Raven's Wedding

Update: 2/8/2013

In an egg-on-face moment, it's been pointed out that one of the middle scenes in which Beast Boy defends Raven from some classic Mean Girls was lifted almost word-for-work from TheForceIsStrongWithThisOne's wonderful story, "The Gift," which I would so link to if would quit killing my links out. This happens to me more than I would like.


Update: 5/28/2012

Whoops. TheMightyErrg rather sharply reminds me to cite when I use other people's ideas. Accordingly, I've thrown in four footnotes, two of which are actually useful.

That said, if you see an idea here (or in any of my stories) that you've seen before somewhere else and I've not cited it, please let me know. I'm not a thief (like Red X); I'm just sloppy (like Beast Boy).

Other items in this update were merely to fix a few sloppy turns of phrase that were bothering me, and fix some typos. Sorry – no new plot here.

Author's Notes:

The more I explore fan fiction and the Teen Titans in particular, the more interested I get in the mundane details that should be part of their daily lives. In this particular story, I tried to imagine what it's like inside the head of a young girl who is about to be married, and then added in Raven's life and responsibilities. As I have never actually been a girl of any type, this one was particularly challenging.

My first piece, "Extreme Sanction," is written about young men, looking at their responsibilities, and trying to decide what is most important when those responsibilities conflict. It's a masculine work, possibly the most masculine I've ever written.

My second, "What's a Hero, Really?" is also written from a male perspective, but with very few changes, I think that a female character could rise to the occasion in it.

Raven's Wedding is my first effort at trying to write a girl, though, bit of a stretch, really. Please let me know what you think.

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"

"I do." – Lamont Cranston

"Azarath, Metrion, Zynthos. Azarath, Metrion, Zynthos." Raven chanted her mantra, over and over, seeking her center and trying to banish the stress, tension, and strife that had marred the past few weeks. In her short but eventful life, she'd battled alien warships, giant oozing monsters, homicidal maniacs, and even the Thane of Perdition. In all the worlds and all the dimensions she traveled, she'd never thought to find herself trapped like this. Beset from all sides, and utterly unable to escape, she was pinned down. It had been going on for days. The hellish rituals. The bizarre costumes. And now look at her.

She slowly opened her eyes to face the horror dead on. It was an illuminated makeup mirror, currently set to "indoors." The room was small, and decorated with many love seats, settees, couches, all in floral patterns. The carpet was white and the wallpaper had a floral print. She felt like she was in the aftermath of an explosion at a marshmallow factory. Behind her, half-dressed bridesmaids and maid of honor flew about the room, preparing for the big moment. Literally flew. Starfire, Bumblebee, and Argent managed to fill the air of the room as they zoomed back and forth as other women raced back and forth on the ground.

"Do I really need this much help getting dressed?" Raven asked. "I mean, I've been dressing myself since before I came to Earth."

All the other women froze for a moment, staring, and then burst out laughing.

"Of COURSE you do, honey," said Bumblebee. "Nobody is going to trust the bride to do ANYTHING right, today of all days."

Raven closed her eyes again and turned back toward the mirror and opened her makeup kit.

"Makeup kit," she thought. "When the hell did that happen?"

It had happened, of course, some time ago. As she'd slowly learned to manage her feelings without leveling the landscape, she'd spent more time in the company of other people. And "other people," at least by some definitions, included "boys." That, in turn, had led to reluctant shopping expeditions with Starfire, and eventually being trapped by a fashion consultant. She'd stood about 5' 4. She was in her late forties and wore her iron grey hair short. She was dressed in a neutral-tone business suit and wore four inch high heels. The woman had been tougher than Cinderblock.

"I've let Starfire make me over twice. Both times I looked like a kewpie doll dressed for an audition at a cheap brothel."

"That," the consultant had sniffed, "is because Starfire's complexion is golden-orange. I can't imagine a worse set of colors for you to make up with."

"Huh?"

"You've never even read a woman's magazine, have you child?"

"Well, I . . ."

"Never mind. Look, quit comparing yourself to your friend with the big boobies over there. She's a different type of woman. That doesn't make her prettier, just different."

Raven had looked over. Starfire was bending over at the waist, hands on her thighs, to sniffing a perfume display. Her butt stuck out and her boobs hung down. Men were staring from fifty feet away. And Starfire was oblivious.

"She doesn't even do it on purpose. It's just who she is."

"What are you talking about? I mean, there's got to be an objective standard . . . "

"You're such a little scientist. No. Look at her. She's a cheerleader, a milkmaid, in short a buxom, outgoing woman who shows who she is and what she's got to anybody who's looking. She's utterly open about who she is. It's honest and has an innocent charm. Now look at yourself. How 'utterly open' are you prepared to be? How much 'innocent charm' can you work up?"

