1A/N: And so an ending has come to pass. This is the conclusion and it did take me awhile to write but I am satisfied with it. Its hard to be happy with any ending because once the story is done I always end up questioning what I've written, thinking about what I could have done differently. Anyways, I hope everyone has enjoyed this story as it was interesting to create. A little dark, a little twisted, but plenty more to it than just that. Lets see, 88 reviews, more than 2000 hits, and on the list of 15 people for favorites. I guess you always want to hit 100 reviews just because it's a nice round number but in the end it really doesn't matter. Thanks to everyone who ever reviewed and for any kind words. Let me know one last time how well this story went in its entirety and if there was anything that was great or anything that was subpar so I can know for future writing. I'll be posting final notes to reviewers in my profile after everything is said and done so look there if you want. Well that's it for now. Fare the well and peace out. Until next time whenever that will be.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans so lets not try and sue me since I don't have anything to sue for.
Finding Hope Again
The sound of the two bodies collapsing in the street was only a small sound, but to Raven, the sound was deafening. Her mental abilities had made it clear to her that Slade, the villain who had tormented the Titans lives since the very beginning, who scourge who had been relentless in his quest to bring nothing but pain to them all, had finally been taken down, had finally been sent to hell, sent to the place he once escaped because of her father. However, there was no relief, no satisfaction in Raven's mind at this reality because her empathic abilities also told her that the one who had killed Slade, the one who had come back from the darkness so many times, the one who had shown his true soul to her with three words, was at this very moment, returning to the darkness once again. However, there would be no coming back this time, there would be no return from the darkness of death.
Raven could see the ever expanding pool of blood coming from where the two bodies were, the crimson pond creeping ever closer to her, as if it desired to swallow her up along with the two men on the street. Knowing there was not much time, Raven forced her heavily damaged body forward, crawling as best as she could with only one working arm and several other serious injuries. She was forced to crawl through the blood, already congealing in the cold, winter air. She could feel it sticking to her bare legs and hand as she slowly moved on. Raven fought off the urge to vomit as she crawled through what she hoped was mostly Slade's blood and not that of him. Every movement was punctuated by a stab of pain in her chest or a wave of nausea but she would not be stopped. He needed her right now and she needed him.
The spiked bo-staff was still jammed through his abdomen, him lying awkwardly on his side with Slade's dead body more or less still attached to him by the staff into Slade's chest. She could feel him fading more and more as she got closer, sending her mind more into a panic, her movements becoming desperate, the pain less important. She knew that the fact that he was still even alive at this moment was a testament to the strength of his will. Eventually, she made it, a small bit of relief that he was still breathing when she got there. As if somehow sensing her presence, his mouthed opened, blood dripping out the side, and he managed to choke out her name though only more blood coughed out of his mouth do to the effort. He was bleeding internally from probably numerous major organs yet there didn't seem to be much blood coming from his body onto the street. The bo staff was helping to keep most of it in but he would most likely drown in his own blood very soon as part of his lungs were most likely in the path of his last, desperate move to ensure her safety.
Raven positioned herself on her knees and raised her one hand to his raggedly breathing chest, a faint glow encompassing her hand. She forced healing energy into his dying body, the effort causing her to feel light headed, her concentration starting to break but his breathing stabilized slightly from the effort. Again, with great effort he spoke her name though it managed to come out so gentle sounding, full of so many emotions that could never be described with mere words. Raven couldn't help but smile a little at the sound of his voice as she tried to increase the healing energy though it refused to. She was weak, far to weak at the moment and that thought stabbed deep into her as she watched him quiver slightly on the ground, most likely from shock. She wanted to speak to him, try to sooth his pain, tell him so many things she never had the chance to, some things she never had realized until the past few days. Tears slowly started forming in her eyes as once again her body refused to increase to the power needed, managing only a bare minimal that was just healing him too slowly. She screamed in her mind, raging a war against what she was experiencing, trying to deny it but to much had happened the last few days for it to ever not be the truth. With a small bit of strained, telekinetic power that she still wielded, Raven willed Slade's corpse off of the bo staff and pushed him a few feet away, it not being difficult as only the tip had penetrated his body but just enough to pierce his heart. It was his toxic blood that now covered the street as well as her and her protector. If he was to die, then she would not allow Slade to be so close to him. Slade would not continue to haunt every moment of his life. The action caused a slow movement from her protector's body as he moved slightly so that his face was looking up at her, his movements heavily restricted by the metal object piercing his body. His face was deathly pale, a look of immense pain etched into his features, all of which made her cry a little more. Never for a second did Raven stop trying to heal him, yet she knew it was in vain. She needed to remove the bo staff, but she knew it would cause him to rapidly lose more blood and the movement of it out would undoubtably cause more damage to his insides. All she could do was sustain him and pray for a miracle.
