Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Titans. Belongs to DC Comics and Warnerbros.
A/N: IT'S HERE! Finally, after nearly 6 months, I have decided to post the sequel to Darker Edges. Since this is a sequel, if you haven't read Darker Edges do it before reading this. I've worked long and hard to finish this. You have no idea what shit I had to put up with to get this: screwy viruses, defaults, dead laptops, and many nights of channeling my stress through boxing. But it's absolutely worth it! Dedicated all to you amazing writers(that means YOU), the reviewers, and rabid fans of the beloved pairing! As I said in DE: reviews are like chocolate-covered cherries and I live on them. Enjoy!
Ice in her veins.
Her body was so cold. She couldn't figure out why the heat of summer, still clinging to the dipping sun in the horizon, missed her on purpose. Why the rooftop became her permanent sanctuary, why her room used to symbolize the safety and consolation she so longed for.
Gloom, her enemy.
Fresh air, her savior.
She tucked her legs beneath her and clutched the flapping indigo cloth around her closely, tightly in her hand, and allowed her hood to fall back from the balmy breeze that felt cool to her.
He sat down beside her, maybe a few inches away.
At first she noticed no one but eventually, she quietly glanced at his subdue features, his jaw unclenched, eyebrows relaxed, and a mask set firmly on his eyes. His face appearing to evenly gaze out at the basketball courts, volleyball benches, and gigantic landing pad in front of them on the roof.
How badly she wanted to seek comfort and warmth from him, even as her independent side insisted that she didn't need this man's strong arms- she did.
Too many things happened. All of them too fast. She wanted to know if he was feeling just as confused and shaken up. Somewhere inside her she began to doubt.
"I don't know what to say to you." He didn't turn to her as his voice added, dulled, "You want me to say something to make you feel better. I can't do it."
She swallowed the lump in her throat.
"You don't." A thin line replaced his lips as he finally faced to her. "If you did, Raven, why would you be keeping secrets? Am I that cruel... what made you believe that I would hate you?"
"I don't… I was scared. I was feeling confused about everything that was going on… My mother… my people…"
"I was there with you the entire time. You could have talked to me. Isn't that what people in a relationship do? Communicate? Even we can't do that."
His eyebrows creased, stress lines returning.
"Can you blame me?" Tears sprang to her eyes. She wiped them away, frustrated with her weakness. "I've been taught to keep everyone out and now I have this opportunity to go back on my life teachings. I can stop being afraid of my own shadow. It's like learning everything backwards. I want to believe it is easy..."
He shook his head, gritting his teeth, saying, "This is the same bullshit again and again. It's been three years with you."
"I'm sorry... I didn't realize there was a deadline." Her sarcasm ran deep as she snapped at him, "What about all the things you keep from me? I don't know what your needs are or what you truly think of me. I don't know what your dreams are. How do I know if they are to include me?"
Her shoulders shook violently and he muttered, "Grow up."
"That's something we can agree on," she whispered back.
"Two times." He held up his index and middle finger. "Two times and you didn't say a word. Beast Boy knew before me, and he wasn't the one who proposed to you."
"How dare you talk like that to me after this!"
They both rose to their feet at the same time. The anger around them crackled powerfully. He said faintly, "How dare you talk about him at all."
After a moment of taking in each other's words, she slapped him across the face.
"Damn you," she cursed. He rubbed the stinging red on his cheek, internally the most startled he ever felt.
"...Why weren't you strong enough, Raven?"
Her hands sparked.
Suddenly, all hell broke loose.
Before she could act first, he tackled her to the ground, pinning her down as she tried to push him off without her powers. In their fury, they forgot their advantages over one another. During their brawl, she unconsciously transported them a level below the rooftop, into an low lit, extra storage room. They fought with strength beside stacks of fresh hospital sheets and boxes of equipment.
He had pinned her for a second time, his domino mask sliding off on one side. She said on the floor, gasping for breath between shallow sobs, "I hate you. Gods, do I hate you."
His hands slid slowly up her forearms, feather light, releasing her. His fingertips brushed away her slipping tears. The soothing contact of his warm skin made her whimper. The tension coming from them for the moment filled with something other than anger.
He murmured softly, "I hate you, too."