Raven looked into the mirror. "Not very, and not much."

"Exactly. That's why you, my dear, are a 'woman of mystery.'"

"What's that mean?"

"It means that you don't amaze men. You intrigue them. You don't charm men. You fascinate them."

She then waved off Raven's objection that they didn't make makeup for grey skin by pointing out goth-chic, vampire-chic, zombie-chic and the entire anti-tanning movement. By the time she was done, Raven had a small but versatile make-up kit and basic templates for looks that were "professional," "alluring," "smoky," and "intriguing." She'd reluctantly admitted she could see the difference in the mirror, but the boy's reactions had been completely out of proportion. When she'd first appeared in the common room, made up to be "intriguing," she's been afraid of being laughed at but was hoping for "you look nice." What she'd gotten was jaw-dropping, eye-popping, inarticulate amazement for five full minutes. All that for a few strokes of eye make-up. And some blush. And the midnight blue spaghetti strap dress. And the high heels. Okay, maybe she HAD been "working it" a little that night, but she'd never . . . tried to be pretty before. Raven sighed and tried to shrug off the old memories, and leaned forward to apply the war-paint for her upcoming nuptials.

Raven squinted at the makeup mirror. That she was "unemotional" had always been a lie, to make life easier. She was the daughter of a suicidal cultist and the personification of Fear itself. Controlled calm was not in her nature. The control people saw was the hard-won result of a lifetime of training and discipline. She'd always known she could feel. Rage, anger, fear, pain, loneliness . . . all of these things had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember. All her life she'd carefully pushed them down and kept them under tight control. But happiness, awe, interest, joy, hope, amusement, and love? Those she'd never really known. Not well, anyway. She'd avoided them by avoiding people, and pretended that the feelings weren't there. One of the harder things for her to accept was that she could be loved.

Then she's come to live with the Titans. Living in close quarters with four people who were so . . . open and unrestrained in their passions had made staying within herself impossible. It had started on the very first day. "Nobody hurts my friends," she's said, and ripped the bridge completely off of a Gordanian battle cruiser. Then there had been the business with the Puppet King, and then Melchior the Dragon. She wrinkled her nose, leaning in to carefully blend her eye shadow. Caring for others had come slowly, but naturally. But that she was worthy of . . . being cared for had been harder to accept.

It had been a routine bank robbery. A normal spring morning in Jump City, clear blue skies, warm sun, cool breezes off the bay, and soft daylight. But it had gone all wrong. She'd not been paying enough attention and one of the cheap thugs had gotten off two shots at her unprotected back. Unable to get to her or to the bad guy in time, Beast Boy had simply stepped in front of the gun and soaked up the two bullets with his own torso. He'd then turned into a moose and subdued the guy without killing him. And promptly collapsed. One of the bullets had nicked a major artery, and he was bleeding out internally. It had been way beyond her normal ability to heal. An empathic healer, she could take people's pain an injury into her own body, and then heal it with a healing trance. But that was for bruises, cuts, and sometimes simple broken bones. She'd never even tried to deal with something this bad. She'd gotten close, but then he'd died on her. She'd been too slow. He's lost too much blood. She'd thought of the light in his eyes going out forever, and how silent the halls of the Tower were going to be without his goofy, stupid, annoying laugh, and broken the rules. She'd used her own life-energy to force his heart to resume beating, and then to force his bone marrow to produce more red corpuscles. She didn't remember much after that. Cyborg said she'd been unconscious for three days.

She'd puzzled for a while, and eventually been forced to confront him, demanding to know why he would do such a thing. He'd shocked her with his answer.

"I care about you, Raven. I'm never going to let you get hurt if there's anything I can do about it. If you don't want me getting shot for you, quit turning your back on bad guys with guns."

She'd thrown him out a window.

Raven smiled. These days she dealt with Beast Boy's frustrating ways differently.

She looked back into the mirror, at her hair. It was made up in a frothy, elaborate concoction that had baby's breath and lavender woven into it. It was, she had to admit, very pretty, but she didn't look at all like herself. She'd been more than a little irritated at her friends. When she'd initially told Starfire and her closest friends about the wedding plans, she'd assumed that she and her bridegroom would stand in front of a Justice of the Peace, with perhaps the core Titans and one or two friends around them for support.

"Oh no you will not," Bumblebee had said. Bumblebee, of all people, had provoked Starfire into organizing a gigantic wedding extravaganza. "Somehow," Raven thought, "it had all got away from me." Oddly, it had been Diana Prince, of all people, who had been able to make her understand.

Raven had withdrawn to the roof of the Kansas City hotel where she was attending a professional development seminar by Batman on tracking bad guys over the internet. She hadn't particularly understood why Wonder Woman was there, as she didn't seem to be presenting, nor was she an attendee.

