Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans, but hey, I think we all knew that already
Trying to Do the Right Thing
Chapter 42: It Simply Is...
Cyborg walked around the kitchen opening up the refrigerator, the small light within providing the only illumination for him though Cyborg really didn't need any light to see. He began pulling out several packages of meat and cheese, placing them on the counter next to the bread. One thing he did have to admit to, that with Bumble Bee still around, the kitchen had been remarkably cleaner. She was not one to mess around with when it came to doing chores, and Cyborg smiled slightly at the fact that he didn't have to fight blue fungus to the death to actually make a sandwich.
Cyborg began to pile the large sandwich together without much thought on the matter, in reality just letting his mind wander to other things. When he finally finished making his sandwich, he walked over at sat down at the table, still not turning on any lights but rather content to simply sit in the dark. It honestly felt that if the dark was around him, then Raven was still around, and that was a comforting thought even after almost two months of her having been gone without any trace.
Cyborg took a slow bite from his sandwich, chewing without any real enthusiasm despite how good it tasted, finally only swallowing when he had to say something...finding it necessary to speak when he felt the familiar yet still slightly ominous presence within the shadows across the room. He hated to admit it, but the presence worried him slightly still...hated that he still thought of one of his friends as a threat, but even Robin would probably not dismiss the notion even with all his progress thus far. When the days were good for him, they were good, and laughter once again dominated the tower. However when days were bad...Cyborg repressed the slightest chill running through his metal body. At least no one had been hurt for at least a month now...
"Well I guess it was only a matter of time before you took off, wasn't it? Did you at least say good bye to Starfire and Beast Boy?"
Cyborg did not expect an immediate response, and patiently waited for something from the shadowy figure illuminated only a bit by the very slightest, subtlest hint of glowing red eyes. Oh how Cyborg hated those eyes...hated to look into them for any reason, always happy that Robin preferred to wear his mask most of the time.
He hated seeing someone else cursed with something like those eyes, a part of his humanity torn away. At least for Cyborg, it was to save his life. For Robin, it was nothing but a lasting, unescapable legacy of a madman and his obsession for control and power. He hated to see those eyes on Robin's human face, and he knew Robin despised them as well. The time Robin, in a fit of rage, almost tore them out only to be stopped by a combined effort of him and Starfire was just one of the proofs of his feelings on the matter. It was also the reason he had worked hard to produce a special device for his friend that had only been possible with the very reluctant sending of a picture from years ago by the Batman which was quickly destroyed there after. Of course Cyborg imagined that at this moment, those hated eyes were revealed as if some type of show of strength by Robin...show he would handle it.
After receiving no response for awhile, Cyborg spoke again.
"You know they won't try to stop you Robin."
"I know they won't try to stop me,.but they will want to come with me and I can't allow that." Again a silence as Cyborg took another bite from his sandwich.
"Yeah that is true, but then why are you talking to me. I'm not too inclined to let you go off on your own either. You're still not well Robin."
"I know that, but I also know that despite you not wanting to let me go alone, you will let me go because you know if I focus on finding her, then my mind won't be trapped where its at now. It will help me to look for her...it will help me to find her more than probably anything else will." Again Cyborg took a bite of his slowly disappearing sandwich, this time talking before he even finished chewing.
"Yeah your probably right though..." Cyborg paused for a few seconds. "Ya know we've really never truly talked about it and you know this is something I never want to say Robin, but how do you know there's even something left to find. We have no idea what truly happened to her at all. I mean where the hell are you going to start?""
Cyborg's voice hesitated as painful emotions welled up, catching his voice in his throat for a few seconds.
"What if she really is just gone."
"I just know Vic...know deep inside myself that she's still out there. I felt her presence when I first woke up free of Slade and even though that feeling has now faded away completely, I know she's still out there...but..." Robin's strong voice is suddenly quiet and uncertain, causing Cyborg to look up from his sandwich with concern.
"As that bound between us faded away completely, one of the last feelings I truly felt from her was like she didn't want me to feel her anymore...felt like she was trying to hide herself...didn't want to be found." The confusion and pain is strongly evident in Robin's voice, and Cyborg can't help but fight down his own pain-filled emotions as they tried to get to the top.
"Yeah and everyone knows you'd still look for her Rob even if she told you straight face to face that she didn't want to be found for whatever reason. I think at this point, the best thing for both of you is to just be together no matter what the reasons are that try to tell you not to be. When you find her, make sure she understands that."
Cyborg sensed that Robin nodded in the darkness, though in fact he was also smiling at how easily his friend said 'when you find her' rather than if. His friends still did believe in him.
"Thank you for the gift Vic. I never asked for this but you...you still made it for me. I'm not even sure how you got it so exactly right...you wouldn't have known the real color." Cyborg chuckled a bit.
"Oh you can thank Batman for that...he filled in the lack of information by sending me a picture of you. You were goofy looking when you were younger you know that."
Robin did not respond, almost finding it hard to believe Bruce would break protocol to do something like that for him. It really made him feel good inside, that he couldn't even frown the slightest at Cyborg's jab at him. He would definitely have to go see Bruce sometime soon...just to say hello. It truly felt like years ago since they had made amends...when he had gotten fatherly advice about women trouble from the dark knight himself.
"Still Cy...thank you, thank you very much."
