Left out a couple of details. See the Author's notes at the bottom for details.
More of the same. Fixed a couple of details. See the Author's Notes at the end of the chapter for details.
Lover of A Good Story – Actually, there was that dramatic dash in the rain all over the city on a stolen motorcycle, running the TSA gauntlet and damn near getting herself arrested in "Cold Rain." I forgot about it myself.
TheUtsukushiiYume – Glad you liked it.
V is for the 5th 7/2/13 . chapter 56 – You can't take it too literally. It's more like "two bros should not have a falling out over a woman." You're supposed to transcend it. Also – I cheerfully mix my comic book universes. I also throw in characters from random cartoons when I'm in a mood.
Jude3e – Thank you. It's been a pleasure. Except when I'm slogging through the actions scenes. I mean, you should see . . . Oh, wait, that's right. No spoilers.
Cailus Sionnach – It's a new expression for me, too, but one I like.
Guest – Extra graphic? She drew blood from his back in the last one! How much more graphic do you want?
Chowbo – Thanks. Hope I didn't disappoint,.
JOHNXgambit – Naw. Those promises were too intimate for that.
Dead Bones Sam – Glad you liked it. The Wedding's this chapter. I hope you like the formal vows as much.
shingi echidna – Huh. I never thought of this as a pre-work piece. I write mostly in the evenings, so I tend to think of it as prime-time entertainment. Of course, I read my reviews the next morning. That's more like watching the news. When get reviews, of course. I have 350 regular readers. Some of you are not doing your part.
JasonVUK – Glad you liked it. More in this chapter.
Shadico – Thanks. Gar's response is going to be interrupted.
krostovikraven1 – It worked out pretty well for him, I thought.
Madman2014 – Thanks. I write from life, and there's a lot of my own relationships folded into this story. And yes, the plan is to let you guys know if I ever get anything on the pay market.
AkatsukixXxProdigy – Yeah, it's a pretty neat turn of phrase. Wedding planned for this chapter. Hope you like how it turns out.
kmarie96 – Lots of people liked that turn of phrase.
Me – you know how it is: it comes at its own pace. I wasn't sure what was going to come next. I think you'll like what comes below, though.
Zaahara – Yeah, it was a little short. And yeah, you guys are getting a wedding this chapter.
necro-wulf 7/4/13 . chapter 30 – That's always been Aquaman's tragedy. Out of the water, he's pretty useless. Underwater, he's a god. And anybody who lives beneath the waves IS pants-shittingly scared of him. And for good reason.
otaku03 – Frankness goes a long way toward making that part of your relationship run smoothly.
Guest – Yeah. Little MadMax cameo there. "You run BarterTown. YOU fix."
LovelyMagicDarkStrength – Nah, it's not you. My word count is down.
The Hairy Wampa – Yeah. MC Honey is my favorite rapper. She's, you know accessible, unlike the Oh-Boys. You could imagine finding her down a bueno nacho. And yeah, I've watched too much TV.
YumeTakato – Take it to a public wifi spot and see if you can connect there. If you can, you probably need to reboot your router.
Zekiev Clayton – Well, the current series is really more of an homage/spoof or broad parody than a new series. I'm not sure I could write them as funny.
AfterHardshipComesEase – Thanks!
animemanga luvr – Everybody liked that.
TheForceIsStrongWithThisOne – Believe it or not, her biggest problem is that she still believes that she's not lovable because of her demonic taint, and that she is unable to properly express how she feels because she's spent so many years being so reserved.
shadowjack12345 – I'm glad you liked it enough to put so much of your time into reading it. If you were "slightly dismayed" at the infidelities, try to imagine the River of Flame I had to sit in. I've got some folks who are still hammering on my inbox about it. Man, some people are harsh when people make mistakes. Thanks for the props!
00cLosetFreak00 – Yeah. We can dream.
Caprichoso – Soon, but not right away. We have to get through the wedding, the honeymoon, and the bonus material. There may also be an epilogue. It's not Gmail. My process is to write in Word, save to disk, and then to cut-and-paste into the site. The lawn service goof was me not noticing what window was open when I cut a check to the folks who mow my rental properties. Try not to take the vows so literally. She doesn't mean that they're never going to go shopping together. Her intent is that he will never be standing around, bored, holding her purse while she tries on shoes. Her promise is to engage with him and share things that interest him. When they decorate their first home, they'll do it together, but only if it's what they both decide to do. Promising to "never have a headache" doesn't mean she's always going to be in the mood. It means that he can count on her to make intimacy a priority. I'm glad you guys have liked it so far.