In any case, Raven had been pacing back and forth on the rooftop, ranting to herself about Bumblebee and Starfire's obsession with bridesmaid's dresses. She'd been about to launch into full voice when the older woman's contralto brought her up short.

"I never figured you for the 'Bridezilla' type."

Raven whipped around, fists full of dark energy. There, in front of her, stood Wonder Woman. She wore a smart pantsuit and had been blending in with other law enforcement people at the hotel. Raven let her power fade.

"Bridezilla?"

"You know, a first-time bride who's so caught up in her own vision of her wedding that she forgets there are other people around her, or that they have feelings. Raven, weddings are all about a public expression of love. And that doesn't just mean the bride and groom."

"What?"

Wonder Woman turned and paced over to the edge of the roof, looking out across the city.

"Everyone who contributes to a wedding is making a public statement of their love of the bride and groom. Starfire and Bumblebee are trying to show how much they love you; they're not trying to drive you insane. In fact, as plans continue to develop, I think you might be surprised at how many people want to help. Please keep in mind that when you reject their help, you're rejecting them, and it works toward pushing them out of your life. Is that what you really mean to do?"

"Um . . . no. I just don't want all of this . . . attention."

"Brides GET attention, Raven. Cope. It will be over soon."

And, by and large, Diana had been right. Raven had told the girls she wanted bridesmaid's dresses with simple lines and in blue, and they're run off and done it without much more fuss. They seemed to have a lot of fun, and quit pestering her.

"And then there was the catering. Oh Azar, the catering." The American tradition held that the Bride's family paid for the wedding. Raven had no living mortal family, and no money of her own to speak of. To her shock, Batman had injected himself into the process. He would stand in for the bride's father. Nobody was sure where Batman's bottomless well of cash came from, but it was impressive. But when he'd started bidding the guest list of 250, he's run into a problem.

Gareth Blackstock, the Chef d' Cuisine at L' Maison Anglais fancied he owed the Titans a personal debt, and would not countenance anyone else catering the wedding, and it would be his gift to the bride and groom. Other caterers were easy. He simply intimidated them until they fled. Then, there was Batman.

Raven and her bridegroom had sat in awe, watching the two alpha males clash over who would have the privilege of providing for Raven's wedding. On the one side was the legendary Batman, quite possibly the most dangerous and intimidating crime fighter in history. On the other side, very likely the most obsessed, egotistical, continentally-trained chef since Auguste Escoffier died in 1935, who would not permit the food decisions for Raven's wedding to be made by a "sociopath who was not competent to chop carrots for the salad bar at a Denny's."

"It was classic," Raven recalled. "Like watching Thor's Hammer, Mjolnir, strike Captain America's shield. The irresistible force encountering the immovable object."

In the end, it had been agreed that Chef Gareth would provide an estimate for the full cost of catering the wedding. Batman would pay for all raw materials and provide the gratuity for the staff. Chef Gareth would provide the talents and labor of his staff at his expense.

Raven's eyes wandered down to her left hand, and the antique engagement ring there. Learning to care for someone had been easier than believing she could be cared for. Finding a bridegroom? That had been harder. She looked at the clock, and then looked pleadingly at Starfire.

"Friends, please," said the redhead. "Raven is in need of the quiet time before the ceremony. Finish the primping and exit, please."

One by one the women left, leaving only the bridesmaids and Raven, who said, "Okay, time to suit up."

Starfire giggled, "It is not armor, friend Raven."

"Shows what you know," Raven replied.

The bridesmaids drew the dress up over Raven's head and helped settle it into place. They fastened the twenty seven (!) buttons up the back and the short, simple train. Only the veil remained. It was a simple tiara, adorned, with a soft, transparent silk veil that both spilled down her bare back and down over her face to her chin. For now, it was flipped back.

"Star," please go over to the boy's waiting room, and ask Robin to come in here?

"Robin? But Raven, this is your time for quiet thinking and . . ."

"Please, Star. I need a favor only he can do."

Starfire smiled at her, green on green eyes curious. "I shall do the fetching."

A few minutes later, a very curious Robin was ushered into the female sanctum. He wasn't wearing his customary "traffic light" red, yellow and green costume, but the classically tailored tux that the bride and groom, well, mostly the bride, had chosen for the groom's attendants. He'd also eschewed his normal spikey hairdo for a simple "Rudolph Valentino" look. The black harlequin mask, however, was in place, as always.

"Raven? Starfire said you needed a favor?"

The turned from the mirror and faced him. "Robin, do you remember the night Starfire came to Earth?"