Cupping her face, he closed the limited amount of space they already had. Kisses wet and persistent. She returned them with lust, arching her back to press against him more fervently. Arms over her head. Fingers tangled in silky black hair. Drawing moans from him. Rapid breathing. Irresistible warmth. Her body no longer cold although stripped. Their clothes torn off. The boxes moved telepathically. The sheets thrown in their lovemaking nest.
Blurry. Warm. When she came, her nails dug into the flesh of his upper arms, drawing blood.
Several minutes passed. Their blood cooled and pleasure waned. With her eyes half open, she felt him pull away and press his sweaty forehead against hers. He said something, but she missed it completely. The next thing she remembered was waking up in her room bathed in morning, dark blankets covering her up. He was gone.
She showered. She dressed. She kept to herself in her room undisturbed, noticing the oddest and most tedious little things.
Her two-faced statue was the exact replica of the head of one of the guardians in Nevermore.
Her herbal tea had no calories.
Her left foot was slightly bigger then her right.
Her faintly glowing bluish skin itched.
Raven discovered that Robin had left the team soon after. There was mixed feelings to this discovery. Above everything she wanted, the top of her list was going back to being seventeen again. Emotionless, sardonic, and ignorant to what had transpired between them.
Ignorant believing she was whole, needing no one to make her happy, needing only her own reliance. The pain would go away then.
There's always that feeling of solitude. That forever lingered in the corners of her mind and her reality.
Alone in the sense that she was hollow; isolation was darkness, darkness was the hideous monster that ate whatever was left in her, leaving her with just a shell of what was once strong person. What did that word mean to her anymore? To be strong? Sometimes it was hard to just open her eyes in the morning. Hours would elapse and she remain passive curled on her sheets, eyes staring straight ahead. Eventually, her hunger would get the best of her and she would find something edible to eat in the Tower.
The Teen Titans were no more.
Morning flaunted false promises of new beginnings which she bitterly grumbled at. The sleepy empath cursed obscenities in her native tongue as sunlight stabbed her sensitive vision. She treaded out her bedroom into the empty corridor, down the empty staircase, and into the empty operations center.
Starfire parked herself cozily on the kitchen counter, mixing a bowl of gray mass. Beast Boy and Cyborg hollered obnoxiously at each other by the couch as they tried to win a ninja game. Robin sat on his favorite bar-stool, concealed behind his newspaper. He lowered the paper and raised his face to level hers, a slow, deliberate smile plucking the corners of his mouth.
They weren't there. It was just ghosts. Ghosts of the past, of coveted memory.
Raven stared at the empty counter as she settled herself onto a spare stool. Weeks of dust hid the true color of the breakfast nook.
'Mm… got a little lazy.'
Her elbows leaned on the hardwood of the counter top; her face fell into her smooth palms. Her mane of long hair tickled the backs of her arms. The ends reached the small of her back now. Why cut it? What point to the procedure? Maybe after her cleaning binge; if she was in the mood, she would cut it at a reasonable length.
What time was it?
Argh, what an awful noise.
It took her fifteen seconds for realization to kick in. Her head wretched up and she hurried over to the giant screen in the living room, tapping the transmission button with her pinky finger. The screen came to life, filling with loud static, and then illustrating a scenic landscape. A dark, squared-shaped face materialized in the foreground.
"Pinewood University to Dark Girl? Yo, Rae!"
A neglected smile touched her mouth. "Hello, Vic."
An older Cyborg grinned warmly down on her. "There you are! What's going on, little lady-" His mechanical and ebony eye cut over to the operations center and went wide, "Hooo-lee… crap... what happened in here? I didn't know Halloween was all year round now." He gestured to some glittering cobwebs hanging above their heads.
She shook her head.
"I'll get it later. How's college?"
"Uh... yeah, football's great. It's going great. So is working with Titans East in Steel City. How's Jump?"
"Normal. Same Mad Mod, same Control Freak. Same villains?"
"Few. The newer ones were easier to take care of- oh geez, hold on." Cyborg held out his hand to block the screen, his attention directed at someone out of her view. He removed his hand after a minute or two, rolling his human eye. "Aqualad says hi."
She replied patiently, "Tell him I said hi back."
"Raven says hi!"
"Hey, Raven!" came a female voice.
