Note: This is directly inspired by Mockingjay, book three of The Hunger Games series written by Suzan Collins. I finished the book on the day of its release. It was amazingly well written, and captured me just as easily as the first two books. As a whole, it was very disturbing and just seemed wrong all around. I don't know what it is, but it really hit a note with me. I recommend you give the series a try if you haven't already. I actually ended up losing sleep over it.
This takes place maybe a year after Tokyo, perhaps a tad longer. Obviously a lot has changed since then.
A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbors. – William Ralph Inge
The air is warm and I can feel the fire around us.
Why are we here again, fighting a war nobody can win? We didn't choose this, we didn't ask for it. But here we are, doing what we think we do best and fighting for justice. Only this time we aren't sure which side should be winning. Granted, we aren't given much choice.
It has been a mere three months since the beginning of the metahuman war, and already the world is in ruins. Honestly, what did they expect? That'd we'd somehow work it out quietly and behind the scenes? No, this is our world too, and it doesn't take much for any of us to level a city. I don't even know how many cities are left, and I don't even know what we're even fighting for anymore. Something about some stupid law to retire superheroes. Make them disappear, scratch the ink off the whiteboard. Who agrees? Parts of the Justice League, a few solo heroes from around the world. Because in the end, it seems we're the ones that bring our personal quarrels and nightmares to Earth. Maybe it would be best for us to just go away.
We agree because Robin agrees, even though he doesn't fall under the new metahuman act. He's just a normal boy, after all. And we're still kids.
"Raven," somebody calls me. I can barely see through the gray haze, but I can make out Robin. He's noticed I'm distant.
"Are you okay?" he asks me. I nod and bring myself to stand on the slab of concrete that once belonged to an overpass. "We have to meet with the others now and the rendezvous point. We're ready to begin the mission."
The mission, right. We're here for a reason. I still feel out of place and I'm still unsure of how I feel about this whole thing, but I shove my doubts aside and listen to my leader. We begin to move through the rubble, taking cover behind whatever skyscrapers still stand. On the ground, because we can hear the planes and bombers above us and we don't want to be seen. There's very little of Jump City left, our tower surprisingly still standing thanks to a force field developed to protect the Watch Tower, which doesn't exist anymore. I don't know if I believe in what I'm doing, and sometimes I'm tempted to just take my friends and leave. But then what have I worked for? I want to erase my sins and to me, this is how it can be done.
We pass the city block where we used to eat pizzas on weekends, but I only recognize it because I can feel it, sense it. To Robin it's just another pile of ashes in the midst of a fire. Memories resurface as we pick our way downtown, heading in the direction of Macy's department store. We're to meet the others in a bank across the street which has since been renovated into a fortified outpost for humans. I suddenly remember Starfire downing a jug of mustard, Cyborg polishing his beloved car. I can see the bright sky from our living room window, the crystal blue sea shining and the sun reflected in the waters. Robin is messing with his new laptop, and I'm sitting on my new armchair. I share it with a green feline who is curled up in my lap and reading my book with me. But I don't remember it, I only want it to exist. Because right this second, I need to focus on the now.
We make it to the bank with little hassle. We are let in by heavily armored soldiers who carry guns longer than both of my arms. The extra protection won't do them much good when Superman decides to melt it off with one heated glance. But I don't want to think about our enemies right now, I just want to see my friends and be alive with them and hear them.
We are lead to the vault, which has been converted into a kind of bunker slash meeting room. There's a rectangular plastic picnic table in the middle of the room and there are five chairs around it. I can almost feel joy again when I see two of the chairs occupied with Cyborg and Starfire. Beast Boy has chosen to sit on the table, maybe because it makes him feel like he's at home. He used to sit on the tables all the time. It's not even a second before Robin and I are engulfed into solid embraces by our friends. Reunited at last! How long has it been? Days? A week? We're often separated for too long. Much too long.
"Raven! How was your mission? Did you see our cool new jets? They let me paint a shark on the side of one. But I kinda suck at painting so it looks more like a dolphin," Beast Boy says in one breath. I have seen the jet he painted, and it does look like a dolphin.