"Kind of hard to forget. First she tried to wreck about four city blocks, and then the Gordanians decided to try to fry the whole city."

"Do you remember the first thing you said to me?"

"Um, you talked about fighting not being the answer. Then I asked the guys to stand down, then Starfire ran off, and I went after her. Not exactly, no."

"You asked me a question. You said, 'you in?' And then you wouldn't take no for an answer. You changed the course of my life. You made me part of a team, and then gave me a home, a family, and a purpose."

"Raven, I didn't . . ."

"You put your hand on my shoulder that night. Did you know that I hadn't been touched by another human being since my mother died?"

"Raven, I had no idea."

"I haven't talked about it a lot. I think only he knows the details. But that's not important right now. And time is short. The point is – I've been alone most of my life. That's been changing since I joined the Titans. But I was a pariah in Azarath, and a homeless . . . thing here on Earth. But you brought me out of dark alleys and gave me a home. And then there was that ugly business with my . . . creator. You literally went into Hell to bring me back. Again, you brought me out of darkness and into the light. Today, of all days, I don't want to be alone. I don't want to enter that Sanctuary by myself. Of all the men in my life, you have been closest to the role of 'father.' Would you please . . . escort me into the sanctuary, and down the aisle?"

"Raven, are you asking me if I'll 'give you away?'"

She reddened. "I don't really like to think of it that way, but, please don't make me do this alone."

"Raven, I've done nothing for you that you weren't already doing for yourself. But I would be honored to escort you down the aisle. Starfire? I'll go let the guys know I'll be late to the formation, so that they won't wait on me. Please take her to the foyer. I'll meet you there in a minute."

He smiled and then hurried from the room. Raven rose to do the same, when her hand was stopped by Starfire's gentle hand on her shoulder.

"You are forgetting the flowers. Melvin?"

The youngest of the female heroes stepped closer. In one hand she held the basket of lavender blossoms and in the other, with great care, Raven's bouquet. Black roses, white lilies, and, of course, more lavender.

"I kept it safe, Miss Starfire, just like you said."

"Good job, Melvin."

Raven started to un-box the bouquet, but found she couldn't. Oddly, her hands were shaking. There was no reason for her hands to be shaking. Really, this was all very absurd and . . . Starfire took the box from her, removed the bouquet, and gently folded Raven's trembling hands around it.

The three girls moved quietly through the cloister and up to the large, double doors that guarded the passage to the sanctuary where everyone awaited the bride. Robin joined them a moment later. He gently put Raven's shaking hand over his arm, and Starfire pulled her veil forward and over her face.

The Bride's music started. Raven winced a little behind her veil. "You Love Keeps Lifting Me," by Jackie Wilson. She felt that it was completely out of character for her, and Raven had objected until her fiancée had threatened her with the sleaziest version of "Love Potion Number Nine" he could find. As she'd gotten to know him better, she'd been more than a little startled at how forceful he could be when he put his mind to it.

The door had opened, and Melvin preceded her into the sanctuary of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John. It was enormous. It was an afternoon wedding, and the interior was lit by a combination of the golden light of the late afternoon filtering in via the stained glass windows and the warm, yellow light from the hundreds of incandescent bulbs in simple chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. A single band of red carpet had been rolled down the aisle for Raven's processional, and Melvin, the flower girl was carefully rationing her lavender springs and rose petals to adorn Raven's path as she approached her groom and the rest of the wedding party as they stood before the white marble altar.

"Azar, this aisle is long."

She'd had reservations about getting married on holy ground. She'd been worried that her presence might defile the place. She'd been brought up short by the wizened little man who was the current Bishop. He'd glared at her over his glasses and reminded her, "We're all God's children young lady. And all of God's children are welcome in His house." Some of the local congregation had shared Raven's opinion. Those the Bishop had referred to the framed photograph over the fireplace in the fellowship hall. It showed Raven flying over the Cathedral, back arched in pain, bleeding, and clothing torn and tattered, tendons straining with the effort, using her powers to keep the flaming gasbag of Count Von Graft's atomic zeppelin from crushing the building and congregation. The objections had pretty much stopped after that.

The Episcopal Cathedral for the Diocese of Jump City seated a thousand, and they were bulging at the seams. There was no way that Raven and her groom had that many friends. But somehow, the list had kept growing. Her eyes scanned the quiet, smiling throng.

The Titan's East, of course. Most of the Justice League. Superman from Metropolis, Batman from Gotham City, and on and on. But there were more. Argent, from New Zealand, the far side of the world. ("If you can do it mate, there's hope for me. I gotta see this.") Captain America. Thor. Raven shuddered away from the spiritual implications of the Norse God of Thunder entering the Christian sanctuary. Not her problem; apparently Thor and the Bishop had worked it out. Sometimes the Episcopal approach to ecumenism was broader than she was comfortable with.

