Verb tenses may be kinda weird and change throughout the story. It's mostly intentional, though some might be errors. Oops, heheh. This is my first relatively long one-shot, and I'm also trying out a new technique. I want to see how much I can change my usual writing style… so if this story is crappy, you'll know why.
Disclaimer: I do nofft own Tuck Everlasting, Teen Titans, or Danny Phantom. Some aspects of the story imitate the style of the author Alice Hoffman. The "life is a musical" quote is from Carl over at the forum "Danny Phanatics," and a few lines were borrowed from the manga Fruits Basket.
Warning: Slight abuse of italics and ellipses ahead.
Reviews are appreciated. ;)
Once upon a time, in a place far, far away, there was a tower on an island. Five teenagers lived here together, and how they managed that without homicide was unknown.
There is Starfire, that naïve, beautiful alien. She can lift a five ton weight, destroy a building with her eyes, and crush her enemies effortlessly, if only for the sake of her friends. Her will is iron, her heart is gold.
There is Beast Boy, that shape-shifting, oddly colored teen. He messes up sometimes, as we all do, but he has never meant to be intentionally cruel. As his teammates might confess reluctantly, he is like a green, fluffy teddy bear… that reeks of tofu.
There is Cyborg, who, for all his size and talk, harbors insecurities. He is intimidating, all that machine and metal replacing bones, blood, and flesh… but look beyond that, and you'll see a brilliant soul, bright and shining and more beautiful than we could never be.
There is Robin, the leader, the Boy Wonder, the one who can do anything despite his human limitations. They say, and he knows this, that he has a stick shoved up his ass, but maybe it's just to support the weight of the world on his shoulders.
And then… there is Raven. She doesn't think much of herself. She's not kind and optimistic, like Starfire, or remotely funny, as Beast Boy strives to be. She doesn't have an unbreakable will, like Cyborg, and she could never be as brave and ruthless as Robin. She's just Raven, nothing special, and just glad to be somewhere where she fit perfectly, seamlessly, like the last essential piece of a picture. She was content to finish the puzzle, helping her team create an image of completion.
But then the team broke. It cracked, subtly, over the years, and one day the parts of the puzzle just shattered. Time wears down mountains and men, and it wore down the Titans, too, the Titans who could once achieve the impossible. Soon she was all by herself again, that single, solitary jigsaw piece, and she had never felt so alone and useless.
And as it happens to all jigsaw pieces without its companions…
There is something strangely impersonal and detached about visiting a grave, a slab of rock. It's impossible for a mere tombstone to reveal everything about a person.
Koriand'r (Starfire) Grayson
Beloved mother and grandmother
Cherished teammate, friend, wife
You will be missed.
There is also something that breaks inside of you each and every time you see the name on the grave. Because you knew the person, and everything there is to know about the person is inside of you. There is nothing impersonal about that, just sadness and maybe regrets.
Not for her.
There is a young woman in front of the marble grave, staring unblinkingly at the name on the gravestone. Purple eyes are hidden behind brown lenses, a dull red glinted on her forehead behind a mass of long, thick bangs, and a faint trace of violet can be seen on the tips of her hair.
I won't be able to visit you again, she says to the name on the stone. People are starting to notice things.
It doesn't answer.
She leans in closer, setting a dried sunflower on the ground. Her face is reflected in the smooth marble.
A stone by the sunflower flashes a faint black, then cracks neatly into two.
Raven doesn't look a day older than eighteen.
When she goes to her new job in Amity Park, hundreds of miles away from her home, she knows something is about to happen. Something big. But all that there is to see is a tired, hunched old man struggling to lift a box on top of a bookshelf. Raven hurries to help him—there is something that irritates her to see elderly people in distress, something that makes her eyes burn and a cold lump of… envy? to form in her stomach—but before she can reach him, a second pair of hands quickly snatches the box away, and a voice gently chastises the old man. He laughs sheepishly and shuffles to the back of the shop, revealing a second person.
It is a young man. For a moment she thinks 'Robin,' because he has spiky, pitch-black hair, and his eyes are the brightest blue she's ever seen. She knows Robin has blue eyes, because Starfire told her once, and they are exactly as she imagined them to be. It's painful to look at him, so instead, she focuses on his shoulder.
I'm Danny Fenton, he says to her, and holds out his hand for her to shake. She mumbles a greeting, extending her hand for a quick second before letting go.
