that continued incessantly to pound the ground in torrents, not the words that had come out of her mouth when the others were only trying to be concerned…and certainly not the fight…
That, least of all.
She lifted her face and blinked reflexively as the rain like tears hit her face. She tried to see the sky despite the rain, but all she saw were blurred images of silver streaks as they dashed against her eyelids and cheeks.
She had always hated the water. It was one of those things that seemed to be benevolent and caring and like it could nurture you, but it didn't really…it only let you believe that until it had taken you too far below the surface so the weight of it could crush you.
She raised her arms to her side and felt the rain fall over her body now and tried to remember what had gone wrong…what one moment had changed the tide…what she could have done differently…but nothing came to her.
Nothing had gone right…nothing had gone as planned. None of their well laid strategies; none of their practiced moves could get them away in time. It happened in seconds…one moment she was fighting, focused, attentive, and the next, she looked up and found herself surrounded, immersed in water. Swallowed by the deep. It had been instantaneous, so fast she hadn't even realized she was actually drowning until she opened her mouth and choked. She thought to swim to the surface, but there was no surface. She was caught in the rip and the current pulled her in so many different directions, she didn't know which way to turn. And no matter where she looked, there was only the dark blue-black of the deep -- there was no conceivable up and no down, there was nothing but the incredible weight of it. And it was everywhere and her arms couldn't lift to fight it and her lungs were screaming and her heart was beating and just like that, she knew she was going to die.
And in that moment, when his face appeared in the darkness above her, she thought it was a vision of death and had enough sense to realize the irony of it all; that his would be the face she saw, that he would be the last person she would hallucinate before she died, and although she was certain it was her imagination, although she was certain he wasn't really trying to speak to her, wasn't really reaching out a hand to her, she found herself fighting against the water…
'Lift me up…' Her lips moved, she was trying to speak, a thought came to her and she tried to verbalize it, but she didn't really…of course she didn't…there was no air in her to speak, there was only water. She blinked back the rain and remembered thinking, the only clear thought she had had since they had left the Tower for the battle, the only calm request she remembered maybe ever making, 'Keep me from drowning again.' And although she knew she couldn't speak, knew he wasn't real and knew she wouldn't be able to touch him, she still lifted her arm…still reached…
And suddenly, she felt a warm hand clasp her fingers, felt the electricity speed through her body and she convulsed, even as she was moving, her body fighting against the water's hold, but not through her will, through the will of another…the will of he who held her hand and pulled with all his strength. And with a gasp, she broke the surface.
Her arms wrapped around herself as the rain continued to pound against her. She closed her eyes and felt the coolness of the rain fall over her body. She didn't bother to wipe at it. She could feel the rain soaking through her hair, but she didn't bother to lift the hood of her cloak. She could feel the rain as it careened over her lips, but she didn't press them tight, in fact, she left her lips slightly parted so that she just taste the rain. She wanted to feel wet. She wanted to feel the rain.
She could still feel the water that she had thrown up as if it were still inside her lungs. She could still feel the weight of it on her body, she could still feel the crush on her soul as she knew she was going to die.
And she had been so afraid...
As she felt the breath die in her body, as she felt the water call her to sleep, she had been afraid and yet unable to save herself.
He had saved her, but why? Why had she wanted him to?
She had thought she was so strong…but in that moment…in that moment when she was about to die, she hadn't been able to fight back, hadn't been able to do much but allow him to pull her up and out of the water…
She sighed and looked back up at the rain. She knew he had stepped onto the roof even if she couldn't exactly hear him over the roar of the rain. And she wondered why he would chance the rain? She didn't care what he thought as he saw her there, drenched as if she had never gotten dry. The memory of the water still flooded her soul, why shouldn't it show on the outside?
"I was weak," she spoke when she felt the heat of his presence next to her, before he could even ask. "I was dying and I was weak." She turned to look at him. She didn't care that these were questions she would hardly normally think to ask anyone other than herself. She didn't seem able to deny herself the chance that maybe, just maybe he would know. "Why?"
He was already drenched, but he didn't seem to mind it either. His face, or what she could see around the mask, was serious. She remembered her silent request of him as she had clutched to him even after she could breathe again, even after not a piece of her touched the water, even after she was safe, she still clutched at him, she clenched her hands at the memory of the way she had tried to hold onto more and more of him, even if he already held her cradled in his arms and protected under his cape. And still she had needed him to hold her, of all the things she remembered, she remembered asking him to hold her, to keep her from drowning.