"Rob, I may not understand everything that your dealing with right now, but I do know that you still aren't able to handle what that bastard Slade did to you...not completely at least. Whatever little bit I can do to help you heal, well then I do it, but its only a small bit of help...you need Raven for the rest of it. There is only so much me, Beast Boy, and Star can do for you...only so much comfort for your battered soul. Raven will be able to help more...she understands you better than any of us ever will...will understand what you are dealing with."
"You are remarkably perceptive Cy, you know that?"
"Yeah...can't get by with only stunning good looks, ya know?" Robin smiled from the shadows.
"I can vaguely recall Beast Boy saying almost exactly the same thing awhile back when I gave him a compliment about his own perceptiveness." Cyborg shook his head slightly.
"Man, I really don't want to think about the fact that he and I might be on the same level...that would just disrupt the natural order of the universe."
"Yeah you're probably right. I expect it from you, but Beast Boy has always been the type to surprise me."
Yeah, the little guy is a lot more than he looks...lot tougher too."
"I'd have to agree with that, though I recommend the next time he starts involving himself with a girl whose trouble, you should just backhand him." Cyborg chuckled slightly.
"Yeah, that's probably the best advice I could ever give him. I guess you just have to expect mistakes to happen, help each other out when they do, and move on with time. It is what it is I guess." Robin nodded from the shadows, moving to leave which Cyborg sensed.
"Oh and by the way, could you at least do me one favor. Come back every once in awhile. It will do you no good to become completely obsessed with finding her. When you start finding yourself losing it, come back and just see your friends for a little while. We'll always be here to help, remember that."
"That I can do Cy. I won't become a complete stranger...will be there whenever you and the city need me. I just have to find her...she saved me and I..." Cyborg cut off Robin.
"It's a lot harder to accept the sacrifice from someone you love then to make it for them isn't it Robin?"
Cyborg received no response as he could no longer sense Robin there, but of course he didn't need one. He knew the answer...just as Raven did when she sought Robin's freedom with everything she was. Cyborg leaned back in his chair with smallest smiles of contentment on his face, and even though he might see Robin for awhile, or the fact that he never might see Raven again, he knew that at the very least, they would never leave any of their hearts.
Just over one year later...
The street was filled with monsters and super-villains, mighty roars and maniacal, high pitched laughter everywhere as brightly colored costumed heroes streaked along side their sworn enemies, making bold predictions or speaking cheesy one-liners with all the enthusiasm of a young Robin...or a confused Beast Boy.
A single, black haired woman glided quietly threw the masses, side stepping monster after villain after hero, smiling though still grumbling ever so slightly at the antics as the fearsome forces were stopped so easily by the calling of their mother or father to slow down, that there was plenty of time left for Trick-or-Treating and there was no need to rush so much.
"But mom, if we don't hurry, I won't get any of the good candy." The black-haired woman stepped past the whiny little boy who was probably no older than six year old as he begged his mom to hurry up, a slightly older girl pointing at him calling him a baby-whiner which caused the two children to start bickering, only making the black-haired woman smile a little wider. Oh she just hated Halloween...far too much noise.
She continued her trek through what was less organized than some mob scenes she had seen, finally coming to her destination, pulling open the door with a slight jingle form the bells on it. She was immediately hit with the sound of more bickering of children, making her inwardly grumble again, though once more smiling at the two young girls who were pulling on their mother's leg to get her to take them out.
"We'll leave soon enough. Rachel just got here. Let her get settled in, and we'll head out." This was answered with a cheer as the two girls turned toward the black-haired, blue eyed woman.
"Rachel! Rachel! Which one of us looks better?" Rachel gazed upon the two girls, not sure if to feel mildly disturbed, flattered, or a little of both at the sight before her. Smaller versions of the Titans Raven and Starfire staring up at her with hopeful eyes...though thankfully a Starfire costume was far, far more covering than what the real alien princess wore.
"I think you both look great." The two little girls smiled before again bickering at each other.
"I bet she thinks mines better because at least I'm someone whose still a Titan."
"Shut up! Raven is still a Titan, they said that she just had to go home for awhile. She will come back.""
"Whatever, the only reason Raven needs to come back is so she can be maid of honor at Starfire and Robin's wedding. They so belong together, isn't that right?" Rachel hid the slightest bit of be shock as the innocent question was directed at her, feeling a slight pain in her heart.
"Perhaps your right squirt, but I really don't know." The answer did nothing to quell the arguing, even as she whispered that she hoped Robin could at least find happiness with Starfire by his side. Perhaps that was always what was meant to be in fate's eyes.
"So you'll be fine by yourself then Rachel?"
"I don't think I'll have to worry about a massive wave of buyers on Halloween night Sandy. I just don't think that's a big book selling holiday." Rachel's employer rolled her eyes at her employee, who as apathetic and sarcastic as she was, was by far the best worker she ever had. It of course helped that Rachel seemed to have absolutely no social life, though Sandy was always encouraging her at least to go out and do something. People Rachel's age shouldn't just let life pass them by.
"Alright, well then I'll be off with these two. If you want, you can close early, but I'm sure as usual you don't have any plans even if it is Halloween. Didn't that one really cute guy whose always in here flirting with you invite you to a party?" Rachel did not even look up from the book she had just opened up in front of her.
"Yes because my idea of having a good time is putting on some skimpy costume and being ogled by drunken idiots."
"Good point but you should at least try to have a little more fun. When's the last time you even took a weekend off?" The conversation ended abruptly as Sandy's two daughters began pulling on her leg again, reminding the woman that she needed to go.
