I glanced at my empty shelves in frustration. Their usual occupants were now piled around me, some of them lying open here and there on the floor, some of them piled in a far corner. Right now I was shuffling through The Book of Azar for the fifth time. All I could find were tantalizing hints at magical powers, only for me to find out it was about fire-based powers, or it only applied to Azarathians. It was so frustrating to research without my powers; I had to stand up, walk over and pick up the large tomes every time I wanted to look at another book.
There was a knock on my door.
"Come in," I called, my eyes rereading 'It is difficult to break the powers of an individual for the spellcaster must break the essence of a being' for the eighteenth time.
It was Beastboy. I should've guessed he'd come by, sooner or later, from what Robin had said, but his voice was still a surprise. I looked up to see him standing awkwardly at the door, one hand on the back of his head.
"Uh…I just wanted to see if you were OK," he stammered, still not daring to step over the threshold. "Uh…I'll go away now, if you want…I mean, Robin said you were up and I just…uh…"
I didn't understand why he was so reserved with me all of a sudden. This wasn't like him. Beastboy would usually burst into my room without permission…
"Don't just stand there," I said. "I already told you to come in."
A red blush crept across his cheeks.
He shuffled inside, and with an apprehensive glance at the numerous books strewn across the floor, decided the safest place to be was near me. Smart choice, I thought to myself, some of these books are magical.
"You still haven't got your jewel-thingy on yet?" he asked after a few moments of silence. I just glanced at him, eyebrows raised. "Stupid question," he said, hand at the back of his head again, attempting a grin.
"I appreciate what you did for me," I quickly said in a soft voice. He had helped me a great deal, and I did not want him to feel nervous around me.
"What? Dig around in someone's stomach? It was seriously ugh, but I'd do it again for you. In a heartbeat."
In a heartbeat. "Thank you."
With a much more relaxed grin, he said, "Hey, what are friends for?"
I was determined to thank him – for everything he had done. He deserved at least that much notice from me.
"The cookies…" I started, not knowing what I would say next. They were delicious? End with a simple thank you?
"Didya like them?" he asked ecstatically. When I nodded, he ranted, "Man, I was really mad at Robin! He should've woken me up the moment you came to! I mean, dude, it was my idea, and he knew I was all worried, but he still sent me to my room! And like, he'd've stayed up for weeks and weeks if it was Star just lying there, the big hippo-crate!"
"Hypocrite," I corrected automatically. Beastboy, characteristically, shrugged.
"Yeah, that. It was downright rude of him to let me snore right through your getting up! I mean, seriously!"
I had no good answer to this, so I started flipping through the pages of the book again, though without much hope. During my studies on Azarath, I had pretty much memorized this, and if I hadn't found anything so far, I doubted the answer was in here. Though I even rummaged through the knowledge I had gained during my time with Malchior, there had been nothing, not even a clue. Not one word about a half-demon losing her powers.
"You okay?" Beastboy's voice cut through my musings. I guessed I looked quite severe while concentrating.
"Yes. I'm fine," I replied curtly. I flipped another page, angrily. I wanted to scream, to cry, to tear the book before me into pieces. I wanted something to happen! But nothing moved. Not even a dustbunny. I took three deep breaths, chanting my mantra in my head. I got through Trigon. I can get through this.
Beastboy scooted nearer to me. "Maybe I can help!" he exclaimed enthusiastically, peering over my arm at the maze of Azarathian written on the yellowing parchment.
I eyed him quizzically. "You don't know how to read Azarathian. Or Sanskrit."
He looked at me as if I was crazy. "You could write me what you're looking for," he said. "I'm pretty good at finding pictures as much as the next guy."
There was a lot of truth in these words, and I had no real reason to refuse his help. Besides, one look at his eager eyes crumpled any reserve I had. Grumbling to myself that I shouldn't be pressured after an ordeal, I reluctantly wrote him the words on a piece of paper.
Hours passed. My back felt like it was being twisted from bending over to look at the books. I felt like a wrung rag. Beastboy didn't look like he was faring any better either. His glassy eyes told me he was on the verge of sleep – I guessed from boredom as well as tiredness, for aside from the few English books, he was looking at rows and rows of meaningless symbols.
My call startled him so much he accidentally ripped the book he was examining. He looked down at the sound, horrified.
"Raven! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to do it, I – "
I waved his apologies away. Thankfully, it wasn't a very important tome and non-magical as well. What I would have done if it was a book from Azarath, I didn't want to think.