Flash. J'onn J'onz. Three of the Green Lantern Corps. Red Star. "Who in Azar's name is watching the planet?"

The kids from JSPS-238 were there. They were in their late teens now. She'd done a "don't do drugs" presentation with Robin at the grammar school that had turned into a hostage situation when Control Freak had decided to "take out the jocks." The end result was Raven being named their "favorite Titan." They'd spent years sending her fan letters, supporting her when sometimes publicity was bad, and cheering for her. Once, it had gotten out of hand when one of the older girls had bush-wacked Mumbo with a lacrosse stick during a bank robbery.

Whack! "Don't hurt Raven!" Mumbo's eyes had crossed and he slowly slumped to the ground. Thank Azar it hadn't been Mammoth or Trigon.

The Jump City Chamber Of Commerce. By their estimate, she and the other Titans had saved . . . well, never mind the details. But the businessmen of the city were enormously grateful that that she and the other Titans kept crime down.

Mothers of kids on that bus that had almost fallen off the bridge.

The Royal Navy, for Azar's sake. They'd sent a delegation in her honor because of that hush-hush business off the coast of the Falklands. She'd not ever really comprehended the depth of appreciation the City had for the Titans, or for her. The aisle was getting shorter. She was approaching her groom, and the rest of the wedding party.

"My Boyfriend. My fiancée. My groom. Great Azar: my h - huh-husband. . ." Raven would have been relieved to know that she was no different than any other bride; these concepts take more than a little getting used to.

But then, so did her . . . fiancée? Husband? Groom.

When they'd first met, she'd been a mature beyond her years fifteen year old, and he'd been a childish 14 years old. At that age, a year on the calendar had left them worlds apart in maturity and worldview.

For him there'd been that parade of blondes. A series of tall, pretty, very curvy young women had each in turn taken up residence on the Titan couch for a while. And as much as she'd wanted to, she couldn't quite dismiss them as brainless bimbos. Mitzi, the first, had turned out to be a grad student in forestry, pursuing a master's degree. Fritzi (don't ask) was an undergraduate, but was a Mensa member studying chemistry, botany, and animal sciences all at the same time. Then there had been the veterinarian. All had been pretty, smart, and in some way interested in taking care of animals or saving the planet. But somehow, none had lasted. Oh, some lasted longer than others. One stretched into months. But in the end, they had all drifted away.

And, of course, she'd friend-zoned him within five minutes of meeting him. "Childish. Small. Goofy. All labels neatly applied and jammed into the pigeon hole. Not that it had really mattered in those days. She'd been sure there would never be any dating, sex, or romance for Trigon's daughter. And there had been, of course. There hadn't been a lot of men in her life, but there'd been a few. Goth, Daniel. And, of course, all the Titan girls had to take a turn dating Wally. He was so much fun. Raven didn't even think she did "fun." But Wally got, well, bored too easily. It wasn't like he cheated on her, but after the first few weeks, it became clear that he wasn't happy. Kid Flash just was not a one-woman guy. But after each heartbreak, Beast Boy had been there to comfort her. Through all the hard times in her lift, he'd been there to lift her up. Through all the good times, he'd been there, laughing with her. He'd always tried to make her feel welcome and included. And after the last heartbreak, she'd realized what a wonderful man had been standing beside her all along.

Not.

Raven might be different in many ways, but she was a normal girl in at least one respect: once she friend-zoned a boy that was where he was going to stay. It takes a big shock to a girl's system to move a boy out of the friend zone. She'd gotten several such shocks. Perhaps the first was when he left her, taking a year's hiatus from the Titans. She'd never really thought about it. She'd just always assumed he'd be . . . there. And then he suddenly wasn't. At first she enjoyed the quiet. But that got old really quick. Suddenly, she felt cut off from the rest of the team. Without him to pry her out of her room to participate in a social life, she quickly grew isolated from her friends. Christmas had been very . . . odd without him.

"It was after he'd gotten back," she thought, "that I noticed the change."

It had started, as things involving Beast Boy did, comically. She's gone to their shared bathroom, opened the door like she always did, and there he was, down on one knee in the middle of the floor, stark naked.[1]

"Don't look down," she'd thought at the time, before saying, "Beast Boy! If you're in here, lock the door!"

"Don't look down," she told herself again.

He'd slowly, with great dignity and no apparent embarrassment, had risen, reached out, and taken the lavender towel from her hand.

"Sorry," he said, "I was so eager to get rid of the Plasmus 'spooge' I forgot. I ran in here, dumped my uniform in the trash, and completely forgot to lock the door or bring a towel."