"Alright you two, we'll go. Take care Rachel, see you tomorrow." The two girls smiled and waived as well as they left which Rachel returned. As soon as the door shut, leaving her alone again, she let out a deep sigh though nothing else. There was a time when tears might even make their way down her cheeks but she had thankfully gotten past that...at least that was what she told herself. There was no reason to cry over things that couldn't be changed...this what it.
Rachel went back to trying to read the words of the book in front of her, but found herself really unable to concentrate on the words in front of her, rubbing the bridge of her nose to try and relax or absentmindedly twisted a specific ring on her finger that allowed her to blend in with the normal people of the world...not freak people out by her strange appearance or simply be remembered for who she had been.
Seeing all those costumes and familiar colors today had done nothing to brighten her usual down mood, just serving to bring back a lot of memories she truly never wanted to forget, but found it best not to dwell on. She chose to leave that life behind for his sake, and at least she could be happy for that.
It had been over a year since she had used the last waning bits of her demonic aura and power to disappear from Slade's lair, to disappear from her family and her life as Raven the Titan, and to create the new life. Her power lasted just long enough for her to 'obtain' the things she needed to become a new person, and then one day, the dark energy she had wielded for so long was simply gone as she had expected it to be...just one of the prices she paid for brining Robin back from the dead.
Still half demon physically and no longer with any powers other than the smallest bit of empathy that managed to endure. Of course it only truly worked when she used all her energy to concentrate on a person right in front of her which she really wasn't inclined to do. There were no emotions that she wanted to feel from the strangers of this world...only from her missed friends...only from him but she never would again.
From almost day one on the planet Earth, Raven had always been prepared to disappear from whatever life she had formed had the need arrived to hide herself somewhere else, having secretly set up dozens of possible fake identities that were in fact very real if one looked into it, something that had been possible thanks to some special spells. In fact if anyone ever looked into the identify of Rachel Stevenson, the would find records for years back of her existence. Just another average person within the billions on this planet...nothing odd about her...nothing special...simply just there.
Her magic was very useful for hiding her self or her appearance, and she knew enough spells to do each very effectively. Her last resort had always been portalling to a different dimension as she had tried when she had tried to escape the coming prophecy when it finally looked unescapable while on this planet, but that plan was forever closed to her...leaving this planet has her final home no matter what, and she really couldn't be upset with that prospect. She did like it here after all.
Despite having found happiness and friends with the Titans and even before the final ordeal with her Father, Raven had never stopped planning ahead, never truly believed that everything would last and she wouldn't have to vanish to another place within this planet. She even went as far as to have Cyborg make a holographic ring for her to hide her appearance completely, for fear that someone would be able to track her magical presence and find her that way if she was using it to transform herself.
Cyborg had never questioned to truly why Raven had wanted the ring because he probably had thought it was the same reasoning as to why he had enjoyed that ring himself so much. It was a sensitive subject, and Cyborg had performed the task without question. He never really knew the true truth behind Raven's request, nor that it would help Raven to disappear. Of course if Cyborg had actually remembered that he had made her the ring, it might actually be easy for someone to find her, but Raven had ensured he would never remember. Though she hated manipulating her friends memories like that, it had been necessary. It would have been easier if there had simply been a way to completely wipe herself from all their memories, but there wasn't. Hiding was all that was left.
In the end, Raven's intelligence, secretive nature, and her generally needed paranoia had served her well...helped her to disappear when the time finally came even months after beating the demonic monster who had made such preparations necessary. Funny how things like to work out...fate and its twisted, sick sense of humor.
Trigon was gone, Slade was gone, and Robin had been saved yet still there could be no happy ending for Raven. Even though Raven had broken the curse's hold on Robin, he had still been dead, and she brought him back the only way she could...through dark and forbidden magic similar to what Slade had used to control Robin...what Trigon had used to raise Slade from a volcanic tomb. These were not powers to be trifled with yet she had little other option.
Robin's body was dead, and his soul was greatly damaged because of the forced separation between his soul and the curse energy. His soul was dying and needed a living anchor to pull him back, and Raven had used her own body and soul to do it, forged her own magic and soul self into the chain that would bind his soul to hers forever so that he would draw breathe again. It all really seemed so simply though as she knew, nothing was simply with dark, chaotic magic.
By using her power to bind her and Robin together, it inevitably took her powers away from her permanently, leaving her without any true magical prowess. The powers of her soul self that had become second nature to her, that she had taken for granted for so very long were completely gone.
In a time past, Raven would have not been that distraught at being rendered...well more normal, but now that she was powerless, she could no longer stand equally along side the other Titans. She was weak, vulnerable, just like any other person, lacking that which had made her strong and protected all her life. She was now just as in danger as any other normal human in the world, even in far more danger if any enemy ever learned she was actually Raven without power. This was a terrible problem for Raven...it was the real reason she left.
By binding Robin's dying soul to her alive one, Robin had been given a new spark of life fueled from her own energy. However the connection that had pulled Robin back from the abyss had only been made until death...her death. If she died, then Robin would die as well...that was the final price paid to bring him back from the dead. His life was forever tied into hers...would be extinguished the second her own life was snuffed out.
Knowing this, Raven did what she needed to do. If she stayed with the Titans as she was, she would always be in danger, always be a liability, always be a threat to Robin's well being. If something happened to her, it would happen to him, and she just could not allow that to happen. She loved him far too much to be the one whose weakness and carelessness would cost him his life...it had been her who had cost him his freedom and his life in the first place. This was the price she willing to pay even though every second of every day brought so much misery and sadness.
