I own nothing except my ideas.
I know, I know. I said this would be up on Christmas day. Unfortunately there was a magnitude 6 quake the day before Christmas Eve Literally an hour after we had cleaned the entire house, and besides having to clean everything again I was freaked since one hadn't thrown me to the ground like that in a long time. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't bring myself to finish this in time but it's here now, a little late. I've come to the conclusion that I will never be able to please everyone with how this ends, and if you don't like it I'm very sorry and hope you've enjoyed the ride anyway.
"Miss Raven!" I called out, my voice hoarse from overuse. Silence was the only reply, and the serenity of the night appeared to be mocking me. I sighed. A cloud had passed over the moon, and what dim light it had provided in aid of my search was now gone, and I only had my oil lantern to light up the way.
Not that I should have needed anything more. Miss Raven had been here in my arms one moment, running away the next, and had not gotten more than a few feet before she had disappeared in thin air. There had been no noise of warning and I was left with the impression she had not been real at all. She had been so strange, it was not hard to believe she was an apparition or an angel rather than a mere lost girl. Once more, I raked my eyes over the spot I had last seen her and gathered no new information for my trouble.
I returned to my horse, who neighed impatiently. She was tired, and I was tired, but dammit I would not leave this road until I found that woman. Angel, or no I would find her. If not because I had my own morally questionable reasons, then because it was my duty! She had been dressed scandalously but did not seem like any of the 'public women'* I had come across in my travels. I felt the need to find and protect her, for her circumstances were far from ideal if she was fatherless and lost out here. Not that she had seemed desperate for help. Miss Raven was nothing like some of the other young woman I met who offered me sweet words and fluttering eyelashes, or attempted to cling to my arm in fear as we evacuated. Her kiss had been proof of that.
I removed my hat and thought I could feel her lips on mine. I did not make a habit of sharing kisses with strange women I had only just met. A few of the other soldiers liked to engage in such behaviours, but after seeing what syphilis could do to a man I preferred to endure the lonely nights. However something about Miss Raven had knocked all reason out of my skull. My horse looked up suddenly, and her nostrils flared in warning. I spun around to see her, standing on the very ground she had vanished from some minutes before, the horror struck expression she had left with replaced by wonder. She stared at me as if I were a ghost, unmoving.
"Miss Raven..." I uttered in surprise. I did not wish to startle her, so even though my brain was telling me to run to her I anchored myself by the horse's reigns. She blinked, and without warning flung herself into my arms much the same way she had before she kissed me, only this time she buried her face into my chest and began to sob. Guilt flooded my mind and I silently cursed. I'd shamed her with my rash decisions. She was scared, and I knowing better had still taken advantage. That kiss was not the action of a soldier in his right mind.
"Ma'am, I must apologise for my conduct-" I began hastily, though I was somewhat unwilling to move away from her. Her body was warm, but not in the oppressive way the night air was warm. It felt unquestionably wonderful to have her pressed against me, to be able to take in the exotic scent of her hair.* To my confusion, she began to laugh, and pulled her head away from my chest to reveal a smile through the tears. It was truly mesmerising, her smile. I found I couldn't tear my eyes from hers for she was looking at me as though I was the strangely wonderful one.
"I can't believe it's you." She muttered, wiping the moisture from her cheek in a swift motion that betrayed how uncomfortable she was with crying. "Don't be a moron, your conduct was just fine." She added dismissively.
"I must protest that. I had no right to kiss you." I returned my hat to my head and placed a hand on my horse's chest to calm her. Miss Raven gave me a disbelieving look and snorted.
"You are very gallant, aren't you Ja- Soldier."
Was it the night playing tricks on me once more, or had she been about to say my name? I felt she must have been, though I had never supplied it. I should have been frightened by this, I suppose, yet I wasn't. Death was a master I faced everyday now, and if it happened to come in this form I knew I would be counted lucky. I would rather die looking at this face than down the barrel of a gun any day. If she was a danger I didn't care.