Welcome to Amity Park. I heard you just moved here. She doesn't want him to continue speaking to her, just go away, because she came here to escape from her memories, damn it all, and she doesn't need this man, this boy here to remind her of everything she will never regain.
That afternoon, after she finishes her work, she thinks briefly about quitting. But there is too much to do here, and the old shop owner is too frail to do much of it. Danny isn't enough. She's needed, therefore, she belonged. She's been so nostalgic for that feeling, and it's enough to make her stay.
It's been a month since she came to Amity Park, and she's worked in this shop for more than two weeks. She can look Danny in the eye now, and the more she interacts with him, the more she can see where she made her mistake.
Danny is nothing like Robin, nothing like any of her teammates. Robin would be stiff and formal, unintentionally cold towards newcomers. Forms of affection or care are subtle, things only people like Starfire could notice. Danny isn't like that. He is warm, and smiles often, and so open that Raven can barely believe he's real.
Perhaps he harbors some kind of dark secret. Perhaps he has experience acting as if everything's fine.
Raven watches Danny trip over his own two feet, almost falling flat on his face.
Then again, perhaps not.
The sky is darkening, and it's only four fifteen. Her shift will be over soon, but she is dismayed to suddenly remember that she's left her apartment window open. If it rains, her room will surely be saturated; the books on her desk, ruined.
As if on cue, Danny appears by her shoulder.
It looks like it's about to rain, he says. You can go home if you want. I'll close the place up early… we're not busy today.
She is grateful, and takes her name-tag off. As she leaves, Danny flashes her a grin.
Raven isn't sure, but she might've smiled back.
Two months in Amity Park, and this place is starting to feel like home. Raven is in her apartment, as close as she could get to content, and stares out the window towards the sky. No one really expects this of her, but she likes sunny days the best, because everything is bright. There's no darkness to hide behind. Everything can be seen, everything is as it should be.
Except it isn't, because sunny days don't last forever, do they? Sometimes it rains, and sometimes it's night, and sometimes people aren't what they seem. Sometimes, people hide behind the darkness even when there's light, and sometimes, people aren't as they should be.
And then there is a scream.
It's a familiar sound to Raven, and she starts, craning her neck to look out the window. There's something down there, people running, and a sense of déjà vu that is all too well-known to her. But somewhere down there, people are in trouble, and they need someone.
Raven wants to feel needed. If you are needed, it means that you belong.
She doesn't remember walking to her room, opening her closet, and dragging out a dark blue cloak. She doesn't remember searching for the leotard she knows is close by, or putting it on. She doesn't remember pulling the hood up, hiding everything but her mouth and eyes, and she doesn't remember removing the contact lenses.
She does remember her three magic words, her little abracadabra chant that makes the impossible happen. That heaves cars into the air like they're aluminum cans, that wrenches telephone poles out of the air.
(But in the end, they hadn't helped her much, had they?)
Raven says those magic words, and before she realizes it, she's in the sky, soaring with the wind in her face and the air holding her up.
This felt unbelievably right.
She darts down, searching for the source of the mob's fear. Some of the crowd look up and notice her, and a couple point her out. There is no recognition in their eyes—how could they remember, when it had been so long since the Titans' time?—but there was terror and panic.
It's Danny Phantom! someone shouts. Danny Phantom! Ghost kid! The crowd goes from terrified to elated in an instant.
Raven is confused. She looks down the street, then notices.
It is a young man, perhaps barely out of his teens. He doesn't look normal by human standards, as his hair was a shock of white. Of all the things to be wearing, he has on a jumpsuit, with a strange insignia on his chest. He holds what seemed to be a thermos, which he was currently capping.
Raven wasn't stupid. She knew ghosts plagued Amity Park, but she had blamed it on something the townspeople had conjured up to increase tourism, or just for attention. It certainly did attract attention several decades ago—it even made the national news, once—but Raven had never expected something like this to happen.
For some reason, she feels indignant. Had she not been the one to rush out? She wanted to be the one that had saved everyone. Then, for a moment, she would've been a necessity, and she wouldn't have felt like she didn't belong. Just for a moment.
She doesn't remember tailing this ghost until they had reached the roof of a building.
He notices her, though, and perhaps she meant for that to happen. He smiles at her in such a way that the edges of his eyes crinkle. They're bright green, glowing faintly—too familiar—and so Raven wrenches her gaze away, settling it in such a way that she can see his face, but not his eyes.