"Tell Bumblebee I said the same."
"Shut up, y'all," Cyborg glowered. "I'm trying to talk! I'm not your fricken' messenger!" The background abruptly zoomed to another. The inside of a high tech vehicle. He groaned. "Sorry. I'm alright."
"Hope so. It looked like you were going to bite off a couple of heads back there."
"You're chatty, that's not something I see everyday," he commented, slightly amused.
Raven shrugged, her enthusiasm plummeting. "I don't talk to a lot of people these days," she admitted, openly. Uncomfortable silence teemed the transmittal.
Cyborg blurted out, "I like your pjs, Rae." She picked at the pink hearts on her bottoms, lowering her head to stare at them.
"Yeah. I got lazy with the laundry. They were… Kori's."
His human eye dulled. "I miss her."
Raven sighed, kneading her fingers together in her lap. "I'd better go clean this place up."
"Good luck on that, I thought I just heard a dust bunny growl in the corner," he said with a small wink.
Another smile worked its magic on one of her unmovable expressions.
"I'll make sure to be extra careful."
She was about to tap the blue transmission button again when his face zoomed closer to her, the humor in his tone switched to graveness, "Hey… take care of yourself, you hear, Rae? I don't want to have to come over there to check up on you again."
Cue the classic Raven angry eye narrowing.
"Promise," Raven said curtly, turning off the giant monitor to quickly end the conversation. Her mind wandering as her eyes dropped.
Cyborg worried about her. Not like she could help it.
A year or two after the team split up, Raven experienced some difficulty to change. The responsibility of controlling an entire city. So many lives to watch. Sounds overwhelming. What made it worse, causing a breakdown, was a separate factor. Guilt. Horrible, uncontainable, and temporary feelings of remorse. To top it off, the anniversary of two worst days of her life peaked that year.
The stress and her grief compelled her to take on a challenge that exhausted her physically, though mentally she was already dried up. After thankfully winning the battle and letting the criminal get taken in, Raven limped on home, ready to pass out onto the oatmeal-colored carpet of the South hallway. Waiting for her was Cyborg, surprising her with an unexpected visit, and with a bundle of roses in his left hand. Without him, she would have never recovered as quickly as she had. He called her every week since, expecting her to pick up or the next time they spoke he gave her stern looks. He truly was her long lost big brother.
In due time, the calls lessened to every three months, because of his busy schedule.
Contact was lost with Starfire. She left Earth. Not because of Robin (who Raven attempted to find and did not succeed), it was because of Blackfire. Apparently, she had been stirring up trouble in Tamaran. The conflict ended with Blackfire's execution that was decided by her people. Starfire didn't make it time to stop it from happening. That was the last bit of information Raven got.
Five years since a reign of terror cut short. Following twenty-five, she didn't find that age in her life to be as special as she thought it might be.
Raven headed for the first floor bathroom on the right-hand side, ignoring her rumbling stomach, and locked the door on instinct. Her hands placed themselves on the sides of the only mirror that hadn't been broken in the Tower. Her reflection was hated. It didn't even look like her.
Willowy fingers flexed.
Ivory white in color.
They tugged at waves of hair swirling around her chin.
Those strange fingers ran across fluttering, closed lashes. Underneath.
Gone was the purple, gone was the sallow gray.
She looked… human. Attractive. Unnatural. Human.
Raven traced invisible lines over her reflection's angled jaw. Over icy glass.
'The Ultimate Release…'
One good thing came from this unearthly transformation, she supposed. Her face had color.
So did her lips. A peach-rose shade.
The fairytale lips of those princesses in the storybooks. Had her Fairy Godmother granted a secret wish? What magic potion had she taken? Raven grazed them against her fingertips. She wasn't vain by any means. She was just honest in what she knew. She didn't care about kissable lips. She hated her reflection and that's all there was to it.
Before her balled-up fist hit the mirror, the red warning sirens went off, catching her off guard. Her fist slammed into the rock-solid wall instead.
She swore under her breath, rubbing the tender knuckles, and unlocked the bathroom door, stepping out to seek the object of her interruption. Two clicks of the keyboard satisfied her query.
That laugh. Triumphant and insane.
The greasy-haired escapee leered as she landed calmly on the other side of the road. The fear he might have harbored of her long faded off.
