Author's Note: One of the things that fascinates both myself and Em is the idea of Raven's entry into Earth and her subsequent meeting with the Justice League - whom she first approaches for help with her father (per the comics). And since I love character driven pieces, I finally decided to write out one version for the cartoon series.
And as it always does, it became a little bit MORE than what I originally intended.
Dedicated to Emaniahilel,
The shared-brain, and cell phones
(without which none of this would be possible)
Part 0 - Entry
She can fly, slip between dimensions with only the will and a word, yet when she leaves the Hall, she does so on her feet the way she came, dragging forward to the door, eyes downcast and head covered by a battered, threadbare scarf.
There are cruel words echoing through her head and into the recesses of her internal world, scattering thoughts of what to do now? and how could they know? and, poisoned with fear, what if she's . . . they are all right?
These accusations of evil and future destruction should not come so shockingly. Her eyes have been burned by the distinct spark of disdain, her skin engraved by the blood others wished to spill, and her ears deafened by the cries of her own people, wishing her demise. But she is shocked and hurt and knows at once that these unwanted emotions are as dangerous as they believe she is.
She bites at her bottom lip as she is faced with the bustling metropolis outside and the truth of her abandonment once more. The night is clouded and dark despite the strange torches lining the street and unbearably loud with its mechanized, too fast vehicles and the burbling of still milling crowds. She doesn't know where to look and turn, feels the barest pinprick of emotion behind her eyes and the sting of tears in her nose and tells herself the sensations are nothing more than a reaction of the alien fumes dancing around her from a nearby . . . waste recepticle.
On Azarath, she was small but present and acknowledged. Her world was large enough to still hold mystery but moderate enough to be well known and familiar, the geography limited and easily navigable. Here . . . here, she is made aware of her own seeming insignificance in this too big, confusing city with it's size and noise and gray roughed, manufactured edges.
She is lost within the folds of endless buildings and millions of people who ignore her presence, and as she paces the steps to the Hall, unwilling to take that next footfall to exploration of her new 'home', her heart hammers with unavoidable, denied desperation as she admits that she will need food and a place to rest.
She jumps then collapses in on herself in a cower. There is one of them, the silent black one with a grim mouth and blank eyes, the one who masquerades in the guise of a bat.
He approaches without hesitation despite her obvious agitation. Up until now, she had considered herself somewhat fortunate. Certainly, their refusal to help had scoured what little confidence she had built in expectation; but the small army of godly beings had not attacked her . . . even when they had agreed that she may be dangerous.
Now, he is coming for her and she has no will to fight. Perhaps they had thought to preserve the sanctity of their temple. Perhaps they had judged her too soft to dedicate their entire force. Whatever the reason, the Dark one is here, and she knows that she will put up no defense.
It is almost a relief.
Almost. His intention remains a mystery. Is he here to kill or merely banish her? She has seen enough of this world in this single day to understand justice is tantamount to mercy. Just the suggestion of the threat her presence poses would be enough to validate a swift execution.
. . . But she isn't ready to die just yet. Such a happenstance will mean nothing to the Terrible; and another seed may well work with Scath rather than against him as she has striven to. Dying would only delay his downfall and cast whatever scraps are left of her uncultivated soul into nothingness.
"Raven," he says her name again in that low voice, this time with a hint of irritation and a coat of unease. She feels the semi-cool hardness of a wall behind her and realizes that she had been retreating.
It does nothing for her pride, but as he lowers himself to her level, she cringes away, awaiting a blow or death or . . . something else equally unpleasant. She will not fight, will not dodge. Whatever punishment has been spared her throughout her life due to the fear of her people, she will take from this godly one with his dark cowl and sharp mouth and empty eyes. It is what she deserves even if she has done nothing thus far to earn it. The mere suggestion of her inaction through childhood is enough to recommend a sound reprimand.
"Raven." This time his voice is softer, somehow blotting out the distracting noises of this world's night life. His hand was on her arm, not quite holding her there, merely letting her know he was there. She had not expected such gentleness and her eyes widen slightly as he settles before her, lowering still to just under her level.
His mouth is still grim, his shoulders still tense with strength and pride, but his voice and touch are shining with kindness. It is a perplexing but welcome dichotomy. And she finds herself wishing she could smile.