Raven didn't know what compelled her to do it but using that last bit of her telekinetic power that she could without taking away from her healing power, she pulled off his mask. If he was going to leave her, he was going to leave her as Richard, the only one who had ever held her so tightly, the only one who had made her feel safe. As if knowing the mask was gone, his eyes opened slowly with incredible effort. Despite his terrible condition, his eyes still held a strength and determination that left Raven in awe. The smallest of smiles met his face as he stared up at her bloody, bruised, and crying form, the glow of her healing power helping to illuminate her. The words came out slow but truly genuine.
"You know you really are beautiful." These words only caused Raven to sob harder, her tiny body starting to shake as she tried to hold back the tears, appear as brave as he did, be as strong as him at the end.
"Don't cry my Raven, please don't cry." This caused Raven to cry harder, closing her eyes as a sharp pain in her side occurred because of her shaking body. She visibly winced though made no sound of pain.
"You're hurt Raven. You're hurt because of me. Use what's left of your power to heal yourself. Don't waste it on me Raven, please save yourself." Raven's eyes opened quickly as she stared down at the dying man, a hard look in her eyes telling him that she would not stop healing him, that she would not give up on saving him even while she was incredible pain. His blue eyes closed for a second as he coughed a few times, the cough weak and dry, the cough of a dying man. Eventually he settled down and his eyes opened again, a soft look in his eyes met hers. His left hand slowly rose and caressed the side of her face, a welcomed touch, not like that monster Slade or the tormentor who nearly ravaged her body.
"Its okay Raven, its finally okay. We are all finally free of Slade, after so long his shadow will no longer hang above me and my family." He coughed again, this time struggling to regain his breathing. Raven tapped deeper into her self, trying to find more power but found almost none left. His eyes slowly grew less strong and took on the look of a man resigned to his fate.
"I wish...I so wish I could have just finally made it back home...could have seen everyone together one more time, visited Starfire's memorial with all of you." Raven face showed very little as she stared down at him though tears continued to fall freely, tears born of pure sorrow and grief. She was surprised when a small smile appeared on his face.
"Yet even now, at the end, I can't help but say I'm happy. For 5 long years, my life was not my own, my life was a meaningless pursuit of vengeance against Slade when really I was only waging a war with myself, running from the truth of it all. Now though, I am dying a free man, a man who is not a prisoner of his own darkness and hatred, a man who can clearly see what is in front of him and just how important it is." The two locked eyes for only a brief moment, knowing that so much would be left unsaid but they would try.
"I was willing to die to protect you Raven, I was willing to give every part of my being to make sure Slade would never be able to hurt you again, and never in my life have I had something I've wanted to protect more than you. You've saved me from myself so many times my Raven and I can never thank you enough, never truly express my undying gratitude for giving me the chance to simply be a human being again, to be who I was always meant to be." His body shook slightly, his hand trembling noticeably, causing him to stop talking for a moment. Raven continued to stare directly into his eyes, staring directly into his soul, trying to memorize everything he was at this moment, yet still screaming to whoever would listen to save him, to not let him die when she finally had him back.
"But there is one thing I can say Raven to you, something I should have said so long ago yet I was to wrapped up in my own personal cold. I love you Raven. I love you so very much. You gave me a reason to step away from the ledge, you gave me a purpose that was real, a purpose that was truly fulfilling and not dark and empty. You gave me hope Raven, long after I had lost it for this world, you gave me hope for myself. Every time I've needed you, you were there for me my dark angel. I love you completely Raven. I...love...you." The last words came out as a whisper as his eyes slowly shut, his hand no longer cupping her face as it lowered back down. Raven watched in horror as his breathing started slowing down until there was nothing. The night echoed with the scream of a shattering heart.
Raven threw herself at his body, doing her best to wrap her one arm around him. Her mind was frantic.
'No, no, no, no! Please no, please no. Don't leave me Richard, don't you leave me before I tell you I love you too. Don't you leave me now, don't you leave me ever, please just don't leave me.' Tears of pure sadness rolled down her cheeks, falling on to his blank face, producing no reaction from his slowly chilling body.