Cyborg and Starfire are busy with Robin, so I step forward and wrap my arms around Beast Boy's neck. "I think it looks menacing," I say to him. He pulls back and grins his trademark grin, and it makes me feel a little happier about the situation. As in, it makes me forget for a second that we're fighting for our lives. Starfire takes the brief separation as her chance to swoop in and tell me all about her last mission, where she was to steal massive quantities of valuable metals from the warehouse Warp has been camping out in. Apparently it was successful, because she didn't die and she's here talking to me now. I let her voice carry me back to lazy Sundays and warm afternoons. Cyborg and Robin are deep in conversation about our new mission, but I don't want to think about that.
Starfire saves me and leads me to a small layout of food on a table at the back of the room where she pulls up a chair for me and I begin munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She just watches me, and I know she's happy because we're all back together. Beast Boy pulls up a second chair directly beside me and sits so our legs are touching.
As I chew my food slowly, I turn my attention reluctantly to what Cyborg and Robin are talking about. We received an anonymous tip that someone, a human, has holed himself up inside Macy's with barrels full of the Scarecrow's nightmare toxin. This could potentially spell the end of Jump, as well as the closest surrounding States. Relieving this psycho of his cargo is a little job, and we're the people they call in to do the little jobs. We're just kids, after all. I try not to think about the awful feeling I get in the pit of my stomach and I lean my head on Beast Boy's shoulder. He's occupied himself with a cup of orange juice, probably because he was listening in as well.
It isn't five minutes before Robin says it's time to get ready. We've got to move quickly and silently. We can't let that toxin out, even if we have to shut ourselves inside to keep it in. None of us is truly worried though; we've faced worse. We stand around the table and I debate finishing my sandwich, but I can't take another bite. Cyborg briefs us on what to do in an emergency, what to do instead of flight, how to watch for mines and test for fires. We know it all though, so we finish quickly and are given one last minute. Maybe for goodbyes? No, I'm thinking too much into this. I've zoned out again.
"Hey Rae," Beast Boy brings me back by tugging on my sleeve. He's such a child sometimes. "We'll be ok. The sooner we're done, the sooner we'll be back in the tower eating cake and wishing you a happy birthday, right? Happy birthday, by the way."
I smile at him, a genuine smile, because he remembers. He's bothered to remember something so small even when we're stuck where we are.
"Thank you," I finally say. "You didn't use soy products in the cake, did you?"
He rubbed the back of his head awkwardly and turned a little purple. I laugh a bit and smack him in the back of the head, and everything seems normal. A second later, we are being ushered out of the vault and out of the bank. Robin is in the lead as always, eager to do a job well done and please the higher-ups. Cyborg has gotten just as much into it, and he's right on Robin's tail. Starfire walks beside me because we aren't allowed to use our powers for anything besides self-defense, part of the con list of siding with humans. Beast Boy has two fingers hooked around mine and is walking slightly behind me, his head turning frantically left and right, alert to every sound.
Soon I can feel the hot asphalt through the bottoms of my shoes and I realize we're just crossing the street in the open, walking directly to the front door of the department store. I guess it makes sense, since there's only one guy inside. Beast Boy lets go of my fingers and starts fidgeting. Robin is saying something to one of the men in the armored suits, so I take the chance to ask Beast Boy what's wrong.
"I don't know," he says. "Something doesn't feel right about this."
My expression remains passive when I answer him. "Robin said this mission had to be run through Batman first. If he doesn't see anything wrong with it, then there likely isn't."
"I guess. I still don't like it."
"Just stay close."
He nods and turns to Starfire when he feels her hand on his shoulder. She obviously heard us talking and seems to feel it as well. I tune out the bad vibes and focus on trying to pick out the whereabouts of the toxin-wielding madman inside, but I can't pick him out through the noise. My brain feels like static, but I think it's because I've been mostly detached today. I suppose that's a good way to describe it.
