The Place that We Call Home
By burn to ashe
"While you were sleeping
I figured out everything
I was constructed for you
And you were molded for me
And now I hear your name
Coursing through my veins
You shine so bright it's insane
You put the sun to shame"
"Lullaby" by the Spill Canvas
Disclaimer: I don't own Teen Titans, the characters or storylines. This piece is written merely for public enjoyment and does not garner financial return.
Author Notes: Short chapter, but I'm trying to get back onto a regular update schedule, so the next few chapters might be shorter while I work on getting back on track. Hope you still enjoy the content.
Chapter Twenty four: Incapable
The few days they took to rest in Tara's homeland served to ease some frayed edges among the companions, save in Raven. Richard was glad of the chance to breath, and to recollect his thoughts. Though something significant was obviously troubling Raven, Richard spent his time pouring over maps, planning a route to Azarath, and considering what they might do when they got there.
Raven had said nothing about going directly to face her father. Considering her plan in Gotham, he suspected she would never consider single combat against him. Richard wondered why, but hadn't pressed the issue with her. She was pale and edgy, as if she hadn't been sleeping for some time, and he'd encouraged her to go sleep before they departed in the morning. His wife was sequestered away with Raven, and he hoped that Kori's presence might be comforting to her.
Richard glanced at Victor, who was staring at the massive section of the map that was Azarath. It was more an empire than a kingdom. It had expanded, swallowing lands as it did, just as it was rumored the demon king would swallow a man's soul. Richard didn't like thinking too much about what the demon king might be capable of, but Victor seemed sick with it.
"What are we going to do?" Victor finally spoke up. Richard raised his head to look at the magi he hadn't thought he would like when they met, the man who had become an invaluable ally and a friend, and lifted one shoulder in half a shrug.
"Raven is our best resource on the subject. She knows her father best." he didn't like saying the word 'father', but it was a fact. Raven was the half demon daughter of the demon king. She had been largely reclusive on what that meant she could do. "We have to talk to her. We have to know what she can do."
Victor didn't seem satisfied, but Richard didn't notice his friend's frown. "I meant about Gotham. We're outlaws now. Can we ever go home?" his friend tried to sound indifferent, but there was passion in him. Victor was a very passionate young man.
Richard stilled. "I don't know." he replied truthfully. "Once the demon king is dead, maybe." It was true. Richard couldn't say they would be welcomed back without that as credentials. They had defied not only their own liege lord, but the alliance their kingdoms depended on for support and prosperity. They could never be welcomed back without repercussions. Richard swore it didn't matter, privately, but he couldn't pretend it didn't sting.
Victor nodded, stiff with pain, and looked back at the map. It didn't look like he was paying much attention, though. He was suddenly very still, very quiet. After a few moments, Richard stood and departed with a murmured goodbye. He wondered if the magi would sleep before morning.
Richard walked the corridors of the palace, but he felt the guards' eyes upon him. He may have arrived with Tara (their princess... still strange to him) but he was a stranger, and they did not trust him. It was probably for the best, too. Eventually, though, it unnerved him. He did not want to go to his own chambers, despite the hour, because he did not want to sleep. Or even try.
He ended up in a large room with the walls lined with books. A library of sorts. He was amazed at the size and design, and despite the dim lighting, he admired the architecture within. It was older than much of the rest of the palace he'd seen, he would guess.
He found Raven standing in a small antechamber, looking at a statue of a woman. The statue was half cloaked in a rich blue silken cloth, and Richard wondered why. But his attention quickly focused on Raven, who looked so lost, so forlorn, as to be completely oblivious to his entrance.
She didn't turn, and he wondered why. He reached out to touch her arm, and she didn't respond. Her skin was cold and clammy under his touch. He spun her, to face him, and looked into her eyes. The violet was dim and there were heavy bags under her eyes.
"Raven?" he breathed again.
She stiffened, shaking her head. "You never promised." Promised what? He didn't remember a promise. He kept his hands on her arms, feeling his stomach sinking. "You never promised to be the one to kill me." she added, her voice raspy. He flinched, dropping his hands from her, and shook his head.
"No one is going to kill you!" he snarled. She didn't move, didn't even blink. He turned away, pacing, watching her. "We'll beat him together, and then," And then what? He had no answer for that. He would return to Gotham, most likely. She would remain in Azarath? It shouldn't matter. It shouldn't.
"He's in my mind," she said. The words, and the tone, startled him. He didn't understand, and surely his expression conveyed that. She raised her hands to her head, fingers in greasy hair. "He's there... I can hear him... I don't know how long I can fight him, Richard." She sounded so lost, so desperate. He'd never heard her like this before.
He gathered her into his arms and held her. She clung to him, which frightened him more than how she looked and sounded. She was not helpless, and hardly dependent on those around her. To see her in such a desperate condition was frightening.
"It's me. I'm the key. Through me, he can command powers greater than ever before, and he will conquer the known kingdoms. If he can control me... use me as the key." His grip tightened, but he was suddenly afraid. He hadn't realized... and he didn't entirely understand. He didn't know much about magic, despite being surrounded by it. "I've defied him thus far, but he has the mirror now, he has the portal into my mind."
"Mirror?" he asked. She shook her head. That was important now, but he'd ask her later.
"I don't know how long I can hold on to myself with him there." she breathed. "You have to be ready to kill me before he can use me." she looked up at him. She looked so hopeless, so terrified.
He kissed her. Slow, comforting, but with strength and reassurance. He would make sure everything was alright. He had to. He cradled her face, brushing her hair away from her eyes, and kissed her again. This one more insistent. Loving. Kind.
She breathed out against his lips as they parted, the warmth more arousing than he could have guessed. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, somewhat stunned. Her hands were tangled in his shirt, and he ran a hand down her back, tracing her spine.
Neither of them was sure. And there was Kori. Thoughts of the red haired princess between them seemed to come almost immediately, but neither one released the other.
"What does this mean?" Richard asked. Raven shook her head.
"Nothing. It has to mean nothing." And she pulled away. But he caught her hands.
"I don't want it to mean nothing." he insisted. She seemed to regain some sense of herself, some surety of her footing.
"Content yourself with your wife." she breathed. "She is a good woman, and will be a good queen. And I... I am going to die."
"You are not going to die!" he snapped. "No one is!" Idealistic and innocent, but at least he believed it. He believed he could save everyone.
Raven looked at him, sadness etched into her eyes, and sighed slightly. "And yet, you are still married." she breathed. Impulsively, she stepped forward and touched his face with her fingers. "You deserve someone who can love you, and Kori... she can. There is so much in her capable of loving someone. That should be you. I am not capable of the same." She left. Just like that, she left. And he felt his world shifting, unstable. He took a seat on a stone bench, looking up at the statue she'd been studying moments before, confused, and concerned. And angry.