A/N: I love this pairing. I don't understand why it isn't as loved as Yuri/Judith or Raven/Rita. I think I've only spotted a couple of other Judith/Raven fics on the whole of . Scandalous. Oh well, hopefully there are others out there who like it too.
It was rather late and Raven needed his beauty sleep, so to speak. However, a welcome sight had caught his eye.
A long antenna was peeking out from behind the small crew cabin, a tail of azure blue rippling in the cool wind.
He crept down the deck of the Fiertia, edging round the squat wooden building in the centre. He wondered what Judith was doing awake this late at night. She usually retired early so that she could rise with the dawn and speak to Ba'ul against the backdrop of a new sun.
Raven paused, and it occurred to him that sneaking up on her was probably not the best idea. He'd already gotten in trouble for spying on the girls before, and he didn't feel like being used as a human matchstick by Rita again.
As it happened, he needn't have been so cautious. Judith seemed to be asleep – slumped against the wooden wall, rocking gently with the movement of the Fiertia.
Raven crouched in front of her, staring quite openly. Not that he was ever especially covert about it, but he was also quite sure this was as close as he was likely to get to Judith without being walloped round the head – probably by Rita. It seemed odd to him that his amorous behaviour towards the krityan seemed to amuse her, and yet infuriate the teenage mage. Maybe it was just a reflection of their different temperaments. Maybe Rita was just jealous. Raven wasn't sure whether it was a good thing that Judith thought his advances were funny, but he decided to stay on the side of optimism. He'd take humour over blasts of fire any day.
He noticed that Judith's face was tinged pink from the cold, and that goose-bumps speckled her exposed skin. Raven ignored the urge to run his fingers over it. The 'dirty old man' he may be, but he had standards, and those didn't include groping women in their sleep.
Instead, Raven shrugged off his heavy coat and draped it across her like a blanket. Judith continued to sleep, oblivious. Obliviousness seemed to sum up everything about their relationship.
Raven was feeling rather chilly himself now that he'd surrendered his coat, with only his loosely buttoned pink shirt to keep him warm. However, he slumped into a half cross-legged position adjacent to her. His beauty sleep could wait a little longer.
The night's sky was marred by the purple tentacles that stretched across the world's face like an ugly blemish. The group was mostly running on adrenaline these days, dashing back and forth in an attempt to scrape together the means to defeat the Adephagos. Next up was Relewiesse, a charming holiday destination if ever there was one. Hardly the place to take a pretty girl on a date.
He hadn't had a proper conversation with Judith since revealing his identity and the instrument that had unnaturally sustained him for years. Perhaps it was mere paranoia, but he got the feeling that Judith was uncomfortable around him because of it. She had assigned herself the task of destroying the Hermes blastia, but here was one right in front of her. Even if she destroyed all others, the technology would survive as long as he did.
Judith seemed harmless when viewed asleep but he didn't want to fight her. If nothing else, it had been enough of a trial the first time in Baction. Aside from that, if they did fight again, it was likely that only one of them would walk away from it.
When the little group went their own separate ways, Raven would probably disappear. He was good at that; he'd spent years honing the talent. Once that happened, Rita would probably stay with Estelle, who would likely return to her noble life. Karol would probably try to make a life for himself in Dahngrest – he'd have to keep watch over the kid. Judith would travel with Ba'ul, and maybe Yuri would go with her. The pair had a real bloodlust, they were close in age, they had an easy-going and flirtatious relationship – they were perfect for each other.
Raven knew full well that given the choice, any young woman would go for a good-looking lad her own age, especially one with that 'brave champion of the people with swishy locks of hair' thing that Yuri had going for him. The story didn't end with her running off with a man old enough to be her father and completely reliant on a blastia she hated.
Raven shook his head. It was ridiculous moping about it. There was only one woman he'd truly adored, and she was long gone. Time didn't ease that pain enough, but time would make him forget about Judith. Easily. He was only interested because she was pretty, and scantily clad. What man wouldn't be interested? Or so he told himself.
This line of thinking would only drag him into the past, and he'd spent most of his adult life trying to suppress that, even creating an alternate identity to facilitate the forgetting process.
He pushed himself to his feet, deciding to call it a night. After a moment's hesitation, he resolved to leave the coat with Judith. He wouldn't need it in the warm cabin anyway.
Raven straightened up, stretching his weary old limbs for emphasis. A smile crept onto his lips.
"How long've you been hiding there, Karol?"
"Ack!" the young boy cried. He remained hidden guiltily behind the wall of the cabin. "How did you know?"
"Sneak around as long as I have, and ya start to notice when other people are doing it."
Karol emerged from round the side of the wall, looking abashed. He grinned slightly as he joined Raven at the prow of the Fiertia. He glanced down questioningly at the coat draped around the sleeping krityan.
"Who's the girl, then?" Raven asked slyly. Karol wasn't the only one who could attempt a little undercover surveillance; Raven had been doing this since before the kid was born.
"Huh?" Karol replied, nonplussed.
"On the picture."
"Wha–?" The boy yelped for the second time that night, clutching the photo to his chest so that the older man couldn't get a closer look, before shoving it hastily into his bag. Karol's cheeks burned crimson as he confronted Raven's knowing gaze with his own defiant stare.
"She's the one from the Hunting Blades, am I right?" Raven prompted.
"Yeah... Nan." Karol flopped onto the floor in defeat, sitting in the position the older man had vacated moments ago. He followed suit, fixing Karol with a fatherly look. If Raven had surprised anyone with his growing affection for the boy, he hadn't surprised them nearly as much as he had himself.