"Titans, go." Robin says. He opens the large double doors using both hands. He doesn't seem surprised that there's no lock, and it's as if he knows I'm thinking it when he turns to me. "This guy's got who knows how many barrels of fear toxin at his disposal. I doubt he's scared much of anyone."
Inside Macy's, the lights are out and the only light comes from a flashlight built into Cyborg's arm. Beast Boy immediately becomes twitchy when we pass some dainty and well-dressed mannequins. I'm trying to focus on the mission, but the feeling from before is back again. We need to find him before he sees us, before he does something insane. I'm trying hard to pick up his aura, but I can't. It's like something is blocking me, keeping me out. As a unit, we scout the aisles of the first floor before making the decision to try the next floor. We speak in hushed tones, but it's mostly Robin and Cyborg doing the talking. Beast Boy volunteers to climb the broken escalator first to scout. Nobody argues, since we want it to be over just as much as he does. Even after months, we still aren't used to pretending we're a military operation. The rest of us crouch at the bottom while he silently makes his way up.
Just as he's about to reach the top, my eardrums pop as a massive explosion rocks the entire block. I feel the ground shaking before I turn around to see the glass doors blown to bits from the impact. Part of the wall gives out and I get a clear view of the bank across the street being blown to smithereens and erupting in flames, and I can feel the scorching heat from where I crouch. Before I can even register what's happened, I put two and two together. It's a trap.
"A trap!" Robin shouts just as I hear the first round of bullets go off from the top of the escalator. They sound muffled because something's happen to my ear drums from the explosion. My first thought as I turn is Beast Boy, but nothing has hit him. He falls backwards down the stairs, disoriented and confused. Starfire and Cyborg have already sprinted because they've seen the squads of humans running in with the same guns I saw earlier, the ones larger than my arms. Humans? Everything is happening in only seconds, and just as I see Beast Boy hit the floor and make the decision to go to him, Robin's already got my arm and he's dragging me away. I know we have to get out now, but Beast Boy is still there, just lifting his gaze to meet mine. Everything is slow motion. I'm but twenty feet away when I watch a heavy black boot settle on his neck, followed by the bang of a bullet passing through his skull. I close my eyes.
I feel sharp movements as heavy arms, Cyborg's, clamp around my waist and throw me over his shoulder. I had stopped running without even knowing. I feel him run for five, ten minutes, sprinting as far away as he can get. The next time I open my eyes, Cyborg is putting me down on a steel beam some ten blocks uphill from the store. We stand there on the hill and watch until the fires die down, in plain site. Robin has two fingers on the bridge of his nose and both Starfire and Cyborg are watching with mouths open wide. I'm the first to move when I stumble forward and vomit on the cooled cement. I can't hear anything or smell anything and I don't know what to do and I can't see anything. Nothing but the boot and the bullet. I close my eyes and silently will them never to open again.
I awake to a nice view of the pale blue ceiling tiles of the medical ward. I'm trying to figure out why I'm there, and I can't find my cloak. I'm a little cold in just my leotard, but I suppose I'll live until I can find it again. There's an IV in my arm for some reason, and I've got all kinds of monitors beeping at me. I detached myself from everything and set my bare toes down on the cold tile floor. Someone has taken my shoes, I'll break their arm when I find out who it was.
I think I may go straight to Robin to find out why I was in the medical ward. Perhaps I just haven't been getting enough sleep lately. Wasn't I supposed to find something first? Oh well, whatever it is can wait. I stepped lightly down the hallway and into the elevator, pushing the button for the top floor. The elevator music is annoying, I'll have to make a note to replace it with the Wicked Scary soundtrack later. I rush from the elevator and make my way down the hall, entering the door and passing through the kitchen. Starfire is the first to notice me. She's sitting in my new armchair and she does little more than gesture in my direction. Robin is alert.
"Raven! You're awake…"
"What was I doing in there anyway? Did I overdose my sleeping pills or something?"
Why is Cyborg staring at me like that? Robin is getting up and stepping closer to me, a little too close for comfort.
