Disclaimer: The Teen Titans are not mine.
A.N. This fic is a bit more intense than other things that I have written thus far, so mind the PG-13 rating.
I would really appreciate it if you reviewed after you've read this oneshot. I want to know if I completely suck at writing angst, as this is my first real whack at it. Without further delay, please enjoy the fic.
"Standing By You"
The sun had set, finally bringing an end to the wretched day. To say the least, it hadn't been a good one.
Upon entering the common room, Raven walked to the couch and sat down heavily upon it, sighing to herself and flipping on the television. She turned to channel five and began watching the Jump City Evening News with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Spending time watching television was a ritual Raven was unaccustomed to, but she nonetheless felt it was necessary on this particular night.
Besides Raven, the room was empty. She hadn't bothered to turn on the lights, and the glare from the television cast shadows dancing on the floor. The volume was turned very low, as to not alert the other Titans that she was in the room. Not that they would feel like confronting her now, or even being in her vicinity at all.
The empath sighed bitterly. Her head was a jumbled mess, muddled from the horrid day's events. She had dealt with loss before, but that was mostly personal loss, inflicted upon her by others. The reason that her current situation was so much more dreadful was that this time it was her who had ruined the lives of other people. Just like a criminal. Now, instead of praying for justice for the guilty, she found herself pleading for the amnesty of the accused.
This feeling was worse than she had ever imagined. Her guilt was so great that it weighed down on her physically, as if someone had locked chains around her neck. Chains that relentlessly kept her from escaping this hellish reality she had found herself in.
But back to the task at hand. From what Raven could tell, the news show was normal so far. Raven watched anxiously with hopes rising slightly as the minutes passed slowly and she found herself counting away the seconds until the hour of news ended. It was enough dealing with so much guilt, but to see the story of her wretched mistake reported for the whole city to watch would be pure torture. And yet, Raven knew it was inevitable. The public already knew, and perhaps the story straight from the authorities would be a bit better than the rumor filled whispers floating around, even if not by much.
Ten minutes, then thirty, then fifty had elapsed and the news was soon to be ending. Thank God. Sports, Politics, Weather, Stocks, even the pointless Celebrity Watch segments had gone by, intermingled with equally pointless commercials, and no huge, breaking story had been reported on. Yet.
When there were only seven minutes until the show concluded, the Anchor cut to a story that made the breath catch in Raven's throat. Her heart stopped.
A corner of the screen flashed to show a picture of a woman who looked a little younger than middle aged. The image faded out and another took its place. This one showed the same woman, sitting by two small, smiling children and a man. Bold, red letters panned across the bottom of the screen, reading "Aimee Cowl, 1970 – 2006."
The News Caster cleared her throat. "A normal day in Jump City gave way to a tragedy today as this woman, Aimee Cowl, was caught in the fray during a fight between the notorious villain, Johnny Rancid, and our own Teen Titans." She paused a moment as a picture that had been captured during the destructive battle flashed onto the screen. "The woman had been in her car on her way home from work when the fatal accident took place earlier this afternoon. Her car was thrown through the air at the villain by one of the Teen Titans, crashing into the ground just feet from where the criminal stood. The crook escaped unscathed, but Ms. Cowl died in the crash. Paramedics have confirmed that she was killed on contact when her vehicle hit the ground."
The Anchor shifted to face another camera and continued somberly. "The person responsible for the death of Ms. Cowl has been confirmed to be Raven of the Teen Titans." Raven's eyes widened in horror as a picture of herself took up half of the screen, depicting her with glowing white eyes and a black-energy orb surrounding the fist of an outstretched arm, which made Raven look dangerous and frightening. "Directly from the authorities, we have the following quote from Raven herself: 'I am not a murderer, and I would never intend to harm anyone.'
The cameras changed and the Anchor was shown from another angle. "We at Jump City Channel 5 News have no information of whether or not the victim's family will be pressing charges at this time. More details on this developing news story and more, at eleven. Back to you, Chuck-"
Raven's arm rose absently and the television was clicked off. The remote fell from her hand and clattered to the floor noisily. She did not care. To her, her life was over. The words replayed in her head relentlessly, proclaiming for the whole world, "Raven…responsible for... death." Raven, the Teen Titan, teen hero, had killed someone. Raven dropped her head to rest on the back of the couch, and wondered just how long she would still be viewed as a hero. Her eyelids fell. The exhausting day had taken its toll on her body. Without meditation or even time to rest she was a wreck in every aspect of her being.