If protecting Robin meant living as a normal, powerless human being, working an average job at a small bookstore, living in a small quiet city in a tiny apartment, and forever being apart from the ones she loved, then that was what she would do. Robin would not suffer anymore just because she was weak. It was all she could do for him...loving someone with every fiber of your being just wasn't enough to protect them in this world...it just was never enough..
Raven closed her eyes for a few seconds, wishing at the very least she could still feel the lingering connection to Robin that had always given her hope when she had searched for him. However it was gone forever, the new connection not working the same as the one she had once created so long ago to express her feelings toward Robin...a completely different lifetime ago it truly felt like for Raven, and in truth it really felt like a lost lifetime.
There was no emotional or mental feedback with this bond, only an empty, cold feeling that always seemed to be mocking her with her loneliness and pain. She was all alone again just as she had been when she first came to this dimension and this planet...completely and totally alone. Raven laid her head in her hands, forcing everything back inside where it belonged, berating herself mentally for being so selfish in wanting to go back home. She wasn't allowed that...not anymore.
Rachel, the quiet and calm bookstore worker quietly and calmly restrained herself from strangling the person standing in front of her. Why is it that the most indecisive people with hundreds of questions only come to buy things 5 minutes before closing time? And on Halloween night for that matter! Apparently there was somebody else in this city with nothing else to do tonight other than Rachel
It was already twenty minutes past the time she was supposed to have gone home and this woman was still asking question after question. On the plus side, the woman as at least buying lots of stuff, but Rachel just really wanted to go home and sleep. She had been depressed since she came into work and just wanted to go. It looked like this sale from hell was almost over, but Rachel heard the jingling of the door opening again, catching a tall figure coming in, and cursed loudly in her head that she hadn't gotten the chance to at least put up the 'closed' sign.
"So I think that will be all I want. Could you please ring me up?"
"Of course. Right this way." Rachel led the woman over to the cash register and quickly and politely got the woman the hell of the store. This left only one other person in the store, and Rachel grumbled to herself as she approached the aisle the man was one.
She approached tentatively, feeling the smallest bit of apprehension at the larger figure in the back corner of the store. Without her power, Raven was in reality just a smaller than average young woman, though she at least had some martial arts training to defend herself with...thanks to Robin. Even so, every night she closed by herself she always felt a little bit afraid when guys came in late at night even if they were always far more flirtatious than threatening, and it was more common than not considering there was a nearby community college. It had become expected, wishing her appearance wasn't so appealing to the masses of the idiotic male gender, but this is what she would probably look like if she was in fact all human...it couldn't really be helped.
This guy though in front of her was nearly six feet tall and his lean muscles were all too clear through his tight, black shirt, making him attractive but still rather imposing to the much smaller Raven. She stopped for a second, forcing her tired mind to use its empathy just a little to get a feel from this guy, finding nothing obviously threatening from the barely glimpse of his aura she was able to get which relaxed her a little bit.
"Excuse me sir, but we actually closed about twenty minutes ago. We will open up at 9 tomorrow morning, so if you don't mind..." Raven's forced politeness was cut off by the deep voice of the young man.
"I never thought I'd ever hear you call someone sir Raven. It doesn't seem right...about as unnatural as blue eyes on your face."
Raven's entire body went tense, every muscle seizing up in an instance as though the voice had gotten deeper, it was still far too familiar voice to forget, speaking a name that should have been forgotten as well.
The tall, black haired man did not move, only continued to flip casually through a book that was in his hands as if he was not really interested in what was there, but just needed to do something with his hands at the moment. Raven however, was slowly getting her motor skills back, taking a few quick steps backwards away from him, glancing around the room for some means of escape, but she knew that would be futile. She was just a weak young woman now, and this...this was him.
"So I imagine you just won't come back easily with me, will you?" The smooth, deep voice was slightly shaky, with the slightest hint of being upset, but it was mostly calm and a little bit soothing for Raven to hear his voice again. All Raven could do was shake her head no, unable to find her words that would so easily explain everything.
The tall figure turned his head slightly, darkly shaded glasses blocking anyone from seeing the eyes underneath, though Raven was more drawn to the gentle smile on his amazingly handsome face...a bit more mature face but still so easily him.
"Care to grab a cup of coffee with me then?"
"You know I hate coffee." The simple statement came right out of Raven's mouth quickly, shocking herself at the fact she actually could say anything coherent at this moment.
"I know...I just figured at the very least you didn't want to be at work anymore so a change of scenery might be best for a badly needed conversation."
Raven quietly nodded, though all she really wanted to do was run away. He had found her despite her best efforts. The falseness that her magics had created should have lasted for several more years, kept her fake identity safe from prying and curious eyes long enough so that everyone would simply give up the search...forget about her completely.
However, it appeared she had underestimated Batman's protégé. He had found her quicker than she could have ever imagined, and to be honest she knew that a year just wasn't enough time for her to come truly to terms with being all alone again. She hadn't planned to ever have to see him face to face every again...couldn't handle facing him right now...this was bad, this much she knew. She should have just moved to the other side of the world. Damn her for becoming far too comfortable in this country's language and customs.
"I just...just need to...have to..." Raven's uncertain words were accompanied with her further back peddling away from him, turning away to try to get away in a rather frantic attempt that got her nowhere. Her movements were stopped with a strong yet amazingly gentle grip around her wrist, and the gentle whisper of her name that could only be spoken like that by him.