"You mean you don't know?" He says. I shake my head. He looks at something on the floor. "You've been out for days… dinner is in an hour."
I take the news lightly. I've slept for days before when something's wrong with me. Dinner is soon? Good, I'm actually starving for once.
"I'll go get Beast Boy," I say. He's always starving.
I'm stopped from turning around and walking away by Cyborg's quick exhale. Robin's turned his head back up, and I assume he's looking into my eyes through his mask. Starfire is watching her toes knead the carpet. Am I missing something? Missing… why does that ring a bell? Suddenly there's the image of a black boot in my head, and I remember everything in one go. My eyes widen so much they hurt and I suddenly can't breathe. I leave the room quickly.
Beast Boy won't be coming for dinner and in my head the first thing I think of is that he won't get any of my birthday cake. Then I remember I've been out for days and it's not my birthday anymore, and Beast Boy won't miss any cake. My feet are taking me somewhere but I don't know where. I hate the war and I hate the world. The world can't take my friends away from me, that's impossible. I think I won't fight anymore, not again. Not to kill people, because everybody loves somebody. Maybe I've made people feel like I'm feeling now, and I can't believe how evil I am.
I arrive at his door and knock even though I know nobody will answer. I wait calmly until I feel better and more composed before punching in his door code. I step over the mess and the leftover pizza, and I know I'll have to remind myself to clean later before they start smelling bad. My heart is beating faster for some reason, and it makes me run a little until I get to his bottom bunk. I ripped back the covers and climbed in the bed, burying myself in the masses of pillows and warm blankets until I can't see anything and I can only smell Beast Boy. I fall asleep with a heavy heart.
It's a few days before I come out again. Someone has been putting cups of water and little salads outside the door for me. I should thank them. The first thing I do is shower because I probably shouldn't get Beast Boy's bed dirty. Someone else may want it when Robin decides to clean out his room. I go into my room, which is spotless and perfect. Dressed in a new leotard and the cloak I remember I was supposed to look for, I enter the living room and see Cyborg slouching on the couch flipping channels. I watch him flip through all 400 channels twice before Robin walks in behind me.
"Are you feeling better?" he asks me.
"No." I answer honestly.
I feel horrible and I don't want to do anything, really. For once in my life I can't solve my problems with a good book. I busy myself by making a cup of tea because I haven't had any for more than a week. By the time I'm finished, I still haven't seen Starfire anywhere, but I go back to my room anyway. But once I'm there, I want to get out. I don't want to be in my room and do nothing, it's making me feel sick again. I wrap my arms around myself and feel a hole in my cloak. I'll have to fix it before it gets bigger. I reach under my bed and pull out my little sewing kit, removing one needle and some black thread. It doesn't match my cloak, but it will do.
I get up with my things and walk back to Beast Boy's room and sit on his bed. I take off my cloak and find the hole again, and it's already gotten worse. It's a good thing I noticed it. But now I have to thread the needle, and I've never been good at that. I try three or four times before Cyborg opens the door and steps in without knocking. He turns on the light, and that's when I realize I've been sitting in the dark. I spare him a second's glance before trying once again to push the thread through the eye of the needle. I started getting frustrated. Didn't the stupid needle know that I had to fix my cloak? I had to fix that damn hole. I made an angry noise at it, maybe it will listen now. My knuckles are turning white as I grip both items harder.
I close my eyes in anger for a second and when I open them, Cyborg is taking the needle and thread and he puts it on the bedside table as he sits beside me on the bed.
"Hey," I say, "I was trying to thread that needle. I have a hole in my cloak." I lift it up and stick my hand through the hole to show him.
He lifts his hand up and seems unsure about what he's doing with it. After a second, he puts it on my shoulder.
"It'll be okay, Raven. You'll be okay."
I'm confused. What will be okay? My cloak? It would be if he hadn't taken my needle and thread.