Why are you following me? he asks. The question is cautious, but not hostile. The tone is almost lazy. When she looks at him again, the ghost is floating upside down in the air, looking as if there was nothing he wanted to do more than just hang around all day, floating.
Raven wishes, all of a sudden, that she could be like him.
Felt like it, she says, shrugging.
He stares at her for a while, saying nothing.
What? Raven snaps.
Nothing. You remind me of someone I used to know. Your eyes… violet…
She freezes at that, and almost feels like laughing dryly. Their conversation, if you can call it that, dies after that. She leaves.
Perhaps she will see him again.
Raven doesn't sleep much that night. In the darkness, all she sees is a pair of haunting green eyes, just beyond her reach.
She is building up a pattern, and that pleases her. It feels comfortable, because when she leaves her apartment at nine o'clock and walks with everyone in the crowd, she can feel normal again, for one brief second. She has somewhere to go, somewhere to be, something to do. A purpose. Part of a repeating cycle.
But she hates it in the afternoon, at four thirty when work is over and she has to leave. There is nothing waiting for her back at her apartment except an empty room. She would sit on the sofa at night, sometimes, reading a book, but at other times, she can't concentrate. It's too lonely, too silent.
Briefly, Raven contemplated getting a pet. But pets die.
Everything dies, yet some things last forever. Raven does not understand the unfairness of that.
Behind her, Raven hears sirens, steadily growing louder and louder. A bright red firetruck flies past her, before sharply turning the curve. She feels a cold sense of dread in her stomach. Her apartment is over there…
But it couldn't be. Her luck couldn't possibly be that bad. She wasn't Jinx, the bad luck sorceress the team had once—
Stop. Wrong train of thoughts.
As Raven rounded the corner, it turned out that her luck really could possibly be that bad.
Her apartment building, her possessions—were all in flames.
The fire was a mix of stupidity and carelessness. Someone, a bored middle-aged housewife neglected by her husband, perhaps, or an absent-minded old man who was alone with a dead wife and children who abandoned him, had left their stove on. Nearby newspapers caught on fire, and junk in the room had fed the flames until it had morphed into a raging inferno.
Raven had managed to salvage her most precious belongings. The box with her uniform, trinkets from the tower, other things that had once belonged with the team. And her communicator… the thing was almost falling apart, but she treasured it anyway.
She hates reminders of the Titans, but she doesn't have the heart to throw them away and can't bear to let them burn. Onlookers and the people who were lucky enoufgh to escape the structure must've thought she was insane, rushing into the building that was bound to collapse any second… but she'd made it out.
Danny Phantom is there, too. Raven watches impassively as he makes daring rescues, flying almost a dozen people out before the building fell in on itself, its charred structure too weak to support its own weight.
Once upon a time, she had known people like him. A long time ago, she had even been in his shoes.
He leaves before she has a chance to talk to him—she doesn't know why, but she feels a strange connection with him. But he wouldn't have recognized her anyway, not without her cloak and familiar violet eyes.
Do you have a place to stay? a voice behind her suddenly asks. Raven jumps, but it is only Danny Fenton, from work. Why he's here, she doesn't know, and she can only stare.
I was driving by, and I saw the building on fire, he explains. I thought you lived here. Apparently, I was right.
Raven doesn't answer, because she doesn't know what to say.
Do you have friends you can stay with? Danny continues.
…No, Raven finally answers hollowly. And why would she? Friends meant connections, ties, people to cherish and hold on to, then watch as they were ripped away.
Then stay with me.
This time, when Raven doesn't answer, it's because there is nothing she can say.
She's setting up a new routine, one that she's not entirely comfortable with. Danny, she's come to realize, is much more secretive than he appears. He lives more than half an hour away from Amity Park for personal reasons, he says. Surprisingly enough, he has his own house, and though it's not very big, it's easily large enough for two people to live in.
Raven realizes why she doesn't like this new routine. There's someone else in it, someone else like Danny who's getting too close to her for comfort.
She doesn't see him much, though, and he doesn't see much of her. She's fine with that.
Ever since her team had died, Raven found that she didn't like involving others in her life. Whoever she found, she had a tendency to cling to. Or perhaps it was the other way around? She felt like the ground, and others, saplings and seeds, fell onto her, buried their roots in her soil and grew. They were alive, but she was not, not like the way they were, and anything that was alive died. Anything.
She felt sorry for the ground, she suddenly realized. It was always there. Everything in it, on it… everything died. It was alone.
She also realized that this was a strange train of thought.