Never having prided herself on having a particularly eidetic memory, Raven cursed the fact that now the ability decided to kick in. Horrified, she watched as the gruesome day's events were replayed in her mind. Her eyes flew open.
'Face it. I'm a criminal.' She thought. 'What now? Will I be sued? Put in jail? Kicked out of the city? Out of the Tower?' Raven shuddered. Her friends were probably ashamed of her, and she had no doubt that she completely deserved it. Maybe it would be best to leave now, to spare herself the humiliation of being forced from home. After all, she was the only Titan to commit murder.
Murder. That's what it was. Yes, it could probably be commuted to some lesser form, but Raven knew that no sugarcoated words could change what happened. She was careless, and it resulted in a death. The death of a civilian. A wife. A mother. Because of carelessness, Raven knew, a mom wouldn't be coming home to her kids again. A lump formed in the teen's throat, and her guilt increased with the thought.
'How could I be so stupid? The vehicle was moving, for crying out loud. Moving vehicles usually mean that someone is driving them. Why on earth did I choose to throw a moving car?' Raven knew she had been taught to take precautions, to make sure a bus was empty before throwing it at Mammoth, or that a warehouse was otherwise vacant before she brought the roof crashing down on Slade. She was caught up in the moment, acting on adrenaline, eager to be the Titan to throw the last punch and walk away with the most credit for the win. A selfish instinct. A deadly sin.
Raven teleported to her room and fell against her bed. Tears threatened to fall, and she gave in. A hot torrent of fear and disbelief, regret and grief flooded her eyes and fell into her pillow. How long had it been since she allowed herself to cry? She didn't care. Why bother keeping up any sort of facade now? What was the benefit? Life as she knew it now was ending.
Raven's body was racked with silent sobs and she lay on her bed until more tears refused to come. She didn't feel better. The situation remained unchanged. "I'm so sorry," she whispered to no one. Not like she thought that would help her. Punishment was imminent, that much she knew. Raven sat in her bedroom, shivering more from fear than cold.
A glance at a bedside clock revealed that it was ten fifty. The news show would begin in ten minutes. The details of the horrid story were coming if she liked it or not, and she certainly did not. Would she watch it? Yes, she decided to herself. She didn't deserve to forget. She deserved to revisit the tragedy every day, and to never again have peace. If the victim's family would not, who should she?
Attempting to bring some semblance back to her appearance, Raven dragged her fingers through her dark purple hair and wiped away her tears. She shut her eyes tightly, and drew in a deep breath.
The images returned to haunt her. In the confines of her mind, Raven saw the nightmare more vividly than she thought possible. She felt the fear of the woman she killed, she heard the muffled scream through the vehicle and dark energy shield, and watched the car slam into the ground and burst into flames not a moment afterward. The scream, so loud and panicked, so wretched and hopeless, rang in her ears.
Raven saw Robin running to the car, immediately forgetting that a heated battle with an arch foe was taking place. She watched him step valiantly into the blazing vehicle to pull out the slightly mangled, bloody body of an innocent civilian. Broken glass and scraps of metal were scattered around the wreck and were mixed with fresh blood, glinting against the ethereal glow of orange flames nipping angrily at the sky.
After checking futilely for a pulse at throat and wrist, Robin took off his cape and draped it over the body, to smother her burning clothes, and to hide the deceased woman mostly from view. Raven saw him bite his bottom lip hard. He looked up, directly where Raven had sunk to the ground and landed on her knees, and he watched her crumple to the cement in disbelief. Raven had fainted.
Raven's eyes shot open and she gasped, looking around her room and snapping back to reality from the memories. A fresh round of tears were ready to begin. No. She had just found out again that crying did nothing to help her or to make the situation improve. It was completely wasted energy. She bit the tears back viciously. Phasing through her bedroom wall, she made off for the Tower's bathroom, carefully slinking through the hallways to avoid anyone chancing upon seeing her. Not all of that precaution could be accredited to worry over someone seeing her in her disheveled state. Raven just couldn't face a friend now. Not today, maybe not for a very long time. She didn't deserve to be in the presence of heroes, not after what she had done.
