A/N: Tada! See? Not dead yet!
She was feeling decidedly queer.
The wind blew right through her wool cloak no matter how tightly she wrapped it around herself and the air felt icy thin. Starfire, noting the shivers that wracked Raven's body every now and then, suggested that she go back to the police station to warm up for a bit, but the kindness was slightly offending.
She refused to be the only one not searching.
They had gotten a call that morning from the local police department who sheepishly informed them that an inmate had escaped from the city prison last night and that they might need some help tracking him down. Nothing special, just a man guilty of two murders involving drug money. Another failure who had gotten scared or desperate or both and finally pulled the trigger he swore he never would.
And now he was back on the streets in the middle of one of the coldest days they'd had all year. What an unlucky son of a bitch.
Raven shook her head and hated him for the way the snow was filling up her boots.
She watched from beneath her hood as Robin checked the map on his communicator while everyone else waited silently for their directions. Talking was scarce as everyone saved their breath to warm their hands instead. A large cloud of smoky air billowed from Robin's nose, signaling a long sigh.
"We'll follow the usual search procedures. You each have your areas assigned to you. And I've been informed that this man has no surviving family and no permanent street address. Chances are good he's staying warm in some public facility." Robin glanced up to recognize each of their nodding heads.
"His picture has been sent to your communicator to help you verify his face. Signal me if you find him and be careful. He's probably not armed but don't let your guard down."
And with that Robin dismissed them, taking care to meet each miserable pair of eyes before taking off on his motorcycle. The others broke away from the huddle with barely a mutter or sigh.
Raven stood for a moment to watch their backs fade into the foggy distance, then she turned, walked a few feet in the crunchy snow and was swallowed by darkness. It wrapped itself around her, thick and heavy but the substance provided her with no warmth.
Chilled and aching, she imagined the public square before her, thought about the shops, the pavement, the trees, every minute detail until it was crystal clear in her mind, like she was looking out a window. It hovered there before her, a small door out of the darkness. Unwillingly she urged herself towards it, feeling the physical world return as her shoes pressed against the pavement. The darkness at the edge of her vision faded.
People, startled by her teleportation, shied away and then, regaining their composure, gave her embarrassed smiles. Feeling dull from the cold, Raven began to walk. She took routine glances at each bench, stairway and building corner, her eyes sweeping the scenery for a huddle figure, a sleeping figure, or anyone who wasn't hurrying to get out of the cold.
Dumb bastard, she mumbled under her breath. The curse became a misty cloud before her face which quickly dissolved.
She walked on.
He was never a man of few words. When he spoke he often did so to fill up silence, like it was an empty glass or something and Gar could never stand emptiness. So he poured his nonsense into it, talking and taking up air with his sound until it was brimming between them. But when he stopped it emptied again, with all his efforts draining out of the hole that was her apathy.
Time and failure had taught him well and Raven began to see the realization in his eyes. But he didn't hate her because of her apathy like everyone else was prone to do. Instead he singled it out and called it the enemy; he treated it as her disease like she was some beautiful soul inflicted with a horrible case of an uncaring personality.
At some point along the line he must have understood that his mindless chatter was useless and so he changed tactics, called forth an arsenal of concise reasoning that Raven had never knew existed within him, and shot the disease in the heart.
"You are a child," he told her. And suddenly she was the small person behind the screen pulling levers and pushing buttons to control the Great Raven of Titan Tower. His four words shattered the illusion of a lifetime and stole from her an identity she had become to believe.
With a breath of truth, the great sham fell to ruin.
Under a pale sun she continued to search, her boots punching holes into the freshly fallen snow. There were only few footprints leading this direction, but her designated area also included a large park. She was tempted for a moment to move on and look elsewhere, but Robin would suspect something if she finished too quickly. Grudgingly she walked under the brick archway, following a hidden path into the trees.
Neither of them cried much. He, because he detested sadness. She, because she detested any strong emotion at all.
Raven had not known him to bend easily under the weight of depression or lost hopes. He was an optimist, the person who was always there with some upbeat phrase or comment no matter how dire the situation, like a band aid for a serious injury. Whenever there was a chance for success or survival he clung to it and beat them all over the head with it to remind them that it existed.
