A/N: OK, first TT story, just giving it a go. Please R&R!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the storyline.
Chapter 1: The Villain
Raven hated dreams.
Perhaps they posed an pleasurable experience for most humans, but the demon's blood within her seemed to attract every shade of darkness possible. When she dreamed, she lived through her mortal fears, and watched in horror the destruction of Earth.
She winced (well, her dream state winced). Though that part of her life was over, it was best not to think of her role as the Portal.
Of course, with powers like hers, living through such dreams was impossible (thank Azar). The monks had taught her long ago how to recognize dreams from reality and remove herself from them before her emotions (and powers) ran amok.
But this, this was baffling. She was conscious, and completely aware of herself yet nothing was happening. She was surrounded by whiteness, a whiteness that hurt her eyes. She tried to force herself to wake up, pushing past the barrier of sleep. Nothing. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot. Was this some prank of Beast Boy's? Maybe he had put her on sleep pills. Through her tea.
But she knew that that wasn't Beast Boy's style. He would never put her on drugs. Right?
Just as she was wondering if she would just stand here until she died of boredom, a man appeared out of nowhere, dressed in a suit which seemed to swallow the light. It wasn't as if there was nothing and then he was there, or as if molecule by molecule his form became apparent. It was as if his whole being had twisted out of a single point, flooding the whiteness until he existed.
Raven didn't recognize him but that didn't mean anything. Azar knew how many new villains were popping up in Jump City.
The man took no notice of her, but dusted off his shoulders, gray ash floating around him in a cloud. A black fedora hat perched on his head, but his features were nondescript; he was just an ordinary looking man in his mid-forties, dark hair, tanned skin. A business man, she decided.
"Who are you?" she asked, her low voice filled with warning.
"What, no greeting, no handshake?" the man asked. He had a very ordinary voice too. He frowned. "Where are your manners?"
Raven blinked. She could sense neither his mind nor the racing of his thoughts. It wasn't a matter of concealment; any practiced magician could block his mind but she should have been able to sense the mind behind the block the same way that you could see the building behind the fence. She probed him again. Nothing.
She visibly relaxed, letting it show without care. He wasn't real. Just some strange figment of her imagination.
The man inspected his sleeves carefully, then satisfied said, "I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long. I'm afraid I have many appointments to keep. As for who I am, why, I'm the villain, of course." His mouth twisted into a roguish grin.
Raven raised a brow. Apparently, she wasn't going to wake up by choice so she was going to have to let this play out. And the sooner, the better.
"I'm not impressed," she said, letting boredom lace her tone. "Aren't you supposed to scare me into doing something since you have me hostage?"
"Well, no," he said. "It's hard to when you're in control," he admitted with a shrug.
"So we're in my head. That was expected," she said caustically. She reminded herself to avoid reading any books with businessman, bankers, or lawyers.
"That's not entirely true," he said with a brisk scholastic air.
She resisted the impulse to roll her eyes. Out of all her imagined creations...well, at least he wasn't as bad as her multi-colored emotions and he definitely was better than Beast Boy.
"If we were in your head, we'd be in Nevermore and unless you've recently renovated..." he explained, looking around at their ubiquitous white surroundings. "I've let you take control, and your spirit sought the sanctity of your own material self. A sort of limbo between sleep and reality. Of course," he said, his eyes glittering a strange way that made her shy away from him and caused the first uneasy stirrings in her stomach, "I could take you places where, under certain methods, you would beg to tell me anything. Anything and everything," he whispered with a strange emphasis, as if savoring every syllable.
"Oh, wait!" he cried and the danger passed, the shadow over his face gone. Raven eyed him warily. "I already know everything! So that's no good." He tapped his chin thoughtfully, staring up into space.
She clenched her fists. Her mind was private, like her room. He had no right to it! Then the foolishness of her anger hit her. But of course, he is my own creation, she reasoned. Naturally, he would know everything. She wanted to groan. Here she was worried about a part of her own mind harming her! Maybe this was worse than Beast Boy...
"I suppose," he mused, "that you would promise me anything, anything and everything." She didn't allow her expression to change, but stared at him blankly. "But you're a smart girl." He gestured to their environment. "You know that this a dream. And any pain that I can inflict upon you is only real as long as you think it is real. So I chose reasonable discussion."
"That's pointless," Raven said. "Why do you think I would ever turn towards you or hear out what you have to say when I've spent my entire life fighting my father's influence? And don't try anything. Since this is my mind, you cannot do a thing without my permission." She crossed her arms, staring him down coldly.