"Beast Boy would have wanted you to move on. You know how he was…" Cyborg says to me sadly. His eyes are scrunched a little, like he's concentrating really hard. Why are we talking about him? I just have to get the thread through the eye. I just have to fill in the hole.
"I just want to fix this," I say. "This hole here."
Cyborg sighs and I don't move when he takes his hand back and gets up to leave. I watch him and wonder what that was all about. Once he's shut the door behind him, I levitate my needle and thread back into my hands before realizing I've broken the rules. I'm not supposed to use my powers. Oh well, who'll know? I begin concentrating on threading the needle again. The end is badly frayed and I just don't get it. Why won't the thread go in? I have to sew the hole…
I tried to sleep in my own bed but it felt too lonely. I hate being alone, it's no fun.
I found one of Beast Boy's baggy nightshirts and I'm wearing it over my leotard. It's got Star Wars on it and remember Aqualad got it for him for Christmas last year. I went to stand at the big rectangular mirror on his wall to brush my hair out. There are big dark grey bags under my eyes, I wonder why. It's too bad they don't make light grey face makeup so I could cover them. I think they look ugly.
Once I'm done getting ready to do nothing all day, I sit on his floor and try to meditate, but I can't clear my head. I'm still thinking about the hole in my cloak I could never fix.
At ten o' clock at night, Robin opened the door. By now I've moved to the bed again and hid under the covers, but I stick my eyes up over the blanket to see what he's doing.
"It's done," he says.
I say nothing because I'm not sure what he means.
"The war is over. It turns out some of us were supposed to…not make it. It was a plan to show the government what was really happening. That innocent people were dying and that we aren't invincible. A bunch of things like that."
Ah, so it was a plan. That's why they were humans, our own side who bombed the building and attacked us. They wanted to make a show of killing us to get attention. Beast Boy died because the higher-ups said so. That makes sense. It makes sense to me now.
"I'm leaving, probably."
But I don't really hear what he says because now I understand why Beast Boy doesn't tell me jokes or sit on tables anymore. I'll have to find whoever thought of that plan and congratulate them, since it worked so well. The war is done and we don't have to go on missions anymore. That's nice. But they seem to have forgotten something, I found a flaw in their plan. Beast Boy didn't make it! Didn't they think of that before they did it? They should have come up with a better plan, because that was a stupid plan. So stupid. I'll have to write a letter to the president, I bet he's the one that came up with the plan. I bet I could think of a better plan.
So I roll over and try to come up with all the answers.
Cyborg is standing in the door, I can see him in the dim light.
"Hey Raven, time to get up. It's past noon." He explains.
I laugh a little loudly, because that's what Beast Boy would do and somebody around here has to laugh. Maybe it will make Cyborg feel better. But he doesn't smile.
He walks over to me and lifts me from the bed, but I don't want to get up because I feel really, really tired, so I start kicking and punching his arms. I'm careful not to use my powers, even though we are allowed now. I give up trying to get away when we are halfway to the living room. When we get to the kitchen, Cyborg puts me down on a stool. I look all around the kitchen because I haven't been here in a while, and it looks really clean. Starfire is in front of me and hands me tea in a cup. Maybe I can make her feel better. Cyborg didn't laugh when I laughed, so instead I smiled widely at her, even showing my teeth. But she just looked even more concerned.
What is wrong with them? Have they gone crazy? I get up and walk away to go look out the window. The sun is shining and the sea is my favorite color. I think it looks pretty. It looks too pretty.
I still feel really tired and I want to go back to bed right now. But I don't feel good again. I feel the tears leaking from my eyes and I wish right away that I was born without tear ducts.
Something doesn't feel right about today.
And there you have it. It's a little strange, but it's nothing compared to Mockingjay. I tried to make Raven and Beast Boy not in a romantic relationship, more like they're detached from the others. Detached is a good word to describe this piece. Raven's not in love with him or anything.
Fun fact: I took the title Brave Bird directly from the move in Pokémon. Brave Bird is a powerful flying type attack that is sure to take out anything that doesn't resist it. It also does a large amount of recoil damage to the user.