Nobody ever thanked him for that. Probably because no one wanted to admit that they were weak enough to stop hoping.
However, she had seen him cry. She had seen him stand before her and completely lose himself. To her it had always been a sign of weakness. And yet he had had the indecency to stand there before all of them and weep openly. He had let the tears run down the slopes of his face, let the sobs wrack his body and amidst all of the sorrow and snot and tears he had shamed them.
She could not look at him. She could only look at that stone statue of the girl he had loved and wonder about the power and conviction that lay in his heart. For that moment, broken was beautiful and weakness was strength.
She walked on, tearing apart the landscape with her eyes. She was a machine, rooting through the nooks and crannies of the trees for anything resembling a human form. But her mind was not there as she searched. It was elsewhere, busy with memories and stray thoughts which it attended to almost every waking moment of the day. It was logical however. Her present existence was dull and colorless so her mind sought the past with renewed vigor. Had her life become so routine that conscious attendance to everyday tasks was not longer required? It seemed that way, yet as much as she hated it there was still a part of her that found comfort in that stagnant lifestyle.
There was no fear of surprise, no fear of emotional overload, no fear of demands that she couldn't meet. After all, with the way Garfield was ignoring her, he was good as gone…
She didn't understand family. The others, they knew to some extent what it meant and she felt that knowledge separated her from them.
Cyborg had a picture of his family in his room by his bed which had never seemed real to her. Of course it wasn't her family but the picture didn't mean anything to her the way she felt it should. There was suppose to be a warm feeling somewhere in there squashed between a young Victor and his parents and siblings. There was suppose to be comfort and belonging and meaning, but if any of these things existed she decided it must be hidden somewhere behind their smiles.
Or perhaps these things were implied. Maybe the camera couldn't take a picture of that warmth. Maybe that warmth was supposed to come out of her and flow into the picture and not the reverse. Her own memories were cold, dark creatures that flitted about in her mind, and never came out if she could help it.
Garfield didn't have pictures of his family. He didn't have stories or childhood mementos. But something told her he had known a mother's embrace, known a father's encouragement. She was sure of it, especially when she had found him solemn and quiet one day a few months back.
He had been distracted. His eyes had the look of someone who was lost or confused. When he looked at her, he was looking inward, searching. She hadn't understood until the next day when she saw the calendar on the fridge as she was putting away the milk. The words "Mother's Day" caught her eye and she frowned. She frowned because it meant something to him and nothing to her.
The snow here was untouched. She watched her boots as they punched holes in it and thought about all these little moments in her life. She was wondering about her future when she came across a bench that had a lump on it. It was partially concealed by snow but she could clearly make out a human shape under the blankets and rags and white powder. Her heart rate increased a little as she walked closer, and her hand went to pull out the yellow communicator at her belt. She put it to her lips and pushed down the button to radio in.
"I've found a homeless man on the north side of Lake View Park. He's sleeping on a bench but his face is turned away from me so I'm not sure if it's the criminal or not."
The man didn't stir at the sound of her voice or her footsteps. She paused as Robin's voice came on.
"I've found nothing in my area. You're not far from my location so I'm heading over."
Raven acknowledge him, before putting away her communicator and cautiously stepping forward.
"Sir, please get up and keep your hands where I can see them." She called out. The lump didn't stir. Raven repeated her request a little louder. She was feeling nervous and cold which confused her.
"Sir!" She was close enough to reach out and touch him now. Her hand went forward to nudge the man in the back. There was no response and something was starting to happen to her mind, but she wasn't focusing on it.
She shook him gently, then roughly. The snow was falling off him and her heart was pounding, making her breathless. She had to wake him up so that she could take him back to the police station. Franticly, she rolled him over and continued to shake him violently.
Her eyes saw the blue lips and eyelids and pale cheeks. She saw that the face matched the definition of the criminal. She saw it all and knew somewhere in her head what was wrong, but for some reason that information was having a hard time reaching the front of her mind. Instead, Raven continued to shake the man, grabbing him by the front of his clothes and wrenching her hands back and forth. She was panting and lightheaded and confused but somehow she felt that if she could wake him up it would be okay.
