Author's Note: Personal fav chapter.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans
2.0 fl. oz. of Gin
1 Dashes of Dry Vermouth
1.0 fl. oz. of Creme de Framboise
Pour all ingredients (except Creme de Framboise) into a mixing glass, stir, strain into a martini glass, add the Creme de Framboise.
Kori's dragged me to a bar. She literally dragged me, she wasn't kidding when she said she was still strong. No, not just any bar. The bar. The godforsaken bar from last week. I feel like setting cockroaches loose on this place and calling the Health Department. Or just setting it on fire. That may be more fun.
She says she met her boyfriend here and maybe I can get back on my social feet here. He's that cop that so happened to pick me up from this very bar last week. I swear this place is cursed. A drink might help. That's probably the only thing that can. A nice drink.
I break away from her and the dance floor and walk over to the bar and watch as some big black guy man handles a smaller blonde guy behind the counter. I take a seat and watch as they bicker.
"Be back by one, sweetie, don't wait up," says the big as he walks away.
I hold back a laugh and ask, "So, what is he, your lover?" The blonde whips around so fast I swear he almost breaks his neck and I come face to face with him. He smiles and I notice his eyes. They're green. An imperfection, a pigment discoloration in the eye that people find attractive and I find intriguing.
He scoffs, "No, he's my partner. I mean, my business partner." He stumbles through his words and its kind of cute, in that 16 year old way.
I nod patronizingly, "Okay. I'll have a-"
"Let me guess, A Devil's Advocate?" I smile and nod. He does some weird nodding thing and goes to fix my drink. How did he know? I can't remember but I wonder if he was here last week? He keeps looking at me and grinning. I can't figure out why but I smile at him anyways. Is he flirting?
"Here you go," he bows and places the drink in front of me. I've never been served with such… flair before and I stare at the drink. It looks normal enough. Why is he being so strange? I try to recollect whether this was a gay bar and think maybe it was just him. I wait a bit before taking a sip and decide that it isn't all that bad.
"So, you don't come here much," he asks. He's leaning on the counter now, just watching me. I try not to seem creeped out and wipe the excess off my lip. With my tongue, o God please don't get the wrong message. He smiles, he just did.
"Yeah, no. I just moved here."
"New to the city? Business? Moved in with your boyfriend?" He's flirting. I know it; why else ask about my boyfriend.
I scoff and can't help but leer at the mention of a boyfriend, "No, well yes and no. Mainly no."
Not really in the mood to talk about the past two weeks to a complete stranger, I snap at him, "Listen I know you're a bartender and you're used to people opening up to you and everything. But I'm not people so I'd appreciate it if you'd just back off."
"Understood," he pushes off the counter, disappointed, and walks to another customer. Aw shoot, guilt rushes through me as I call him back.
"Aw, aw shit. Hey! Hey, come back!" he turns, "I'm sorry, that was uncalled for. I'm sorry."
"Hey, no problem. I'm a bartender, so I'm used to it." I smile and almost laugh, taking another sip of my drink.
"And I'm a bitch so I'm used to pissing people off, but I'm still sorry."
"And I'm Gar, but you're still forgiven," he shoots out his hand in front of me and grins. I stare at it wondering if I should indulge him. I mean, I don't want to give him the wrong impression. I search his face for a micro-expression. Some small signifier of his true intentions but something in his eyes plead with me. They me he's genuine.
"Raven," I give in and shake his hand. He smiles at me a wide grin like I made his day and I find myself looking right in his eyes. Right at the green imperfection.
I start at the place today. I was in the city for an interview a few weeks ago and they hired me almost instantly, apparently they haven't seen a portrait artist as good as me. It's difficult not to be flattered when the most prominent tattoo parlor in Jump City calls you the 'best'. It's called Trademark and it's the place where I got my first tat.
I was 16 when I got it. This place wasn't as popular as it is now and was a little sketchy. Kor came with me, I almost convinced her to get one herself but she chickened out after she saw me cry. She'd never seen my cry before that. It hurt more that people let you believe and hurt lots afterward.
I got a black Raven on my lower back; its wings spread soaring up. The outlining wasn't too bad but the coloring in hurt like a bitch. Not to mention it was huge, the wings spread from where my elbow touched my waist to the other side. I never got another one after that. I think that tattoo's should symbolize growth and learning or as a commemoration of something important. Nothing seemed as important as when I ran away from home. Nothing has compared since.
The Trademark is now a chain, growing to three branches, one at each coast and the main headquarters here. It's a family business run by two brothers who look like they're wearing sweaters 24/7, Mason and Mendel. They're really nice and the place looks awesome compared to that shit-hole in LA. It wasn't big or glam, heck it wasn't even very clean. But it paid bills. I spent my apprenticeship there and tattooed my first scared little teenager there but nothing compares to home.
I don't know why I wanted to become a tattoo artist. Artist, that makes it sound really pompous or important. I was, I am, just a kid that likes to draw. I used to draw a lot, you know, to get my frustrations out. My school books were covered in dark pencil lines and doodles from when I got angry at home. My sketchbook had inked drawings of birds, dragons, landscaping; sketches of my friends… my friend and what I remembered of my mom. It was an escape, drawing. Jumping into a picture, drowning in ink. I never erased anything, I just made due or I started again.
I think back and a tattoo at 16 probably wasn't the best idea, you grow, your skin stretches, your mind changes, you mature. The raven on my back hasn't lost it majesty but it's aged now; a little older and a little wiser. The wings are a bit more spread and the head looks up a bit more. I suppose it continues to represent me to this very day, more ambition, more freedom, more pride. Would I go back and take it all back? Never. No regrets.