Garfield watched as Raven, her declamation complete, turned and returned to the Tower, leaving him to his solitary contemplation. Her cloak clung to her curves as she walked. The young man blinked in appreciation of her form as she entered the front door of the enormous building.
"That," he thought, "was unexpected."
He returned to his contemplation of the water, his thoughts now turning over the obligations and privileges of boyfriend, fiancé, and husband. After about twenty minutes of this, a small splash drew his attention. He glanced over and saw a head with dark hair sticking out of the dark water, almost at his feet.
"Hello," said Aqualad.
"Oh," said Garfield, "Hi. Wedding's not 'till tomorrow. You're early."
"I know," he said, "I wanted to talk privately with you about my invitation."
"So, what gives? I'm not either one of your favorite person."
"It's no big deal. All of the Titans are invited. I figured leaving you off of the list was just . . . petty. So I talked to Raven about it, and she agreed. All that stuff is water under the drawbridge years ago. So come and be welcome."
The aquamancer rose out of the water until he was standing on the surface.
"Thanks, but you know . . . I think that Raven would enjoy her 'special day' without having to see my face, y'know?"
"If you say so."
"I would like to give you guys a wedding present, though."
Changeling looked at him sideways. "What?"
"Just, something to say that there's no hard feelings. It's illegal to operate a boat within 100 yards of a humpback whale. I've gotten several of my friends to come down to Jump City Bay. They're going to hang out around Titan Island tomorrow. That will force paparazzi to keep their distance. If Raven notices I'm not there, just tell her I'm managing the whales. Listen; man-to-man . . . The goal was never to hurt her. I just, you know, wanted some strange. Take better care of her than I did, huh?"
Aqualad sank back into the dark waters of Jump City Bay and vanished.
"That," thought Changeling "Was classier than I gave him credit for. I am having the oddest afternoon."
The wedding was held at sunset the next day. It had started out as a small affair, and the venue kept it from getting entirely out of control, but Raven was surprised at how large the guest list had become. She was to be attended by Starfire, Bumblebee, and Jinx. Garfield's attendants were Cyborg, Nightwing, and Kid Flash. As it was evening, the gentlemen wore black tie and tails. The ladies wore blue strapless dresses that broke mid-calf and gathered at the waist. The venue was Titan Island, on the shore by the bay, by the light of the setting sun. They were to be married on the beach, there near Changeling's spot on the rocks. He'd made the choice.
"It's there, where the earth, the water and the sky meet, the three environments where my animal forms flourish that represents my essential Garfield-ness."
"Ok," she'd replied.
"Ok? No argument? No better place? What about something that represents you? I figured you for wanting a cathedral or some gothic showplace."
She smiled a tiny Raven smile. "Your life is the life of the world. My life is the life of the mind, and wherever I am, it's Nevermore. Besides, my very presence would defile a formal sanctuary. I'm half-demon."
And that was that.
The celebrant was an issue Raven had expected to be a problem. However lapsed or odd his faith looked, Changeling was a Christian.
"How many," she thought, "Christian priests or ministers will spiritually bind a mortal to a demon?"
One of the oldest Episcopal churches in California had responded without delay. Father Martin Reznick, of the Church of St. John the Evangelist was willing to preside for them. They spoke at one of the pre-wedding counseling sessions he required of them.
"Well, Raven," said the young priest, adjusting his glasses, "your talk of demons and demonology goes way beyond anything I was taught in the seminary. So I'm going with my gut on this one: 'by their fruits ye shall know them.' And I've seen your fruits, Raven. You've done nothing but good and save lives in the decade you've been here. We are all God's children, and all of His children are welcome in His house. You may believe that you walk in darkness, but you bring others into the Light. If you choose not to use the Cathedral, officiating is the least I can do."
Garfield smiled, "She gets that a lot. One day she may even believe it."
Raven had blinked at that, and then smiled a little uncertainly. Utter acceptance was something that was still new to her.
The guest list was smaller than it might have been had the ceremony been elsewhere. The Titans East, and all of the Honorary Titans were invited, plus a goodly hunk of the Justice League. Raven had not quit working with Sarah Simms at the West Side School for the Handicapped, but spent at least one afternoon there once a month. So Sarah had brought about thirty of the students to Titan Island for the festivities. The Doom Patrol, of course. Garfield's mother and father were not going to miss a day like today. Scattered among the brightly-clad heroes were other citizens: the Jump City chief of police, a couple of military officers, and a representative from the Cadmus group.