Instead, she nods slightly, letting him know she hears and understands him. He nods back and distantly she wonders if those pointed appendages on his head are actually his ears. "Do you have somewhere to stay?"
Her eyes widen further when her own language meets her ears and she responds with a slightly garbled negative as that strained, prickly feeling once more rises to her face. She has known charity before, understood the signs of kindness for they had ever been etched into her teacher's face and actions; however, these small mercies had only been experienced with those she had known intimately. This man is a stranger in a strange land with an uncompromising aura and a spirit more suited to violence than grace.
She swallows hard against the lump that had taken residence in her throat since the disastrous meeting in the Hall and dares to meet his eyes. Up close, they are not the blank canvas she originally judged but the darkest hint of blue and shadowed with black. The eyes are just as uncompromising as the aura but tempered with compassion; and it suddenly comes to her in a flash of insight that once - maybe not so long ago - he was a lost child as well.
"What, exactly, do you think you're doing, Batman?"
Raven jumps again though for a different reason than startlement this time. This is the voice who claims her evil. This is the voice that taunts her now in addition to her father's. She wants to fly away, for her feet to leave the ground and settle somewhere safe. The strong hand still gripping her wrist, however, stops her before she can even take flight.
The Batman is still crouched before her like some valiant guardian swearing loyalty, and his eyes bore into hers as she watches from mere inches above trying to understand whatever silent communication he had been trying to broadcast.
He stands and faces the one called Zatana, presenting his back to Raven and shielding her from the interloper's prying eyes . . . a solid wall of flowing black cape.
"Leave it alone, Zantana." His voice is markedly different from the measured, low tones he had used with her. He sounds now as if he is facing an uncontested enemy, cold and distant and menacing. The sound of such a voice forces a shiver down her spine at the alienness of it.
"She's dangerous and you're a fool if you're allowing yourself to think otherwise. Mercy has no place when dealing with demons."
Raven flinches and whimpers quietly. Never has anyone so baldly stated their thoughts on her heritage. Never has she felt so threatened verbally. She clenches her fists and breathes into the rising desperation and anger, praying silently the three words ingrained in what's left of her rather questionable soul.
"I think it's clear that we disagree." The Batman's hand reaches back wordlessly, and Raven, still in the throes of an impromptu meditation ritual, equally silent, reaches out for that hand.
Her fingers are tiny and near insubstantial to his; however, she finds a minute measure of comfort in the contact, his strength burgeoning her flagging courage as she steps a bit closer to the wall of his body, leaving the weight of the Hall behind.
"That child has made you soft." The woman is coming forward, Raven hears the glide and click of her strange, high shoes against the cement; and she wonders distantly why the "child" feels like a boy.
"Time has made you cruel. We do not attack children, no matter what they might grow up to be." The gritty lilt to his voice sinks low and gutteral to growling, and Raven draws closer, tightens her little hand in his gloved one. Something inside that usually remains dark and quiet, stirs when he returns the gesture. There has only ever been one person to defend her, and even she had never done so with such conviction; and suddenly, there is a spark of warmth in her little bird's chest, something wet cooling her cheeks.
"Very well," Zantana does not sound happy, "have it your way; but don't say I didn't warn you when you find yourself having to put her down."
His grip on her hand turns unpleasantly tense. "She's not a dog, Zantana." She must have made a sound then for his hand suddenly softens around hers and he pulls her just a little closer, his aura threading with bright yellows for caution and reds for violent intent, as if he is readying for both attack and flight. "And I shouldn't have to warn you, but if I see you near this girl at any point in the near or distant future, I will not hesitate."
He doesn't say what he will not hesitate to do, but Raven is a clever girl and she fills in that long blank, biting her lower lip till she tastes blood.
She has only ever wanted peace, yet everywhere she goes erupts in discord.
Her free hand reaches up to bunch in the folds of the cape, her forehead contacting the hard surface of his back. She has a rudimentary grasp of the language here, and her voice cracks in a shaky, "I am sorry." Please do not fight like this.
But the tension stretches out and he doesn't back down. Finally, the stand-off is over . . . or perhaps postponed as Zatana sighs heavily then turns to go back into the building. "You're making a mistake, Batman."