"I don't think so, I haven't thought to introduce myself yet." I said. "My name is Major Jasper Whitlock ma'am."
She looked at me, face flushed with a strange sort of hopeful look that didn't quite seem comfortable on her face. She opened her mouth and hesitated, her eyes raking mine for something before she finally settled.
"Pleased to meet you Jasper."
It wasn't quite proper to address me so, but I found I didn't care. There was something about how different she was to anyone I'd ever known that drew me in and I thought I wouldn't care if she were a prostitute after all. Unsure what to say to her after this thought, I gestured to my horse.
"We should hurry." I said, thinking of the soldiers I needed to return to once my job was done. They would never believe this story. The woman blinked in confusion and looked to my horse as understanding crossed her face.
"You're right." She said, almost sharply. "We should get going."
Once again she got herself up as if it were no trouble, and I glanced her long legs under her travelling cloak. She saw me looking and smiled in a dark sort of way.
"You must think I'm a woman of easy virtue." she noted, the final two words said with particular amusement.
"You're no common hooker." I replied, pulling myself up on the horse, anticipating the moment when her hands would grasp me to keep from falling off. There was an easiness to conversing with her, as if we'd been doing it all our lives.
"I'm much worse." She whispered after a heartbeat's pause. I found that hard to believe. I told her so, and we were off down the road. The conversation carried, and I found myself willing my horse to walk so slow we were barely moving, desperate to prolong it. Every time I turned my head to her the meagre light of the stars highlighted once more the unusual vibrancy of her hair and eyes, and after commenting on it I turned back the next time to find her hair was much blacker than I remembered. The sudden switch from violet to ebony seemed to confirm she was magic. I concluded that I was right to have thought her an angel. There was a knowledge in her eyes I couldn't explain, as if she were on a mission from god. And while I was regretful when we finally sighted Galveston, I had the oddest feeling this night would not be the last we spent together.
The roof was always a good place to come and think if you wanted some peace and quiet. Especially now that I was the only one who knew that. This time last year, I might have had company in the form of my missing team mate. We might have shared the space in silence. I slumped down to sit at the edge of the roof, my feet dangling over the ledge and gravity daring me to fall, an inexplicable pull towards death. I wondered if Raven had felt the same urge to jump. I wondered if she'd actually done it.
In the last month we'd had Aqualad down scourging the Ocean floor for a sign of her. He'd mapped out the tides and figured out where a body would have been carried – if there was one – and promised to search until he was sure she wasn't down there. He hadn't come up with anything, so we'd ruled out the possibility she'd jumped from the tower since we hadn't found anything on the rocks below. Yet it didn't stop my imagination the same way it didn't stop the others from thinking she had killed herself.
Somehow, I knew she hadn't. Raven wasn't the type to give up that easy. The only problem was, there was no other way to explain why our bond had disappeared. If she had run off somewhere, I would still feel her like a pinprick at the back of my skull. Right now there was no one but me in my head. I would have been convinced she'd been murdered, if not for the ring she left outside Starfire's room. There was no explanation for Raven's disappearance, and it was driving me insane.
Slade was nothing but a distraction from discovering the truth now. Raven was the thing that kept me up at night, pouring over security footage. The Tower's cameras told an upsetting story. Straight after Cyborg had brought her to her room, she had teleported straight back to the freezer with the usual flash of blue energy. She'd sat there for a while, and then disappeared. Only this time, no flash of blue. She simply reappeared outside Starfire's room like she'd walked right up to the door, and even stranger, the ring had already been lying at her feet. She knocked, closed her eyes, and then disappeared once more. Without a flash of blue, and not to show up anywhere else in the Tower, at the same time her communicator went off-line. Something about it was bugging me, like I knew what had happened but couldn't access the knowledge in my brain to save my life. Like I was groping around in the dark for an answer I knew should be right in front of me.