Thankfully, the restroom was vacant. Upon her entrance, Raven's reflection in the bathroom mirror revealed her red eyes and tear-streaked face. Angrily, she turned the faucet on cold and washed her face in the icy water, drying it with a white towel. The lines from crying were gone, but her eyes remained rimmed in red, the deep color of blood. Thick, red, life-giving blood. Like Aimee Cowl's blood that had been shed by her… the blood that was on her hands.
Raven drew in a shaky breath. It was time to bear witness to her own further humiliation in front of the city that she lived to protect. And Raven knew she deserved it.
She didn't even remember walking the rest of the way to the common room. Her dread blocked out everything else.
With a deep breath, the door to the common room whooshed open, and Raven walked to the large couch like a death row prisoner to her doom.
A quick glance revealed Robin at one end of the couch, which made her seriously consider retreating back to her bedroom. How could she confront her leader now, after what she had put him through?
After the death, and after the ambulance pulled away with silent sirens, the Titans had been left in shock. Rancid was long gone, and yellow police tape was being put up around the scene. On-looking citizens had crowded around the barriers. They stood in silent disbelief, just staring on, or talking with hushed voices and discreet motioning towards Raven. Some were snapping pictures, which Raven knew no doubt would hit the Internet probably within minutes, not to mention would riddle tomorrow's newspapers and television programs.
The Titans were given a Police escort to the Station that they knew well from bringing in criminals. The afternoon and evening was spent at the Police Station, during which Raven was subject to seemingly endless questioning. The dinner hour came and went without even a complaint from Beast Boy, who had seemed to notice the gravity of the situation and hadn't cracked a joke or even a smile since they had been at the Tower that morning.
When they were finally allowed to take their leave, the ride home in the T-Car was unbearably silent. At the Tower no one spoke, except for Cyborg bidding everyone a good night and Beast Boy and Starfire following suit. All knew that nine-thirty was an unheard of bedtime for the Titans, but no one wanted anything more than to forget the day and ignore the reality as long as they could.
But Raven knew that it was impossible to forget the situation. It would be incredibly difficult to face people she had hurt, and even to face her own team, her family, but it needed to be done.
Raven ignored her instinct to flee and forced herself to sit on the opposite end of the couch, as far from Robin as humanly possible while still sharing the same piece of furniture.
The television had been turned on before she came, but Raven was sure that Robin had been aware of her presence the moment she entered the room. He did not turn to her, or acknowledge her presence in anyway.
Momentarily, the news broadcast began, live from the Jump City Channel 5 News station. This time, they didn't waste anytime digging into the hot topic of the night.
A perky, African American woman spoke in a warm tone with a bright smile, "Good Evening, I'm LaChelle Green and this is detective Martin Cole, and you're watching Jump City Channel 5 News live from Jump City. This is a special report, with regularly scheduled news beginning in a half hour.
"This afternoon, during what seemed to be a normal battle between good and evil, our own Teen Titans and Johnny Rancid were caught up in a brawl after Rancid successfully attempted to rob a local jewelry store. During the scrap, one of the Titans, a teenager known only as Raven, threw a moving vehicle at the criminal, missing Mr. Rancid by mere feet but instantly killing the car's only passenger, Mrs. Aimee Cowl. We have confirmed that Johnny Rancid indeed escaped, despite the deadly measures taken in effort to apprehend him. This is the first record of a fatality during one of the Titans' battles. Detective Cole, can you tell us, have you informed the surviving family of Mrs. Cowl of her tragic death?"
"Yes, Ms. Green," the deep voiced, grey haired, black suit clad detective boomed. Raven recognized him as one of the relentless people who had questioned her for hours in a small, concrete walled room at the Police Station. "Her husband was reached. Unfortunately, he is in no state to talk to the press or authorities."
"Will he be pressing charges?" she inquired.
"Mr. Cowl is in no mental or physical state to make such decisions at this time."
"Can you tell us, with your own personal insight to this case, can we expect to see Raven put behind bars for this accident?"
Raven shuddered, her heart missing a beat at hearing her own fate being discussed so lightly. After the Trigon escapade, Raven could look forward to deciding on her own destiny. Hearing this made her feel trapped again, at the mercy of others.
"Well, we're really going to have to wait and see if the family presses charges," he drawled, "in court, based on the fact that all Titans have maintained an exemplary level of conduct and as this is a first offense of this caliber, not to mention that the killer at hand is a minor and a well-known and well-loved vigilante, I'd say we can expect grace from the judge, or at least a lighter sentence than a life term in prison."