Raven's 'Bridal Room' was a glade in the woods near Titan Tower. A small white tent was erected for privacy and shade, but as the hour approached the skies remained clear, the late afternoon sunlight began to turn gold and white, puffy clouds scudded across the skies. She looked around. Surrounded by saplings and a few, scattered older trees she sighed.
"I guess," she supposed, "I should get used to hanging out in the woods. I'm marrying the Jungle Boy."
She blinked. Her reaction to the thought surprised her. The idea of living rough for the rest of her life left her undisturbed.
"That's unexpected," she thought. "I lived pretty rough that first year before the Titans formed. I was really glad to get a room of my own. But – I'd rather live my life under the sky, in the woods with him, than in my room, alone. I've changed. A lot."
She looked into the makeup mirror set up in her tent. Starfire had chased all of her bridesmaids and "friends-that-are-girls" out of the tent to allow Raven some time to think. To prepare. And yes, to meditate. Raven had been emotionally on an even keel for a long time now, but today of all days she wanted a lid on her emotions.
"It would be . . . crass to blow out all the front windows of Titan Tower at 'you may kiss the bride,'" she thought.
Meditation complete, she bent toward the makeup mirror and began to don her war-paint. As the years rolled by, Raven had mastered her own "looks." While she flatly refused to be drawn into makeovers for anyone else, she had learned what worked best for her under just about any circumstances. She stared at her own reflection, waffling. She'd never been married before. As a bridesmaid, she'd know what to do. "Business/casual." After all, nobody is supposed to be looking at bridesmaids. But brides are supposed to be the center of attention, a position Raven had dodged her whole life. And now, at least for the next few hours, Raven was going to be the utter and complete center of attention.
"Should I," she wondered, "go for 'professional,' 'smoky,' 'alluring,' or what?"
Then she thought about her promises to Garfield. "'You'll always be proud to have me on your arm,'" she thought. "Well, no time like the present," and she got out the lavender eye shadow and got to work, turning it up to eleven.
The venue had been set up at the edge of the water, just as the tide was cresting. There was a small, white gazebo just above the high tide line, its design drawn from the architecture of the temples in Azarath. Father Reznick waited under the gazebo. The guests were seated in folding chairs, with a large aisle up the center, dressed with a white carpet leading all the way into the woods at the edge of the beach. The music began, and Changeling entered, not down the aisle, but from the right, followed by Nightwing and Kid Flash, all in black tie and tails. Nightwing and Kid Flash both wore black harlequin masks to match the tuxes. At the edge of the woods waited the gigantic form of Cyborg, who, in a change of pace, wore epic black, custom fitted tails for the occasion. A gentle breeze blew in from the shore bringing the salt air across the crowd.
The music began; it was a gentle piano solo. She'd chosen her processional with great care. It was old, but had a rhythm suitable for a processional and lyrics that spoke from her heart. After all this time, she still didn't understand why he'd chosen her when he could have had just about any woman he wanted. But she'd come to accept it, and to love him for it. Proceeding ahead of her were Jinx, Bumblebee, and Starfire. Raven, all in shadow, swallowed, blinked her eyes, and stepped into the light, raising her face to the sun. Garfield, with the eyes of a falcon saw her and caught his breath.
I know just how to whisper and I know just how to cry.
I know just where to find the answers and I know just how to lie.
I know just how to fake it and I know just how to scheme.
I know just when to face the truth and then I know just when to dream.
Garfield's bride had chosen a strapless wedding dress that left her shoulders bare. Unwilling to even symbolically claim any kind of purity, Raven had selected ivory, not white. The bust line dipped slightly, just to the top of her cleavage, rose up, following the curve of her breasts, and then back down under her arms. Below her breasts was a sapphire blue cincher pulling in her waist. The full skirt flared out from the high waist, resplendent with a simple pattern of lace and seed pearls that flashed golden in the light of the setting sun. At the bottom of her skirt was a narrow band of sapphire blue, matching the cincher. Her shoulder-length amethyst hair was in a complex coiffure. The back and crown had been upswept and curled. The sides of her hair had been braided and wrapped up, over, and around in slender overlapping bands. Worked into the curls were tiny sprigs of lavender blossoms. Her bouquet was of black and white roses, and sprigs of more lavender. She stepped forward seemingly serene. Only those who knew her well could tell. The petals on her bouquet were trembling. Raven, who had stood on her own two feet, alone in the face of Trigon the Terrible, was shaking.
Her veil topped off her wedding ensemble. It had been young Melvin who had found it, and she'd been right. Raven and Starfire had declared that it was perfect. Raven wore a gossamer veil of silk so fine it was transparent.. A single fold of the veil came to a point like a raven's beak in front of her face framing her features. The gossamer fabric cascaded over her shoulders and stopped midway down her upper arms and floated over her bare back. So transparent that it was almost ghostly, the warm light of the late afternoon sun shined on it, highlighting Raven's features.