Raven doesn't need Danny. Danny doesn't need Raven. She wants to keep things that way, and there is something telling her that even though some part of Danny seems to be attempting to reach out for her, he wants to keep things that way too. She locks herself in her room most of the time, but she has no car—so she has to ride with him to work every day. It was a sufficiently awkward thirty-seven minutes every morning and night, so she feigns sleep.
It usually works out, somehow. Raven feels that Danny suspects what she's doing. He goes along with it because Raven knows that, to some degree, he doesn't want her to get close either, for one reason or another. Her apartment is being rebuilt, and it couldn't be finished soon enough for Raven.
But then… things started changing.
The first thing to change were those awkward thirty-seven minute rides.
Small talk, when there was any, was usually painful. They were always along the lines of The weather's nice today and Guess so. It could not have been more cliché.
But one day, Danny starts talking. He doesn't look at her, merely speaking facing the rearview mirror about everything and nothing. He surprises her when he talks about her staying with him, how he is somewhat glad, because it was so lonely living in that house all by himself.
And Raven, reclusive, silent, antisocial Raven, feels that she can empathize with him about loneliness.
Danny never seemed to mind that she rarely spoke. He began to tell her things about himself. His favorite subjects seemed to be his friends and family. Sam and Tucker, he said, were his best friends, and they went to high school together. He spoke of Jazz, his confidante and sister and number one spazz, and his parents, insane but always there for him.
So where are they? Raven asks one day. Your friends. You can't be lonely if you have friends.
Oh, they went away. Time does that, you know, it separates people, and they moved… far, far away.
Days later, he apologizes, tripping over his words and awkwardly trying to figure out what to say. He needed to get all that off his chest, he says, and he has few friends to spill his thoughts to. Maybe he had bothered her, or maybe—
She cuts him off, saying it was all right, and Danny grins at her.
This time, she is sure that she smiles back.
I'm sick of my microwave TV dinners, Danny says. Wanna go out to eat?
Raven's hand slips off her doorknob.
Just the two of us?
Danny seems to realize the implications and starts stammering.
Yeah, but I didn't mean—it's just that, you know, my cooking isn't that great, and I thought we'd go out… no, wait, I mean that in a platonic way, because I'd never… not that I'm saying you aren't a good person or anything…
Raven has already thrown on a jacket.
You're paying the bill. My paycheck's not in yet.
Sometimes, the nightmares come back to haunt her.
She always awakes with that feeling, that feeling of belonging and completion and warmth. There they were again, her team, whole and alive. And she'd do all the things her pride had refused to let her do before: going shopping with Starfire, playing a video game with the boys. She'd be happy, and she'd laugh and smile and wouldn't care if a lamp blew up because of it.
And then she'd wake up, and it'd happen all over again as her team seemed to die a second time. Her eyes would burn, her throat would feel constricted, and she would forget how to breath, gasping for air that wouldn't come quickly enough. And she remembered, again, that they weren't there anymore—no one was, she was the only one left, the others were cold and dead and lifeless and her apartment was empty—
Being by yourself… is scary. Being alone…
…is a frightening way to live.
Sometimes, after those dreams, she'd don her cloak, phase through the wall, and fly.
There is something comforting about flight. She knows what Starfire means about the joy of flight now, and regrets that she never got to relate with her better. She swirls and loops through the air, and no one sees or notices her—if they do, they'll think it's a shadow, a bird… perhaps even a ghost. And they'd all be right.
Out following me again?
Raven stops suddenly, and sees a flash of white on top of a skyscraper. She levitates higher, going until she has reached the roof, and lands neatly on her feet.
Don't flatter yourself, she comments dryly, and is reminded of her banters with Beast Boy. The dull ache suddenly appears again, and it hurts.
They sit there, just the two of them, and they don't speak because there is nothing to say. But the ghost breaks the silence first.
I've been here for a long time, he says as an icebreaker. More than a century.
Raven's head immediately snaps towards him, and her eyes flash. Her heart is suddenly hammering, and she can almost hear it—why can't he hear it? A brick beside them crackles ominously.
His gaze is steady, calm, as he looks at her.
I'm sorry… did that come as a surprise?
More than you imagine, Raven replies wryly. But she cannot wait for him to speak again. Suddenly, Danny Phantom has become her priority, and she wants—needs know everything there is about him.
You shouldn't be. It's not like ghosts can age and die.
She feels slightly foolish now for not realizing it sooner. But…
Why do you stay, then? she asks. Why don't you move on?
