She held up a hand, stalling him. Her eyes flowed across the page, finishing the last paragraph. The hand wavered, then dropped as she closed the tome. The entire Book of Azar, and not a single piece of information to help her. She sighed, dissatisfied. It had been a small hope that there would have been anything in there to help her control her powers, but she had hoped anyways.
"Umm…" She was pulled out of her thoughts.
"Oh. Beast Boy." A moment to massage away the tightness behind her eyes, the sole product of a night without sleeping. For that matter, the previous two nights had been spent in a similar manner. "When was the last time I slept…?" she murmured to herself. There was that nap the day before… or was it two days ago?
Raven gave herself a shake and forced her attention on the green changeling. "It's nothing important. What did you need?"
Beast Boy bit his lip. "I had a question about… If you're busy, I can…" He trailed off miserably. Raven sighed. It was a personal question, then. He wouldn't be so hesitant, otherwise. He would never get it out without help.
"'m not busy. I was just trying to finish my research before I got distracted again. So, go ahead." He still looked uncertain. She took a deep breath, forcing herself to be patient with him. "I promise I will answer your question, no matter what it is." He deserved at least that much. She had been a burden lately, on all of them.
"Oh. Umm..." He visibly steeled himself. "Raven, why did you cut your hair?"
Her eyes flew wide, shock in purple relief. That was the last thing she had expected him to ask. "That's- I mean… my hair?" She stuttered weakly. What an odd question.
"Erm. Yeah. It's just, I kind of liked it. When it was long, I mean."
"Not everyone has a long-hair fetish." She droned, taking a couple of seconds to recover from her surprise. The changeling drew himself up, a delicate shade of pink staining his green complexion.
"I don't have a … what you said!" She smiled softly as he scowled. "Besides, you're avoiding the question."
"I suppose I am. Sit down, Beast Boy." He quickly plopped onto the ground next to the dark girl and leaned against one of the large metal crates that littered the roof of Titan Tower. The sun sank slowly, slowly down the sky, discoloring the air into a shade of red. Beast Boy was silent, waiting.
Finally, she spoke. "I… this may take a few minutes. Should you become disinterested, please tell me and I will stop." Beast Boy stirred, but she quelled his protest with a sharp look. "I think I may regret telling you all of this later, but I also think you have the right to know about my past. All of the Titans do. After all, you are all protecting me from it. However, I wish to speak to them all individually, so please promise me you won't tell them." Raven waited until the changeling nodded. "Very well.
"You know now, of course, that my father is a demon. Trigon the Terrible, master of the underworld, banished to the realms of oblivion by the priests and priestesses of Azar. My mother was a woman who managed to contact Trigon after his forced exile, though she had little understanding of what she was doing. I was conceived in that unholy union. Trigon's short entrance into this plane of dimension caught the attention of the leader of Azarath, Azar the Priestess. She-"
"Wait. The priestess's parents named her after the planet? Isn't that a little…"
"Presumptuous?" He nodded. "Azar was not always her name. When she was chosen to lead our- her people-" she corrected herself, "Her name was changed and her old identity forgotten. It has been the tradition for centuries. In any case, when Azar learned of Trigon's activities, she brought my mother to Azarath to protect her. Trigon may have been banished, but he could still enter this dimension with great effort, if only for a short time.
"I was born there, on Azarath. It took a full circle of thirteen priests and priestesses to contain me during my infancy. When I reached a teachable age… about two, I suppose… I was taken away from Arella and-"
"Arella. That is what they named my mother. The translation… I think the closest parallel is 'She who has been delivered of great sin.' It also has a concept of past shame and abuse."
"I was given to Azar so she could teach me to control myself. We were secluded together for a large portion of the next four years. Occasionally, Arella came to visit. That was always difficult, for both of us. She had no control, and I reacted to her emotions. Eventually, Azar banned her from seeing me."
Beast Boy jumped up. "She didn't even let your own mother see you! That's so unfair! I mean-"
"Oh, by Starfire's Xhal, calm down."
"You don't understand. Despite the origins of my birth, Arella still had… maternal affection for me. She was the only one who actually encouraged me to feel emotion, because she didn't fully understand the dangers. Her visits were invariably punctuated by explosions. So, Arella was banned and my training went smoothly.
"I was six when Azar deemed I had enough control to begin to be exposed to the emotions of others. I was taken outside of my room for the first time I could remember. We wandered the halls, stopping often so I could meditate. The grounds were mostly empty, having been largely evacuated in anticipation of my troubles coping, but there were so many residual emotions that I was overwhelmed.
