Disclaimer: I do not own or have any rights to the Teen Titans.
It was a fairly typical Wednesday night, Victor was on patrol, and Dick and Kory were on a date, leaving Gar and Raven to their own devices. Normally, video games and comics would have kept Gar entertained all night, but for some reason they stopped being interesting forty-three minutes ago. Maybe he really was bored with two of his favorite activities, or maybe the chance to play a good game of tag was too much to pass up.
Exactly, forty-three minutes ago Gar heard the subtle sound of a window sliding open, and all of his senses told him that Raven had left the tower. Since she didn't tell him or anyone else about her evening plans, Gar was left with an excellent opportunity to practice his tracking skills. Not knowing her end destination meant he had to rely solely on his senses and instincts.
Luckily, she didn't teleport out of the tower, which would have deprived him of a scent trail. His sensitive ears told him that she had left through her bedroom window. There wasn't time to use the same window as his exit; no, he had to act quickly, he had to leave as soon as possible or he would completely lose her trail, so out the common-room's window he went. Fortunately, both Raven's bedroom and the common-room faced West, so Gar didn't lost any time circling the building to spot her in the sky.
Pursuing Raven definitely required a certain amount of skill. Her ability to fly and teleport kept Gar from relying solely on his sense of smell and sight. Since her demon senses rivaled his animal senses, there was an extra layer to the game. And her ability to read emotions forced him to keep a certain amount of distance between him and her, at least until he was ready to end the game and pounce.
Of course Raven despised this version of tag: she claimed it robbed her of her freedom and privacy; plus, it was just plain creepy.
Tonight he took the form of a falcon, hoping that it would be small enough to escape notice but large enough to keep up. After thirty minutes of struggling to remain on Raven's tail, Gar flapped his wings a few extra beats, increasing his speed, and thinking to himself, "Man, Raven is really booking it tonight."
Then, without any warning, Raven abruptly dropped from the sky, free falling towards the earth. Just as Gar's heart caught in his throat, she used a bit of her black magic to decrease her speed, allowing her to land softly on a patch of grass before running off, disappearing into a field of sage.
Still trailing Raven, Gar sharply veered downward, landing inches away from where she had touched down minutes earlier. He only wasted a few seconds transforming into a large mountain lion and catching her scent by putting his nose to the air. As Gar bounded through the field of purple flowers that Raven had disappeared into, he began struggling to find her aroma. The herb's fragrance obscured his teammate's smell. In fact, the purple flowers made his nose itch a bit every time he inhaled, and they were so tall Raven had disappeared entirely.
It was time for plan B, search by sound. Since Raven wasn't wearing her cloak tonight, the sound of rustling fabric which typically accompanies her wherever she goes wasn't with her to signal her location. However, she was running, running very fast, causing her heart to pump extra hard and extra fast, giving Gar a homing beacon.
His padded paws were almost ricocheting off the ground; as soon as they touched down they bounced upwards again, propelling him forward, bringing him closer to Raven's excited heartbeat. Every muscle in his feline form was aiding him in his pursuit. His tail bobbed and shifted behind his body, affording him grace and speed. His legs and flanks stretched and contracted slinging him forward as his ears remained set to her heartbeat.
Gaining on Raven, he hardly noticed the spiky flowers brushing against his furry sides, but he was very aware of the moment he managed to recapture Raven's scent.
Raven wasn't like the hundreds of girly girls marinating themselves in perfume, trying to disguise their smells, she rebelled in being natural. Her pheromones danced near the surface, just under the smell of her soap; there were times when her scent could almost be tasted.
As her aroma became stronger and the "fun" of the hunt consumed him, he longed to regain possession and use of his human hands. With these thoughts and desires spurning him on, it wasn't long before he was on Raven.
Slamming her to the ground he felt a wonderful moment of triumph. His paws were placed on her shoulders, and his two-hundred and twenty-two pounds of feline prowess kept her pinned to the earth.
"Get off!" Raven screamed as best as she could with a large beast squeezing most of the air out of her lungs.
Remaining on top of her, Gar shed his animal appearance, taking his human form again, and as he transformed, his hearty panting turned to laughter.
"Oh man, you should see your face," Gar hollered as his fingers curled around Raven's shoulders.
"Yeah, yeah, you got me; now, get off!" Raven screamed; it was slightly easier to raise her voice, her breath wasn't being completely stolen, but there was still a heavy weight lying on top of her. Even though Gar had downsized from a mountain lion to a man, he was still rather big. Standing at six foot three and made up of nothing but muscle, he was like a boulder squatting on her stomach.
"Why don't you make me?" he teased, cocking one eyebrow with a cheeky smile spread across his face.
"Seriously, get off! I don't have much time." Raven screeched through gritted teeth as she raised her head off of the ground, attempting to give weight to her demand.
With her last sentence, all of Gar's mirth and excitement vanished. Releasing her shoulders and leaning back to rest on his hunches, Gar asked, "Why haven't you thrown me across the field?"
"Gar, I don't have time. I'll tell you later at the tower. Just get off!"