Raven did not resist as she was pulled into his strong embrace, his arms wrapping tightly around her, though her own arms remained limp at her sides with shock as well as fear that if she touched him she would never be able to stop. He spoke her name again, quietly and kindly, and she found her body relaxing in the tone of his familiar voice, the horrible loneliness driven away so quickly...her will to push him away and run away breaking so easily.
Raven still could not resist when he tilted her head up so that she had to look at him with her fake blue eyes that still found a way to be so very expressive still. There was a moment where time seemed stand still, which ended when the tall figure reached down to capture her lips in what started out as a gentle kiss, and any resistance Raven had left quickly fled when the gentle kiss turned into the most passionate kiss that either of them had ever had, one filled with longing and need that could only be found between two lovers who had been apart for far too long though in truth they had never been lovers.
By the time Raven's better senses finally came back, she found herself with her legs wrapped around his waist which was no small feat with the long black skirt she was wearing and her back pushed up against a bookcase filled with books, the only sound in the store being both of their ragged breathing.
"Raven..." Again her name came off his lips, only this time hearing it caused Raven's body to shudder in delight at the desire that was there. However, Raven's inner strength fought for control and finally won, knowing this simply could not be allowed to continue..
"We have...we have to stop this. This is not right...will only make everything so much harder. I believe you wanted to talk, so I think we should go do that. Please..." He did not move for a few seconds, Raven's quiet plea making his emotions slow down allowing him to regain his composure as Raven's feet gently went back to the ground.
"How about we just go for a walk? Do you think that's okay?" Robin's voice was now back to a calm tone as he stood up tall, awaiting a response from the still slightly unsettled and disheveled Raven.
"I guess that will be okay. Just let me finish up a few things. I do have a job to do still."
Robin nodded as Raven slightly scurried away to finish her closing routine so the store would be ready for the morning. With every movement, she contemplated just bolting for the door as fast as her legs could carry her, knowing she was not ready to talk with him about everything...wasn't sure if he was ready to face the truth she would have to tell him.
However, thoughts of even attempting to escape were ended when Robin chose his spot to wait right next to the door, casually leaning up against the wall right next to it with his arms folded over his chest. Though it seemed like he wasn't really paying attention, Raven could feel his eyes on her with every movement, and Raven could only wonder what he was thinking.
Robin's position also gave Raven the opportunity to study Robin, allowed her to truly take him how much he had changed. His growth spurt had finally come, his body filling out into that of a man, rather than a still growing teenager. If he had been attractive to her before, he was now absolutely gorgeous to her. However, Raven's eyes no matter how much they enjoyed the rest of him always went back to the tinted glasses that effectively hid his eyes...inhuman eyes. Those eyes were her fault, and just another reminder why she had to stay away from him.
With a slam of the cash register, Raven was done and slowly turned back to Robin who only nodded slightly as he moved out the door, holding it open for her, awaiting her to step outside as well. Robin easily noticed the slightly fearful hesitation in her movement, causing him to frown slightly, wondering if she really viewed him as a threat...perhaps he was.
"I'm not going to hurt you Raven."
"I know...its me that will hurt you." Robin's frown disappeared as his face went back to a blank expression as Raven locked the bookstore door, the two now standing out in a pleasant October evening, only the gentlest of breezes present.
"So where are we walking to Rachel?" Raven did not look at Robin, noticing the tone in his voice as he said her new name that showed how much he hated saying it. Raven did not comment on that matter, only started moving forward.
"It really doesn't matter. Perhaps toward the park. There shouldn't be to many people there."
Robin remained frozen on the spot for a few seconds, watching a young woman he didn't exactly recognize at this moment walking away, before shuffling quickly forward to catch up with her. The hair, the eyes, the skin, they were all different. The clothes...a long black skirt and a purple top were not what he was used to seeing her in. However, the way she moved, the pure grace in every one of her movements...it was Raven no matter how she tried to hide...didn't even understand why she tried to hide. There had to be an explanation...an explanation that would inevitably allow her to come home. There had to be...
The two walked silently down the street, Robin walking about a half step behind Raven the whole time, allowing her to dictate the direction, moving seamlessly through the groups of people in costumes they would occasionally encounter, though no one would realize that it was indeed the two people without costumes who were indeed the most veiled at this moment. It was Raven who finally broke the silence.
"How is everyone?" Robin responded in a quiet casual tone, anyone watching the two would think it was just an average conversation about the weather or a movie, not what they were actually talking about.
"Fine...I had to spend the past month back at the Tower helping them with an incident with Brother Blood. Its gotten a lot easier with the Titan's East still staying with us, but still, there was a lot of close calls...almost lost Speedy, but we won in the end. The whole thing really set me back on my searching...really wasn't easy on me."
Robin started to slightly trail off in a strange, sorrow-filled tone which Raven noticed easily, feeling the desire well up to comfort him but she resisted. Robin quickly went on to something else, that which was haunting still slipping away for the moment from the surface of his mind.
"You were not easy to find you know that Raven. I had to call in hundreds of favors...so did Batman. There were people looking for you on other planets in fact, of course as it turned out you were still on Earth. It really is amazing that you could disappear for so long Raven."
"It IS Rachel now. Raven is gone." Robin opened his mouth to say something, but instead chose to remain silent for the moment, Raven's tone stopping him, waiting for Raven to say something else.
"You should have stayed back at the tower. I was hoping that you had finally given up looking for me."
"Oh...so I guess you've been keeping tabs on us then."