"At first, I could only bear to be outside of my shielded room for a few minutes before I would lose control. But with each excursion I grew more and more able to adapt. I was led further away from my room, until one day- about six months after my first exposure- Azar decided I would be allowed to go to the garden, just outside the complex walls.
Raven sighed. "Huh what?"
His eyebrows were furrowed, his gaze the solemnest she had seen since the Terra incident. "Complex walls. Where were they keeping you?"
"Nn. A facility that was built when I was born. The inner sanctum was my room, protected with seals much like the ones you all put in the safety room. The outer rooms and halls were for the priests and priestesses who were there to protect me and to protect Azarath from me."
"But… why did they think that you needed protection? Big-scary demon-dad was banished, right?"
"In a way. Think of it like a cell. The Order of Azarath locked Trigon into another dimension. However, just like between the bars in a cell, there are small openings. Trigon can stick his figurative fingers through the openings. If he truly tries, he can send some of himself to this dimension, a simulacrum of sorts. However, that self would be so small that the Order would have little difficulty defeating it. They took the 'better safe than sorry' route anyways. After all, it was one of Trigon's simulacrums that allowed my birth in the first place.
"But the Order grew comfortable, over-sure of their safety. It had been a long time since Trigon had tried to manifest himself again. I was allowed to explore the gardens. That was the first time I had ever been outside. It was… quite an experience. I lost control several times. I had, of course, been told of the outside, but it really is something you have to experience to comprehend.
"It was there, beyond the safety of the seals, that Trigon contacted me. Telepathy is a much simpler act than transporting from beyond a locked dimension. Four years of practice is not nearly enough to resist an immortal demon. He ripped through my mind like paper in a firestorm. I…He-" Raven took a stabling breath. "He shredded my very being. I was transformed into a puppet for his designs, and he commanded me to teleport to his dimension. I was not strong enough for such advanced magics at the time, especially with Azar attempting to interfere. But father lent me his power and… why in the world do you look so surprised?"
Beast Boy blushed and glanced away. "I just never thought… I didn't think that anyone could take over your mind. I mean, when we fight Mad Mod, you never get taken in by his mind-control screens. I kind of thought you were immune or something." He fidgeted with a small pebble, refusing to meet the empath's eyes.
Raven stared at his fingers, restless on the rock. "Beast Boy, you know that we were all hypnotized the first time we ran into Mad Mod. It is true that I have more of a resistance when I am expecting an attack, but I am prone to strong external influences just like the rest of you." A flashback to a game. Poker night. Those twiddling fingers… "But that wasn't the real question, was it."
The changeling sighed ruefully. "All right, fine. I'm surprised because- well, you were what? Six when this all happened?" A nod of confirmation. "I would have expected you to turn out weird."
"…I fight criminals on a daily basis. You yourself have called me 'creepy.' How much weirder to you want?"
" I mean, like the crazy-supervillain-evil weird."
"Mm. I see. It was a possibility, I must admit. After the teleportation, I was insane for several days, despite Trigon's release of my mind. The only thing that saved me from that fate was the extremely limited amount of time I was under my sire's direct control. He could not have been controlling my mind for more than a few minutes.
"When I was sane again, my blue Azarathian robes had been replaced with red. A not-so-subtle jibe at the Order, I'm sure. I was in a small room, barely large enough for the thin cot I was laying on.
"Fath-Trigon came for me almost immediately. You have only seen him after a difficult teleportation, with much of his energy gone. In that realm, he was a god. Fire raged in his footsteps, from his hands and mouth. It was, needless to say, a terrifying sight the six year old me. I had never seen fire, much less felt it crisping my skin where he touched me.
"I knew who he was. Azar had told me of him before. That was, apparently, enough for him to dispense with the formality of speech. Here-" Raven peeled up the arm of her suit and concentrated. Red symbols appeared, etched into her flesh like perpetually burning tattoos. "These are the sigils of Skath. When activated by the inflictor, they are supposed to inspire obedience and fear. He inscribed them onto my skin that first day, literally branding me as his own. He did the other arm the next day, then each of my legs. The last day was dedicated to my back and torso.
"It was only then that he bothered to speak with me. He told me that, among other things, the sigils would prevent Azar from summoning me back to her dimension before he wanted me gone. Father-Trigon left me then. I couldn't figure out what he wanted from me. My powers were stronger than many, but nothing compared to his, so it wasn't as if he needed my help with something. I broke control several times, but there was nothing there for me to destroy after I tore apart my cot."
"What happens when you can't explode anything?"
