1A/N: One shot. Honestly, I feel like my writing continues to decline which is why I haven't been able to write much lately. That and I'm in a relatively bad mood. Anyways, this story is more in tuned with my usual work...maybe too in tuned but I don't know...just don't know. Will be for EmaniaHilel's challenge if it meets the actual criteria in this form.
The lateness of the hour...an unnatural hour to be awake, a strange hour to be aware, an unusual time to deny the land of dreams yet it is the hour that two Titans were very familiar with. It is a time when one would train, patrol, and hunt relentlessly for those who would try to pillage the vulnerability of such a dark, quiet time. It is a time when the other would sit awake worrying ceaselessly that he was pushing himself too hard, that one late night he simply would not creep quietly back into their home because the night had finally consumed the one who challenged its presence and all consuming being.
The sounds of grunts and heavy impacts echoed down the halls of the tower though far away from the sleeping beds of Victor, Kori, and Garfield. They would not be stirred from their peaceful bliss of sleep by the one who almost never stopped to ensure that they could have such moments. They would not be bothered by his continued quest to become better, stronger, and faster...his insatiable quest to be perfect so that he could do what he knew must be done.
There was one who did not hear him though that fact did not stop him from keeping her awake. She could always feel him because of a special bond between only them that had been forged years ago within burning desperation to save his life. He was always on her mind, always in her mind, him deeply and permanently rooted within her to the very core of her existence though he did not know that.
This part of the connection was not because of the bond that flowed between them but rather from the love that she carried for him within her heart and soul. He did not know of this, her feelings kept only where they resided within her, but that fact did not stop her from loving him and worrying for his well being as he pushed himself farther and farther.
Tonight he had patrolled, she had felt his presence leaving the tower and then he had returned, her having felt him creep slowly back into her consciousness when he came back. This moment she knew he was training again when she wished he would sleep...when she wished he was asleep by her side.
She worried for him, worried that his unhealthy quest for perfection would destroy him, take him forever away from her, and she could not help sitting up every night that he did, afraid that if she went to sleep, she would one day wake up, and his warmth would have faded away to never be found again. It was the most frightening thought Raven had ever had in her life...a life that had seen the greatest nightmare come to pass, a life that had once been so lonely and cold. Her world needed him always even if he did not know that.
She sat in her large bed, always feeling so small when she was in it, just like he always made her feel small when he stood next to her or when he caught her when she fell...he always caught her when she fell never once failing in his duty to protect her even when it seemed impossible. He was her guardian angel, he was all of their guardian angels, protecting the world while they slept. He was Nightwing, and Raven loved him so very much.
While the Titans had become closer as they evolved into adults, most especially Raven as she was finally set free of the heavy chains of her dark destiny, he had done the opposite. He had become more reclusive, more separated, much as she was when she had first met him.
Honestly it felt like she was the only one who could reach him some days, she was the only one whose offered hand was not cooly denied or slapped away. It hurt her immensely to watch him do this, but she was immediately healed on those days when he would take her up on her offer to walk through the park or accept her challenge to play a game of chess. It was those days that Raven was reminded of the Robin who had helped her ease into her new, emotionally free life, helped her to experience so many things she had never even fathomed with a smile on his face. It was then that she fallen in love with him, fallen in love with the best friend she had ever had, and every day that occurred where he slipped away from them she fought the growing urge to tell him that.
She just couldn't do it. She was afraid that she would ruin her friendship with him that she valued so very much, was afraid he would reject her and never be able to look at her the same again. It was such a dangerous risk to tell him but what if...what if he accepted her love, what if he returned it? It was her waking dream, the emotional fantasy that no one would think dwelled within the no nonsense, quietly stoic young woman who even with her emotional freedom had remained very careful with displays of her feelings.
But these feelings for Nightwing, this love that she felt each and every time she saw him, each and every time she felt him with her mind...it was something incredible..that much she knew. It was everything to her, always there, always felt, all encompassing...
Her body suddenly shook as if she was hit with an electric jolt, her breath being caught in her chest. The emotional mess that had been flowing through Nightwing's mind had suddenly cleared up, all of his senses suddenly focusing on a single thing...pain. Raven shot up to her feet, not even grabbing her cloak as she flew out of her room, feeling a complete sense of urgency to get to him.
Nightwing's fist slammed into the punching bag again, the object jolting from the heavy impact. His training was a constant thing, consuming almost all his time that he wasn't patrolling the city. Of course he knew it had to be done, there was no other way.