"Its not difficult. I simply follow the news which always seems so interested in why Robin of the Titans seems to disappear for sometimes up to a month at a time though he doesn't pop up in Gotham. Oh by the way, good excuse on telling the media I had to return home. It works perfect because no one actually knows where I'm from anyway."
Robin reached up and scratched the back of his head with a slight smile.
"Would you believe it was Beast Boy's idea?"
"No." That was the end of the conversation.
Again the two walked quietly, Robin wanting her to initiate the conversation, not wanting to directly confront Raven on the million questions he had for her, not wanting to push to hard on her, fighting harshly against his own raging emotions to just grab hold of her and never let go until he was back at the tower. They were now clearly in what was probably the park Raven had mentioned, and Robin watched as Raven stopped, sitting quietly on a bench. Robin eventually sat next to her, and again silence became the only conversation.
"You are aware that I'm waiting for you to say something." Robin hid his slight surprise at Raven suddenly speaking, glancing over at the black haired woman who continued to simply stare on ahead, absolutely no expression on her face.
"Yes, and I imagine you already know what I want to know so how about you just go ahead and explain. Raven's body went rigid, her small hands clenching into fists as she turned toward Robin.
"Why did you have to come here. Why couldn't you have just left me alone? This was all so hard already...why did you have to show up and make it even harder? Why..." Robin instinctively reached for Raven's hand with his own, though the first hint of contact made Raven recoil as if she had been burnt.
"Why is what I want to know too Raven...why did you disappear? Why did you save me then work so hard to vanish completely." Raven looked up at Robin, a cold look in her false eyes.
"Saving you was the reason I had to leave...but...but explaining it won't change anything. Can't you just leave me alone...go back to the others and just be happy?"
"How can you expect me to be happy without you? Raven, everyone misses you. You need to come home."
"Its not that simple Robin. Its never that simple...not for us. I can't come back even though I so badly want to. I can't risk returning to that life...I just can't risk it."
Robin studied the young woman in front of him, wanting to just hold her again and never let go but he knew Raven did not want to be touched right now, her body language told him that. She was angry yet sad, defiant and yet so afraid...he hated seeing her like this...reminded him far too much of the last time he had truly been with her...before the final battle with Trigon.
Robin was not stupid, knew that all Raven wanted was to get away from him as fast and as far as possible, though he for the life of him couldn't figure out why she so badly wanted to hide from him...or for that matter why she just didn't teleport away...an important realization suddenly dawned on Robin.
"You don't have any power anymore do you Raven?" Raven wrapped her arms around herself, slowly nodding her head, looking so very small to the tall, imposing figure Robin had become.
"Its because of me isn't it. You lost your power to save me. I'm sorry Raven...I'm so sorry..." Raven's head snapped up, anger obvious in her eyes.
"Just shut up Robin. This was my choice...my decision. None of this has ever been your fault. It was my fault that you ever had to serve Slade in the first place so don't stand there and apologize to me. This is my fault...everything is my fault!"
Raven's body shivered slightly even though it wasn't cold, her arms wrapping even tighter around herself, gazing off to the side as if looking at something far, far away only she could see.
"The truth is that it was I who manipulated you into stepping in front of the bullet that killed you...it was me. I helped kill you Robin...just as I helped kill Slade. I'm guilty...so very guilty. Please just leave me alone...leave me to suffer as I deserve to. Just go back to the tower, go be with our friends, be with Starfire...she'll love you forever, make you happy. Just leave me...please."
Robin just continued to stare at Raven who was fighting with every fiber of her being not to break down and cry, her voice finally giving out on her, strange hiccup sounds being the only thing coming from her mouth.
"I don't want to go back without you Raven, and I don't want to be with Starfire. I want to be with you Raven. I lov..."
"Just shut up!" Raven lunged forward, feebly pushing Robin in the chest though she pushed herself back more than he moved.
"I killed you Robin! I killed Slade! Don't tell me you can accept that...don't tell me you can forgive me for doing such terrible things. I don't deserve to go back to the tower. I don't deserve to see everyone again, and I most certainly don't deserve to have your love. Please...please go...I can't...just can't..."
"Stop trying to make me hate you Raven. You didn't manipulate me in front of that bullet...you saved me, pulled me from my own darkness and...and Rose told me about Slade. I've come to terms with that Raven because I know I would have done the same thing to save you or any other member of the Titans because they are my family. I won't fault you forever for what you did. You're trying to make me hate you, but I'm not going to. Nothing you could do could ever make me feel that way toward you."
Robin studied Raven, her body quivering ever so slightly, her gaze still refusing to meet his, and Robin knew.
"There's something you're not telling me Raven, and I want to know what that is. What are you truly hiding from me?" Even Raven's breathing stopped at Robin's revelation, trying to look even farther away from Robin than she was already doing. Slowly, her shoulders hunched completely, are body beginning to sag as if she was so very tired...so very defeated.
"I already told you, explaining everything won't change anything. Just go home..."
"I'm not going to leave Raven, and you won't be able to hide again now that I've found you. Tell me what's going on?"
"I'm powerless Robin. I'm nothing but an ordinary person now without any superhuman gifts that would allow me to fight by all of your sides. Its amazing that to be normal...to just simply be me...I've been dreaming about it since I was a little girl on Azarath, pleading for the universe to just let me be like everybody else...and now that its happened...I can't go back to the only place I've ever been loved and accepted. I can't go back because...because you could die because of me...that's why I can't go back."
"I don't understand Raven. Why would I die because of you?"