"No, not until you tell me what's going on."
"You're bruising her abdomen," interjected a middle aged woman with lavender eyes standing to the left of the pair. Somehow this woman had approached them without Gar's sensitive ears picking up on her footsteps or breathing. Begrudging, Gar moved off of Raven's small body, never taking his eyes off the strange woman standing next to him and his teammate.
This woman had black hair pulled back in a loose, messy bun with strains framing her fair face. Her resemblance to Raven didn't end with their coloring. She also shared Raven's short stature and full lips. The woman's robes hid the contours of her body, but Gar suspected she also had Raven's generous curves.
Immediately, he wondered if this woman was Raven's mother, as the thought jumped around his brain, guilt began to grow in his heart; he had interrupted Raven's time with her mother.
"No, I'm not Raven's mother, but we are related." Gar stood in a stumper with his shoulders and jaw hanging as the robed woman stepped towards him, extending her hand, "My name is Avocet Prideux…seer. I see what was, what is and what will be." As she uttered the last bit, she turned, facing Raven, lavender eyes meeting lavender eyes. Obviously, Avocet wasn't upset or hindered by Gar's presence since she was ready to discuss Raven's pending future.
Raven shifted her eyes to Gar; then, swallowing hard, decided to proceed, despite the unwanted company.
"It began a few months ago. At first the dreams were nothing more than jumbled…bloody images. Then, I spotted a familiar face, Envy; he was surrounded by members of my father's cult. Now, the dreams show me slices of time, meetings between the cult leader and Envy. I don't…I want to…are they planning on killing me?"
"The cult plans to draw your soul from your body to place it in a younger body made from the blood of their sacrifices. Once they have attached your soul to the new body, they'll create another portal and kill you immediately afterwards. They don't want to risk giving you the chance to banish Trigon again." At that moment everything in Raven wanted to crumble inwards. "But it has not been determined if their plan will be successful. I still see multiple futures. Meaning it does not have to end with your death."
"Is there any way to stop Envy and the cult at this stage?"
"No. They will capture you and they will gather blood from numerous sacrifices. Whether or not they'll draw your soul from your body and bring Trigon to this dimension has not been determined. Those things are dependent upon many factors. However, there is a way to stack the odds in your favor."
"Your friends were the tipping point last time; they stood against Trigon, searched for you and brought you back. Their love might be able to save you again." Avocet paused as she turned away from Raven's anxious face to Gar's distressed expression, "You are a very good tracker, aren't you?"
"What?" Exclaimed Gar, slightly dumbfounded by the sudden change in the topic.
"You managed to follow Raven though the air and across my field of sage that's suppose to obscure the senses to hide my home on Earth. That's quite a feat. Now, image if the bound between the two of you were stronger? You could find her anywhere, no matter the magic. I have a special tool that will help you strengthen your connection. Though, please keep in mind it's only a tool, you and Raven must do the actual work. Now, I need the two of you to stick out your hands." Despite being slightly hesitant they raised their arms and presented them to Avocet. She pulled a golden cuff from the pocket of her robe and clasped it onto Raven's left wrist. Then she removed an identical sliver cuff from her other pocket and placed it on Gar's right wrist. The hazy light from the moon didn't allow Gar's eyes to take in many of the cuffs' details. He was able to see a delicate design etched into the precious metals, but he would have to wait until he was back at the tower to fully appreciate the cuffs' patterns.
Still glancing down at this wrist while moving it from side to side, hoping that the light might illuminate just a few more details, Gar asked, "What are these things?"
"Before I give you that answer, Raven must promise to remain clam and levelheaded….Oh hell, what am I thinking, there's a better chance of Trigon turning into a puppy. Raven, you'll have to forgive me." As the last words left her mouth, Avocet's arm past in front of Raven's face in a circular motion, transforming her into a white, marble statue.
"Is she, um, okay?"