I wouldn't take back a single slap or a single word abuse because they made me who I am. I like who I am.
I was 8 when I met a little girl from the valley. Her name was Kori Anders and the first thing I noticed was her red hair; almost curly and reaching down to her butt. I wanted to draw it.
I have to admit, she tolerated me more than I tolerated her. I used to always blow her off and ditch her when we agreed to go places. Then I would feel guilty because I knew she was still at the mall or the movie theatre or the pizza place waiting for her best friend. We couldn't have been more polar opposites. That's why we were such good friends.
She watched me cry when I got my tattoo and she cried with me when my mom died.
"'Ey Raven," Mendel greets me as I come in through the door. He's the younger brother, but not by much since they're twins. He smiles showing off the part between his two front teeth.
"Hey." I walk to the back and drop off my stuff in the closet.
"Listen, we already got you a client. There's a girl that wants a portrait of her mum just under her arm. She came by this morning and dropped this off," he hands me a black and white picture of a woman on a wooden tree swing. She's smiling and laughing judging by her smile. She looks happy.
"Sure thing Menny," I say. He's looking over my shoulder and pointing at the picture.
"She wants the swing and everything, but not much of the tree," he holds up his hands in the air and shows me a distance, "About so big, that okay?"
I nod and smile back, going off to photocopy the picture. First thing's first, I have to make an outline before she gets in tomorrow morning.
It doesn't take me long to finish the outline and even less time to finalize things in my head. I do two more tattoos today, one on a man coming back from Africa who wants a symbol on his calf to remind him of the experience and another girl who comes in with her mom and wants some asinine rose on her lower back.
As I tattoo the teen's back, she chatters away about her school life and what college she wants to get into. I'm barely paying attention, laughing when I think I should laugh and nodding occasionally.
"It's sooo freakin' hot out there, babe, let me tell you. It's all this global warming business, no joke. Like 100 degrees I swear." He mom who's holding her hand nods in agreement.
"They say it only gets worse," she says.
I look up and give such a fake smile, "But you know what they say, after it gets worse it can only get better."
I hate him! I want to scream and cry and kick something or punch someone. I want to kill him, I hate him!
The cop who broke up the fight is asking me if I need a ride, but I shake my head telling him how my apartment is a few blocks from here. It's a lie, I don't know where my new apartment is and I don't know how far it is. And he obviously sees right through my lie because he offers to drive me anyways. I take a closer look and I realize its Kori's boyfriend, the one she met at some bar.
He smiles at me and says he'll drive, I nod but I'm still not listening. My chest hurts and I'm tired of sobbing. I feel like I can't breathe, I'm sobbing hysterically but I can't stop like all the air in the world isn't enough to calm me down. I shut my eyes tight as sits me in the back of his car like a felon. It doesn't help to calm me down. I realize that my hands are clenched into fists and my toes are curled in my shoes. My whole body is tense from trying to stop crying but I can't seem to relax. All I feel is anger, hurt and lots of anger.
"You know its okay to cry, you don't have to stop," says the cop. What does he know? I don't respond afraid that if I open my mouth nothing but garbled, teary nonsense will come out with a lot of swearing.
I close my eyes and will the sobbing to stop but it doesn't work.
He said he loved me. I thought he loved me. That asshole! He said he loved me. I said I love him too. The only difference was I meant it. Like an idiot.
Kori left me last night mysteriously after I met the bartender. She was grinning like an idiot to see I was being social.
He ordered me a taxi after I almost drank myself to a stupor and Lord knows what other stupid things I may have said or done. Gar. He seemed nice enough, which is a nice change from the type of guy I usually find myself dating.
This one was different, a little clumsy, and a little kiddish but in a good way… I think. So what am I doing here? I've been asking myself that the whole ride here? Why?
My cell rings and I let it ring. The sweat begins to bead in my scalp but I don't notice that it's threatening to roll down my face. I've been standing in the sun long enough to fry, wondering why I'm here. The phone in my pocket beeps telling me there's a message. It must be Kori, I haven't heard from her all day. She didn't even call to ask how I was, some best friend.
The heat of the city lingers in the air and the taste of alcohol lingers in the back of my throat. That's why I'm here. A city gal 'til the day I die, can't get enough of it and I know.
An image of the bartender last night flashes in the haze of sunlight in front of me. He's smiling, his green eyes looking at me in a way Malcolm never did. How long have I been standing here? Can he see me? I finally cross the street and bask in the shade before opening the large wooden doors.
Maybe Kori was right, I think as I move into the darkness. This is me reassuring myself, like the way you tell yourself the water's not cold before diving. It's not cold, but in your head you're convinced it is but you tell yourself otherwise. But when you get into the water, it's not as cold as you thought nor is it as warm as you'd hope. It's just enough.
He's standing there, chopping lemons behind the counter. He doesn't notice me until I get closer.
"Hi," he says with a grin, that same grin that he had when I gave him my name, "Wha- Ho-how are you? Did you get home okay?" He stumbled over his words and I just smiled.
"Yeah, I did. I just wanted to say thanks," I open my mouth to say more but stop myself and just reach into my pocket for a piece of paper. I unfold it and place it on the counter.
"That's my number, call me."
A/N: Hahaha, that was Mas y Menos! Kind of. I could probably write more in the eyes of the secondary characters, Titans East, that are mentioned here and there but I'm not going to. It's my time to move on. It's not my most popular fic but who cares, I liked it. I hope you liked reading it as much as I liked writing it.