"Goddamn it!" I swore into the wind. I couldn't figure out where she'd gone and I couldn't accept she wasn't coming back until I did.
"Having a hard day?"
I stiffened. That voice. It was impossible. It was Cyborg and his vocal modifier messing with me. And yet... Cyborg wouldn't do that. That was far too cruel to be funny, not even Beastboy could mistake it for comedy. I was imagining things. I was imagining Raven's voice just as I was imagining the old bond flaming back to life in my skull. I turned my head, yearning to see, even if it was only empty space behind me. I found to my disappointment (relief?) that there was nothing there. The voice, and the sudden feeling that Raven was close must be a delusion brought on by too many sleepless nights and the wind.
"Over here boy wonder." I jumped and looked to my left, and there she was, looking her usual emotionless self. Altered by something, but there nonetheless. She shot me a sarcastic smile and sat down beside me, with her feet dangling over the edge of the roof. I gaped at her- there was no exclamation explicit enough to encompass everything I was feeling. As much as I would have liked to have stared at her for a while, there were pressing matters to attend to, like how she was here. If she was just a figment of my imagination, then that was fine but if she wasn't...
"What happened to your hair?" I asked dumbly. It was the first thing that came to mind. Her usually violet hair was now Raven black and tied back, though a few shiny curls escaped at the front, obscuring her chakra from view. Was it pretty? Sure. It just wasn't the Raven I was used to. Maybe she'd taken off to some other city after all, though I didn't understand why our bond had disappeared if that was the case. I supposed it was possible she had the power to numb it, and the thought sent a thrill of joy through me even though I knew I should be furious with her.
A Raven that had run off without a word to her team mates was a thousand times better than a dead one. She'd been grieving all those months ago when she went missing, and I knew better than most that grief made you act out of character, or rather, more yourself than ever before. In that second I knew whatever she'd done, I would forgive her because more important than anything else was the fact she was alive and well.
Raven, or the figment of my imagination that appeared like Raven, ran a hand through an ink-black ringlet dismissively, momentarily revealing the blood red charkra.
"I didn't think my hair would be the first thing you noticed." She dead panned. "but since you asked, I had to change it to fit in."
"Fit in where?" I asked. She tilted her head to look at me, and I saw the curve of a slight smile.
"Guess. I know you like figuring these things out yourself." She said, and it was such a Raven thing to say I knew it had to be her. My mind couldn't have conjured such a complete copy of the girl I'd known, and there was no reason why my mind would have changed her hair, or her face for that matter. There was a quality to her that hadn't been there before. Was it just me, or did she look slightly older? "You won't admit it Robin, but you'll be mad at me if I tell you straight away."
"Can I at least have a clue? Even Slade leaves clues." I said. I felt dizzy, like I'd been sucker punched. I wished Starfire would come and find us, just so I could have proof she was really here in the form of a witness.
"I actually can't believe you haven't figured it out already." She replied. "Do I look any different to you?"
I nodded, and stood up to get a better look at her. She didn't snap at me to stop staring, which surprised me. Maybe it was the change in hair colour, but her skin looked more pale than grey and her cheeks had a pale flush. She gave off the impression of having been out in fresh air.
"You look older." I noted.
"Gold Star. I'm about twenty four." she replied, maddeningly casual.
"That's not possible." I snapped.
"Wrack your brains and I think you'll find it is." she said wryly.
I tried, but I couldn't think with her staring at me like that. We'd spent the past few months dragging the rivers and searching the bottom of cliffs for her body and now she was sitting with me on the roof like old times, claiming to be six years older than when she'd left.
"Whatever the hell you're talking about," I said slowly. "you look better. You're being all sarcastic and mocking like you used to."
She looked out to the city and nodded.
"I feel better." she paused. "I can see that you're tired, and we'll blame your failure to think hard on that. So here's your clue – remember when Jasper broke my wrists?"
