A/N: Enjoy please.
Open Roads and Cantaloupes by RyokoJesse
As expected, they traveled in silence. Raven hardly concentrated on him; she even forgot he was there. The wind blew any concerns away. Focus was pinpointed to her chakra and the feeling of relaxation her entire body was experiencing. It was incredibly relieving, something she could credit to nothing but flying. Garfield was surprisingly and generously aware of his position in relation to her. It may have been a trick of the mind, but it seemed every titan had become much more bearable since the week before. Maybe knowing each person's perspective was affecting their relationships more significantly than she'd predicted.
It was a few hours before Raven became mentally exhausted. Small jolts, like waves of electricity, ran through her. Her body was trying to jumpstart her brain to stay airborne. As it got worse, Gar nudged her occasionally, a subtle, worried look in his hawk eyes. It was until she nearly fell that he gave a sharp call, wrapped in anger and concern. She turned to him wearily and dropped, eyes closed and limbs dragging upward with the wind.
Gar was immediately a pterodactyl, catching her limp form and landing heavily on a rocky cliff. Another, softer pop and the green young man removed his companion's suitcase from his mouth. He wiped the saliva from the handle and opened in slowly, looking with caution for something she could rest her head on. There were shirts and jeans, bras and underwear, some money, a blanket, matches, and the Book of Azar. She'd packed without food or drink, so he assumed she'd been intending to stay in the city. The intent must have been weak, for now they were miles beyond Jump City's boundaries. Deciding the blanket would be a decent pillow, Gar carefully lifted Raven's head and slid the object beneath.
Dry sticks and round stones soon found their way to the immediate vicinity. Gar created a small fire pit for that evening's cold. She groaned awake as the sun went down and warm flames leapt to life.
"Good morning," he said softly.
"The sun's down."
He was quiet for a moment, soaking in her normal incredulity after passing out. His mind took the blunt route to mismatch her rearranged idiosyncrasy.
"It does that."
He absently poked the fire, eyes watching but not really seeing the flames. She came to sit closer to the warmth, and it was a moment before he spoke again.
"…Are you alright?" he asked, taking her in cautiously and worriedly with tired eyes.
She nodded, silent and a little sheepish. It had been willingly that she'd exhausted her powers. She'd been desperate for some way to release it all without losing control; just once.
He traced her face and shoulders with his eyes, noticed the nervous way she held pale knees to her chest. Her hands found a nearby stick with which she absently poked the fire. Her eyes didn't see it, in fact he imagined they didn't even see what was before her, but her exposed wrist was telling loud secrets. The wound that had leaked blood at the tower earlier that day no longer existed. As he had expected, it was healed, whether it was subconscious or not. Should he tell her? Had it just been from training, or was something bigger going on?
A tap on his shoulder. Quick, cold.
Maybe it would be best if he spoke up. She might need to know. But he second-guessed himself. She could already know and didn't need a reminder. She seemed to be fragile at present, and it really wasn't his business. She'd told him just earlier that day to trust her judgment, so he would; if not about running away, then about this.
Two more sudden taps, the same. A chill ran through him. Hackles rose.
Despite having come to a decision, he wasn't ready to accept it. A great pressure seemed to swell in his chest. His jaw opened of it own volition, and a choking sound nearly escaped. With a blind thought, he spoke.
"Look, Raven…" Her eyes were closed, mouth curved into a small frown. She was tired, but responded through a sigh.
"What is it?"
"Um," -–tap-- "Well…I saw--"
But she never heard his sentence. For once in his life, Gar hadn't watched enough television to have predicted the torrential thunderstorms approaching that evening. Rain ran its fated course along the wind's transparent hair, faster and wetter than a darting fish. Both titans jumped to their feet as the fire sizzled out. Raven, now wondering what he could have seen, screamed through the downpour.
"What did you see?"
He couldn't answer her like this and was shocked that she hadn't dropped the subject at the sudden and almost unnatural storm. Maybe she did know and was afraid he'd found out.
"Is this really the time?" he shouted.
Gloved hands grabbed the suitcase and soaked blanket, then ran to the momentarily powerless empath. She was clutching her cloak like it would stop the heavens from crying, hood shielding most of her face, and despite the effort she was beginning to shiver. He imagined it had been a long time since she had ever been truly caught in the rain without something to keep dry. He grabbed her shoulder with tested patience.