She had been so weak. She didn't deserve to be here. She couldn't look at him suddenly. She raised her face back to the rain and closed her eyes against the feel of it as if hoping for it to wash away her thoughts, but it only seemed to amplify them. It felt, suddenly, as if it had always been raining. As if she didn't remember what the sun looked like. As if her whole world were a flood and she had been treading water for so long…and her soul, like her arms, was tired. Like it had been swimming for so long…
She could still feel his arms around her. She could still hear the ghost of his voice against her ear, "It's alright…I've got you…it's alright…"
Why had his words so soothed her? Why had she cried?
"I'm no good to you," she said, her voice flat.
"You don't mean that," he finally spoke, his voice almost as flat as hers.
"I keep putting you all in danger, but I thought that if I just didn't do it again, it would be okay, because I was a valid asset to this team…" she had been looking straight and the rain had pushed her hair in front of her face again, so she reached up to push it back.
"You didn't put us in danger," he challenged in her silence.
"Not this time, no…but I wasn't an asset to the team either," she was serious as she looked over the tumultuous sea. She shivered. She really hated the water. She felt that now that it had had a taste of her, it would want more. "And if I'm no good to the team and I keep bringing you trouble, what's the point?"
"That's not what's bothering you," he said surely.
"What?" she asked, astounded.
"What's bothering you is that it was me that saved you," he finished, his tone cold, his face looking out at the sea as she had been. He didn't even notice that she opened her mouth to argue before he continued. "What's bothering you is that you cried, that someone saw your weaker side and now you want to run away."
"That's…" she started, but he turned to her and the fierce look on his face didn't let her finish.
"Are you going to tell me that's not it?" he challenged. "Are you going to lie to me?"
"It's irrelevant," she finished. "And if I decide to leave it will have nothing to do with who saw me cry."
"Then it doesn't matter to you that I was the one who held you?" he asked. "It doesn't matter that it was my breath that brought you back from that dark place or that it was me you clung to?" he pressed. She looked away from him. "You spoke, do you know that?" he continued ruthlessly. "You said, 'lift me up'."
Her head darted to him, surprise etched over her features, visible even under the rain. She had spoken it aloud? Had she managed? She couldn't remember.
"You were whispering, and at first, I couldn't make it out, I think you were in shock, but you kept saying it over and over…and I finally made it out before you blacked out."
"I was weak," she repeated when it seemed he was waiting for her to say something. "I can't afford to be weak."
He looked at her and there was something in the shape of his face, something in the way the mask fit that gave the impression that he was frowning. "How can I lift you up, Raven, if you won't reach for me?"
"That's just it," she said, her voice just barely keeping steady. "I can't afford to reach for anyone," she finished. "I can't afford to depend on having anyone lift me up!"
He looked defiant, angry and unwilling to give up. That was a dangerous look. "Why the hell not!" he demanded. "Why do you always have to be alone? There are people who want to help you! People who want to be there for you!" He shook his head. "You can't push me away, Raven," he finished. "Maybe I can't make you reach for me, but you can't make me stop trying to reach you."
"That's a mistake," she said, trying with all her might to keep the emotion out of her voice and so it came out colder than she had wanted it to.
"You're running away again!" he exclaimed. Something in her face must've betrayed some of what she was feeling because his look softened. "Stop running away, Raven…" he said softly, just barely above the rain. He looked out at the bay. "Why can't you just let me help you?"
"I can't!" she exclaimed helplessly.
"Why?" he insisted.
Something inside her cracked. "Because I don't want to drag you down!" she exclaimed loudly to be heard over the rain that still pounding against her. "Because if I reach for you, I might bring you down into the mud with me! Don't you understand?"
"No!" he answered forcefully. He had turned to look at her and the mask felt wet and sticky against his face and frustrated, he reached up and took it off, looking at her unimpeded. She was obviously surprised by his action, but he didn't give her a chance to say much else. "I don't understand, Raven!" he continued. "Helping the people we care about is part of life! It's why we have friends, for support, for help, so that they can be there for us and we can be there for them…" he saw the look of fear flash across her face and he suddenly realized it. "You hide behind that strong façade so that you don't have to depend on anyone else but that's not courage or strength, Raven, that's cowardice!" he accused. "That's cowardice because you're really just afraid that they're going to disappoint you, or maybe you're afraid that they're going to make you feel, afraid that you'll come to a moment when you need someone, but Raven, there's nothing wrong with that!"