Long ago, he had been driven by nothing but selfish reasons. All he wished for was to prove himself, prove that he could be a hero without being left behind in the shadow of the bat, prove that he was just as good. Slade's appearance had only fueled that. He had wished to be the one to bring own the most worthy and cunning opponent to ever challenge him. Robin had been the only one who could beat him, the only one who could bring him down, and that had been the only thing that had fueled him. In the end though, it was Terra who finally brought down Slade, not him, and Nightwing had always felt robbed by that occurrence, that the supreme chance to prove his strength had been denied to him.
However, as destiny would have it...Raven's destiny to be exact, Slade was reborn once more, his greatest nemesis rising from the fires of Hell to challenge him again. This time, though things were different. He hadn't wanted to crush Slade for just his own selfish goals. What had been fueling him in his fight was the desire to protect his friends...above all else make sure they were safe...she was safe. It was during that time that he finally realized just how much he had changed since the very beginning, that the passion to defeat Slade and morphed into the passion to protect those he cared about. It had been a comforting realization.
For a time, all his time had been spent with his friends, most especially Raven, helping her adjust to a new type a life...a completely free life. Some of the greatest memories in his life had come from there, watching Raven smile so freely, the weight of destiny no longer on her small shoulders.
As time went on though, knowing Slade was still somewhere out there, lurking in the shadows waiting, Nightwing found himself regressing to old habits. Though his motivation had remained the same...to protect his friends, his obsessive, unrelenting nature had returned. He had left Robin behind and become Nightwing, a being who could truly do what it took to protect all that mattered to him.
He knew he had become far too reclusive as of late, knew he had been pushing his friends away far too often...far more than he should, but he also knew he was doing it all for them so that they could be happy...so that she could keep smiling.
Another vicious punch was thrown but this time the impact caused an eruption of pain as newly placed stitches in his side tore out, blood flowing again. He knew he shouldn't have been training with the injury, but he just couldn't stop...knew he just couldn't rest even if he was hurt. He had to be stronger than that.
Nightwing collapsed to his knees, gripping the spot of plain, feeling the blood seeping out through his shirt.
"Damn it..." He growled to himself, fighting down another wave of pain.
"Are you okay Nightwing?" He repressed the shock that hit him from suddenly hearing her voice, slowly turning his head to find her standing in the doorway to the training room looking at him softly with her eyes despite her face remaining blank.
"What are you doing awake Raven? Its late..."
"I'm aware of that Nightwing but it looks like it's a good thing I'm here because it appears you need my healing powers."
"I'll be fine Raven."
"I know that...after you let me heal you." Nightwing half glared at Raven though he really had no emotion behind it, doing it more out of habit. He struggled to his feet, cursing himself for not finding the ability to stand up without wincing because now he knew Raven would not leave until he was healed.
Raven walked up to Nightwing, the blood staining his white training shirt, concern ravaging her on the inside as she continued to feel the pain coming from him. She raised her hand toward the wound, and Nightwing did not offer any resistance, probably knowing he could not deter her goal. Soon the soft glow of Raven's healing power appeared and began to ease to pain of Nightwing.
"You really should take it easier. You shouldn't even have been training with something like this. You're going to seriously hurt yourself one of these days...I don't want that to happen."
"I'll be fine Raven. We've talked about this before, I need to keep training. If I don't, I can't become better than I am. I need to become perfect." The final word was said by both of them, a line Raven had heard far too much for him, a line he knew he had said far too much to her.
"There is no such thing as perfection Nightwing. Only those who believe they are perfect because they are too ignorant to see their own flaws and then there are those who have simply accepted their imperfections, and in doing so, can move on from such an impossible pursuit."
Nightwing knew the sage-like and seemingly ageless wisdom within Raven's words, he always recognized it, though that didn't mean he wanted to listen to it. She always found a way to make him feel like a fool, make him truly feel that he needed to step back at that very moment for that very moment and that was a slightly unsettling feeling for him. It was moments like these that he just couldn't look into those large, beautiful amethyst eyes because when he did, it made him hate what he was becoming despite his noble intentions. It confused him, and he hated being confused but Raven was and always would be a puzzle to him, a puzzle he was happy he could truly never solve.
After a few more moments, he no longer felt the pain and stood completely straight up before turning away slightly from his healer, hoping she would not say anymore to him. He did not see the look in her eyes as he turned away nor could he realize it was that moment that something in Raven snapped, that this time, seeing him turn away from her had simply been too much to handle.