"So you like her, huh?" Raven said in a would-be casual voice. "You're lucky kid – it takes some guys a much longer time to find a girl who likes 'em back."
"I don't think she likes me all that much. All she ever says is that I'm too weak, too cowardly... too everything."
He grinned. "Ah, you've got a lot to learn about women, ya know. Some girls just like to pretend they're cold, when they probably care more than anyone else. Take Rita, for example."
"No! Nan isn't like Rita!" Karol cried, aghast at the thought.
"Relax, I'm just saying – don't take everything this Nan says at face value."
Karol looked thoughtfully out at the clouds that they were sailing through, his young face losing its unwanted furrowed brow and seeming more at ease. Raven felt a little spark of pride. He wasn't much of a kid person, but if he'd ever had one, it'd be one like Karol.
It felt a bit cheap giving the boy romantic advice though, considering that he'd just been sat there himself, lamenting his poor chances with Judith. But she was one person he had a hard time reading. It was simplicity itself to look at Nan and see that beneath the frustration and confusion, she genuinely cared. It was easy to see that despite Rita's short temper, she cared for her friends, and that Yuri's noble intentions belied a darker edge. Judith, on the other hand, was a bit of a mystery to him. She was just as adept at hiding herself as he was. Perhaps they weren't as dissimilar as he'd first imagined.
Karol grinned at him. "Since when do you know so much about girls, Raven?"
"Didja forget? I'm an expert on female psychology. I can tell ya what any woman's thinking."
"What about that one?" the boy asked, pointing at Judith.
Ah, except that one.
He grinned at Karol and gave a half-hearted shrug. "She's thinking: my, my, that Raven's a handsome ol' fella."
Karol snorted with disbelief. Raven could always be relied upon for a bit of humour in an uncomfortable situation. It was the best way to deal with the things he wanted to ignore and had served him well enough in his Raven persona. Perhaps if he'd transferred a little of that approach to his Schwann identity, he wouldn't have spent so many years trapped.
"Why did you give Judy your coat? You've never took it off before, even when we were in the desert. It kinda stinks now."
"Ah, well." He watched Judith fondly. "When pretty ladies are involved, ol' Raven doesn't mind what he takes off."
"You must like Judith a lot – I don't think you'd take that smelly old coat off for just any woman," Karol prompted, playing him at his own game. Atta boy.
Raven smiled, but he had no intention of answering. He'd spent the last decade and a half with his secrets locked safely within his mind. That was back when he had no one he could trust, no one that he wasn't supposed to be lying to. Now he had a weird little family, but he wasn't ready to pour out his inner feelings yet. Secrecy was a hard habit to break.
Karol failed to stifle a yawn so the old man got to his feet, ushering him back to the cabin.
"C'mon now, it's way past your bedtime. How're you gonna tramp all the way down through Relewiesse tomorrow if you're dead on your feet? It's time for a little beauty sleep, I reckon."
"Okay, okay," Karol replied in weary surrender.
He opened the cabin door slowly and quietly, so as not to disturb those inside the small room. He paused before entry, looking up at the older man thoughtfully. "I think you're pretty lucky too, Raven."
Raven raised his eyebrows. He doubted Karol's words. In fact, he doubted that the boy even knew what he was talking about. Regardless, it was a comforting thought that somewhere inside, Judith might care too.
He considered going back to wake her so that she could get a few hours in a warm bed instead of propped up against a wooden wall, but decided against it. Instead, he headed down into the cabin after Karol, leaving Judith in the company of his coat.
The click of a door being closed floated along on the gentle breeze and graced Judith's sharp ears. The noise was her indication that she was alone once more. Alone except for Ba'ul, of course.
She lifted a hand to work the tension from her neck. It was stiff from trying to hold herself in the same uncomfortable position for the past half-hour, feigning sleep, but the information she had been rewarded with was more than worth it.
What the others failed to realise, was that Judith was an incredibly light sleeper. She heard when Yuri had risen in the night to exact beautiful vengeance on their enemies. She heard when Karol sneaked gels from the group's reserves under cover of darkness. She heard when Rita mumbled sleepy spells under her breath, and as a result she was the one who kept the ship from burning down around them.
Therefore, mere moments after a heavy weight had enclosed itself around her, Judith had awoken.
She felt slightly ashamed of having eavesdropped on their conversation, but by the time she had realised the tone of it, it had seemed too late to reveal herself. And part of her wanted to know their words. Perhaps what was more interesting though was what had been left unsaid.
She hadn't considered that Raven was anything more than the team lecher, a man whose sole purpose seemed to be making lewd comments. That hadn't been what she had felt tonight. Judith enjoyed his foolish behaviour, but at the same time she could tell he was covering something. A something that had turned out to be a Hermes blastia, and trauma from the war she'd barely escaped.
Judith sighed, her breath carried away with the wind. In addition to being a light sleeper, she was also very tolerant of the cold. Whilst Raven had thought he was being helpful in giving her a blanket in the form of his coat, he was actually making her a little too warm. That was why she had abandoned the cabin in the first place; the non-krityans liked it too stuffy for her tastes.
Despite this, Judith rested her chin on her soft fabric, letting it hang about her body like a cocoon. She closed her eyes, feeling the individual fibres within the material, absorbing the warmth from it in contrast to the cool wind on her face. She could detect on the coat, the faint smell of the man who usually wore it day in, day out. They always teased him about it.
Judith's face remained an inscrutable mask. She curled up silently, breathing in the comforting smell of the coat, thinking of the one who had given it to her. In the loneliness that walked with her, this was an unexpected comfort.