"Because...in order to bring you back to life, I had to bind our lives together. If I were to die, then you would die as well Robin, and it is far too dangerous for someone like me to come back to the tower. I can't take that chance that something would happen to me...I won't cut your life short just because of me. At least look at the bright side, I am still half demon physically so I should naturally live longer than normal humans. You won't have to worry..."
Robin felt like his head was spinning, quickly searching for his perfect rebuttal that would destroy all doubts and bring Raven home though everything seemed to have a flaw in it.
"Raven you can still come back to the tower. We can protect you...I can train you to defend yourself..."
"No Robin. I don't have the natural physical abilities to ever be trained as you or Batman is. Also, you can try to protect me, but you know as well as I do that there is no guarantee you will always be successful. At the very best, you do manage to protect me, but I am forced to live a life of complete protection of the dangers that follow the Titans every day...become a prisoner in my own home. I don't want that, and I know you wouldn't want that for me either. I can't go back to that type of life. Trust me Robin, I've put a lot of thought into this...thought about it before I did it, and even continued to think about all this time I've been living this life...this is my fate, and I've accepted it."
Silence...complete silence as Raven quietly reaffirmed her fate with Robin who only could plea with his mind to give him a solution to break through Raven's objections to bring Raven back to the Titans...back to him. He needed her...needed her love to help control the darkness that still continued to reside within him, that which had been so forcibly nurtured by Slade.
"I'll give it all up...I'll give up being Robin. Me and you, we can be together...just live the normal life you always wanted." Robin smiled hopefully at Raven who only sadly shook her head.
"You say that, but we both know you do not mean it. I know you Robin...know that you could never, ever give up the fight for justice and the protection of the innocent. You could never stop being Robin because you truly are Robin...the defender of all that is wonderful and beautiful in this flawed world. One of the very reasons that I love you so much is also one of the very reasons we can never be together. You can't give up your life as a hero Robin. I know this...you know this."
Robin opened his mouth to argue, but stopped himself. He honestly wasn't sure at this exact moment if he could argue with her about this. Could he give up being Robin? He had vowed from the day his parents died that he would never give up the fight to protect those who couldn't defend themselves but...but if giving it up was the only way to be with Raven...he didn't know. All he knew was the he loved her and needed her far more than he had admitted to her yet. Raven took Robin's slightly stunned silence as a cue to continue talking.
"Now you understand...understand why I changed my identity, hid my appearance, and disappeared. Raven can never be allowed to exist again because if she does, you are in danger. Raven must be gone forever...it is the only way."
Robin continued to stare at her, his body suddenly becoming more rigid than it had been.
"Raven...honestly...I...I don't think I can do this without you..." Raven felt her heart clench as she watched the calm face of Robin suddenly disappear as if his mask had suddenly been torn off. He now seemed panicked and tired with complete uncertainty etched into his features.
"Every day...every moment...I can feel the darkness within me, clawing its way back to the surface, fighting to take control again. And...and every time I close my eyes, I can see him...see Slade, see myself reliving the horrors of his apprenticeship over and over again. "
Robin's body was now shaking every so slightly along with an increasing quiver in his formerly strong, masculine voice. For the first time since confronting Raven, it was Robin who looked like the weaker one of the two. Robin raised his shaking hand to his head, clutching it tightly there. In his mind, he kept asking himself if this was it, that everything that had occurred since forming the Titans had all led to this and could never be changed. This couldn't be it...couldn't.
"The only thing that helps fight it all back was knowing you were still out there, that one day I could see you again, and be with you, and everything could be like it was again. I think of you and everything feels better. I think of your face, and I can dream instead of being plagued with horrendous nightmares. I don't think I can ever truly heal without you Rae...and now you're telling me there's no hope...I can't Rae...I can't..."
Robin soon found Raven's slender arm slipping around him, her head resting against his shoulder as she squeezed him tightly even though her mind protested strongly against her hearts actions. She just couldn't stop herself. Robin's body did not stop shaking immediately even if Raven could feel him slowly starting to relax though he did not return the embrace.
"I'm sorry Robin...I am truly sorry for all of this." Robin did not say anything, but instead reached his hands up to Raven's shoulders and pushed her back slightly from him so he could look down at her, a rather calm look on his features despite his emotional distress.
"Neither of us are allowed to be sorry anymore Raven, okay? Neither of us have to be sorry for what we've done in our quest to save those we love from the darkness because we've always been thinking of others, not ourselves. Okay Raven?"
Robin smiled kindly at Raven, seemingly completely relaxed despite being near a breakdown only moments ago. Raven did not respond, only continued to look up at the face that had matured greatly in only the short time they had been apart though his heart and soul were exactly the same as when she had first fallen in love with him. Robin reached over, gently caressing Raven's cheek with a feather touch.
"I'll try...I think that's all any of us can do in this world."
"I think you're right. Sorrow and guilt...its not something that can be let go of easily, but we can try, and we don't have to carry it alone." Raven quickly turned her head, looking away with a pained look on her face.
"Robin...you know we can't be together. You know I'm right...it just can't work." Robin stared at Raven, letting out a deep sigh as he turned Raven's face back towards him.
"You're probably right...but I guess we really won't know unless we try now will we."
"Robin...no...I won't let something happen to you because of..." Robin put his finger to Raven's lips to silence her.
"Shhh Raven. I told you, you don't have to carry this all on your own, and to be honest, I'm really a bit jumbled on what I really want to say to you right now, but at the very least I can ask you at this moment...well..."
