Ah, at long last, here it is. The chapter that will bring "Here With You," to a close. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to review, it was really great to get other opinions and ideas from you guys. Well, without further ado, here it is.
Disclaimer: (see the past eight chapters).
Chapter Nine - I Believe in Yesterday
When he paused to look back over the past month and a half of his life, everything seemed like a dream. Like the strange, blurry, surreal things that came to him in the semiconscious stage between sleep and wakefulness. First he was in a wedding chapel, ready to get married to a woman he wasn't sure he wanted to marry, then he was getting attacked by said woman, then Raven was hurt and now… well, she was still hurt. Not much had changed, although Cyborg had informed the team that her self-healing had finally kicked in to help her during the long struggle to recovery. After her first few weeks, the gauze over her head disappeared, the casts came off, the bandages that tended to her little nicks and cuts became unnecessary; and yet still she laid there, silent and unmoving.
The first month had been the hardest. Beast Boy had spent all of his time doing little things in the infirmary. He would read Raven a book, or play music he thought she would enjoy, or he would simply sit and talk to her. She never responded to any of the stimuli he introduced, but merely lay in her bed, looking completely normal yet still lacking the ability to wake herself. He did everything it was possible for an individual to do in that large, predominantly empty room.
After the first month, the Titans had convinced him to try and get out of the medical bay more. He started eating in the kitchen, though he still ate very little, and slowly started allowing himself the occasional video game (which, to his chagrin, he was somewhat rusty with). He started attending the weekly meetings in the living room again instead of insisting that they be held were he could attend them - in the infirmary. The team never mentioned Raven in his presence except at these gatherings, although it was clear that their acknowledgement wasn't needed. Everything he did had an air of forced glee to it. The ever-present impish look that had never seemed to leave his face in the past, never seemed to return to him. It would dance fleetingly across his face, but never find enough motivation to stay.
Every time he left her, it became just a little harder. He felt guilty, as though she would wake up and ask him why he hadn't been there for her. He would sit on the chair by her bedside, stroking her hair away from her forehead idly and watching her face with rapt attention. It looked as though he were studying her features and slowly committing them, once again, to his long-term memory. She didn't look peaceful, as he had expected her to. She just looked… like Raven.
"I promise I'll be back." He whispered gently as he kissed her forehead. "I promise."
"I talked to Marilyn's family the other day. She was last seen with a Dr. Gerda Pierce," Robin said as he clicked away at the Tower's main computer, bringing up the picture of a young African-American woman in a lab coat. She had on bridge-of-the-nose hugging glasses and wore her hair pulled into a tight, neat bun high on her head. "She was a big proponent of human experimentation for genetic research, which ostracized her from a lot of her peers. She worked at the Stanford Human Genome Center, but records indicate that her beliefs in genetic experimentation didn't end at humans. She did an experiment in which she spliced the DNA of a rat and an unknown sample. The record indicates that there were 'unexpected outcomes,' but doesn't really say anything else."
"Do you think that it is her that has made Marilyn evil?" Starfire asked as she stared at the severe-looking woman.
"Well from what I can piece together, Marilyn was definitely one of her experiments. If she's been with Dr. Pierce since she was four, it's possible that she was conditioned to become emotionless and bitter. That would've made her task a lot simpler." Robin answered.
"So what's this lady got against us?" Cyborg asked as he turned his attention away from the woman and towards Robin. He sighed softly.
"That's what I can't figure out."
"Well, she's going to-"
Cyborg's voice was cut off by a flat, persistent sound that originated from his left arm. The team froze, suddenly fixated by the noisy appendage.
"What is that sound?" Starfire asked cautiously. He didn't answer but instead opened a panel on his left arm. A black screen showed up with a flat, green light drawn across it. A picture of the comatose empath sat in the upper left-hand corner.
"It's Raven." He said softly.
"Damn it!" Beast Boy yelled as he jumped up from his seat on the couch. He pushed past the team as he took off towards the medical bay. "You said she would be fine!"
Cyborg gave no indication that he had heard Beast Boy. He stared at the screen before him as it became harder for him to breathe. Starfire readied to take off after the green man when a soft weight on her shoulder gave her pause. She turned to find Robin, who merely shook his head before gathering her into his arms. She closed her eyes tightly as she gripped her companion for support. The sound could only mean one thing.
Raven was dead.
His chest hurt. God, why had he left her? Why had he listened to Cyborg? That sound… if it was flat, would that mean that Raven was… dead? God, it was all his fault! All the things he wanted to tell her… they didn't matter anymore. She was gone.
He tried to breathe, but with every step the task became more of a chore. His throat was hurting again. If he had just stayed by her bedside, maybe she would've woken up. Maybe he could've done something. If he had just turned into something other than a hawk two months ago, she would've been fine.
A little piece of himself, buried deep down in his subconscious, had tried to prepare him for this possibility. He had soundly ignored it. After everything they had been through, she couldn't just leave him like that. She couldn't leave him without so much as a single "goodbye." She had done that once already.