'Richard, you saved me once as well and please know that I love you with my heart, body, and soul. Please come back to me my love, please come back to me.' Raven closed her eyes as she gripped him as tight as she could. 'Whoever is listening, please save him, please bring him back.' A gust of air blew by and Raven was surprised to find it warm and comforting. A sweet, melodic voice filled the air, filled with love and an unbelievable gentleness.
"I am always listening my dear friend Raven and I have never left all of your sides even in the depths of the greatest darkness." Raven wasn't sure if the voice was born in her imagination or her despair, but the warm feelings it gave her were undeniable. Raven thought one name clearly in her mind...Starfire. Raven was positive she felt arms wrap themselves around her from behind, the pain in her broken body as well as her breaking heart slowly fading away.
"Through you I can provide you the strength, you must provide the desire and sacrifice my beloved friend." No words were needed to know the answer to the request.
Had anyone been witness to the next moments, they would never have believed their eyes. Had everyone in the entire vicinity of the battle not ran away at the sight of the battle or cowered in their homes waiting for it to be over at the simply sight of Slade, they would have witnessed something beyond words. A figure born of the purest white light had appeared out of nowhere and placed a slender hand on the staff piercing his body. It simply vanished into nothingness. The figure clearly of a young woman kneeled down and pulled the two people into her welcoming arms like a mother embracing a child. Raven's entire body started glowing the same light as her hands when she healed and the energy flowed from her into the lifeless form of Richard Grayson. Her body and abilities had moved far beyond what they were capable of, her healing power operating at a level never before seen and would never be again. Raven couldn't help but smile a small smile as Starfire whispered into her ear as she felt herself slipping into sleep.
"Rest now friend. You have endured enough for now. You shall be able to tell him your love soon enough." Eventually, the white light faded as if it had never been there, leaving a gently sleeping and smiling Raven still clutching tightly as best as she could to the body of Richard. Another gust of wind blew through the silent city, carrying with it the soft goodbye, the goodbye that was never allowed in life, of a lost angel and at that moment, a lost hero drew breath once more.
One and a half months Later...
Two heavy metal feet quietly strolled through the heart of the city, a leisurely pace that fit the warming spring weather and the happy faces of people engaged in numerous activities around him. Almost no one took notice of the large, half human, half machine as he walked by as everyone seemed to respect where he was going, to the memorial of a fallen Titan. It was not uncommon to see him go there over the years and no one had ever bothered the man because it would not have been right but those few that did take some notice every time he walked by noticed that for the first time in a number of years, he walked with a strange smile on his face. Eventually he arrived at his destination, taking in the vibrant colors of the now blooming flowers that would have given Starfire hours of amusement and beauty.
"Sorry I haven't been here in awhile Star but as I'm sure your well aware of a lot happened. I still can't believe everything that happened but seeing the drastic change in Nightwing only tells me that truly a miracle happened. When I awoke in my room after being recharged and fully fixed, I wasn't sure what the hell had happened, only that there was a note for me telling me to come to the hospital, room #403. I recognized the handwriting as Nightwing's. I remember gritting my teeth and seething with anger as I thought of the man who had tried to kill Raven as well as myself, yet I couldn't help but feel a terrible fear that the reason I had to go to the hospital was because of Raven. I remember barging into that room, ready for anything, only to find Raven sleeping peacefully, dressed in a white gown, looking every bit the angel I knew her to be, except for a cast around her right arm. However, sitting on the other side of the bed, clutching her hand like it was the only thing he had to hold on to, was a figure I recognized as the one who had attacked me and her, Nightwing. I was shocked when I realized he wasn't wearing a mask and I was confronted with two deep blue eyes I had never seen before yet what was even more shocking was the look in his eyes. Somehow I could read him completely by looking into those expressive eyes, and knew I wasn't dealing with the Nightwing who had come back those years ago for help or the monster who had attacked me and Raven. I was looking into the eyes of only a man, who was terrified of losing the young woman sleeping in front of him. I remember sitting down in a nearby chair, crossing my arms over my chest, and asking for an explanation."
Cyborg looked up, gazing at the clear, blue sky for a second, before continuing his conversation with himself as well as with his friend. "The story was incredible, there was so much that I had never known or realized had happened. I never knew that you died to protect him Starfire, none of us ever knew, and just what exactly followed your death for him and Raven. I remember being speechless as he slowly explained everything that had transpired as of late, Raven's capture, Slade's control, and finally Slade's death. However, the fact that I was looking at a living, breathing man after what he had told me I knew to be impossible yet there he was. He told me he didn't know what happened, except that he was sure he had died, had seen something beyond this world, heard the voice of an angel, but somehow had ended up back alive with an unconscious Raven clutching his body just as desperately as he was now clutching her hand. He had brought her to the hospital for help and then brought me to the tower for me to recover. It had been about a day since he had somehow been brought back. Neither of us left Raven's side for the entire time she was there and nothing could express the joy we both felt when a week later her eyes fluttered open to regain the waking world." Cyborg gazed again into the sky, this time looking beyond it.