"Let me tell you something Nightwing. When we first met all those years ago, I knew you were far from perfect but at that time, that fact was completely irrelevant to me because you simply weren't that important to me. Now though, at this very moment I stand in front of you, even after everything we've been through, even after you facing the apocalypse to save me and continuing to give me the hope to never give up each and every day, I still know you are not perfect, I still know you are flawed, but the simple fact is I know this is not a bad thing. I know deep inside that your flaws as much as your strengths help make you the great person that you are.. I also know that..." She paused for a second, her eyes having a strong uncertainty within them accompanied with a very uncharacteristic fidget from the usual immaculate woman. Nightwing heard the slightest of quivers in her voice, turning his gaze back to her small form.
"...that deep inside I can still love you completely even despite your flaws...that even in your imperfection you still are as close to perfection for me that I've ever met. My love for you...this is no ordinary love...because...because it goes so far beyond the boundaries of friendship...beyond all the logical convention I've tried to maintain in my life for so long. It is irrational and all consuming and makes me feel like I'm completely losing control...its such an imperfect feeling Nightwing but it is truly the greatest sensation I've ever felt in my life. I love you Richard...I love you..."
She used his real name, something almost never done by anyone though it had simply come naturally off her lips. She didn't know why but she found her body quivering, tears creeping out of her eyes, beginning their slow trek down her pales cheeks, her emotions simply flowing out in every way imaginable. Nightwing remained quiet, shock not having appeared on his face from her confession, no shock from the deep, emotional display from the normally stoic young woman he had come to know over the years they had been Titans together, been friends together, been everything together except...except what is was that Raven desired...lovers.
Underneath his mask, his blue eyes remained completely locked on the soft, amethyst eyes that looked up at him from the small form of Raven, not understanding why she was crying, only knowing that seeing those tears coming from those beautiful eyes hurt him deep inside, made him so badly just want to take her into his arms and never let her go, only bask in the warmth he knew radiated from her.
His hand reached up and wiped away a tear that was making its way across Raven's cheek, his hand lingering there even after the tear was gone, it gently caressing Raven's face with a gentleness he almost forgot he had. Her eyes closed as he did this though he could still feel her body shaking ever so slightly, a soft breath escaping from her lips. The silence that had settled between them was finally broken by Nightwing's slow words.
"Raven...I'm sorry...I d..." Raven did not even let him finish his sentence, did not even let the final words come from his mouth before she had become her soul self, intent on escaping as fast as possible from hearing the words that would only confirm what she truly feared to know. Moving faster than almost Nightwing could comprehend, she passed through concrete and steel itself to make it back to the haven of her room...where she didn't have to face him anymore.
Nightwing watched her fleeing presence, finally shock registering on his face.
"I didn't know Raven...I didn't know..."
Raven found herself in her room, lying on her bed, no tears falling this time. She just felt like she didn't even have the energy to do that, instead only being able to ly blankly there. Why had she told him the truth? Why couldn't she have just remained silent like always? She knew the answer. She knew she had to try to reach him before he truly hurt himself, and she still hoped that her words had meant something to him, something that would make him reevaluate what he truly sought in the world...something that would bring him home a little bit more.
Suddenly a knock at the door that startled Raven. She had been so deep within her own thoughts she hadn't even noticed that presence...his presence approaching her room. Her heart stopped, unsure of what he wanted, unsure of what to do because what she felt from him just didn't make sense to her.
"Raven? Can you please open the door? I want to talk to you." His voice was soft and gentle, and Raven's heart started up again only to skip a beat. She made her way to the door, her hand hesitating on the button that would open it for just a second before she pushed it. The door swished open to reveal the tall form of Nightwing, still clad in the same training clothes with the spot of blood but with one incredibly important difference. Staring down at Raven were two piercing blue eyes rather than a intimidating black mask. Raven wouldn't have been able to speak even if she knew the words. The two stared at each other, in the dark of the hallway and in the dark of her room.
"Hey Raven, ya know I was thinking that maybe we could spend the day together or something...just you and me." Raven's words came out barely audible, filled with confusion and disbelief, her sarcasm taking her on her defensive in her uncertainty.
"You are aware its 2:30 in the morning?" He smiled somewhat sheepishly, somewhat nervously, an incredibly strange display by the dark hero.
"Well I figured we could start by watching the sunrise together." Raven's eyes continued to look up at him, the disbelief refusing to leave them, not after what she had just experienced in the training room. This had to be some type of dream...it could not be real.
"The world can turn without me tonight."
"Are you sure?" Something flashed across Nightwing's eyes for just a few seconds before he responded.
"No Raven...but I'm willing to find out...with you."