She'd been more than a little distracted. "Don't look down." She'd not paid much attention to Beast Boy's body before he'd been away, and now, well, the year in the wilderness had been good to him. His muscles, formerly small and ropy, had filled out.

"Don't look down."

He'd never be a massive specimen like Cyborg, or have Superman's heroic build, but he now sported the lean, powerful physique of a young martial artist in his prime fighting condition. It also didn't hurt that he'd managed to somehow grow just enough to be a couple of inches taller than her, making Raven the smallest Titans. Really, not bad, and the forest green of his skin brought the definition of his chest, lower torso, and . . .

"Hey!" She'd said, "Give me back my towel." Not really thinking clearly, she'd reached out and snatched it from his waist.

"Geeze Raven, I would have washed it."

She thought: "Don't look dow. . . Great Googlimoogli!"

She'd looked down.

And she would no longer be calling him "Beast Boy." From now on, it would be either "Garfield," or "Changeling." But she would no longer be calling him any kind of "boy" ever again.

She'd immediately turned maroon, averted her face, covered her eyes with one hand and thrust the towel back at him.

"Here, I ah, sorry, um. Leaving now."

She'd fled, completely inarticulate. A first for her. And that had been the beginning. The shock of discovering how much he had changed made her re-evaluate where he stood in her life. She started to listen, really listen when he spoke. He wasn't the leader of men that Robin was, but when he said, "Robin, you're obsessing and acting paranoid," Robin listened, and would re-evaluate things. He wasn't nearly the engineer/mechanic that Cyborg was, but when working on a project with him, Changeling was able to say things like, "I think I see the problem," and have Cyborg reply with "good eye, green bean. I missed that."

Perhaps the telling blow to the friend zone, though, had been something very quiet. The Titans had just put down another goofball robbery involving Mumbo – Jumbo, the fake magician, and were doing the public relations thing afterwards. Signing autographs. Raven hated it, but Robin was right, it let the public see them up close and made them more popular. Changeling's line had been, of course, three quarters full of young, giggling girls and young women. They'd been close to the end when Raven had seen Cyborg signal from the T-car.

"Ok Changeling, time to go."

He'd started to say something, and one of the girls had blurted, "Why do you let that creepy witch boss you around, anyway?"

He'd stopped. His face changed to a calm, composed expression, and he'd smiled, very gently. "Her name," he'd said, "Is Raven. And she's very, very smart, and very, very brave. Every day, she puts her life on the line for the city, and for you. Do not call her a 'witch.'"[2]

There'd been an awkward silence. "Whatever," and the girls had walked off.

He'd turned to her as if he'd done nothing special and said, "You want to ride, or fly? I'm kinda tired."

She'd returned to thoughts of him over and over again over the next few days, as analytically as she'd done everything else in her life. He was handsome. Sure, he was green, but with her skin the color of a day –old corpse, she had no business judging anyone over their skin color. He was kind and gentle. Great with kids and animals. But also strong. Powerful. Talented. A little impulsive, sure, but also decisive and commanding. Then there'd been the money. Oh, he didn't have Robin's apparently bottomless pile of cash, but when he'd turned 18, he'd surprised everyone by inheriting a trust fund his parents had set up, as well as a big house in the Hollywood Hills in north Los Angeles. He'd learned to dance. Really dance, not just booty-grind at clubs. He'd shocked Raven at one point with an utterly undisclosed ability to speak French. Apparently the village he'd spent his childhood in had once been in a French colony. So she'd set out to woo him, and find out if he could actually turn out to be "her type."

That what when she learned something about young men: subtle hints do not work. Gentle hints do not work. Blatant, obvious hints do not work. You have to tell them what you want straight out, or you just frustrate yourself. After two weeks of trying to quietly get his attention, she caught him reading a comic book in the common room and dropped a chess board in his lap. "Let's play chess," she'd said. Neither of them were very good players and the game had ended in a stalemate with a nearly empty board. [3]

"So,' she'd said, after a few moments of hesitation. "I, um, know a café that keeps chess boards. Wanna go check it out tomorrow night?"

"Sure," he'd said, casually, going back to his comic book.

There'd been a long silence in the common room. Then Cyborg had looked over at Robin.

"They are going to a public place, together, and un-chaperoned." Cyborg had said.

Robin nodded. "Food will be consumed at that public place."

Cyborg continued, "There will be a pleasing recreational activity and opportunity for intimate conversation."

Robin nodded again. "Tomorrow is Friday night."

Raven looked at them over her book, arching an eyebrow.

"What" asked Cyborg "does this sound like to you?"

Again, a long silence, then Starfire burst out, "A date! What you describe is a date! Oh how wondrous, Beast Boy and Raven are going to have a date!"