"It was you again wasn't it Star. Your still there doing your best to protect us, to bring us back together the same way you held us together in life. I would have never believed it all had it not been told by Raven. I knew what she said was the truth. You found a way to reach out to her to save Richard's life. You truly are a guardian angel, you know that Star." Cyborg let out a deep breath.
"Of course there always is a price isn't there. Raven knows that she will never heal anybody ever again, that the power to do so has been taken away from her. That was the sacrifice made to allow Richard to live wasn't it. I can see it in her eyes, that the fact that she knows she will never be able to give the healing warmth to another innocent victim bothers her. This whole experience has left her bothered I guess despite everything good that has occurred. That was why they both left. They both left to heal, mentally as well as physically. I miss Raven so much and its only been a month but I know it is for the best for both of them. Raven has suffered a lot of trauma and Richard, well he still is fighting against his own mind, the darkness of Nightwing still refusing to completely fade away despite Slade finally being gone. It was hard to watch my little sister, with her forced silence, try and comfort him when the voice returned to his mind, knowing I couldn't help either of them." A grin formed on Cyborg's face.
'"Yet I know somehow it will be all okay, that those two will return eventually to the tower when they are strong again and we can be a family again. Those two really love each other. I don't know when it all started but they care so much for each other that I think I can almost see the emotions taking on a physical presence." Cyborg laughed a little bit a some of his brief memories of the two birds during the week that Raven was awake at the hospital before they decided to leave for awhile.
"I also know it will be okay because you will always be out there Star, some way or another, you will always be there to help us, to listen to our silent prayers, to guide us all back home." Cyborg lifted up his hand, which contained a crumpled letter in it.
"I don't know why but I know this was you to Starfire. Garfield is finally coming back after all this time. The letter came a few days ago saying he hadn't found a cure but he needed to see me and Raven again, that he was getting lonely after all of this time being away. It was you Star, it had to be. You're directing him home like some type of lighthouse on the coast. I can't wait to see my little buddy again, it has been so very long." Cyborg smiled a large, genuine smile as he read the inscription on her memorial. "Thanks for being the light still Star." Cyborg suddenly felt something appear out of nowhere behind him and didn't even need to turn around to know who it was. However, he was quite shocked when he heard a quiet, sarcastic voice that he never thought he would hear again, though it was just a bit off sounding.
"So Garfield is coming back. I guess I get the opportunity again to listen to you and his stimulating arguments about meat."
"Dark girl!" Cyborg spun around quicker than his considerable bulk should have allowed and was lifting up Raven's tiny frame in a strong hug. The hug was returned as best as it could by Raven as the two embraced for minutes, simply basking in each others presence.
"Thank God you're back sis. Fixing up that tower all by myself has been driving me nuts." Raven's response was filled with her usual tone but was simply amazing Cyborg was that she was clearly speaking to him.
"Well as long as you didn't go in my room, then I'll be more than happy to help you out with whatever's left to do." Cyborg eventually placed Raven back on the ground gently staring at her in amazement.
"How...talking...tongue...impossible..." Raven gave Cyborg a small smile.
"I got lucky Vic. I may have lost my healing powers, but I'm still a half demon in body. Over time we regenerate missing parts, though my tongue has not completely regenerated back, its enough so that I can talk." Cyborg returned the smile.
"This is incredible Rae but where's..." Someone clearing this throat cut Cyborg off. No more than a few feet away, standing fully in his Nightwing outfit with mask was who he was about to ask about. Cyborg scratched the back of his head in slight embarrassment.
"Hey man, sorry I didn't see you over there. I kind of got caught up in the moment with Raven."
"Yes, beautiful women always do get all the attention." Cyborg could see Raven blush slightly, something he had almost never seen before.
"Yeah they do and this one just happens to be exceptionally beautiful one who loves both of us dearly so I guess I have an excuse for missing ya over there." The two men smiled and chuckled at each other as a slightly embarrassed Raven fidgeted. Cyborg approached the black clad figure in front of him and extended his hand to him.
"Its good to see you well man. So what am I supposed to be calling you now?" He shook hands with the robotic man, metal hand shaking metal hand.
"It doesn't really matter right now Vic. All that matters right now is finally going home."