I marvelled that she said Jasper's name so casually when a few months ago she hadn't been able to bare acknowledgement he ever existed. I did remember, he'd gotten made because he remembered she'd-
"Tell me you didn't." I said in a low voice. Horror and awe rushed through me as everything fell into place. There'd been no blue flash when she'd disappeared from the tower because she hadn't teleported, she'd time travelled. Her communicator had gone off-line because she'd disappeared from our time completely. She looked older because she'd spent the past six years somewhere else. In another time. I knew she had loved Jasper more than she'd ever loved anything, but never had time travel clicked into place in my mind because I hadn't known she'd loved him that much. Enough to leave us and risk everything.
"That would be a lie." She replied quietly, looking out at the city.
"But how? Shouldn't everything be different if you went back?" I jumped up and started pacing, my mind struggling to follow. If she went back to save Jasper, shouldn't he simply be here? Why was she older, and where was he?
"Don't believe everything you read in science fiction, it's all bullshit. As far as I can tell, because I went back and actually changed something as opposed to the first time I went back, I created a sort of alternate reality so this one stays the same, you follow?"
I shook my head. How the hell was I supposed to follow that? Einstein would have trouble following that. Raven sighed.
"It's like this – the first time I went back accidentally, and I only kissed Jasper. Because I didn't affect anyone's decision in the past, history allined to fit that memory according, the way it traditionally does in television and movies. However, this time I went back and altered decisions. I... I went back to 1863 and fixed things so Jasper was never changed into a vampire. The Vampires who changed him had to move on, and I changed the course of history. Nothings for sure, but I think it caused a split. I think, because I was born in this time and there can't be two of me in one reality, I made two separate ones. That's part of the reason why I came back. To check nothing had changed here. To check you were all still... you."
"You're making me feel sick." I muttered. I couldn't follow this conversation, but it wasn't the science of time travel I was interested in anyway. It was all background noise to the real problem. Raven had fucking time travelled, after I specificly told her not to, and she'd aged six years. "I can't believe you did this." I snapped.
"Can't you?" She asked mildly, unperturbed by my anger. "You're telling me that if you discovered you had the power to go back in time and save your loved ones from death, you wouldn't do it?"
"That's not fair." I narrowed my eyes. My family wasn't the topic of conversation here. She met my stare, unflinching.
"You're right. It's not fair. Because you can't." She stood up to mirror me. "But I can. I did."
"You left us!" I said, and after my exclamation there was silence. The accusation was everything. It was the root of my anger, and the real reason she'd come here. It was the barrier standing between us. After all, it wasn't time travel that had me worked up. My social circle included a part-robot, a changeling, a demoness and an alien. Time travel should be a non-event for me. What really upset me was that she had up and left without talking to anyone about it, and had let us think she'd been killed, or worse, killed herself.
"That's the other reason I came back." She said softly, curls moving gently in the breeze. "To apologise to you. I know you'll understand."
"Oh? Why do you think I'd understand?" I asked, fuming. Understanding wasn't exactly my most celebrated trait.
"Because you knew how much I loved Jasper." She said, eyes beseeching. "You called me back in Forks, and even though you disapproved you told me you understood."
"Fine, I'll give you that. I get that you loved him. I don't get, however, why you couldn't just use this magic time travel ability to bring Jasper here!"
"I choose to save him from the Vampire's that changed him, rather than the ones that killed him, for a reason. He hated being a Vampire. I remember him telling me how hard it was to outlive his entire family, and how he was terrified of outliving me. He wanted to be human, so I went back to a time when he didn't even know me to do that." She said irritably.
"None of that should have stopped you from saving him and then bringing him back to our time." I repeated. "It sounds like you're telling me you've spent the last six years in 1800's Texas!" She fixed me with a hard stare.
"You would expect me to pluck him from everything he knew, from everyone he loved, so I could be more comfortable? It was my decision to save him and the consequences will remain mine alone. If I had brought him here, he would have to deal with the Cullens crawling all over him and I would have had to immediately explain what had happened. I would never force him to adapt to that."