"Oh, she's perfectly alright. She can hear and see everything around her, she just can't respond or move, and for the next few moments that's preferable. Now, those cuffs," she said, lowering her chin to glance down at the piece of silver encircling Gar's wrist. "A millennium or two ago there was a king named Shallot Gundhun. He inherited a kingdom filled with broken, poor and distrustful people. Generations of his family's warfare and greed left the Kror Hom Kingdom severely off balanced. A few were very rich while the multitudes were very poor. No attention was given to the land's agriculture, so most of his people were malnourished or starving. And no moneys or interest had been given to his kingdom's arts, sciences and magics in centuries, therefore Kror Hom lagged behind other kingdoms in most aspects…Shallot was only sixteen when he inherited that mess. By the grace of everything that is good, he knew not to follow in his forefathers' footsteps. Under his leadership his people grew strong and prosperous, and Kror Hom became one of his world's leading powers. But there was a problem…actually, two problems, Shallot's sons, Eschalot and Ashkelton. Despite Shallot's progressive approach to kingship and family, his sons didn't share his philosophies. They were throwbacks to his father's era; only concerned with power and wealth. And they were willing to divide his kingdom and kill each other just to be the one with the most. As Shallot faced the final chapter of his life, he was at a lost. He knew if they could see beyond their want for power, or their brotherly rivalry. But he also knew that they each had the capacity to be great men and possibly great kings...But as things stood, he knew if he placed the crown on either one of their heads the other would raise an army and drown the land in blood. If Shallot dared to name one of his nephews or cousins then he would be signing that poor relative's death warrant. And naming both of his sons as king, asking them to share and work together was out of the question…or was it. Shallot believed that he could teach his sons to corporate and share with one another. But he knew it would take a magical intervention, so he consulted many sages and wizards; together they devised a plan. Consolidating their knowledge and magics, they created those cuffs," Avocet said as she pointed to Gar's wrist. "In one hour you'll discover that they'll strip their wearer of any inhuman abilities, meaning you and Raven will be human; not half animal, half human or half demon, half human; human. Shallot needed to level the playing field between his sons, so…the cuffs take away any extra abilities a person might have...You'll also discover in one hour that the cuffs will suddenly become drawn to one another…like magnets. You and Raven will essentially be handcuffed together, forcing you to face every struggle together, endure every pain together and experience every joy together. The only way the cuffs will come off is through acts of kindness. Each of you must perform fifty genuinely kind deeds for the other. And when I say genuinely kind, I mean doing something for the other simply because you want the other person to be a bit happier. You can't have selfish motivations in this game. Do you understand me?" Without words Gar nodded his head yes and Avocet continued, "Every time you do a genuinely kind deed for the other a chain link will appear between the cuffs. If you purposefully do something mean to the other a link will disappear. When the chain between the cuffs is a hundred links long the cuffs will fall off. Hopefully, the connection the two of you will share after this will be strong enough for you to find her when Envy takes her…Garfield, he will kill her…given the chance. The desire is already in him and his plans have already begun to form in his mind. He will come for her and he will take her. You need to find her before he kills her. It doesn't matter to him that she's his little sister. She's just a tool to him…uou do have time, not as much as I would like, but you do have a year and half before he abducts her…but when he does take her, you won't have much time, you'll have to act very quickly. He'll have spells in place to guard against magic and Earth's technology. But you don't reply on either one, so they won't hinder you…you, you can crawl through the tiniest cracks, see in the darkest spaces, hear the faintest sound and become as strong and as mighty as the most furious beast in the animal kingdom; never doubt your place in all of this." As Avocet finished she took a step towards Raven's calcified form, placing her hands on either side of Raven's marble face and gently kissed her forehead. "It isn't fair that our fathers only breed us to use us. Or that they expect our very lives. If you're given time, your powers will grow so…great, Trigon and Envy else won't be able to harm you anymore. Fair well cousin; I'll keep my eyes open for you." With a heavy heart and tears in her eyes, Avocet faded into nothingness. When Avocet had completely dissolved into thin air the white surface of Raven's stone skin began to illuminate. What started as a gentle glow grew into a strong white light pushing outwards, warming the surface of Raven's skin. As the heat and light increased her stony shell melted away like butter, revealing a flushed, pink cheeked Raven.
"Raven? Are you alright?" Gar exclaimed as he rushed to grab Raven's arms to study her slightly wobbly figure.
"Yeah, a little dizzy, but I'm fine," Raven answer just before pulling her left arm away to examine the golden cuff clasped around her wrist.
"So," Gar awkwardly interjected into the silence while moving his eyes skyward and rocking back and forth on his heels before suddenly throwing his hand out, jabbing Raven in the arm, shouting, "You're it!"
"Really!" Raven screamed, rubbing her arm.
"Hey, I thought it would lighten the mood. No?"
"No!" Still huffing, Raven set off for the ridge of tress where she fell from the sky.
"What are you doing?" Gar shouted to Raven, who was currently stumping away.
Pausing only for a moment to answer, Raven shouted over her shoulder, "I'm going home! We only have thirty to forty minutes before we lose our powers and I don't want to walk all the way back to the tower."
After Gar rushed to catch up to Raven, he grabbed her arm to pause her so he could say, "You're going to try to fly back? And chance losing your powers mid-flight…ha, and people say I never think things through…besides you won't just lose your powers, these things will be drawn to each other, meaning we could collide midair!"
At that moment everything inside of Raven was too much; her anger, her frustration and her fear, so she did something she had never done before, she gave into her emotions. She let a gut wrenching scream escape her mouth as her hands flew to her head, clawing the sides of her face and hair before crumbling to the ground. Not knowing what else to do, Gar fell to his knees too and rubbed Raven's back, repeating the phrase, "It'll be ok," over and over again.
"Gar, it's all real. Everything I saw, heard and…felt is real. Oh God!" Raven cried out before the tears began fall; before her body began to shudder; before the spasms grew so strong they caught her breath, causing her to choke for a moment. She obviously needed a type of comfort Gar wasn't familiar with giving. He knew a joke or some light hearted teasing wouldn't go far in this situation. But he also knew that letting her sob on the ground in the middle of a cold field wasn't right either. So he scoped her into his arms and started walking home.