"…Let's just say I'm glad I heal quickly. While I was in my healing trance, a meal was set on the cot. It was some sort of meat, and a knife was supplied to cut it with. I…" She hesitated, remembering. Staring forward, yet seeing nothing.
"Raven? ...Raven, what did you do? You didn't-" and Beast Boy cut off abruptly, horror in his green eyes. His words brought her back, and she took an unsteady breath.
"I'm not proud of what I did, but you have to realize something. What I had been put through amounts to brutal torture. I had no idea what he wanted me for. For all I knew, I was to be kept there until I died. Besides… even then, I knew what my fate was to be. The easy way out seemed best for everyone, myself included."
"But…you didn't succeed?"
"Obviously. My powers wouldn't let me. I don't know if it was something F-Trigon had done or an innate survival instinct. I haven't exactly tested it since then. So, I was still alive when he came back with this." She tapped her forehead, next to the red stone. "My chakra. It… he attached it to my mind. It helps to control my emotions and, thus, my powers. I had to ask Azar to find out why Trigon would help me. It made sense, once she told me. Trigon needs me to get into this dimension. My powers were so unstable at that time that, every time something affected the equilibrium of my mind, I was in danger of a complete meltdown. Boom. There goes his portal." Beast Boy winced at her bluntness. "It was only the training of the priests and priestesses that had prevented my destruction that long. He couldn't have me accidentally killing myself.
"He left me for a while, and I healed as much as I could. The chakra helped to stabilize my emotions, but the plate my food had been on broke despite its assistance.
"I'm not completely sure when he came back the next time. I think it was somewhere between three and five days, because I was beginning to get hungry again. He came in, in all his fire-laced glory, and grabbed me by the neck. He… made me call him Father. I would not, at first. But he…" An imperceptible tremble ran through the dark girl's spine.
"What did he do to you?"
"Beast Boy, there is a spell. I know how to cast it, but I would never, ever employ it. It is horrible, dark magic. It… the spell uses a sort of living illusion. Your worst f-fears recurring over and over in your head. Every sound, every sensation is devastatingly real. It is real. I… my fear… I was Father's portal. But more, in the illusion, I was his minion. I did his bidding unquestioningly. He c-controlled me, and what was left of me- the real me- watched behind my eyes and s-screamed as I killed Azar, and Arella, and the Order and thousands of people. And I screamed as I devoured worlds whole, subjugating and destroying and-"
"-and murdering and enjoying every minute of it-"
"-and I bound the souls of those I killed and forced them to serve me and I loved it, and Father was proud of me-"
SMACK. Her head twisted aside as Beast Boy's hand connected, her eyes shut tightly closed as her memories broke apart, leaving her breathing quickly.
"You're going to hyperventilate, Rae. You gotta calm down."
"I'm okay. Nn…I'm okay. Just… give me a second." And slowly, slowly her breathing calmed, and the various objects on the roof returned to their original positions, supporting cracks and other signs of damage. "Zinthos…I'm sorry. I did not expect that to happen."
"Are you okay? I mean, geeze, do you need to take a break or something.?"
"N- No. I'll be fine. I didn't mean to scare you like that."
"What, you meant to scare me some other way?" A weak joke, an attempt at normalcy.
"…Shush. You know what I mean."
"Yeah." He sat in quiet for a few minutes, watching the sun sink further towards the horizon while the distraught girl performed an impromptu meditation. Eventually, she took a deep breath and exhaled. She started speaking again, quickly. Forcingher wordsout like a toxin.
"After the illusion dissipated, I was willing to do anything to prevent a going through it again. I called him Father for the rest of the time while I was there. I did anything he requested. All he had to do was threaten me with the spell, and I caved immediately. I have never been as weak as I was during that time, and it pains me to remember it. Father never bothered to use that spell again. He used other black magics, not nearly as terrible, to get his point across.
"I was there for nearly a year. One day, he came into my quarters and teleported us both to a larger room, with runes of teleportation etched onto the floor. At Father-Trigon's direction, I stood at the center and he activated the runes. As the spell was- well, I suppose you could call it 'warming up,'- he told me to never turn against him, or he would take me to the darkest depths of the exiled dimensions and leave me to rot."
"That's one heck of a goodbye."
"Hnn. Yes. I was teleported to Azarath, in the streets outside of the complex. The use of so much power drew every Order member within a hundred miles, so I was soon recognized and taken to Azar. I told her what had happened. I could not address him as anything other than Father for months afterwards, no matter how severely Azar chastised me for it. It took a complete reconditioning to enable me to speak his name.
"And now, we finally arrive back to your question."