He waves a gloved hand over the city. They can't defend themselves from the other ghosts, he explains.
But you don't have to do what you do. You can leave. You should leave.
He shakes his head, smiling at her indulgently.
I can't. I don't know why. There is something in his voice. Resignation? Longing? Whatever it is, Raven feels she knows it all too well.
Besides… they need me.
It sounds like an excuse; it is an excuse, a flimsy reason to explain the unfairness of immortality. He leaves after that, but Raven holds on to a shred of something.
He is just like her, she realizes. He's longing for it all to end when physical capabilities—demon blood for her, and… ghostly abilities, perhaps, for him—won't allow it.
For nights after that, she scours the skies almost obsessively. On the seventh night, she finds him. As usual, he's on a roof. A house, this time, leaning on the chimney.
The chimney—it's hot, he explains after he sees her look at him strangely. I can't get my temperature up as a ghost. This feels nice… warm.
Raven feels a twinge of sympathy, but she doesn't dwell on this. Pulling her cloak aside, she shoves something into Phantom's hands.
What's this? he asks curiously.
A book. I thought you'd like it.
He flips it over, reading the title on the cover.
Raven doesn't feel so alone anymore, though she hasn't seen Phantom since. But Danny's there, and there's something new about the way he smiles at her. It's as if she's the only person there, because whenever he flashes a grin at her, it seems to say you, only you.
It's enough to make her miss him once the repairs to the apartment building are done. She doesn't tell him and moves out in the middle of the night, lugging her few possessions with her onto a bus to Amity Park. He will notice, in the morning, when there is no coffee brewing and Raven isn't seated at the table, pouring her tea. Because the pattern will be broken.
Her apartment's a bit roomier now after it's been rebuilt, which Raven doesn't like, because the silence echoes much louder. There is a new balcony, though, which she's become attached to. Maybe she'll buy one of those brightly colored lawn chairs that are nauseating shades of pink and orange and plop it out there.
Just for laughs.
When she walks to work in the morning, she doesn't expect Danny to be outside and waiting for her. She doesn't expect him to be leaning on the door, arms crossed and staring coolly at her, and she certainly doesn't expect him to be frowning.
You moved out, he says before she can get a word in. Why'd you do that?
They finished rebuilding the apartments, she says shortly, defensively. I moved back in.
You could have at least told me, Danny says, and he seems less angry now. He's deflated, and Raven can't help but feel that he looks a bit like a kicked puppy.
She feels guilty now, which annoys her.
Sorry, she says shortly. She doesn't know why she left without mentioning anything—maybe she's still trying to push Danny away, or maybe it's just that she hates good-byes.
He isn't finished, though, and steps up to her.
You're so… secretive, he says. You never seem to let anyone in. I… I want to know you better…
He reaches out, gently taking a lock of her hair between his fingers. Raven doesn't pull away, and faintly realizes that she isn't breathing. She exhales slowly, evening her breath.
I hate seeing you alone. I hate knowing that you don't have anyone. You remind me of… me, just a little.
And there he is again, interpreting her silence, assuming things about Raven that she has no idea how he knows. Because he is right, isn't he?
I hate seeing you hide yourself from the world.
He closes the distance between them, and brushes his lips across her bangs. She is seized momentarily by panic. The chakra stone, what if he—?
Why was she worrying about things like chakra stones at a time like this?
Please don't say you don't want me. I don't want to be alone either.
He presses his lips against her own. He tastes faintly of coffee and waffles drowned in syrup, and there is something desperate there, just below the surface.
And because Danny is right in saying that they are alike in the way that she hates seeing herself alone, hates the fact that she really didn't have anyone, hates how Danny could see this, could know this, and hates seeing herself closed from the world…
And she because she hates waking up at night, shivering and cold…
And she because she hates this damn loneliness eating herself up from the inside out…
She kisses him back.
Deperation. Hope. Loneliness. Need.
The guilt increases because she shouldn't be doing this. But for the first time in over a hundred years, the dull, throbbing, almost constant ache in her chest subsides.
Danny has some strange quirks, Raven soon realizes.
She walks out of her apartment one Saturday afternoon to see Danny puffing up the stairs, lugging a large ceramic flower pot with a small rose bush planted in the soil. Speechless, she stands in the middle of the hallway and stares.
Danny notices, of course, and sets the plant down sheepishly.
I never saw the point of bouquets and cut flowers, he confesses. They always die in the end. It's much more worthwhile to have something that's alive—that'll live.