"Hey, toughen up. We need to find somewhere to stay. There aren't any trees as far as the eye can see. If there's a cave or outcropping nearby, we'd best be in it."
He was acting quick, smarter than she was used to. A green bat formed before her, screaming loudly. The useless eyes closed as he felt the landscape and she felt vulnerable, as if he was a blind person touching her face to view what could never be seen. It was five minutes and a few more screams later that he took human form again.
"Sorry it took so long. My echolocation's a bit rusty, but I think there's shelter this way."
He pointed ahead and a bit to the right. The two set off, again silently. Raven moved as fast as possible, but her lack of energy made her feet arduous and pace slow. Soon he slipped his arms behind her legs and back to carry her. She would have felt it was an act of irritation but she also felt his heart beat by her ear through the rain. She saw his face, tarnished with concern for her and aggravation at the weather.
She was thankful, although a bit uncomfortable with being so close to him. She thought of her dream in the snow and realized how closed she was in person when compared to the confines of her mind. She felt stupid for such restraint and she almost admitted the fear which caused it. Guilt lay prominent in her mind for not being able to repay her friend for his kindness. She wanted something to be done, something meaningful but didn't take much effort. When it happened, he didn't see it but she finished with nervous content, for It in itself was more astounding than any dream in any mind.
Cold chipped at her bones and made her hands shake. Fear tore her to irrationality. The world around her was bright with a gentle sky and flower-dotted landscapes. Paintings, varying in intensity and simplicity, hung in the sweet air before her. They yelled, tunneling through her eardrums. It hurt so much just to hear that noise; to know that she'd made them scream.
The ground became an ocean. She sank like her feet were violently heavy stones. The sun erupted to life above her head. Oppressive feet became invigoratingly light. Her head reached for a surface she didn't know was coming. She wasn't swimming for it, but she flew. The water rushing by came in series of submerged waves, each swiftly joining the past to make room for more. They danced along her hips and propelled pointed toes towards the blurred above. It grew exponentially then broke.
For a moment, she literally drank in the sunlight, mouth open and happy. It tasted of sweet mango and fresh cantaloupe. Only once before in her life had she tasted such unique fruit. Content with the sip of tame fire, she laid back and bathed in the warmth, minutes becoming hours and hours disappearing with contentment.
The early morning should have struck life into both damsel and beast, but the monster stirred first, both warm and cold, wet and dry. His mouth tasted horrible and he wished he'd brought a toothbrush and toothpaste. With a sigh he rolled onto his side, eyes still closed. He wondered why his bed was so hard and groaned with annoyance. He reached for a blanket but found none. Frustration made his muddled head ache as green eyes opened to brave the sun. Brows furrowed, a small animalistic growl erupted in his throat. Stupid blanket…
In quickly realized instants his lungs stopped, heartbeat doubled, and mind raced. He felt her breathe on his lips, sudden silence magnifying each respiration. He'd been about to bring his left arm down on her, thinking he'd been alone, and so was now hovering limb over shoulder. Incredibly, her eyes were still shut, features slack.
He breathed out; slowly.
But it seemed such a movement caused a reaction. Raven groaned and rolled back and forth, holding her breath in her sleep, a finger teetering on the trigger of a shot gun. The bullet soon fell from its deadly nest, Gar instinctively embracing its collision. In his arms she was warm, soft breasts on his chest and cold fingers loose near his face.
He felt a distinct sense of aching and seriousness that only she could inspire. Their foreheads touched kindly, as if shaking hands for the first time. Her chakra was hot but strangely comforting, its spiritual distinction obvious. Knowing his own hands were warm he carefully removed his gloves and pulled them over hers. He was gentle and silent, very careful not to wake her.
In that moment the youngest titan became a protector, a real emotion of concern and guard apparent in his actions. When he'd heard her story the week before, he'd learned that, despite all of her trials, the durability made her beautiful. In his mind she became precious, something he was not and never could be. He admired her and wanted to be good enough for someone so strong and careful. Most miraculous was the patient ease with which this perspective had grown. Garfield had been trying diligently for years to understand Raven, and it seemed that, in a few short weeks, everything was beginning to fall together.
In this comfortable state of existence, it was merely seconds before sleep took the changeling, his mind shoving away the idea of a goodnight kiss for the sentiment of circumstance.
