Note- Thanks again to everybody for the kind reviews, it really helps.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN- Never Give Up
A month had past since the appearance of Slade at Titan's Tower. The inevitable tension caused by his vist had strained the once tight knit group to the point of disintegration. The last week or so had brought them closer together. Due in part to several skirmishes with villains. They were always there for the work and the work itself became a healing agent. Whenever you have to trust someone to watch your back, you can overcome great personal obstacles. Raven however, remained, mostly because he asked her to. She had become to feel somewhat guilty over time, that she had not said a word to him as he left. In her mind she thought remaining a Titan would be her redemption.
Late one afternoon, a car pulled up to the north entrance to the Tower. Two Navel Officers exited and walked to the door. Looking out of the window, Robin went over to the couch and awakened Cyborg, who had been taking an afternoon siesta.
"Cyborg…military officers…at the door!"
"What." Cyborg said groggily. "Military? Oh no, not again."
"Go round up the others…I will get the door." Robin gave an order. Cyborg complied. He then opened the door.
"We need to see a Miss Roth." The younger looking man said.
"Is she in trouble?" Robin asked. Both of the men looked at each other with puzzled expressions.
"No, we would just like to see her. Is she here?"
"I am here." Robin turned around to see Raven and the other Titans standing behind him.
Raven had very little knowledge of military rank or insignia. What she did have was a vast understanding of world religions and the Cross on the lapel of the older gentleman was definitely that of a chaplain. He stepped forward handing a telegram to Raven.
"I am terribly sorry." His only words.
Raven looked down at the note, The secretary of defense of the United States of America regretfully informs you that Lt. Commander Benjamin Wilson is missing in action…presumed dead.
Raven looked straight at the two strangers, thanked them, turned and walked away. She took about ten steps in the direction of the stairs before collapsing.
Sitting in the airport terminal looking at her feet Raven wished she had worn more comfortable shoes for the flight. The same flight that was now delayed another hour. Resting her head on her hand trying to relax, she didn't notice the young man in cargo pants and a t-shirt sit beside her.
"Well, I guess this is it."
"Robin?She was startled"What are you doing here"
"Just wanted to say goodbye…you left in such a hurry."
"I'm sorry...I'm just not good at that sort of thing."
"Actually I do want to ask you something." He turned to face her.
"Robin, please…I've made up my mind, don't try to talk me out of it."
"I didn't come here for that, but I would like you to listen for just a minute." Raven nodded in agreement, it wasn't like she had to leave anytime soon.
"You have two planes waiting for you." As Robin spoke, she look puzzled.
"One you have a ticket for…the other is over there." Robin then pointed out of the near window at a Lear Jet, sitting on the tarmac. Raven looked at Robin now completely bewildered.
"I called my former employer, he wants to meet you at his home. He sent his private jet."
"You mean…Bruce Wayne?" Raven asked.
"Yep…look Rae, I told you he had a large file on Slade, wouldn't you like to see it?"
"I don't know Robin…I mean does it really matter?" Raven felt uncomfortable discussing this.
"Maybe not, but he really has something to tell you…something that you need to hear. I have asked you many times as leader of the Titans, to do many things. Now I am asking you as a friend, go see him, listen to him, what have you got to lose."
Robin stood up, followed by Raven, then a long hug.
"I hope one day, that you stop running long enough, for happiness to catch up to you , Rae." He turned and walked out of the terminal.
It was only when the plane reached full altitude, did Raven realize how smooth a Lear Jet could glide through the air.
A voice from the cockpit woke her from a deep sleep. "We have started our descent, please fasten your seatbelt." Raven complied. Looking out of the window, she noticed they were landing on a private air strip. Nearby, a huge mansion. Wayne Manor, she thought.
Upon landing she was immediately ferried to the main house, where she was greeted by an elderly , but stately, butler.
"Miss Roth, please come in. We have been expecting you. Master Wayne will see you shortly. Please allow me to show you your room."
Alfred led Raven up a staircase and into a large bedroom.
"Please feel free to freshen up. If you require anything, anything at all, just ask and it will be provided. If you look in the closet, you will find clothes for any occasion, your exact size I might add. Mrs. Wayne herself handpicked the garments."
"Thank you." Raven said shyly.
After he left, Raven opened up the door to the huge closet. Her jaw dropped as she had never seen so many designer outfits, shoes and accessories. Most of the items were either black or dark in color. I like her already, she thought to herself. Making her way to a large bed, she laid down and tried to process her various thoughts, now running rampant.
A knock at the door jolted her awake. Looking at her watch, see realized that she had been asleep for over two hours.