"Shut up!" she demanded, the emotion seeping through her voice like a flood, like the water had seeped through her clothes. "You don't know what you're talking about!" She glared angrily at him. "You don't know what it feels like to have to need someone! You don't know how it's like a drug! You don't know how it makes you want to die when you find yourself alone!" She grit her teeth and seemed to be fighting with herself, to rein in her emotions, not to lash out, not to cry. She remembered being lost in the water, the feeling that there was nothing to hold onto, that her feet didn't touch the ground…she felt that way now…like she was being dragged under again.
She was loosing control.
"You don't know!" she accused, turning her back on him. She had to get away.
Suddenly, his hands grasped at her shoulders through the rain and the cloak and he turned her around before she had even had a chance to think of moving. "I DO!" he exclaimed the look in his eyes almost frantic and oh so deep. "I feel it every day, Raven!"
She shifted out of his grasp and glared at him. "Liar," she spat, turning back to the roof's ledge and calling up the magic to make her lift off the ground.
"I need you!"
She froze. And for endless moments, there was nothing but the sound of the ran pattering against the blacktop, the flap of her cloak hitting her legs wetly in the wind and the call of a ship to the harbor.
"I do know what it feels like," he continued, his voice closer to her. "And how it's like a drug and how if you're not here to share it I wonder what use my life is…" he stood on the ledge next to her, steadily looking out at the stormy sea, the flash of lightning in the distance, the remote roll of thunder. "That's the way it works, you see," he told her conversationally. "It's selfish, really. I'll reach for you and try to lift you up, I'll hope I'm strong enough to lift you, Raven, but if I'm not, it doesn't matter, I'll chance sinking with you," he looked at her. "But only because without you here, I'll sink anyway."
She looked at him and wasn't sure that she wasn't crying.
He extended a hand to her. "So, go ahead…jump…" he offered. "But let me jump with you."
She knew she was crying then. Crying softly, and at his words, she couldn't help but half laugh, half sob. "I can fly you idiot," she told him finally, no heat to her words, only a sad kind of humor, a tired kind of resignation.
He grinned and left his hand extended where his palm collected small pools of water from the rain. "Then teach me how?" His look was open, sincere and real. He didn't know where this would lead anymore than she did. But at least he was willing to try. "Don't run away," he said, more a plea than a command. He motioned with his hand as if re-extending it to her, reminding her of its presence. "Just reach for me," he whispered.
Tentatively, she reached out her hand and as soon as her cold, slightly shaking fingers touched his, he closed his hand around them and his hold was warm, and strong and steady and she realized for the first time that he wasn't wearing his gloves.
She looked down at their joined hands, watching as almost of their own accord, their fingers shifted and laced, making the hold stronger, closer. Her hand looked so small in his, her fingers so pale next to his. She could feel the strength in his fingers, the healed calluses of his palm, the pulse vibrating between them and over it all, the warmth of his aura spreading from the place where they touched up through her arm and in an ever widening arc through the rest of her body.
'So much warmth,' she thought, that even though the storm still raged around them and the rain still fell, his strength and warmth calmed the storms inside her; inside her, the fear receded and the frustration ebbed.
'I need you to hold me…'
She sensed the promise in him and even though she knew she was still taking strength from someone else, it seemed like so much strength that any notion of being weak was alien to her.
In the end, neither of them knew what was to happen after the storm, or during the next battle or even the next morning. Neither of them had promised undying love or devotion, but they hadn't had to. This was more than love. The promise between them was deeper than that. It was a promise of always being there for each other. Of always reaching out…of always offering support. Neither of them knew if that might turn into something else. But not knowing about those things…it didn't matter anymore. They knew the important things: that they needed each other and that that was okay, that they understood each other, that they would be there for each other, that they could hold on to each other. She would hold back his shadows; she would be there to tell him he wasn't crazy, she wouldn't run away. And no matter what happened, he wouldn't let her go, she knew that now. He would keep her from drowning…
He wouldn't give her up to the flood.
A/N: You guys might or might not recognize some of the influences for this piece. I really didn't devote nearly enough time to this. I just let Puck take over and write what he wanted, then read over it to make certain I went back and plugged up the holes he had left to the story telling. (frown) I'm not altogether sure this is very good. I think it got too mushy at the end. I was actually tempted to end it on a funny note, but I figured it wouldn't flow right...ah...anyway, I'm always insecure about this kind of emotional work.
I'll just give you the 'playlist' for this. I kept them on repeat.
1. Flood, Jars of Clay
2. Hemorrhage, Fuel
3. Blower's Daughter, Damien Rice
(Mostly Flood, though…for obvious reasons. Probably would've been a song fic if it hadn't been for swine FFN and its new policies and the thought of putting it someplace else seemed to cumbersome.)
Enjoy. Spread the love, remember to review.