As the doors to the infirmary slid open, the flat sound showered over him like cold water on a snowy day, sending an unwelcome chill up his spine.
If she was dead he would…
Well, he would just die too. A much slower, more painful and much more conscious death, sure, but it would happen none the less. He didn't have much of a choice in the matter. He closed his eyes firmly, trying to fight back the familiar knot in his throat before he took his first step forward. He followed this with another, and another until he was near her bed. He took a deep, steadying breath as he tightened his closed eyes, trying to calm himself and regain control over his breathing, before he finally letting them open. He tried again to swallow past the lump in his throat as he raised his eyes to the top of her bed. God, he didn't want to. He didn't want to have to see her laying there, cold where she had once been so warm.
But again, he didn't have much of a choice in the matter. As his eyes slowly raised, he was met with Raven's bed, her various monitoring equipment and the wires that connected them to her all lying in a jumbled mess where she usually was. And she… she was no where to be found.
Raven was gone.
"What do you mean she's gone?" Beast Boy yelled as he stared, wide-eyed, at his companions. The three stood their ground resolutely.
"She said that she was leaving. She's going to try and start another Titans base in South America." Robin answered as he discreetly stepped in front of Starifre, the former target of the green man's ire.
"You let her go? How could you let her go?" Beast Boy asked frantically. His eyes were wide in disbelief, only adding to the wild vibe he sent off. He hadn't shaved for the past couple of days causing unusual shadows to grow around his chin and neck, giving him an air of confusion. "You know we had that stupid fight, but we used to fight all the time! We were going to get better, what am I supposed to do now? How could you let her leave?"
"Friend Beast Boy, you were not among the reasons she stated for leaving." Starfire said from behind Robin. She stepped to the side to be viewed more fully. He stared at her, a strangled laugh starting to bubble up in his throat. For a second, that frustrated song was the only noise to grace the room, then it was silent.
"Of course I wasn't." He said softly as his eyes returned to their normal size. He closed them gently, then took a deep breath. "I'm not hungry tonight guys, I think I'm just going to head up to bed."
"Friend-" Starfire started. She froze in her spot as Cyborg placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned to him, frowning slightly, but he simply shook his head. She sighed, then turned back to watch her comrade's retreat.
It seemed that no matter what she did, Raven just couldn't keep up with him. She could write, she could call, she could talk to him face-to-face - nothing seemed to get the desired reaction. He wouldn't hold her and tell her that he had loved her all along, that he had made the biggest mistake of his life, that he wished they could go back and be how they once were. She sat before Titans' Tower, watching the water lazily from the rock she sat on.
When was it that she had even started wanting those things from him? When did he go from the annoying little green kid to the man that she loved? She resisted the urge to snort. The man that she loved? Corny, yes. Appropriate, yes.
It wasn't a conscious decision, this whole falling in love business. It wasn't really her thing. She would prefer a lack of emotions to the torrents that had raged through her nonstop since she had first received that damn wedding invitation.
Maybe it was just her. Maybe she was just asking too much of him. She had never been so comfortable with anyone in her life before and it had just been so… nice. It was nice to know that she didn't have to hide anything from him, or be anything for him. Anything that wasn't her wasn't good enough for him.
She had woken up a half hour ago to the bright, pristine white of the medical bay walls. For a moment she had been disoriented. The rooms in Titans' South West Tower weren't quite as… blinding. For a few seconds she had lain, staring up at the ceiling before it came to her. The wedding flashed through her head, unrelenting in its meticulous attention to detail. She was sore, but that was to be expected. After all, how many people were around to say they had survived a whole rooftop falling onto their heads? She seriously doubted there were many.
She stared at the reflection the water gave of the Tower. She had spent some of her hardest years there, growing up and learning how to get along with others. Learning what her limits were and when it was appropriate to let go of every other assumption she had. She had made her first real friends there. She had her first romantic relationship there. She had her last romantic relationship there… She had confronted Trigon there. All the growing up she had ever done in her life, save for her time in Azararth, she had done there.
But it was time to go. It was time to leave all of that behind her. It was time to stop living in her past. It was time to stop using it as a model for her envisioned future. She took a deep breath as she rose to her feet, dusting off her uniform as she let herself levitate off the ground.
"Raven!" A voice came from behind her. She closed her eyes tightly. No, that wasn't Beast Boy. It was just her imagination. She had to go, she had to get back to the Titans' South West Tower. She needed to go home. She didn't belong here anymore. She didn't-
"Raven," Beast Boy repeated, softer this time. She slowly lowered herself to the ground, still not turning to face the changeling. They stood in silence for a couple of moments.
Beast Boy's heart was racing. He wanted to touch her so badly. He wanted to feel her skin and push back her hair and confirm that she really was there with him. He wanted to tell her everything that he had thought about telling her for the past five years. He wanted to kiss her.