"Look who it is." Johnny Rancid gave another feral laugh. "Bird-Girl. This is great, did you all miss me? Where are the other Kiddy Titans? Too afraid to fight me?"
No sound passed her lips.
"Can't think of a comeback this time? Too bad. I heard around you're still the freak of the town. Still sucking people's blood after dark?"
Only the rustling of her cloak.
"Aww… did I hurt Bird-Girl's feelings?"
The indigo hood of her cloak fluttered over her obscured face. "Freed yourself from death row, Johnny?" she asked. "While you were busy appreciating the taste of human flesh, things have changed in this city. Let me fill you in. It won't work out with me here."
"Ooh, you got guts. Think you can take me, Birdy?" Johnny Rancid gnashed his showy, pointy teeth.
Raven quickly took a moment to take in the dire situation. Three power outages. Two hostages. One seriously crazed baddie. On the street they stood on, Statesville Rd, the residents scurried from the oncoming showdown, crouching and praying for a miracle from the impending destruction to befall them. The hostages were tied down to a fallen street lamp. They were a younger girl and an older woman who struggled unsuccessfully to release themselves from their restraints.
Johnny snickered as the empath straightened up, tilting her head. The situation was somehow comical to him. With a white hand, she ripped away her hood. Dark waves spilled out of the opening, blowing away from her face. The cannibal eyed her appearance, something perceptible burning in his beady eyes. His tongue flashing over his lips.
A glop of dirty, black oil oozed over her right shoulder.
Carefully, Raven glanced at the developing stain with a quick cut of her eyes. A menacing aura behind her. She acted swiftly by hovering several feet above the ground, creating a lightning fast bolt of energy and tossing it at the mechanical monster. It exploded into pieces before she could distinguish what shape his handiwork had taken this time.
Before Johnny could realize what happened, she did the same only to the constraints on the hostages.
The greasy-haired thug attacked her purely out of rage. And that was his mistake. She blindsided him. Raven took her palm and snapped it up, thrusting the heel at his face. A reassuring snap of bone. Bright red spraying onto his grimy tee shirt.
Metal banging against ceramic.
Once fierce turquoise eyes from earlier, now stared glazed and unfocused as she twirled her fork in her bowl of macaroni. Several hours she sat silently, her half-finished dinner cold and inedible. The events of the yesterday's victory aloof. The bright modernized kitchen lights shined its synthetic mocking of sunshine in her face.
Just like morning all over again.
Brown-black waves of hair cut chin-length.
The dust and cobwebs removed, she had to crush a few spiders, but it was an easy task. Laundry dried, she could go back to wearing her normal clothes. Seldom did she wear her uniform except for the occurrences of combat, but seldom did she wear a blouse and khakis. Hell, you couldn't catch her in a dress anymore. The experiences are far too aggravating to relive again.
What Raven did wear between the hours of three and four am was a crimson and black windbreaker and dark red jeans.
The bowl went into the sink.
She turned off the lights in Titans Tower, creeping out into the bay, and taking a boat she owned to Jump City. When she was in her normal clothes, flying didn't feel right. The early-bird citizens walking around nodded in her direction with content faces other than terrified expressions shown yesterday. Kids were enjoying their last few weeks of summer left by causing as much vandalism and mischief they could in the morning hours where they thought they couldn't get caught.
Raven stopped a few graffiti artists on her way beyond the highway. As the streetlights dimmed off, she pushed an unbolted gate aside.
Tombstones decorated with fresh roses and marigolds, tulips and carnations, pink, orange, white, red, purple. They brought the only signs of life to a very dead place. Maywood Cemetery was ancient, the grass dry and yellow, the trees twisted. Never had she seen a leaf on the graveyard trees at any season.
Death clung to everything, except the flowers.
The cemetery went on for at least a good mile and a half on the outskirts of the city. That's about where Raven stopped.
She dropped her knees in front of a tribute.
The residents of Jump had been very kind. They honored it with presents and whatever else they could think of: photos, magazine articles, bouquets, touching letters, and sometimes she would see a nobody, drunk or high or lonely, singing a sorrowful song to the headstone.
Her hand clasped the speckled marble, gently.
'Why wasn't I strong enough?'