She wasn't expecting his reaction.
He bared pointed teeth in a half-smile, but his eyes burned fiercely. Every part of her tensed, crying out for her to run. For a moment, his gaze bore into her, making her want to draw away. She stood her ground, trying to calm herself. There was nothing to fear from herself.
Well, maybe there was. A little four-eyed red cloaked wonder to name one...
Then he dropped his gaze to his fingernails, examining them closely. "My dear Raven," he said in a sickeningly sweet tone. She sensed that he was restraining himself. "For now, I suppose that I'll disregard your blatant disrespect for myself and my position. I'll blame your trying ignorance. But I suggest you realize this."
At that moment his gaze shifted up to hers, baleful and superior. She took an involuntary step back.
"I can make your life hell before death, and I don't need your permission to do it."
With that, the edges of her vision began to suddenly blur. The corners bled darkness which swallowed the mass of white. But two somethings remained undarkened, a pair of glaring eyes flickering with flames. She could feel her heart begin to race and she pushed hard against the barrier to her consciousness and the real world. Now was the time to wake. Now!
Then she heard it, from nowhere, a whirling sound which slammed into her, a cacophony of hellish screams, moans, and wails which pierced her ears with a chilling power. Remove yourself, she recited silently. But though she closed her eyes, that gaze was branded into her vision and she could not stop herself from hearing those voices. The darkness began to fade, only to be replaced by a light-a flickering light from below.
And she fell, fell into the flames and-
Reality. Raven snapped upwards, the frantic rise and fall of her breath the only sound in the silence. She felt herself reeling out of control, dark energy creeping along the floor like a lengthening shadow in the twilight, enveloping every object in the room from her bed frame to the walls.
She scoured the darkness for any sign of danger, then pressed her forehead against her knees, drawing her legs tightly to her chest.
She felt like a little girl again, thinking that as long as she couldn't see the monsters, they couldn't see her.
She tried to calm her breathing but she could feel her emotions growing stronger, pushing within her, coalescing, shattering the walls she had built to contain them-
The lightbulb overhead exploded in a shower of glass.
-fear, fear, swallowing her like a rabid beast-
Distantly, she could hear the shelves of the bureau rattling, and her bed trembled like a frightened rabbit, like her heart.
No, she told herself. I can control this. She took deep calming breaths, reciting her mantra aloud. Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos. One deep breath. Let it out. Now another.
But she could not erase the image of the eyes from her memory nor could she forget the screams-
No! Don't think about that. Think about something else. I can control this!
The large window by her bed made a loud crack like a gunshot as fractures spiderwebbed across it. The large fragments fell to the ground, mirroring the moonlight in gleaming slices, before shattering into dust on the ground.
No, no. I am afraid but there is nothing to be afraid of. It wasn't real. It was all in my head.
The banging noise escalated.
She tightened her grip on the fabric of her sheets, tightened her grip on reality.
I am afraid, but I am in control. I can control this.
Her bed began to shake more violently as if it was caught in a miniature earthquake.
She tightened her fists further, until she felt her nails press into her palms.
She struggled to seal the broken barriers, to contain the raw outpouring of emotion. But it was too much.
The bookshelves toppled with a thunderous crash, spilling their dusty tomes and precious books onto the floor. Her bureau no longer gently trembled, it rocked from side to side with an ear splitting thump.
The sound of her friends pounding on the door augmented the banging. She squeezed her eyes shut. She wasn't ready yet.
Deep breaths, Raven, she reminded herself. In and out.
She couldn't just lose control like this. What would they think about her and her role on the team? Despite all the coldness, all the emotional distance, all the meditation, she was still unstable. She pushed them all away, under the claim of keeping her powers in check. And it didn't work.
Then Robin's voice, always the authority: "Raven, open up this door!"
"I'm entering the override," Cyborg called. Of course Cyborg would give her a warning. He knew that she had things which she wanted to keep private, much like Robin. Except Robin didn't understand that. At least, not in the same way. She timed her breath and listened for an instant to their silence. Gradually her grip on her sheets loosened and she heard a rattling thump as objects around her, which she had not realized she had been levitating, fell to the ground.
The silence was so sudden.
"Raven?" Cyborg asked. She heard his fingers tapping on the panel. She created a portal through space, and stepped through, appearing right in front of the door just as it opened.
"Friend what is happening? We heard the noise and came running..." Starfire spoke first.
"We thought you were being attacked or something," Beast Boy finished sheepishly. He refused to meet her gaze.