Everything dies, Raven answers, half agreeing, but she helps Danny carry the bush to her room anyway. She is startled by how he's unintentionally figured her out.
She smiles, and she's happy, and he sees.
But really, Danny, if you have to live by that little philosophy of yours, bring something lighter next time… like seeds.
Back in her room he dazes off for a minute before his eyes revert back to her face. He's the one staring at her strangely now. Raven is unnerved.
Danny grins his lopsided you, only you smile, then shrugs sheepishly.
Do you ever wish that life was a musical? he asks to answer her question.
What? Raven repeats.
Who doesn't want to live in a world where people randomly dance on tabletops—
…I don't, it sounds unsafe—
—and there's always a happy ending?
Danny, the mystifying frustration that he is, has stumped Raven once again. She gazes stupidly at him, blinking slowly.
Yeah, maybe you're right. I… I'd like to live in a world like that.
Because this world isn't close enough.
Raven thinks they are opposites. If she could give Danny a color, it'd be something bright. Red, maybe, or yellow, like a flame. A warm, dancing flame of light that chased away shadows and nightmares.
Why do you want me? Raven asks that night.
Why would I not? You're… like me. Not in the way that normal people can see, but deeper. I'm not very good with words, but I can sense it. I don't know how to explain it, but you… you are…
Longing for… something.
She doesn't understand him, and for the first time in so long, she wants to know more about someone. She wants to know what makes Danny the way he is, his innermost thoughts, the way his mind works. She wants to be attuned to him, for them to be so in synch with each other that words won't be needed, not when they can fit together perfectly like two side-by-side pieces in a puzzle.
And here, Danny is…
Here, Danny is…
Danny is here, that one solid pillar she's leaning on, something real and safe and secure that keeps her from being swept away. That should be enough to last for now.
But not enough to last forever, she knows. She hears them at night, those quiet, distrustful whispersf hissing doubts at her.
Do you think you have the privilege of indulging in this? Do you think, do you hope, that this will lead anywhere? What are you expecting, something silly like love? Companionship? Marriage?
The voices are scathing, breathing mocking words at her.
What do you think will happen, foolish child, in twenty years, or forty, or sixty? Danny Fenton will wither away with age, my dear, and you will remain the same.
Young and untouched by time and utterly, hopelessly alone again.
But Raven thinks of Danny, his cool skin, his haunting eyes, his gentle hands, and she speaks back, pushing the guilt away.
Do not deny me this… just for a little while, do not deny me him.
It is strange how guilt can just eat away at you, like so many termites that can topple a mighty oak tree.
Raven cannot shake the knowledge that this was wrong. She revels in her time with Danny. He is kind, gentle, and fills up the spaces in Raven's heart that's been empty for so long. But the more he is with her, the more she knows she will pay.
Humans were… fragile. Temporary. He would leave her one day, whether he meant to or not, and then where would Raven be? Back to square one, with no one to follow and nowhere to go.
Dear Danny, Raven writes in her dream that night. Give me no more of your kindness—all I want is my heart back.
The next day, she tells him she doesn't think it's working out. He smiles at her, but there is something hidden in his eyes. Disappointment, dismay, and… relief? Raven doesn't understand, wishing again that she knew more of this boy—no, man in front of her.
Okay, he says. I guess I…
He doesn't finish the sentence before turning to leave.
Raven is flying again, searching the night skies with her cloak trailing behind her. She is looking for someone specifically, someone she's come to think of as "the other Danny." She supposes that this name should slightly disturb her for some reason, but at the moment she can't really think.
At times like these, Raven almost wishes she never purposely faded away. She wishes that she had revealed herself that day long ago in Jump City. She would stay as their eternal protector, continuing her team's legacy even when they were gone. It's not possible though, because on that same day long ago, she had taken one step into the sprawling metropolis before closing her eyes and shuddering. She can see them—four brightly colored ghosts, not so much shadows as the lights of her past, leaping and soaring down the familiar streets. They are weaving and twining around each other, dancing an intricate, jerky set of steps, the dance of the Titans, as they fought time, that eternal, omnipotent enemy, their essences clashing against invisible winds.
Raven left that day, but she stayed close. Close enough to still remember, but not enough so that it drew her in, sapping her thoughts and energy.
People began to notice things though.