Changeling laughed from his place on the couch, "It's not a date. We're just going to go hang out, right Raven?"

He looked over at Raven, who merely looked him dead in the eye, with the same arched eyebrow.

"I said, 'Right, Raven?'"

She just continued look at him, dead silent and with an utterly straight face.

"It. . . it is a date, isn't it?"

He gaped at her a moment, then went to lean nonchalantly against the edge of the couch, missed, and fell on the floor with a meaty thump.

Raven sighed, and looked back down at her book. "I'd really appreciate it if everyone would try and not make a big deal about this."

"I wasn't going to say anything. You Rob?"

"Nope, said Robin."

All three looked over at Starfire, who was biting her lower lip, clasping her hands in front of her and hopping up and down on one foot.

"I guess I'd better give her some 'girl talk' before she explodes." Raven sighed, closed her book and led a vibrating Starfire out of the room.

'The dating' had actually gone fairly well after that. She'd thought there was more to Changeling than met the eye, and he'd demonstrated hidden depths. He'd spent his whole life being driven by the "Uncle Ben" principle: With power comes great responsibility. He was hip deep in survivor guilt over his parent's deaths. He would sacrifice his life for his friends or the general public without thought or hesitation. Not that he had a death wish, just a total and complete commitment to the idea of doing good.

They'd broken up. She'd thought he'd become more annoying, but the fact was that she pushed him away. She just couldn't face the idea of being loved. There had been other men for her and other women for him, and then they'd reconciled on the battlefield of another world. They'd dated again, and this time she was sure. But she'd also realized that after all she'd put him through there was no way he was going to permanently tie himself to a bipolar, emotionally constipated mess. And it was okay. She was going to enjoy their partnership until he came to his senses, and then let him go graciously.

And, as usual, he'd done the unexpected. While not a joke, it was a curveball. Nothing the man had ever done had come at her straight on, but sideways. She later found out that he'd put Starfire up to it, but at the time it had seemed utterly spontaneous. Starfire was reading a particularly vapid "women's magazine," and had decided to drag them all through an exercise in naming "Things you would change about your mate." The team had had great fun watching Starfire and Robin squirm while exchanging lists of flaws, but then it was her turn. So she gave a list of harmless, superficial things. (Stop leaving your socks on the floor.) Then it was Changeling's turn. He'd stood and looked slowly around the room, making eye contact with everyone in turn. Then he'd locked eyes with her, and walked up to her, slowly, and quietly, not wavering.

"There's just one thing I'd change about Raven," he'd said, and leaned down over her.

He'd kissed her full on the lips in front of the rest of the team, and then gently kissed her along the jaw line, in direct violation of one of her rules, "no PDA's." Then, with his lips right next to her ear, he'd whispered, "I want to change your last name."[4]

Then he stood and walked from the room. He stopped at the door, looked back, and said, "Think about it, will you?"

She'd been startled by the kiss, the sudden intimacy, and was flustered. Her heart rate went up, and her hands shook for reasons she could not understand. She blinked. She blinked again, and groped for her book. She found it, looked down, and began reading, but the words made no sense. She struggled for a moment more when Cyborg said, "Um, Raven, your book's upside down."

*doink* She dropped the book and stared at the door.

"Azar, Trigon, and Metrion," she'd said, still staring.

"What's the matter, Raven?" Starfire had asked.

"I think, I think, I think . . . he just . . . proposed." She blinked again.

Starfire, of course, had exploded in a barrage of cheers. The boys had just gaped, jaws dropping.

She'd found him at his spot on the rocks.

"I'm sorry – I have to ask. You're . . . serious, right?" she'd said.

He turned and smiled gently. "Some things are too important for 'funny.' I'm as serious as I've ever been."

"You want to . . . . commit to me, forever?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Why?"

"We've been over this."

"Gar, I'm . . . still coming to grips with my humanity. Every day I get better at . . . feeling. But I'm never going to be a normal girl, and I'm never going to be full of laughter and joy like Starfire. Are you sure I can . . ."

He'd snorted. "If I wanted Starfire, I'd take her from Robin. You are who I want."

"Just like that, you'd take her from Robin. Confident much?"

"I won you. That does a lot for a man's confidence."

And he had. Won her, that is. She'd quit trying to make sense of it, and answered him with a kiss.

Oh, they'd fought. 'Children' had been 'the big one.' They'd been relaxing in the soft, dim light of her room after a very satisfying evening of intimacy several months after they had become engaged, when he's said, "Raven, I'm really glad you pay so much attention to your fertility. I mean, I want to be a dad someday, but this is probably about the worst time in our lives to do it." And he'd laughed.