The door opened and a stately gentleman stood just inside the room.
"You must be Raven, it is a pleasure to meet you."
"Batman!" Raven said while trying to get up from the huge bed.
"Bruce…please…call me Bruce. I hope your trip was pleasant?"
"Yes, thank you…I feel bad…you have gone to so much trouble." Raven was uncomfortable with strangers showing kindness to her.
"Trust me…we are thrilled you are here. I have heard astonishingly good things about you."
"From Robin, I guess." Raven timidly asked. '
"Yes, from Robin." Bruce smiled. "Come with me, I believe there is a dossier, that you came to see."
Raven followed him through the mansion. Eventually ended up in some sort of basement storage area.
"Mr. Wayne?" She asked.
"Bruce!" He again said smiling. "Call me Bruce…you are trying to make me feel old. You know I am about the same age as your friend."
"Oh." Raven said as she hung her head down. "Robin told you everything…about that?"
"My dear, that is why you are here." His statement would have normally unnerved the teen sorceress, but he had the most calming smile she had ever seen.
"You…you must think I'm a traitor."
"Not at all." He turned around to look her in the eye. "My job is to protect people…not to judge them. I want you to always remember that."
Raven nodded in agreement.
"Ah…we are here." He stopped in front of a large shelf. It was full of boxes, files, and assorted packages. Reaching up, he grabbed a cardboard box and removed it from the shelf. He carried over to a conference table. "It's a little dusty, but still in order. Look it over, take as much time as you wish. When you are done, we would love for you to have dinner with us, Alfred has been preparing a feast."
"Thank you…very much." Raven replied.
As they sat down, Raven just stared at box for a while. It was plain looking, aside from the word 'Deathstroke' scrawled neatly on the side.
"If you would prefer some privacy?" He asked.
"No, I…I just don't know now if I want to…or need to…know more about him. I'm sure Robin wants me find out all the horrible things I can, to try to get over his death."
"Actually, you couldn't be further from the truth. If I remember correctly…well, just open the box." He reassured her.
Raven removed the lid and began to pour over the documents. The room was silent for awhile. Before long she came upon a large photo, a young man, not much older than she was now. The photo of a young man in a Navel uniform, with two perfect eyes, staring directly into hers. She became overcome with grief, wrapping her head in her arms on the table. Bruce, was silent as he placed his hand on her back. He then pulled the assorted documents in his direction and slowly began to look at them.
"You know, he served his country very honorably." He said as he flipped through the papers before him. "Actually, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Probably should have gotten it twice, but the powers to be thought it a bit over the top. I always had mixed emotions about him, you see the government made him into what he was. Irregardless, it was my job…and yours to stop him."
"I don't want to see anymore." Raven said trying to wipe away tears.
"I understand…and I truly did not want to see you upset. But I did want you to try to understand something. Raven, we all…everyone one of us wears a mask, but that does not always define who we really are. You think about that…and now, I am starving, lets go upstairs and have dinner. I really want you to meet my wife."
As they entered the main dining room, Raven noticed a stunning impeccably dressed middle age woman, laughing with Alfred.
"Ah…here she is now." Bruce exclaimed as they walked toward her. "Raven, this is the light of my life, Selina."
Selina immediately hugged Raven. "Darling, I believe Robin is losing his touch. This young lady is even more beautiful than he described." Raven blushed just a bit. They all sat down, Raven did not realize how hungry she was until the food was brought to the table. During the entire meal, the Wayne's made her feel so comfortable, that she would laugh at the innocent digs they seemed to hurl at each other.
"Raven." Bruce began as he lightly wiped his mouth with a linen napkin. "Did I tell you that Selina loves to shop?"
"Please, Bruce I am not that bad." She responded.
"Really?" He quizzed playfully. Turning to Raven. "Her American Express tab last year alone was larger the Gross National Product of sixteen countries." Selina leaned over and smacked him playfully on the arm.
"Don't you believe him dear…he is a typical male. I know for a fact…that it was more like eight countries." Selina said with a wicked smile. Everyone burst out laughing.
After a few moments, Raven suddenly became somber. Selina immediately noticed.
"Raven, dear, what is troubling you?
"I'm sorry." Raven said looking down. "It's just you two…I mean both of you are so nice…so perfect, and me, I fell in love with a criminal, I feel ashamed, unworthy."
"Well, yes that." Bruce looked over at Selina, then back to Raven. "That is actually why Robin wanted you to come here."
Raven looked confused.
" Raven, what do you think of me?" He asked.
"I don't understand, I mean you are a living legend, the single greatest crime fighter ever."
"Darling, please." Selina quickly interrupted. "His ego is big enough as is, no need to fuel the flame."