"So instead you decided you would just have to adjust to the civil war?" I asked incredulously. That seemed an enormous sacrifice to make.
"You think the adjustment between here and the past is so big? You should have tried the adjustment from Azarath to Earth. Coming from a pacifist dimension where cussing was considered the height of aggression, to a place where people are murdered for less than a dollar and a grudge was harder, trust me on that." She snorted.
I guessed she had a point about that, but she still didn't fit in with the image of post-civil war America High School had ingrained into me. Nothing about what she had done spoke of Raven at all!
"I just can't picture you in a frilly dress." I shook my head. Even the ringlets were too different. She smiled lightly.
"That's why I wore my uniform. I thought it might freak you out if I showed up full gone with the wind."
"You don't seem the type to go Scarlet O'Hara to me." I said through narrowed eyes. "It's just not you."
"On Azarath I wore skirts and robes, on Earth I wore pants and in the 1800's I wear a dress. It's just clothes Robin. It's not a real sacrifice to save the man I love, and they're not all frilly."
I was silent and she looked uncomfortable. "I do get sick of the layers, though the social aversion to make up was welcome."
"What about being a hero, huh? Please don't tell me you gave it all up to be a Southern Belle."
At this, she shot me a familiar derisive look.
"You think the deep south is the land of milk and honey pre-1900's? Crack a history book and you'll see there's more work for me there than there ever was in Jump. I do as much as I can without getting seen or playing god."
"Well, what about you're accent?" I asked, clutching at straws.
"People assume I spent time in the North, if I talk to them at all. I keep to myself."
"And Jasper's worth all this?" I asked, defeated. "Worth leaving the Titan's?"
"You will always be my family." she said. "But everyone has to leave home sometime. I knew you would all be better off without me - don't interrupt!- considering how horrible it was after Jasper died. You'll all get over me, especially now you know I'm happy. Jasper... I love him. What else is there to say, other than I'm sorry I had to hurt all of you to save him?"
"It can't be the same." I shook my head. "There is no fucking way I'm buying into Jasper being the same person in 18-whatever as he was when you fell in love with him here. Sure, he hated being a Vampire, but that's who you fell in love with!"
She turned away from me, shoulders hunched, to look out at the city once more. When she turned back, it was with a huff as if she didn't want to talk about it.
"I'll be honest with you Robin." she sighed, letting her shoulders slump. "That was what scared me the most. Jasper and I bonded over being able to feel others emotions and having such difficult pasts, and the Jasper that met me when I went back to 1863 was different. I wont pretend he was the same man I fell in love with. He was much more hopeful than the man I knew, and much more human, though that was never a problem. You forget, however, that he was a soldier. The war was still going on when I saved him from the Vampire that was meant to change him, and we had to be separated for a while. At that point it scared me how different he was, but by then I'd gone so far I knew I had to give it a try. We wrote until the south lost the war and he came back to me."
"It doesn't sound like a great life so far." I interrupted. She silenced me with a look.
"It wasn't that bad. I spent the time adjusting and studying." She paused. "I'm a doctor*. If my patients heal a bit faster than strictly proper, they put it down to my skill. Anyway, by the time he returned from the war he was more like the Jasper I fell in love with. He'd seen a lot of his friends die, and the Confederacy was defeated and he wanted nothing more than to forget about all of it with me."
"Cyborg will be so pleased you married a Southern cowboy."* I snorted. Raven rolled her eyes.
"You don't seem too angry about it." she mused. I guessed I wasn't, simply because I couldn't find any more holes in the life she'd chosen for herself. If Raven wanted to go gallivanting around Texas in shawls and corsets there was not a damn thing I could do to stop her. I shrugged and struggled to articulate what I was feeling, because I could barely make heads or tails of my emotions myself.