She considered telling them for an instance, her eyes sliding around them. Robin would think there was something wrong with her again, that an emotion had gotten loose or Trigon was trying to contact her; Starfire would think the dream had some deeper emotional connection to it, and would insist on the "girl talk", Cyborg would offer support but it probably had been years since he had dreamed and Beast Boy...well it was hard to say what he would do. He was unpredictable. Definitely try to comfort her. Probably some prank on the others. Or something unexpectedly sweet...she shook off that thought and the confusion it brought.
"No. Everything's fine." She could feel them looking over her shoulders and she wanted to step out and close the door behind her but it was too late for that. She shivered at the cool draft from her window, and automatically pulled her hood up.
"Man," Cyborg whistled .
"Raven, what happened?" She couldn't miss the awe in Beast Boy's voice nor the fear. She could feel it, flickering through his mind at intervals. She hated that fear, hated the feel of it, heavy in the air. She didn't want them to be afraid of her.
Once she had. Once she had hoped that it would drive them away from her. She was dangerous, there was no doubt about it. But she would never hurt them.
There was no point in concealing her room. They'd already seen. She drew away from the doorway to her window, looking out across the ocean and the way the moonlight glanced off it. It was much too bright somehow.
"It's nothing," she said, her voice brittle and dry. Emotionless. "My control slipped."
She could feel their stares and was glad her hood was up. Her face burned in shame. What would they think of this? The girl who spent hours devoted to meditation alone and her control had slipped? And why did she make it sound so trivial? It was a big deal. Her control was everything. Without it... she would break anything in sight. Including people.
Of them all, only Starfire had the gall to fully step within her room. Raven was aware of her kneeling and saying, "We could help you with this mess, friend Raven, if you-"
"No!" she barked and whirled around to see Starfire release the scroll she had knelt to pick up. Raven closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. Don't snap at Starfire, she scolded herself. The alien wore her heart on her sleeve and it wasn't hard to see the hurt in those luminous eyes or to feel it stabbing through her emotions for a moment. Raven didn't like the way the others looked at her, as if she was something made of glass which at any moment they might push over the edge. With one false step...
"No, it's fine," she said, moderating her tone so it was softer. It was almost imperceptible from her normal drone but for her small changes spoke in volumes. "Just leave it; I'll deal with it in the morning."
"Alright, Raven," Cyborg said, raising his hands. He kept his voice low and soothing, for her sake. She could already feel a headache throbbing in her temples and her ears were still ringing from all the banging from earlier. He backed slowly out of the room, giving her a meaningful look. A look which meant 'Meet me in the garage tomorrow and we'll talk.' She could feel his urge to comfort her in his brotherly way but it wasn't comfort which she needed. She needed solutions. She needed to unravel the puzzle. "C'mon, BB."
The shapeshifter looked at her thoughtfully. It was a strange expression to see on his face, but the worry which was clearly etched there wasn't. Worry, pity. She didn't want any of that.
"Good night, Raven," he said.
"Yes, have the good night, friend," she heard Starfire say.
And that left Robin, lingering. She had expected nothing less.
Raven could see his outline, leaning on the door frame, arms crossed. "It wasn't anything with Trigon, was it?" That was Robin, right to the point, though she could feel his concern, too.
"No," she replied without hesitation. She recognized her father's presence beyond a shadow of a doubt. "Just a bad dream."
His gaze seemed to soften, though it was hard to tell from behind the mask. It was more his stance and voice that showed it. "You'll tell us if something like that was going to happen again, right?"
"It's over, Robin, it's done," she said in clipped tones, her voice tinged with weariness. "I would tell you." She looked back at her alarm clock which (thankfully or unfortunately) had not been smashed to pieces. "It's late and I want to get some sleep." That was a barefaced lie and he knew it. How she could get sleep after a dream like that...
He nodded slowly. "Alright. Get some rest. Training's cancelled for tomorrow." On account of her.
"Good night," she said as he turned and left. She slid the door shut when she was sure he was gone, and let her head sag forward until her forehead kissed the cool metal, her hands pressed against its frame.
How had this happened? She had trapped herself in a dream of her own creation. Not only had she been unable to break free, her powers had gone haywire and wrecked her room.
And now...she could feel so many emotions swirling within her, barely restrained. She would wreck the Tower if she kept going at this rate.
Was Rage capable of something like that? Perhaps that man had been Rage...she doubted it. Emotions were emotions, pure unadulterated forms, and, well, as said emotion put it, Rage wanted nothing more than to "consume" her. So why go through the disguise? Rage didn't do trickery; it just wanted to overcome her with sheer power.