It was many hours later when Raven did awake. She first tasted the strange flavor of cantaloupe before looking at her surroundings. It took a panicked moment to realize she was in a cave, but following that was the answer to why she was there. Remembering Gar had gone with her, she propped herself on shaky elbows and saw the green man to her left, spread eagle. She shook her head, wondering just how he got into such a position. She noted with curiosity that his gloves were missing but thought nothing of it. They'd probably fallen off while he dreamed.
She lay back down, frustrated at herself and reviewing past events. She felt extremely vulnerable now, scared to imagine if she'd done or said something wrong the evening before. Her hands rose to her face in order to rub fresh eyes. When she felt fabric, the eyes opened and discovered grey gloves. Her mind reeled with thoughts of how and why he had put them on her, or whether she had done it herself in her exhaustion the night before. Hoping to find clues, her gaze swept once more to the quiescent boy.
What she had missed before was now apparent. He was peaceful as he slept. It was something very different and almost bizarre, yet oddly fitting and then slightly…attractive. When Garfield slept, his mouth was serious, eyes fragile, breaths even. His body moved slowly, patient, a quality he lacked during the day but even personalized in slumber. It was mesmerizing in a sense. She was sure he wouldn't wake…
Warm fingers skimmed his chest, hand flattened lightly to rise and fall with each respiration. She was breathing nervously, eyes bright, shoulders tense. Her mouth lay loose in suppressed wonder and instinct until she bit her lip and hand slid, still gently, still cautiously, but now excitedly towards his shoulder. Along the journey she breathed in quickly in surprise. There was his heart, real and beating like any other, but unique because she hadn't ever thought of him with a heart, emotions, pain.
This newfound tranquility within him, this silent side; she wanted to soak everything in. She let her empathy control and felt the blankness in his mind, the distinct serenity she always lacked but struggled to achieve. His ear itched, his mind only noticing enough to cause a twitch but not wake up. The movement shook her from her daze and reminded her he could wake up at any time. Quickly and carefully, her body returned to her own end of the cave. She didn't want to disturb him, she'd tell herself, but really it was a matter of being caught. She got lucky.
Just as her head hit the makeshift blanket-pillow, her friend came to tender life.
It was half an hour later that the two set off for the city. Garfield had borrowed some pants and a t-shirt from Raven, and she had changed herself. Wet spandex was chilly, uncomfortable, and sometimes caused a rash. Gar got lucky and was extremely lanky. Due to this, he didn't seem a complete fool in girl's jeans and a smaller shirt. Had he been Robin, there might have been problems.
Both had quickly become hungry, so with the small amounts of money each had brought they headed for a cheap restaurant Terra had told Gar of years ago. He said he'd come there every so often, just to think about their lost titan, and the food was sold at low prices. Raven settled easily. She didn't care as long as her stomach stopped threatening her with its rocky growl.
It was a quiet flight but certainly less tense than the first. Garfield was surprisingly calm, not even making a swoop of contentment the way he usually did, but he stayed relatively close. At the sight of the small, friendly diner, both lowered and walked in. Each was careful to keep their mind on what they were going to eat next, ignoring the situation's bright resemblance to a date.
Welcoming counter stools found visitors. Raven immediately began to scan the menu but Gar's eyes were wandering, uncertain where to leave them. He knew exactly what he wanted and was wondering where the usual front employee was. Suddenly, a head popped up right in front of Raven's concentrated face.
"HEY! You're a new one in these parts!" he nearly yelled, cutting off the "h" of his initial greeting.
The startled girl jumped back in her seat, toppling very suddenly and unceremoniously towards the floor. She was lucky Gar's animalistic abilities included brilliant reflexes. His wide green palm was the only thing keeping her from a humiliated heap on the floor.
The bright-eyed, portly man ignored the lady's fall. Instead, he cupped a hand to his mouth and elbowed Gar, his face contorting mischievously. His next words were soft, taking advantage of the confusion of the woman a few feet away. "She's a mighty fine one too, if you don't mind me saying. Rather pleasant" --he made a rather bizarre gesture near his chest and winked— "if you know what I mean."
Needless to say, Gar's face had been turning six shades of red as soon as his rather obnoxious friend had appeared. It now hit a very noticeable level. As soon as the smell of grease left his nose (the man stood up straight again), Raven questioned his flushed appearance.
