A Teen Titans fan fiction by Monsignor

-nine months, four days; +thirty minutes

Angela was tired. So tired.

The soft lights of the room swayed above her as if they were on strings. The soft sounds of the nuns attending her barely made it through the fog of fatigue that pressed down on her every pore, weighing down her brain and seeming to anchor her limbs to the bed.

Something whimpered. Her baby. Angela had seen it as the nuns had cut the umbilical cord and cleaned her up, as the waves of pain had finally abated. A little girl.

Her baby was tiny, though – such a little thing for so much effort. Pink and fleshy and far too quiet.

Angela blinked, bringing the swaying lights back into soft focus, and turned her head to the side of the bed, where the whimper had come from. A tall, gaunt figure stood there, a white blanket wrapped around something small in its arms. She reached out for the child.

"Please, Azar," she pleaded. "Please just let me hold her."

The baby in the arms of the red-clad woman stirred feebly, waving a tiny fist and whining softly. Angela fixated on the fist and her heart constricted as it dropped back down into the white swaddling blanket.

The old woman looked down at her, lying prostrate on the bed, sweaty and trembling and asking the impossible. "I'm sorry, Arella," she said, not without kindness. "We cannot risk it. Even now, this girl contains more potential for suffering than any other living thing." She used the name that the monks of Azarath had given Angela when she had been brought to their dimension six months ago: starving, pregnant, and alone. The first day that rain had ever fallen in the peaceful dimension of Azarath.

"She's not crying," Angela said, levering herself up onto her elbows, fighting the fog that wanted her to lay down and sleep forever. "She's too quiet. Babies need to cry."

"Not this one," Azar said firmly, looking down at the little bundle in her arms. She held it carefully but not tenderly, not lovingly. "This one needs to be contained and controlled."

The baby girl wailed softly. It was a brittle little cry, little moans of discomfort in sequence.

Hot tears pricked Angela's eyes. "Azar, listen to her," she cried. "Something's wrong with her!"

"She's only startled by this world," responded Azar. "It's not as kind as your womb, after all, Arella."

There was reproof in her words – a reminder of what the child was. Not from this world, not from Angela's. From a far worse one, one that Angela was too well acquainted with. It was the world of the child's father, hot and sandy with floor like melted stone that burned her feet and a sky like a sheet of metal that shone day in and day out with a sick yellow glow.

It took so little for Angela to find herself back there again, so little for her to remember Trigon's corner of Hell.

She bit her lip and the pain brought her back to herself, to the white room, to the baby.

Azar stepped back from the exhausted girl in the bed, turning towards the door. "Besides – you agreed to let her go."

Angela wrenched back the covers and lurched into a sitting position. Her legs were shaking so badly that she had to use her hands to guide them over the edge of the bed. "Not like this!" she shouted. "That is my baby, Azar – you let me hold her!"

The nuns around them froze, shocked at her tone of disrespect. Angela didn't care. She had agreed to let her child go – when she was scared and alone and hopeless and weak. When she was six months younger, and the little creature growing inside of her had not started stirring and kicking, had not started being a person, not someone to love. When Angela had thought of her baby as a curse, and as a part of its father.

Not now. Now, Angela wanted her baby and she was going to hold her.

"Give her to me, Azar."

Slowly, the tall woman turned from the door. She regarded Angela with cool, threatening eyes. "You sound a bit insolent, Arella."

"And you sound cruel," Angela retorted, shaking under the power of that gaze, its implied force and command, its promise of punishment if Angela went too far. She rallied herself. "Listen, Azar. Listen to her cry! She needs me! Just for a little while." She fisted her hands in the bedsheets, sure her agony was visible on her face. "I know I can't go back on it. I swore to give her to you. But please." A tear cooled her cheek – the first in months, the first since the nightmare that was Trigon. "Please just let me hold her for a minute."

There was a silence in the small room. The tall, imperious figure in red stared down at the fragile, exhausted human girl, who stared right back, less defiant than desperate, her black hair tangled and her shift soaked with sweat. The nuns stirred nervously as the atmosphere became charged – two magically powerful beings interacting, communicating through means other than physical. The ions in the air stirred and shifted, aligning themselves into something like lightning as Angela begged.

Azar broke the spell before they could strike. "Very well." She stepped forward and held out the baby. "A few minutes."

Angela reached out and seized the child. "Thank you," she sobbed, pulling the soft, quiet thing out of Azar's bony arms. "Thank you… so…" Her voice faded as she looked at her baby.

The little girl was as pink and slightly misshapen and wrinkled as any newborn. A wave of absolute relief crashed through Angela as she looked for horns, scales, cleft feet, a tail - and found none of them. Just smooth, downy skin.

Angela gently ran her fingers over the baby's wrist, amazed. It was softer than anything she had ever felt, and warm with life.

Her baby had hair. Dark, wispy strands clinging to the all but translucent skin of her skull, nearly the same color as the veins that wound through her temples. Blackish-blue. It made Angela's heart jump a little, but – Trigon's color had been red, and only red. Blue was actually Angela's favorite color.

Tears splashed down her face silently. I'm really crying, Angela realized. It's been so long since I had a good cry

Some of the drops splashed on the baby's face, and she opened her eyes.

Angela sobbed aloud once, convulsively, smiling down at her baby. The little girl stared solemnly back with eyes the color of a dusky sky, just before the stars began to come out. Angela slid her finger into the curl of the baby's fingers and she could have sworn that they tightened around it.

Without warning, the baby began to cry – deep, healthy wails, high-pitched and somewhat alarming. Angela gasped and began to rock her slowly, crooning and stroking her soft cheek. Another pulse of relief washed through her. Any amount of crying was better than that soft, pathetic whimpering.

She held her tightly to her chest, feeling the heat and throb of life in that little body through the blanket. "Bone of my bone," she whispered, recalling words taught to her so long ago by her own mother. "Flesh of my flesh." Angela bent and kissed the crying baby's head. "My Raven."

In that moment, Angela felt whole – not a rebellious child, searching for meaning in a cult of the power-hungry; or a broken human, exposed to evil and impregnated with evil; or a washed-up wreck of a soul, too stunted and wounded to feel anything much. There, holding Raven, feeling the power and preciousness of that life in its tiny, soft body in her arms, Angela felt like a mother.

Azar's thin, clawlike hands snatched the baby from Angela's grasp.

Angela stared at her empty arms for a split second. Then she catapulted to her feet and clawed at the door as it slammed shut in front of her. She got it open an inch before the nuns were on her, pulling her away and pinning her arms to her sides, making soothing noise. It crashed in Angela's ears like static.

She kicked and scratched at the nuns, shrieking, and fought back to the door. She glimpsed a red-clad figure turning a corner far down the hallway, a white bundle in its arms. The baby's cries echoed down the corridor, forlorn and thin.

"Raven!" screamed Angela, and then a hand glowing with magic flashed before her face and darkness spiraled across her vision and her consciousness. "Raven…" she was down on one knee now, the nuns pressing her down, pulling, pushing, subduing. "Raven…"

And then, for Angela, there was darkness.

When Angela woke up she would begin to truly become Azarath's Arella: a paragon of sacrifice, power, and control. Arella was what Angela needed to become; for her own sanity, for the service of the temple of Azarath, and for the protection of countless dimensions. She needed to be someone who could give up their child for the greater good.

But whoever she was, she would always remember the sound of her baby, her Raven, crying from what sounded like the bottom of a deep pit, alone and isolated and so, so frightened.

Thanks for reading.