"Raven I… I thought you were…" he said softly, unable to finish his own sentence. He stared at the empath, though she gave him no response.
"Turn around." He pleaded gently. "Please? I just… I really want to see your face again."
For a second, he questioned whether she had heard his request. He opened his mouth, ready to speak again when he noticed her hesitation. She slowly turned in his direction.
God she was beautiful. Her hair blew around her face, a consequence of the short-tempered wind. She wore no cloak, but instead donned a leotard with a piece of fabric that flowed gracefully from her hips to her feet. She stared at him, looking guarded in a way that made her seem that much more vulnerable.
"Beast Boy… I… please, just let me go. I can't do this." She said pleaded softly.
"Marilyn was from Metropolis," he started as though she hadn't spoken at all. "It looks like she was part of a lab experiment, that was what made her half snake-demon thingy. She was kidnapped when she was four."
"How… how long was I out?"
"About two months."
She balked a little and he couldn't help but smile at the expression.
"Good morning, sleeping beauty," he said gently. For a second she looked like she was going to glare at him, but then her face became blank again.
"I have to go," she said monotonously as she reached up to pull her non-existent hood onto her head. He grabbed her arms in motion.
"Raven." He said simply. She turned, carefully keeping her face blank as she stared at him. "Please… we still have a lot to talk about."
She didn't respond for a second, then slowly lowered her arms again.
"I think that it's only fair that you know… everything. After five years… this might not mean that much, but you should still hear it.
"I'm sorry," he paused for a moment, taking a deep breath as he savored the feeling of the words on his tongue. "Wow, you have no idea how long I've been wanting to say that. I'm sorry Raven. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I'm sorry for everything. I didn't break up with you because I was getting bored, or because I thought our relationship was getting 'old.' Or… Or because I didn't love you… I broke up with you because I was… I was scared." His eyes focused onto the ground between them as he continued talking.
"I know we've talked about our pasts and our childhoods but… well, I guess that I've just gotten used to losing things that mean a lot to me, and I just thought that… if we tried to work things out… if they ever got to the point where I wanted to… well, anywhere near the point I wanted them to go… then I would lose you. Something would happen, some kind of a freak accident, or during a fight you'd get injured, or… or my half-snake half-human fiancée would try to make a church fall on your head… Sorry, bad example, but you get the point." He looked at her again, licking his lips softly as he took another deep breath.
"I was scared Raven. I was really, really scared. But you deserve to know that, and I should've told you that in the first place. I… I love you Rae. I'll do anything I can to make it up to you, just say the words."
She couldn't look at him any longer, so eager, so willing to please. Instead, she focused her attention on the bay before her.
"Raven?" Beast Boy uttered her name softly, somewhat afraid that he would startle her and she would crumble to dust before his eyes.
"What do you want me to say, Gar?"
He closed his eyes, hissing in a breath as he savored the old nickname. He knew better than to assume that she hadn't noticed the slip. If nothing else, he would garner hope from that.
"I want… I want you to say that you miss me, and that you love me too, and that you forgive me." He stated candidly as his eyes slid open. If she had heard him, she wasn't about to show it. After a couple of moments, she slowly levitated into the air.
"I have to go." She said simply.
"Raven… if you really want to go, then go. But just tell me… did you… do you think that you could still love me too?"
"That… that was a lifetime ago," She responded, her back still to him as she faced the vast distance of water stretching out before her. "That was just a dream."
"No," he said quickly as he grasped her forearm. A hint of urgency crept into his voice. "That wasn't a dream. It couldn't be. Please Rae… I want to be right here, with you."
She ceased all movement but continued staring out at the Jump City Bay. A second later, she softly shook her head.
"No, it can't just be like that. Things aren't that easy, Gar."
His soft grip on her forearm tightened for a second before loosening again. "But they can be."
The two were silent as Raven groped for an answer.
"Rae… do you believe that people can just… start over?" He asked suddenly. She turned her head to face him.
"…There's too much behind us."
"But it's behind us. Why can't we just… look, hi, I'm Beast Boy, the resident shape-shifter and sexiest member of the Titans. I can be anything you want me to be, baby." He smirked, releasing her arm and instead extending his hand to her.
Please take it Rae, please take it… He silently entreated as he watched her. She stared at his outstretched hand, her face purged of any expression. The two stood there on the island that held the famous Titans' headquarters with nothing more than the sound of the pounding surf to accompany their introverted conversations. It felt as though a lifetime had passed before Raven finally raised her eyes meet his.
A small, wry smile crossed her lips as she cautiously took his hand, letting her feet meet the ground once more.
I considered doing a big, dramatic ending, but then I started thinking about it… and after five years of not seeing each other I don't think it would've been appropriate. They have to go a lot slower and build their relationship back up again.
This chapter was really hard to get out because I kept finding ways to tweak and play with it. It became very, very frustrating. But I think I'm glad with how it came out in the end. All feedback is welcomed, as always. Thanks for reading all the way through :).