That was how Robin found her, kneeling over this man and shouting urgently to him. And suddenly Robin's gloved hands were gently prying her fingers off his clothes and pulling her away and telling her quietly but firmly what was wrong and why she needed to stop.
But there was a thin wall in her brain and whatever he was saying was being kept away by that wall. After all, if it got through then there was no hope for her.
She wished he would leave her alone if he wasn't going to shut up and help her, so she fought him and yelled franticly as everything in her brain became white static. It drowned out the sound of his voice and her voice which she knew was shouting, but if she could just wake up that man and take him home then everything would be fine and she would be fine and…
It wasn't until Robin grabbed her shoulders and told her flatly that the man was dead that everything dissolved at once.
"He's dead." He repeated.
Her eyes slowly settled on the serene, marble face of death and she screamed.
Because it was her face, and she was the one that was dead.
She had died alone, with nothing, with no one. Her body had been found and people had shaken their heads because it was such a shame. And those people put her in the cold earth and lived without her. Loved without her. Remembered nothing of her because she gave them nothing of herself to remember.
She was dead and someone was screaming.
She was eating cereal in kitchen and half-heartedly flipping through the newspaper.
It was a pretty boring Saturday morning and the other Titans were either still in bed or relaxing somewhere in the tower. Raven liked having a schedule so she made a point of waking up at a decent time and having breakfast before doing some morning meditation.
She didn't hear the sound of footsteps through the crunching of the cereal in her mouth so she was a little surprised when Gar plunked down in the chair next to her looking disheveled but well-rested. He asked her for the comics, which she gave him, and they sat there in the silence reading.
For a while she let her eyes lose focus of the words and quietly enjoyed the morning: the cereal in her mouth, the smell of the newspaper, the soft noise of Garfield's breathing, and his warm presence. It was all very enjoyable, and as the moment stretched on she thought about how wonderful it would be to look forward to this every morning. This kind of thinking was unusual for her, but a lot of unusual things were happening in her life. She was getting tired of struggling against them.
There was talk around the tower. They were whispering things to each other. Raven hadn't heard the words, but she knew from their glances that they were more curious than concerned. She smiled a little to herself when she caught them in the act.
The attention was pleasing. It was different. It wasn't the normal fear and disapproval she was used to, but something entirely new.
The corner of Gar's mouth twitched in amusement as he read. She liked his lopsided smirk she had decided. His hand went down to scratch absentmindedly at his crotch and Raven frowned and rolled her eyes.
Some things never changed.
He set the comics down and leaned back in his chair to stretch. Raven watched him without bothering to hide her staring eyes. Feeling her gaze, he dropped his arms and turned to look back at her. He was confused, but smiled at her anyway.
"Your hair looks funny."
He laughed a little and the corners of his eyes crinkled pleasantly. He would have wrinkles there when he got older, she thought. Would she have them too? After all, he smiled and laughed a lot more than she did...
"Your hair probably looks the same way when you get up in the morning," he teased. Raven hid a smile and shrugged, wondering where this casual atmosphere had come from. She was so used to feeling stressed and on alert whenever he was around, but right now she was calm… relaxed.
"I hope I get to see it someday." He winked and Raven felt a butterfly tease the inside of her stomach. But when the fluttering sensation faded she was left with a pleasant warmth that gave way to a soft hum.
Thing were going to be okay, she thought.
For the first time in a long time Raven felt secure about herself. Garfield was still an unknown, and she could never hope to know what he would do next or how he would continue to change, but there was a part of her that was beginning to accept that. He must have sensed the change in her because now he was talking to her again.
There were smiles and winks that made her warm, and a glow to his eyes that she didn't think she would see again. Sometimes he whispered to her, even when no one was around, and occasionally he would touch her arm or shoulder lightly when he spoke.
She let him do it. She didn't cause fuss or friction. And right now, as he stood up and ruffled her hair before heading to the fridge, Raven began to understand something.
And outside the window the snow was beginning to melt.
A/N: Another new chapter, looong overdue. Mm, and yes, there was a chunk of time cut out between the search scene and the breakfast scene. It'll be filled in later, don't worry. Hope it's not getting boring but I promise, we'll get to the good stuff soon enough. : )