"It's nothing," he replied a bit too adamantly. The answer was a highly incredulous look, soon interrupted by a loud New York-Italian accent.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so rude." Garfield seemed hopeful that maybe, just maybe his old friend would apologize for his discourtesy. Instead, he wiped his hands on a stained white cloth and raised the right in greeting. "The name's Marco, owner of this here humble joint." With a proud air he flipped the cloth over his shoulder and gestured fantastically to the menu above them. "We've got burgers, seafood, chicken, pizza, fries, and not to mention our famous vegan menu to the left. Top it off with your choice soup of the day, then finish with my beautiful wife Patricia's homemade ice cream. Delicious." He kissed his fingers with a huge smile, smirking once more at Garfield, and left behind the counter.
Raven seemed rather stunned. "He's quite…"
"Intolerable?" A glare ricocheted from green eyes to a mischievous smirk. Seducing the lady already, and with the cheesy ad campaign he'd heard Terra kick back in his face years ago.
She responded thoughtfully, letting each word linger as if tasting each and critiquing the flavor. "…No, he was…unique. I know this seems strange for me to say, but I kind of like his passion for such a small place. It says a lot."
This, in its bizarre and patient manner, sent Garfield into a fiery rage. He tried to wrap his mind around the idea that Raven had been conned by someone he expected her to blast into next week. His hands couldn't find the right expression to show his frustration and shock, running rampant through disheveled hair and accompanying a mouth lost for literacy. His eyebrows twisted with disbelief and confusion.
Raven was shocked at realizing she'd confused him with her odd reaction to Marko. She had tried to be make an effort to look for the best in someone, and besides that she'd felt his pride in huge waves of emotion. It had been hard to ignore, so she took the chance to be the less-pessimistic Raven for her friend. Somehow, this was not at all what the changeling had wanted or expected. Therefore, overcome with the irony of the situation, she laughed. A pale face broke with joyous mirth and the lights in "Marko's Manor" flashed rainbows across the public's face before popping into darkness.
Gar couldn't help himself, for in his anger and uncertainty something within him, whatever beautiful and magical thing it was, had made Raven laugh, and after all of those years of teasing and pathetic jokes and then finally just giving up on ever breaking through such a stubborn exterior…a miracle had fallen into his arms and kissed him like a happy Golden Retriever at Christmas. He watched her escalation from sicker to full-out hilarity as Marko dried a wet cup from the sink and watched with perplexed eyes.
My God, she was cracking up! She'd fallen onto her knees and he shook his head, fighting to contain the toothy grin biting away at his cheeks.
"Hey, are you guys going to order anything or what?" Marko's thick and distinctive voice got Raven and Gar's disoriented attention easily. The green one held out a hand to Raven, whom took the offering guiltily. They both sat at the counter to order, Garfield requesting a tofu burger and Raven a salad.
"Coming right up!" said Marko before sweeping into the back, mumbling something about freaky kids and electric budgets.
Raven looked at her surroundings with apprehension, realizing the damage that had been done. She sighed all of the giddiness from her system, a chill passing through her spine as she did so, and set her warm hands on her lap. The world ran away rather promptly, and she felt each muscle in her back tighten as her teeth found the soft flesh of her lip. She had nearly drifted into meditation and forgotten everything when Beast Boy's hand reached her shoulder. Her eyes opened with a flutter, showering her companion with expectancy.
"Raven, it's okay." The lights were on once more, and a woman to her right was casting a concerned glance in her direction. "They fixed the lights, it was just a fuse." He was unsure of what to say, how to console her. "…We can leave an extra tip-- if you want."
She blinked from the other woman's gaze and shook her head quickly. "No, it's okay. Let's just…go."
The food arrived seconds later. Raven rummaged haphazardly through her suitcase, but could only find a five. She left it nervously on the table and quickly left through the front door; suitcase and salad in tow. In a swift and surprising move of chivalry, Beast Boy pulled a ten from his boot and let it rest on the counter by Raven's contribution. Marko looked at them both bewilderedly. Gar smiled.
"Keep the change."
One hand grabbed the tofu burger; the other opened the door to follow Raven.
The bright sun ran unchecked over Garfield's face as he left the diner. Raven was walking steadily to the left, nearing a sports field and hill. He called after her, louder than he knew she wanted to hear. She was gripping the plastic salad container too tightly. There was too much emotion for regularity, and unwritten rules were falling from the heavens like dying crows.
She couldn't speak. She waited for his hand to graze her shoulder, as predicted, then dance away in shock and she jerked away in anger to hide the vulnerability. Her hand made its deft way to the other arm's wrist.