Similarities. Not to Raven, the Titan, of course, because this quiet, lonesome girl who shared her namesake couldn't possibly be that unbreakable, confident superhero. But they noticed this same not-Titan-Raven girl, and people grew suspicious. Hasn't it been years? they would whisperf. I swear I knew her a bit before, but she looks so young…
But now is now, and the past is the past. You can't forget your past, but you can leave it behind and move on, can't you? This is what Raven believes, because otherwise, how could she live the way she does now? This is what she does… leave everything behind, then move on, a continuous, never-ending cycle, the only one she can truly follow.
She feels a pulse below her—here, at last, is what she has been looking for.
She finds him, the other Danny—Phantom, that is, in a graveyard. It must be irony, she reasons.
He is kneeling in front of the graves. His lips are moving, but his words do not carry to Raven, who is watching from afar. Who is he speaking to? Past friends, perhaps. It might even be to his own grave, though Raven thinks that is far too morbid for Phantom.
She shifts her foot a bit, and a stick under her heel snaps. Phantom, startled, whirls around, but Raven is gone, vanished into the air like a wraith. The mood is broken though, and Phantom, like an animal that can sense danger in the atmosphere, takes to the air, disappearing from the visible spectrum.
Raven cannot help it. She is curious, and if she cannot solve the mystery that is Danny Fenton, then she will try and solve the mystery that is the other Danny. She can't feel the ghost's aura anymore, so slowly, she creeps to the gravestones he had been standing in front of a mere minute ago.
The names on the tombstones stir something in her memory, but she cannot, for the life of her, recall exactly what.
There is a cold, numbing ice spreading in her stomach, up to her chest and to the center of her heart. It isn't there… her picture, the one of the long ago Titans when they were whole and young, warm and alive. She cannot find it, she's ransacked her whole apartment searching desperately for the photograph.
In the end, she must admit the truth. She knows where it is.
It is at Danny's house.
She remembers the exact location. It is in the desk by the window, in a gap between one of the drawers and the actual frame of the piece of furniture itself. It was a safe hiding place, one that even Danny could not have discovered.
Raven must have hidden it too well, then, if even she has forgotten it. So she dons her cloak and flies under the cover of the night to retrieve that tangible memory that she cannot bear to lose and cannot bear to remember.
Danny's house is unlit and forlorn in the darkness. She phases silently through the wall, but she estimates incorrectly—she wounds up in Danny's room. Her breath catches in her throat… but it is all right, for Danny is nowhere to be seen. This is strange.
Sometimes, when the moon is full, pale and bright and beautiful, Raven admits that yes, there are things she regrets. She regrets not treasuring her few precious people, because life is temporary and everything comes to pass. She regrets the fact that she wasn't strong enough to stay, to stay in the city that needed her so that she could carry on the legend of the Titans.
There are small things she regrets too, because little worries can add up. Sometimes Raven wishes she never came to Amity Park, and yet sometimes she wishes she still had Danny.
And sometimes, she wishes, again and again until it's a mantra tattooed in her mind, that she knew Danny better.
Raven is not a snoop. She knows curiosity tends to cause trouble, but she also knows that if she's damned to hell, then she might as well do it thoroughly. She glides to the opposite side of Danny's room, gingerly picking up each and every little bauble or trinket on Danny's desk, as if afraid that they might shatter.
Raven notices a bookshelf beside her and gingerly steps forward. Danny is not an avid reader, she notices, and his taste in books is juvenile at best. Yet she still carefully scans his collection of books, lovinglyf caressing the spines of the classics she remembers reading once upon those sunny afternoons at the tower.
There is something that doesn't appear to belong there. A thick notebook, it seems, crammed with sheets of eye-blinding bright paper. Raven cannot resist temptation tonight, not here, and she slides the binder out. She is unable to decipher the decorations on the cover, so she steps to the window, under the bright moonlight that is streaming in.
Scrapbook, it says simply on the cover, and now Raven knows she has found what she had unconsciously been looking for all this time. Perhaps there is something in there that will rid Raven of the mysterious aura she feels when she is close to Danny.
Me & Jazz Fenton, spazziest sister ever, the messy inscription under a photograph reads. A cheerful looking redhead has her arm thrown enthusiastically around a young teenager. Messy black hair, blue eyes—it was undeniably Danny.
So this was the sister he had talked about. Raven only wishes her hair did not remind her so much of Starfire.
Jack & Maddie Fenton: Mom and Dad.
Dad and Jazz.
My birthday party.