"You've forgotten what you asked, haven't you."
"My hair. You wanted to know why I keep it short." She shook her head. " My hair had grown long during my year with Fa-Trigon. It was cut back to my current style within an hour of my return to Azarath. Azar herself wielded the scissors. It turned into a symbol for me. Long hair was a reminder of him, a representation of his control over me. I…It's a weakness, but I can't abide the feel of hair on my back. It makes me think of all that happened while I was there, and I can't afford the distraction. You saw what happened-" She gestured vaguely at the broken crates. "Can you imagine that all the time? I would have to meditate constantly to suppress it."
"I think… I think I get it."
"You get the basics, anyways. Now, I need to repair the damage I've done to my psyche by loosing my memory. If you could…"
"Oh. Okay…I'll let you meditate." He got up from the ground. "See you later, Rae."
"Nn. Tell the others not to disturb me for a few hours."
"What if the alarm goes off?"
"I'll be able to do my duties," she monotoned, crossing her legs and beginning to float upwards. "But I don't want to have to deal with the Tower's antics right now."
"Heh, I gotcha. I'll tell them." He opened the door with a soft swish. A glance back at the girl, his teammate and friend. She was already starting to chant, hands and legs in lotus position. "Hey, Raven…" He said quietly, returning to her side.
Her eyes slid partway open. "Nn?"
"Umm… thanks for telling me. I'm glad that you're starting to trust me a little more." She focused on him as he went on. "I mean, you've always been so… alone. Even when we fought your dad, you didn't actually believe we could do it. It kind of hurt to know that, in the end, you thought that you were the only one who could do anything. So, it's really nice to know that you're starting to have more confidence in us."
"Beast Boy, you are my teammate. I trust you with my life.
"Moreover," she continued, "You are my friend. Because of that, I trust you with my past. With the knowledge you gained tonight about me, you could ruin me, destroy me without moving a finger. I feel safe that you will not. I want to… thank you for that. It is a rare thing for me to have friends like you and the others." As she was speaking, her feet slowly made contact with the ground. Before Beast Boy knew what was happening, her arms were wrapped around him, pulling him into a gentle (if unpracticed) embrace.
"Thank you." She whispered, then released him as she opened a swirling portal to her room. Beast Boy blinked.
Took a breath. "What the heck?"
A couple more moments passed, then he grinned and pulled out his communicator. "Hey, Cyborg!" he cried gleefully when the android's face appeared on the screen.
"I'm busy, grass-stain. Whaddaya want?"
"Guess whose friend I am!"
"…What kind of a question is that?"
"Go on. Guess." He was fairly bubbling with delight.
"How the heck am I supposed to know that?"
"Fine. I'll give you a hint. It's a girl, and she hugged me for being her friend."
"BB, we all know that Starfire is friends with anything that moves. No need to get so excited about it. I swear, did she put extra sugar in your tofu or something?"
"Dude, it wasn't Star."
"My sensors say you're in the Tower. The only other girl around here… is…Not possible. I won't believe that!"
"Go on. Say it!"
Beast Boy cackled. "Yeah!"
"No way! I thought she hated you!"
"So did I! But, dude, she hugged me."
"What the heck did you do, buy her a library?" His eyes were twitching as he tried to comprehend the thought of their dark teammate hugging the person she argued with the most out of all the Titans.
"I, err…asked her about her past, pretty much."
"…She hugged you for prying." Beast Boy nodded. "I have got to see this for myself."
"Whoa, man. She said she was gonna tell you, Robin, and Star later on."
"Screw that! I'm going to go ask her right now."
"Gah, no! She said that she needed to repair the…hurt… um. I forget what she said, but she needed to meditate after reliving all of that. She was really rattled, for awhile." He sobered abruptly, remembering.
"Reliving all of what?"
"Erm, I'll let Raven answer that. It's…" He hesitated. "It's really bad."
"A girl like Rae? I guess that makes sense. All right, BB, I'll give her space for awhile."
"Thanks, Cyborg." Clangs were heard from the other end of the communicator. "What are you doing, anyways?"
"Cooking dinner. Tonight's my turn. …Um. I've gotta go. The blue fuzz from the fridge is attacking the pasta again." The screen went blank.
Beast Boy chuckled a little, then stowed the communicator away. He stood there, feeling the cold moon seep the warmth out of the rooftop. And he pictured a young girl with violet eyes, pain and terror shining out and marring her delicate features, burning away innocence and love and hope. He shook his head, banishing the image, and went downstairs to make tea for the strong sourcerous that girl had grown up to be.