"I know I'm not."
"And what is it about her that makes you so certain."
Raven looks up at him to find him looking down upon her with an expression akin to affection. "She asked for help."
"I suppose that means you're going to help her regardless of the decision made by the League."
"I'm an independent agent as well as a League member, Zatana."
Zatana snorts before the Hall swallows her into it's cavernous bulk; and Raven finds herself alone with the Batman once more. He still entertains that look, and she is still perplexed by it; but their hands never disconnect and soon enough she is being pulled down the front stairs to the dark cement path that wraps about the place to wind out towards the city canopy.
"I . . . am sorry." She tries again, the sound of the words zinging with a new strength. Her intention had been to gather allies. She had never entertained her coming would incur division.
He didn't look back, but addressed her in that soft, gentle yet unyielding tone she was growing accustomed to. "There is nothing for you to be sorry for."
Whatever thought or response rising to her lips at that moment, is not given an opportunity for communication as a roaring sound, like that of the mountain cats or brown bears of her birthplace, rushed toward them, making her ears ache and body tremble with the small trickle of fear she allowed herself to feel.
"Don't be afraid. It's just a means of transportation."
It appeared from around the corner and raced the short distance to halt before them. The thing was black, sleek, shiny, and imposing . . . very much like it's master; and despite the obvious mechanized look and sound of it, Raven could not help visualizing it's smooth lines and comparing them to the predatory agility of a jungle cat.
She could feel the tickling tendrils of amusement from the man at her side as he tugged her forward and around to the far side of the vehicle. The door(?) hissed open, rising up like the wing of a bird climbing its way into the sky. The action exposed the interior of the thing: seat-like contraptions, foot cubbies, solid lights nobs and levers, and a strange circular ornament fixed to a shelf-like structure.
Confused and not a little alarmed that he seems to be waiting for her to enter the contraption, she aims wide eyes up to him, an eyebrow cocked questioningly.
"It's a car, Raven . . . like a carriage or chariot." The latter half of the explanation is spoken in her dialect; and understanding blossoms momentarily before she must tell him the truth.
The hint of amusement wraps her up in warm ribbons of gold and lavendar; but he says nothing, just lets go her hand and wraps her on the back toward the "car."
Tentatively, she climbs in, looking this way and that, taking in the strange oiled smell and the cool, sticky material of the plush-yet-stiff seat, feeling the ominous pull of weapons somewhere in the vehicle.
She is startled and slightly uncomfortable when the Batman reaches to her nearest side and then the other, producing some sort of restraining device to cross from shoulder to hip, clicking into place loudly in the already loud night.
"You wish me to remain chained to the 'car'?"
This time he does chuckle, and though she has heard many laughs in her short lifetime, his is especially strange - grudging and understated as if he does not laugh often and isn't quite sure if he's doing it right. "Cars - particularly this one - can move very fast. The seatbelt is to keep you safe in case of an abrupt stop."
She glanced down and fingered the edge of the "seatbelt" securing her lap to the seat. "I see." Watching as he closed the door(?) . . . hatch(?) . . . she wasn't sure what to call such a thing, she waits until he is seated next to her to ask where he is taking her.
"To a friend. He has a . . . son, slightly older than you are."
"Oh . . . " Her fingers twiddle with the strap pressing against her chest, worrying that this new person will reject her as everyone else has thus far. She admits to herself that she would prefer to stay with the Batman - who hides so conspicuously - rather than a more pronounced stranger; but she knows this man's business is danger, violence, and death. She isn't built for that type of occupation. "Thank you."
That flat, unsure chuckle sounds again as one hand becomes a heavy weight atop her head. "No need to thank me."
The scarf covering her hair fell as it was compromised by the patting, and as she scrambled to put it right again, she thought that perhaps gratitude was cheap here in this world where the unimportant was so abundant and the essential so neglected that it could be so haplessly rejected.
"Will . . . he like me, do you think?" What she meant to say was Will your friend really accept me? Just like that?
Granting her a sidelong glance, the Batman continued manipulating the strange circular ornament, his mouth collapsing into that deep, grim line once again, his aura spelling out the seriousness of his response. "I believe he already does."
Coming Soon . . . Part - 1, The Gift