A whim played its way onto her brain then activated her legs into rhythmic pulsations, timed steps and leaps and rushes of wind, invisible tears, and dropping the stupid salad on the ground behind her. Running. Falling faster than anything because she wanted to trip and imagine him catching her, imagine the one thing that was the antithesis of all that was what she had to be and tried so hard to be. If that hadn't caught her before, couldn't he catch her now? Nothing else could. And if that didn't work, then hell, she'd probably get herself killed so the whole freaking world wouldn't suffer later.
It wasn't by speed that his arms happened to be underneath her torso when she fell. His existence was primarily there because of her mind. Of course, two people with so much ability and so much wish to be the same place at the same time can create a rather mighty achievement. So it was that Raven fell heavily into his arms, and knocked Garfield flat off his feet. The changeling held her there on the ground with curiosity and worry in his mind – brighter than the glow of pub signs.
She grabbed his head really tightly, the back f his neck, and then she spent her ragged breath on the cotton of his shirt, lifted that because she wasn't getting very far and scratched the living daylights out of his stomach. When it started to bleed, her grit his teeth harder and waited. His own hands reached her wrists a bit later, flying calm to her fingertips then up through her heart. She had never seen him look so serious.
"What happened to your wrist," he said. It wasn't a question.
"You cut it open – your claws – in my dream. I think…" she looked away, but he tipped her chin with force enough that she could only consent. "I think my emotions are becoming unavoidable."
"You mean real."
She nodded, his hand dropped.
"Then you're not sure what to do – there's nothing you can do, is that right?"
Another nod, this time smaller, and a clear tear fighting its way down her face.
"Look at me, Raven," and this was plead, so different but more in character.
She did, because she didn't know what else to do, and because he was awake this time, with the solemnity and peace she'd admired in the cave. He lifted her wrist and removed the cuffed gloves, making her entire body crackle with emotion: anxiousness. When he kissed it, the worry left, the tears came harder, and something opened powerfully in her chest. Freedom.
"Maybe Trigon doesn't need to be defeated by vigilance and superpowers and control. Maybe we can call it a day and decide there's nothing to do but care about one another. What could he do with that kind of emotion if we really meant it?"
Like a wave the air flew through her lungs and back out, eyes closing with the undertow and opening with a decision. He was right. And if he was wrong, she'd sacrifice herself for their lives. At the least she'd know.
Lips touched clumsily and quickly because she wasn't going to allow herself to think about it. She stretched out over him; partly kneeling and feeling him begin to kiss her back. That was something - to have her eyes closed and notice that every bit of fire erupting through her skin was caused by him. The flutter in her heart and mind and stomach intensified with movement until she felt dizzy and head almost hurt with the full onslaught of feeling.
His arms moved underneath him and lifted his torso, stretching forward and upwards, responding more powerfully than her –and she got it. This whole time he'd wanted her too. As he pressed harder her mouth opened in shock, Garfield taking his chance to deepen the kiss. She nearly fell backward with the newness of it all, not to mention the unbalanced position she was in. Her hands gripped his shoulder quick to save herself, but there was no need. One hand was already round her back and snaked onto the nape of her neck. His lips trailed lazily and gently over her own then, down her chin, down to her neck which sent her mind reeling, then to her ear which seemed strange but became her new secret pleasure. Every movement seemed drunken and impulsive, and she knew she was doing the same thing. She opened her eyes for a moment and looked at his expression; eyes closed and then open to catch her gaze. He was breathing heavily. His eyes were bright.
Inexplicably, she smiled. She wasn't trying to, wasn't thinking about it, and really didn't want to. It just didn't seem to fit, but she did, with a Cheshire grin as nothing could wipe it off, even a concrete smack on the face.
Her smile was infectious, so he did too, and lifted the hand from behind her back. She felt cold without him there, but now the hand was in plain view and trembling uncontrollably.
"You're making me shake with emotion." He chuckled at the irony, when she looked at her own hand and brought it up to his.
"Me too" She snorted in contented disbelief.
He still had something to say - something else.
He kissed her nose, and the most playful gesture became more somber than death.
"You know," he said with a gentle lilt to his voice. She could tell he was comfortable with her, for the first time. He was generally confident. She loved it. "You taste like cantaloupe."
She smiled again, really laughing and now falling in love with his intricate endearments.
"And you taste like tofu burger."
So she kissed him again.
Ryoko – forgive the random variation of writing styles-slash-genres in this. I wrote it in bits and pieces at the weirdest times.