"It's alright. That isn't a very valuable book. I was just going to ask you if you wanted a break."
He visibly relaxed. "Oh. Heh."
I glared at him for good measure. "That doesn't mean you don't have to be careful. I will send you to another dimension if you damage one of my more rare ones. They're worth more than your life…then again, some will send you to another dimension on their own."
I smiled to myself as his eyes darted around at the books nervously, as if one of them would swallow him up there and then. Standing up and stretching, I offered him a hand.
"Let's go, I don't think there's anything I need here. And I need a cup of tea."
He took it to stand. Little popping noises erupted as he bent backwards, hands on his back.
"Ahhhhh…" he murmured. "That's better."
I had already opened the door with a swish, and soon, we were perched on the kitchen table in the Ops Room. Correction: Beastboy was perched on the kitchen table. I was sitting on one of the stools with a big mug of tea in front of me.
"So…what are you gonna do?" Beastboy asked. "I mean, since we didn't find anything."
I sipped at my tea, watching the steam rise in small tendrils.
"I…don't know," I admitted. "My library has never failed me before. Except once."
Beastboy took a large gulp of his cocoa. "Um…the Prophecy?" he whispered.
I nodded. Beastboy seemed to take that as a sign to keep talking.
"Maybe you could go to where you came from? Where was it…Azarath! Right! You keep saying it whenever you use your kick-ass powers, even I remember it."
Wordlessly, I raised my cup to my lips. My hands were shaking, and I knew that if my powers were intact, my cup would have shattered to pieces when Beastboy first mentioned Azarath.
I had never told my friends what had happened at Azarath. Or about my mother.
"I can't." My cold voice cut through Beastboy's happy plans. "It's destroyed."
He stopped. I could feel the surprise and remorse without looking at him.
"I'm sorry!" he blurted out. Then he stopped, biting his lip. Clearly, he didn't know what to say. Our eyes met. Slowly, he slid off the tabletop.
He was hugging me.
Eyes wide, I opened my mouth to protest, to push him away, but with his embrace, something seemed to break inside me. Tears started to pour down my face. I was mourning, mourning for Azarath, for my mother, for Azar…for all my memories, good and bad…
With a flash, I remembered a cold night, when I had embraced this same green boy as he lay upon a broken battlefield.
It was late at night, and we were all asleep. The sky had been cloudy all day, and as if clouds had settled into our spirits too, not even Starfire was overly cheerful, though I could tell she tried to smile and laugh for our sake.
Lately Malchior had been haunting my dreams at night. Every one of these dreams either ended with me waking up with tears still wet on my face, or sleeping serenely on, knowing that I still had my friends with me.
This time it was neither. Yes, Malchior appeared, his lips speaking every honeyed lie, every piercing, perceptive consolation. One sentence in particular stood out and reverberated over and over, his washed-out blue eyes wide and staring.
'You're still alone. Is that what you want, Raven? To be alone? … To be alone? … Alone… alone… alone… alone…'
This time it did not end with the whole team coming to her rescue. It was only Beastboy who stood between the dragon in disguise and me.
'You think you're alone, Raven, but you're not.'
And then the hug. This time he did not pull away quite so quickly…or my mind lingered on that moment as long as I needed to.
Malchior let out a roar of fire and we were both engulfed in flames and the world turned blood-red. Beastboy's scared eyes were staring sightlessly back at me, his arms still outstretched in an attempt to protect me. I started awake to a room bathed in red, and for a moment I was frightened that what I had seen was real. Realizing it was only the alarm, I quickly donned my cloak and ran a hand through my disheveled hair.
"It was only a dream," I spoke aloud to reassure myself. "Only a dream, nothing more."
"Raven, c'mon! Both Robin and Star's already hit the road and Cyborg's got the T-Car all revved up!"
It was Beastboy. His voice only served to enhance my foreboding, but all I could do was open the door, grab him by the arm and transport us both to the T-Car.
The police had already cornered a group of masked people dressed completely in black. Standing back to back in a circle, they suddenly pulled out rifles and pointed them at the advancing police and Titans. I raised my hands, ready to whip up a shield around the criminals at a moment's notice if they tried to shoot.
They didn't shoot, but all of them looked calm. Too calm. I focused on the person who seemed to be the leader, and for a fleeting moment I knew what they were planning.