The pictures go on, all normal things Raven feels nostalgic about. She loses track of time, flipping through this scrapbook full of precious, lovely memories. But this doesn't answer her questions. This book is normal, and she knows, deep down, that Danny most certainly is not normal. He is much too kind, his smile much too happy, his expressions much too empty.
She reaches the last few pages now, frustrated as she views the faces of Danny with two of his friends, a boy and a girl. The girl has strange eyes, violet, and they remind Raven of the eyes she sees in the mirror every morning.
She reads the scribbled words under the image. She is vaguely aware that she is holding her breath.
Sam Manson, Tucker Foley, Danny Fenton: Best friends forever.
Names on gravestones. Sam Manson, 1990-2079. Tucker Foley, 1989-2073.
Practically a century ago.
Stiffly, Raven flips the page again. It is another picture of Danny, this time clutching a bundle of fabric in his hand and standing in front of what appears to be a metallic, high-tech arch. Doubt mars his face.
Raven turns to the last page in the scrapbook, and this time, she knows that she has definitely stopped breathing.
Standing in front of the portal, with his arms crossed across his chest and a bold smirk on his face, was none other than "the other Danny."
She cannot deny the truth, not when she sees the last and final photograph: Danny Phantom with both his arms thrown around Sam and Tucker. They look as if they have the world in their hands, teenagers that are invincible and immortal.
It turns out that statement is a fact. For one third of them, that is.
Raven vaguely remembers sliding the scrapbook back in its original position, dazed. As she does so, her hand brushes the pages of an old, worn book. It is familiar—Raven pulls it out and notices the dog-eared cover at once.
She doesn't need to see the blue ink stain on the first page to know that the book is undoubtedly hers.
Raven is shaking now, her hands trembling unsteadily as she thumbs the book. This is unexpected, but it feels… complete and so accurate somehow, as if puzzle pieces are rapidly falling into place. She has solved the mystery, cracked the enigmas of Danny and the other Danny, and their faces, two blurred mirages in her mind, join together to form a clear image, so like one of the snapshots in Danny's album.
She takes the scrapbook out again, situating it in her lap as she relocates to the couch on the living room. She pulls her hood down, revealing her pale, wan face. She has figured out Danny's secret… now it is time to reveal hers and hope that he will take her back.
She remembers him that night on the roof, her conversation with his ghostly counterpart. If he truly knows what it is like to be unable to die, if he truly knows what it is like to be lonely, then she is sure he will take her back.
So she sits, and she waits.
When Danny returns, bruised and tired (and how many times, Raven wonders, has this happened before, and no has been there to take care of him?), they do not exchange words. Speech was unnecessary. He recognizes her at once, both as the mysterious girl on the rooftop and as Raven Roth, co-worker and ex… girlfriend? Somehow, their relation had seemed much deeper than that.
A small part of him seems to fall apart. Raven expects him to do something—to run, to yell, to be angry at her for prying into his affairs. But he does nothing, and the silence is worse than fury and rage.
Say something, she commands (pleads?).
Raven, he finally says.
Yes, I'm glad we've established my name. Raven Roth—
No. I mean Raven the Titan. The Teen Titan.
She freezes. How did you know? She had thought that the Raven from before and the Raven now had nothing in common, not anymore. The old Raven is gone, and the now-Raven is cowardly, preferring to run away, again and again and again.
I remember hearing about the Teen Titans back then. You are as strong and firm-willed as I had always imagined Raven to be.
You're far too perceptive for your own good sometimes, but you're wrong… I can hardly be called strong and firm-willed with the way I am now.
In two steps he's next to her, leaning in closer with his cold lips skimming just above her skin.
You don't seen yourself very clearly.
Raven sighs, twisting around to meet Danny's eyes.
So now… what happens?
Whatever you want, he answers softly, sweeping his hand around the room as if granting her the world. It's your choice.
I want to know what we are now.
We… are both left behind. We are both damned. We have both been alone for so long that I don't think we'll be able to take much more of this.
So what will we—'we,' not 'I' or 'you,' not anymore because they have each other now— what will we do?
His reply is simple. He bends down, burying his face in her hair, his hand snaking around hers.
The problem with immortality, he breathes in her ear, is that it's far too lonely a way to live.
A century, a hundred years, ten decades—no matter how you word it, it is a long time. Time enough for a person to wither away without companionship. Time enough for four friends to die and leave the fifth behind. Time enough for a heart to crack in two from loneliness…
But maybe it was about time that it started to heal.
The sunrise they saw that day…
… spread its light over the land. But there was another light…
…that lit up places that the eye can't see.