"I guess... what's done is done and I can't really argue with how... happy you look." It wasn't like she was beaming, or glowing, the way Starfire did. It would take someone who really knew her well to spot the subtle changes of Raven's emotions, as well hidden as they were. The last few months I'd spent with Raven she'd been listless and downright depressed, grieving for Jasper like her reason for living life had been stolen from her. Now she was rosy-cheeked and sarcastic, happily coupled up with the love of her life and a doctor to boot. She was right to say I would be able to carry on. Now that I knew she hadn't killed herself, or been murdered, or had any of the other horrible things I'd imagined happened to her... now that I knew she was, in fact, happier than she'd ever thought she would be, I could let her go. The others would too. At the end of the day all we ever wanted for Raven was happiness. She deserved it.
"I should get back." She said uncomfortably. "Jasper's out chopping firewood* and the longer I'm away the harder it seems to return to the exact time I want."
"Does he know about... your powers?" I asked, feeling similar. This was her new (old) life, and I could never be a part of it. I wasn't sure why I felt the need to ask all these questions now that I knew she was okay. She smiled again, her wry upturn of the mouth that meant she was content with life and forgave it for all the wrongs it had dealt her.
"I told him when he asked me to marry him. He knew I was coming here, just doesn't want me to be long." she hesitated. "He refuses to call me a demon. He calls me an angel instead." She said it to reassure me, and for a second her voice was vulnerable and my heart swelled up with an emotion I couldn't name. Raven closed her eyes, and I felt like she would disappear any second until she opened them again. "One last thing. Have you heard from the Cullens?"
I nodded. I notified them a couple of weeks after Raven had disappeared and got a phone call in response.
"Carlisle, Esme and Alice are preying for your safe return."
"I expect Rosalie's best wishes got lost in the mail." she said dryly, and I snickered.
"They're all headed to a high school in Alaska as far as I know." I added, and we shared a look.
"I guess it's a good thing they don't get bored too easily if they're going to live forever." She said. I nodded in agreement and there was nothing left to say. I knew I should demand that she stay, repremand her for being so selfish, call the other Titans in for help, but I couldn't bring myself to do any of those things because after all this time Raven had achieved the impossible. When she left, she was leaving to a brighter future (past) than the one here, where Jasper was dead and she was barely living. Right now I was not her leader. I was her friend, and always would be. We were bonded friends before we were Titans, and as a friend I knew her decision was the best thing and I had to let her go.
"You can always come back, if things don't work out." I said quietly. She nodded, not one for big emotional scenes. I didn't expect a hug goodbye, nor did I want or need one.
"Take care." She murmured, and then she was gone without the flash of blue energy I was so used to by now. Lost to time forever with no way to pull her back to us even if I wanted. Instead of feeling angry, or filled with sadness, a sense of peace washed over me and I sat back down on the roof ledge. I had hours before I had to tell the others, and those could be spent daydreaming. Only now my imagination would be filled with blond, violet-eyed kids playing Cowboys and Indians while Raven watched in the background, rather than her lifeless body hacked to pieces and hidden away. In my minds eye the image of her smiling at Jasper replaced the image of her grief-stricken face after he died. Instead of regret, I felt relief, and I knew we'd all done the right thing.
*Apparently a Civil War term for a prostitute. I did some research for this people.
*I imagine the exotic scent Jasper refers to is her frangipani shampoo and conditioner.
*There were a few female physicians around at the time of the Civil War, I checked.
*Robin assumes correctly that they are married because you can't live together in this time unless you put a ring on it.
*Sexy image, am I right?
Thanks you to everyone who has ever reviewed this story, but especially to those who've revieved almost every chapter (AngelicToaster, Regina Lunaris, DriftStar and SuperOreoMan to name a few). I've loved all your opinions, they really helped me make it to the finish line. Thanks to Dragonfriend for giving me the idea so long ago and being my beta for so many earlier chapters. Thanks to whoever the hell invented the Teen Titans and thanks to Stephanie Meyer, for being so goddamned crazy and writing Twilight, it's given me days of entertainment. I hope you all enjoyed Falter and R&R this one last time.