Raven released a breath that she didn't know she had been holding, and was filled with much welcome relief, although it was short-lived.
The detective continued to intone his reply, "My personal opinion, however, is that we all know the particular Titan has had a dark past. There is copious evidence that suggests she has trouble controlling her emotions and she may indeed require much therapy. Some may accuse her blatantly of misanthropy and may view her as a potential threat. I believe that this sociopath should be taken off the streets for the wellbeing of all citizens of Jump City."
Ms. Green forced a smile and spoke, her strained voice betraying her disbelief at the detective's brash statement. "Well, everyone has their own opinions, detective, but how can you say that so flippantly after the Titans have graced us with three years of safety? The girl might not be quite as… righteous and kindhearted as some, but a sociopath? She's a hero, and a savior of our city."
"And you don't think, Ms. Green, that without the challenge of a team of superheroes to face, supervillains would grow bored of the easy to pull off crimes? I believe our Jump City just might be better off-"
"Detective Cole," Ms. Green cut him off loudly and curtly, "Please understand that this is not a debate concerning Jump City's need for the Teen Titans, but a discussion over a young girl's mistake and the consequences it may have."
Almost all of the derisive tone to the detective's voice was gone when he spoke but he certainly did not sound contrite. "Ma'am, I understand that the Titans have done a lot of good for this city in the past, but this "little mistake" proves that relying on five sixteen or seventeen year olds is not a good idea for the wellbeing of Jump City, especially if this is any sort of augury of-"
"Thank you detective!" Ms. Green snapped, the happy television personality smile long gone. "And we'll be right back after a brief commercial break." The screen cut to a man holding a bottle of toothpaste, but Robin turned off the television with a deliberate click.
The two Titans sat in silence, not the usual comfortable silence shared by friends but the tense silence of neither knowing what to say. It was Raven who first spoke up, after a few minutes had slowly, painfully gone by.
"Robin, I don't know what happened. I-"
"Raven," he stopped her, raising a gloved hand. After a deep breath and a moment to collect all the jumbled words of what he wanted to say, he spoke again. "What happened today was inevitable. Accidents will happen in this line of work. That's a fact of life. I'm just sorry you had to be at fault here."
"Robin, I know I messed up. I killed a civilian. There is no excuse for that. And because of me, now all the Titans have to suffer. Please don't feel sorry for me."
"Fine. Raven, I'm not going to lie. Because of what happened today, the Titan's perfect record is ruined. That can't be changed." He saw her flinch like she had been struck, and added carefully, "But it's in the past. We have to move on. What's done is done."
"It hasn't even been a whole day since the incident. We can't move on. I can't move on, yet. The family of Aimee Cowl might press charges. I could go to jail, or worse. Things aren't going to just return to normal anytime soon. I'm going to be punished, Robin. By the city, by the Cowls, by the team."
Robin sighed. "And you think because out rep has been tarnished, we're going to disown you for one mistake?"
"I don't see why not. I deserve it." Raven admitted, sotto voce.
Before she could react, he was up and had walked over to her. Raven stood quickly and they were looking each other square in the eye for the first time since the accident. When Robin spoke again, his voice was husky with emotion and his mask showed that his eyes were wide in disbelief.
"Three years, Raven, we've been a team. And after all that, you still trust us so little? We're a family. Families stick together. We've got your back, and I promise you, we're not letting this keep us down. We'll get through it as a team."
Her emotional barrier was already in rubble from the day's events. When her eyes threatened to spill over again, she was powerless to stop it. Robin stood slightly shocked, but did a good job of not letting it show. He had never seen Raven let her emotions out so easily, although he could see why she was now. Heck, he knew he might react in the same way if he was in her shoes.
Out of instinct, he pulled her into his arms like he was comforting a scared child. She accepted the embrace, crying silently into his chest.
He heard her mumble through her sobbing, "But the press… TV... tabloids…"
He hushed her softly. "It doesn't matter. We'll get through this. The Titans will stand by you, no matter what it takes."
A.N. Ahem. Yes, that was my attempt at angst. I hope you enjoyed it. I'm intending on leaving this story as a one-shot, but I may write similar fics if this one is liked. Please remember to review!
Thank you for reading.