Robin sat up tall, an almost nervous smile on his face, reaching up to pull his glasses from his face, Raven losing her breath as she was confronted with not something horrific, but instead those two perfect blue eyes she never thought she would see again.
"Hi. My name is Richard Grayson, and I was wondering if you wanted to go out to dinner with me tomorrow night. There's a nice little bistro on the other side of town that I think you would love."
Raven blinked a few times as she looked up at Richard who was still smiling. Raven found herself lost in his eyes, completely unsure of how which Richard easily realized.
"A small gift from Cyborg," Robin said as he pointed to a platinum chain around his neck.
"Works probably just like that little ring you have on your finger to give me back what I lost...visually at least, but that's not important right now. What's important is that I made a decision. I'm not asking you to spend the rest of your life living alone just to protect me, and I'm not asking you to come running back to the tower. All I'm asking from you is to say yes to tonight, and from there, I really don't know what will happen. Perhaps it's a little bit selfish, but I really don't want to have to think about the future right now...just tonight and tomorrow. So how about it Rachel?"
Raven sat silently for a few moments, allowing herself to contemplate his words, realizing how simple he made it sound, how easy it would be to just say yes. Robin was not asking for the world or for her to endanger her life or his. He was simply asking for tomorrow night...just not to worry about things bigger than the two normal people sitting on a park bench at that moment. Raven gave Robin a soft smile as she looked up at him.
"I would be delighted to go to dinner with you Richard, but I have to work tomorrow night."
Robin found himself staring blankly at her with shock on his face, though he noticed her soft smile turning into something a little bit more mischievous.
"However, I think I can make it up to you. How about we go get that cup of coffee you asked about earlier...back at my place." It was Robin's turn to blink a few times at the young woman in front of him before he smiled as well.
"I thought you didn't like coffee?"
"I don't." Raven leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on Robin's lips that was truly the most perfect thing either of them had felt in so very long.
"So you ready to go Richard?"
"Of course, I've been ready for awhile I think."
As Robin and Raven walked away, they walked hand and hand toward an unknown future where it could all be over tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. There was no way to truly know, but for a little while, they simply wouldn't devote all their time to trying to protect each other, but simply love each other, and perhaps that was truly all the protection either of them ever would need.
Time marches in only one direction and fate may try to force a path upon you, but no matter what, life will always come down to one's own choice...as long as one has the strength of will to chose...to chose what lies within their heart, and in the end, it doesn't matter if the choice is truly right or wrong...just that it is made so you can find out.
Robin and Raven disappeared into the night, and as soon as the two birds were gone, a one-eyed white haired girl appeared from behind a nearby tree with a slightly unsettling smile on her face.
"Oh looks like Rae-Rae is going to go get some with Mr. Tall, dark, and gorgeous. Hehe...something about a guy who can take you in a fight that just makes you want him to take you to bed. Lucky Ravey, lucky Ravey...perhaps I'll get to play with him too, but I'm sure you wouldn't like that at all...hehe"
Rose stood there silently in the night, her smile disappearing, a deep, contemplative look replacing her usual, jovial and smiling face, a heavy feeling in the air around her.
"See you soon enough Titans...or is it my friends? I'll find out one day...this I know. The future will come soon enough, it always does, and all we can ever do is hope to survive it."
Rose melded quietly back into the shadows, disappearing into the night, and the world simply moved on.
And that my friends is it. If not sure how well everything works in this final installment or if it even makes sense for that matter but simply put, it is done. Interpret it as you wish because none of my endings are ever truly 'complete' in many ways, but that is done intentionally. Those who have been reading my stories for awhile now probably know why that is.
I could write an extensive list of gratitude, but I won't. I'm grateful to everyone whose ever read this story and more specifically to those who have constantly reviewed chapter to chapter to help provide feedback and motivation to keep going even when I grew weary of this endeavor. Some have been reviewing since the moment I started writing (there is one of you and for that you get the most thanks), some from when I started writing this story, and even some only in the last couple of months, but in the end, this story is dedicated to you because it would have never been completed without the kind words and of course the occasional threat...you know who you are. Thanks a lot...it can never be said enough and I'm not gonna try...I grow annoyed with being repetitive. It is what it is and nothing will change that. I guess that's good enough.
Its still hard to believe that after almost a year and a half, this story is finally over...I'm amazed it ever got this far because I honestly can't even remember what I envisioned for this when I started it though I'm positive it wasn't 160,000 words and 42 chapters. I guess I am proud of what I'm created and perhaps at some point I actually became a writer. This is probably my greatest story, a combination of many of my other stories and ideas into one, final sum. It worked I think...
For the most part, this is a final good bye to many of my readers as I only have one other story to finish which has a much smaller fanbase and then I'm 'retiring' from this genre. Its been a hell of a ride, and I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. I'm not the best writer nor the worst, and my ideas were never the best nor the most original, but I think I've entertained and isn't that what matters. Of cousre, I'm also one of the few writers whose actually completed everything they've started. That my friend, is the best show of respect to my readers I can ever do. I do intend to probably write for different genres more than likely under different pennames, but no final decisions have been made. If you ever had any questions, comments, or anything for that matter about anything I've written or will write, just let me know.
So long, good bye, and take care. I think I've said in my writing everything I really need to say.
Oh, does anyone else find it strange that Robin was never fully able to say, "I love you" to an awake Raven. Just one of those things you'd figure would get done before the story ended. Oh wellz, that's it...