"Let me tell you a story." Bruce was leaning back in his chair. "Years ago, I fell deeply, and madly in love, with a most exquisite creature. At the time, I couldn't think of anything else, just her. This romance went on for some time, it was only later that I came to find out that the love of my life, was actually an arch villain that I had pursuing for some time…Catwoman."
Raven's eyes got big, she looked at Selina, and without thinking said, "Maybe we should talk about this later."
Selina recognized the hint. "No, darling. I'm Ok with this. As a matter of fact, I love hearing this story."
"Anyway." Bruce continued. "When I stumbled upon the truth, the torment over what to do became almost unbearable. I felt guilt, and yet happiness. You know it is a tremendous weight to bear, love versus duty. You…and I, are probably the only people that can understand this."
Raven now knew what Robin was trying to let her know. The simple confession from her hero suddenly made her feel normal again.
"I know it is none of my business." Raven was speaking very softly, and not even sure if she could finish the question. "How…I mean…did you solve the problem?"
"Oh…that." Bruce smiled as he reached out and held Selina's hand. "Actually, that was the easy part…I just married her."
Selina looked at Raven, smiled and winked her eye. "Meow."
Raven was speechless. The Wayne's, well they just smiled.
"Master Wayne?" Alfred was standing the main doorway. "Admiral Kensington is here to see you."
"Ah…yes, thank you Alfred." Bruce rose from the chair. "If you two lovely ladies will excuse me, I will be right back."
"Are you Ok dear?" Selina inquired after he left the room.
"Yes…yes, ma'am." Raven was looking down at her plate, speaking very softly.
"Tell me what is troubling you."
"I feel, I don't know, like I am running. But I don't know what I am running from. Your story…it is so beautiful. Mine is just painful."
"Being in love is not painless, you know." Selina said with a motherly smile.
"I know, but yours…is like a fairly tale with the princess and the prince living happily ever after. Mine is over, and I never in spoke to him…you know…in the end."
"Raven!" Selina exclaimed. "You are giving up much to easily. I expected more from a Titan."
"They said he was dead." Raven lowered her head even more.
"PRESUMED!" Bruce's voice sounded like thunder as he walked back into the room. "The words were presumed dead."
He slid around the table, leaned down and whispered into Selina's ear. A small smile came from her face, Bruce stood beside her, hand on shoulder.
"I am afraid you under estimate Deathstroke." As he spoke Selina punched him in the arm, still smiling at Raven.
"Forgive me, I believe you under estimate Lt. Commander Wilson." He glanced over to Selina for approval. "You see, he is very…shall we say, resourceful, at the art of survival." Bruce said while taking his seat. "Raven, the point I was trying to make before, in the basement, is that we all wear masks…to some degree or another. If you ever find that special someone that can see behind the mask, then the past is irrelevant, the future is all that matters."
There was a few moments of silence.
"Bruce, please!" Selina's voice excited. "Enough of the drama, just give it to her, I'm dying over here."
"Yes, very well." He reached into his jacket, removed an envelope, placing it on the table in front of Raven. "As you can I imagine, I have a lot of contacts in government circles. I had to pull a lot of strings, somehow I think you're worth it."
Raven was scared and just stared at the plain white envelope. Knowing that she could not handle any more heart wrenching news. It was only after she looked at Selina and saw the warmest smile possible, that she removed the note inside.
If you are reading this then I know the flying rodent has kept his word. I'm afraid that the report of my demise, was a bit premature. They can't really be blamed, at the time wounds I had suffered should have taken me. I am recovering, well. There is some unfinished business that I must attend to, things that I have put off far too long. As a matter of fact, the first thing I am going to do is see a Little League baseball game . I do not know how long I will be gone. I do know that I will find myself back at your doorstep. I will understand if you choose not to be there. I am not sure if I can keep going without you in my life, but if it is not to be , I will promise not impose on you any further. If you are there, I promise to never leave you again. Either way I am coming for you..
Tears were streaming down Raven's cheeks, the same for Selina. Bruce rose from his chair walked and walked over to Raven.
"My dear…you are welcome to stay with us as long as you desire. However…I took the liberty of having the plane fueled…it is on the runway as we speak."
Raven sprang up, hugged Bruce, then Selina. At the bottom of the marble steps leading from the entrance of Wayne Manor, she bent down, removed her dress shoes and ran.
She ran down the hill, over the well manicured lawn, to the airstrip and into the jet. As the plane cleared the runway, she never noticed that her feet were wet and stained from the freshly mowed lawn. She had never even felt them touch the ground.
Note- Maybe a sequel?