She'd laughed with him, but the laughter stopped after her reply. "It's a moral imperative. Any child of my body will carry the same taint of Trigon the Terrible that I do. And Trigon's line ends with me. There will be no 'quarter-demon' children born of my body."[5]

To say he'd been disappointed was a gross understatement. "Crushed," or "shattered," were words more appropriate. He'd been incredulous, hurt, angry, and then back to hurt. "Be a Dad" was apparently on his "bucket list," and to find her so utterly implacable on the subject really, really cut him to the quick. But a life as "Trigon's Daughter" had convinced her, utterly and completely, that no child deserved what she had gone through, and there would be no "Trigon's Grandchildren."

He'd abruptly said, "Excuse me. I've got to think about his."

He'd gone immediately to Robin and told him he had a "family emergency," turned into an albatross, and vanished into the wilderness for ten days and nights. There weren't many nights Raven sat in front of her window, tears running down her face. But that had been one. Marriage is about compromise, but this was one thing that she would not, could not allow. She would bear no children, by Azar, by Metrion, by Zynthos, and by Trigon she would not.

It had been raining, late in the afternoon of the tenth day when he had returned to Titan Tower. The sky was the color of old iron, and the winds on the bay had worked the water into froth at the shoreline. She'd met him on the roof. The emerald albatross had glided to a soft, gentle landing, and a moment later, he'd stood there, waiting. She stood in the doorway for a moment, and then stepped out toward him. He walked across the roof, meeting her halfway. The softly falling rain immediately soaked her cloak, plastering it to her body. Cold water ran down her hair and face. When she reached him her hand went out, tentatively. He took it in both of his and spoke.

"In all my travels, in all my life, I have never met a women I thought was more fit to be my kid's mom. Any child of yours will be smart, strong, and heroic. I believe in you."

She opened her mouth to speak, but he silenced her with a finger on her lips.

"My turn to speak. But I've also walked in your nightmares. I've seen your fears, life-size, and bigger. And I can't, I won't ask you to live in them. I care for you too much. But children of your body are only the first choice. We can get a donor egg, and do the test-tube baby thing."

She tried to interrupt again.

"I'm not finished. We can study it carefully, first. You're the expert, but we can get help from the League, the Phantasm, or maybe even Doctor Strange. If you truly aren't satisfied that the baby will be safe, then we can find a surrogate mother. Then the child will have no chance of contracting your 'taint.'"

He raised her chin with his hand, and then clasped both of his around hers again. She looked into those emerald green eyes, unable to turn away. They were so utterly open to her, and what was behind them was so utterly vulnerable.

"And if that doesn't work, we can adopt. What I need from you; what I've gotta have from you is your promise that you'll consider all of this stuff with an open and calm mind, just like you've done everything else in your life. Will you also promise me that, no matter where they come from, you'll be the mother to my children?"

She'd closed her eyes and pressed her head to her chest. "I will," she'd whispered. And he'd put his arms around her. In spite of the cold rain, she felt warm, safe, and whole.

So now here she stood, in the sight of God and what felt like half of the planet, and she couldn't get her hands to stop shaking, and now her knees were joining the act, and threatening to buckle.

"This is ridiculous," she thought, "I stood on my own two feet before Trigon the Terrible and faced him down. Now I've just got a few people who LIKE me looking at me, and I'm ready to fall apart."

The Bishop asked, "Who gives this woman, to be wed?"

And Robin answered, "Her friends, and I."

He released her arm, bowed to her ever so slightly, and stepped up to the wedding party to take his place as one of Changeling's attendants.

Garfield looked into her eyes as she stood there frozen, and turned his head a little to one side. Then he gave her a toothy grin, and one of the tips of his ears starting dropping down and popping up. He was waving at her, with an ear! She was going to have one wedding in her lifetime, and her green idiot was standing there, in front of the Bishop, God, and half the known world, flapping an ear! She snorted, ever so quietly.

Then she realized that her hands had quit shaking, and she could move her legs again. Her green idiot had come to know her very well indeed. He stretched out his hand and she passed her bouquet to Starfire, and took his hand in hers. Together they faced the Bishop.

Raven wasn't sure what was going to come next in her life full of surprises, but she was sure of one thing: it was going to be more fun with the partner she'd chosen, and she was, for the first time, eager to find out what came next.


[1] I've forgotten where I got the idea for this scene. If anyone runs across it, please let me know.

[2] This dialogue was lifted almost work-for-word from TheForceIsStrongWithThisOne's wonderful story, "The Gift." I hate it when I do that.

[3] From "Deadpan Love" by Gwaihir10

[4] "Change" by Magma823

[5] I think this is the last idea in this story that came from somewhere else. I can't remember where I got it, but I thought it was very typical of Raven to refuse to bear children of her own body, to protect them from the taint of Trigon. That taint defined her entire life.