With a gasp, I broke the connection and opened my mouth to shout out a warning a split second too late. The warehouse behind us suddenly burst into flames with a loud bang. Large chunks of concrete and metal rained down on us, and it was all I could do to keep myself from getting flattened, and at the same time shift enough debris to keep the criminals from running away.
A large plate of metal was headed toward Robin's head. I quickly engulfed it in my powers and used it as a kind of "lid" on top of the "box" I had created around the masked people.
Robin flashed a thumbs-up at me.
"Thanks Rae –" He was cut short by another deafening bang, louder this time. A billowing column of smoke and fire rose out of the already demolished building. Robin grabbed my hand and ran, trying to escape from the fire and the falling debris.
I skittered after him, my eyes darting around, on the lookout for anything potentially lethal that might befall us. I flashed a shield around us as a series of explosions shot off, one after the other. But just as I faced forward, the edge of my robe was buried in concrete. Robin's hand was jerked out of mine. He looked back.
"Go!" I shouted, "I'll be right out."
Smoke soon hid his shape, and I closed my eyes.
"Azarath, Metri –" A wave of smoke rushed into my lungs, and I bent over, coughing. My stinging eyes were streaming and concentration was obviously not an option. I futilely tugged at my robe, trying to keep my eyes open against the smoke.
Something green and large bounded over and thrust the rubble away with a sweep of its arm. It scooped me up in its arms, tenderly. I could vaguely hear Robin, Starfire and Cyborg's voices shouting my name and Beastboy's.
Green eyes briefly glanced down at me before the Beast swung me on his shoulder and started to lope away in the direction of the shouting voices.
I closed my eyes. Everything would be all right.
There was a rumble on my left. A large wall that had still been standing was finally giving in.
"Watch out!" I shouted, and stretched my hand towards the wall. I could feel the power coursing along my arm and gather in my hands. But before I had time to do anything, the Beast tossed me towards our friends. I didn't feel any pain as I skidded to a stop on the rough ground. I hurriedly raised myself to watch in horror as the wall crumbled in a heap of dust and flames.
Our whole team's voice was combined into that one name. All of us, forgetting our own wounds, rushed towards the place we had last seen our green teammate. Tears were already pouring down Starfire's cheeks as she flew…Robin's face had blanched to the color of cold porridge…Cyborg's lips were pressed thin…I watched everything with a detached air. It was as if my mind had been numbed with ice. I couldn't feel my own emotions; I couldn't feel the others' emotions.
Starfire ripped through the concrete, reducing the pieces to dust in her anger. Soon, she found scraps of purple and black cloth…then a green body. Starfire pressed both hands to her face, newfound tears flowing.
I numbly stepped forward.
The green flesh was torn open in several places, oozing bright red blood, while white bone glanced through the gore, like Christmas gone wrong. Had it been a scene in a movie it would have been oddly funny in a dreadful way.
The red firelight danced maliciously over the world. I remembered scared, green, lifeless eyes. The dream…
My knees gave way, and I fell, kneeling, beside the bloody mess that was Beastboy. All feeling rushed back, and I had to close my eyes to keep everything inside. Even so, I felt Anger rise uncontrollably; for a moment, four eyes flashed red. Anything that had been left of the warehouse disintegrated.
Someone, probably Robin, whispered. I didn't care. All I could see was green, red and white.
Trembling, my hands reached out for him. For a heart-stopping moment I thought his soul had already left.
A whisper like a breeze blew through my mind. I held onto it.
'Hold on to me, Beastboy, hold on!'
I clenched my teeth and eyes to steady myself; concentrated on reconstructing his smashed shoulder.
The silence stretched on and on, pulled precariously thin as I tried to seal off his open wounds before he lost too much blood.
His pulse fluttered. I grit my teeth harder.
I worked frantically, unwilling to admit to myself that his presence was weakening.
I could hardly feel him now. I pulled his soul into a hug.
'Gar…come back, we need you…I need you.'
I could feel his jerk of surprise. He drew in a rattling breath and opened his eyes.
For a fleeting moment, our eyes met.
Suddenly drained, I drifted off into darkness.
There was a gigantic shattering noise as the large window-wall of the Ops Room was wrapped in black and broken into a thousand pieces that fell, glittering, into the roaring sea.
A/N I am so sorry this took so long. I have a little breather now from college, my computer is fixed, and hopefully this will proceed along to plan. Love you all, readers, and please review!