She carefully stepped to her bed, hearing the glass beneath her feet tinkle into gritty sand. There was nothing to be done about the window until tomorrow. With a burst of energy, she levitated a fallen bookshelf over. The shelf wobbled in its flight and when she tried to set it down gently it crashed to the ground with an earsplitting thump. Raven almost cursed. Her powers were unreliable now. Which meant physical labor. She signed but leaned her shoulder against the shelf and pushed it against her window frame to keep back the draft.
And then she climbed into bed and let her mind toss and turn. There was no going back to sleep. She could feel every muscle in her body taut, convinced of an imminent attack. She looked at the clock.
If she could just allow her mind to relax, to drift...
The burning eyes opened up in her memory, and the bed trembled threateningly. Keep calm, she told herself. She sat up carefully and seated herself in the lotus position, trying to find her center. No thoughts. No emotions. Nothing but stillness. But the darkness against her eyelids only mimicked the darkness which had engulfed her and quickly turned to flames-
Don't think that, she told herself sharply as the bed frame gave another quiver.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos," she murmured. "Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos."
She was far too close to the edge. She needed to bury her emotions again and bury them deep before-
There was the sound of paper shredding and Raven sighed inwardly.
There was no meditation at this point. Not in the dark, so she let her thoughts race and flood her mind with questions.
Perhaps she was harming herself. Why? Did she feel guilty about something? Maybe there had been some passerby who had become involved in one of their many battles against crime. Maybe someone had died.
That seemed unlikely. As far as Raven knew their record was clean. They'd always managed to keep the people around them safe.
But if she was beating herself up over something she felt guilty about, then how could it have been her? She had never seen that man before in her life.
It wasn't really the normalcy of the man, or the conversation that bothered Raven. She didn't understand why she hadn't been able to wake up. She had had nightmares since she was a small child, partly because of the stories of the prophecy, and partly because of her father's blood. After destroying a good section of her room (and the temple), the monks of Azarath had concentrated on teaching her how to exit her dreams. Before she learned it, one of them was her guardian, and pulled her mind to consciousness at the first sign of danger.
But then she had mastered it.
She had found herself on Earth, at the end of all things, gazing at the frozen stone faces of those who would die because of her.
And she had woken.
She had seen her father's face leering down at her from a throne of thorns amidst a fiery landscape.
She had escaped from those dreams, too.
Not that they hadn't disturbed her; they had. But never to the extent that she had completely lost her control.
The only time Raven could remember losing her control because of fear was after she had watched that movie, Wicked Scary. Maybe she was dark, and maybe she was creepy, but apparently she did do fear. Then she had been denying it and that had created that horror scene in the Tower. But in the dream, there had been no denial. She had known she was afraid.
Besides, she had been scared countless times: when Rage had freed itself while Beast Boy and Cyborg were still in her mind, when Titans' tower had almost crashed down on them, when Slade had come back to force her to do Trigon's bidding.
Scratch that. She hadn't been scared. She had been terrified.
What was the worst that had happened then? Her control had slipped briefly. Maybe she'd let loose her demonic side for a moment. But never to the point where every flicker of emotion caused a shift in her powers. She hadn't been like that since she had been a little girl.
And so I've come full circle, Raven thought bitterly. She let her head fall down on her pillow with a whump and turned on her side to check the time. Maybe it would be sunrise soon and she could meditate on the rooftop...or get some real sleep. For some reason, the light always made her feel safe, less vulnerable...
She wanted to scream. Her gaze locked on the ceiling above her, barely visible in the cool moonlight. The bookshelf had thrown a deep shadow over her, and she was starting to wish that she would just let the moonlight flood her room...
She rubbed her eyes. What would the other Titans do? She snorted. Robin would destroy the training room. Starfire would turn on all the lights in her room...
Raven's eyes shot open. Why didn't she just turn on the light? It was such a childish thing to do, but just this once...The only other alternative was to bang on someone's door and beg to sleep there...she would never do that. She didn't trust herself to flick the switch with her powers so she pushed off the covers and threw her legs over the side of the bed before she remembered that she had shattered the bulb earlier.
She groaned, and sank back beneath the covers. She was losing it.
Her body cried out for sleep but her mind felt as sharp as a knife edge, too aware, too conscious. Too afraid.
But it was peaceful and warm beneath the covers. She could hear the soothing murmur of the waves crashing down at the beach...even the cool breeze felt nice. Her eyelids began to drift shut of their own accord.
I can make your life hell before death, and I don't need your permission to do it, hissed his voice from a scrap of memory.
She did not sleep until dawn.