And I know just where to touch you and I know just what to prove.
I know when to pull you closer and I know when to let you loose.
And I know the night is fading and I know the time's gonna fly.
And I'm never gonna tell you everything I gotta tell you, but I know I gotta give it a try.
She stopped briefly as Cyborg extended his arm. Who was to "give her away" had been a tough question. Garfield was a traditional guy marrying possibly the most non-traditional girl on the planet. Raven had very much wanted to hew as closely as possible to a traditional ceremony as she could. But she was a little short of "father figures." Steve had come to mind, but the groom's father giving away the bride made her head hurt. Batman had gotten over his early suspicions of her, and their relationship was collegiate, but they weren't that close. In fact, she had reluctantly concluded, she was tight with none of the males she knew who were "age appropriate" for the task. So she'd turned to the other Titans' she'd served with closely. Speedy? Please. Aqualad. No. That was eight kinds of wrong. Robin had welcomed her to Jump City. Given her a home. A family. But her friendship was a little too intimate with him for that role. In the end, the answer had been obvious.
Raven had chosen her moment carefully. The other Titans had been out of the Tower. Cyborg had announced he was going to work on the T-car. Raven waited until the Tower was silent, and then stalked her prey. As she entered the garage her shadow fell across Cyborg where he lay under the T-Car.
"Cyborg," she had said, "We need to talk."
Slowly the man had slid from underneath the vehicles under-carriage. "Oooookay. I can't think of any conversation I've ever had with a woman that started with those four words that also turned out well. I hope the news isn't too bad."
Raven smirked with one corner of her mouth. "I know what you've been doing."
His eye darted back and forth as he rose, placing one hand on the T-Car, partially for balance, partially for security.
"Now Raven, I told you those security cameras in the ladies locker room were put in by the contractors, who miss-read the diagram. I took them out as soon as you pointed them out."
She shook her head. "That's not what I mean at all. I mean you've been . . . smoothing my way. Taking care of me."
He pursed his lips and looked at her sideways. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that when my troubles disappear, I can usually find your footprints nearby. That business with Garth. The snowflakes that still hang all over the Tower, plus a dozen other things. You've always tried to stand up for me, even when I didn't want you to."
"I'm sorry Raven. I know you like to make your own way. I just can't help it. I always wanted a little sister, and I guess you're it."
She dropped all pretenses and smiled at him. "I know. And I like that. And I'm going to ask you to stand up for me one more time. I know you're already Garfield's best man. But, will you escort me down the aisle?"
"I know our relationship isn't exactly paternal, but you've done the most aside from Garfield to take care of me since I came to Jump City. Please. Don't make me do this alone."
"Raven," the big man replied, "I will be honored."
And I know the roads to riches and I know the ways to fame.
I know all the rules and I know how to break 'em and I always know the name of the game.
But I don't know how to leave you and I'll never let you fall.
And I don't know how you do it making love out of nothing at all.
Raven's mind spun, memories flashing into and out of her consciousness and she and Cyborg slowly moved forward along the white carpet. Garfield: caring enough to pry her out of her room and join the rest of humanity. Garfield: making stupid jokes. Garfield: defying his parents on her behalf. Garfield: his weight resting on her, the ceiling above his bed providing the background. Garfield: risking his intellect and putting his body in between her and hoards of Ravening zombies, demons, and Gordanians. Garfield: so careful of her modesty and dignity, when they were barely even friends. Garfield: deliberately choosing to take two bullets for her without thought or hesitation. She shivered in the warm evening sun.
Every time I see you all the rays of the sun are streaming through the waves in your hair.
And every star in the sky is taking aim at your eyes like a spotlight.
The beating of my heart is a drum and it's lost and it's looking for a rhythm like you.
You can take the darkness from the pit of the night and turn into a beacon burning endlessly bright.
I've gotta follow it 'cause everything I know well it's nothing till I give it to you!
She could feel the coarse sands of Titan Island shifting under her high heels as she strode down the carpet with increasing confidence. Her hands still shook, but she was unable to help herself. Her lips pulled back from her teeth as the corners of her mouth rose in what could only be describe as a giant, toothy, shit-eating grin. Later, in the wedding pictures, folks would point out how similar it was to someone else's grin.
"Yes," she thought, "He's taught me to grin like an idiot."
I can make the runner stumble. I can make the final block.
And I can make every tackle at the sound of the whistle. I can make all the stadiums rock.
I can make tonight forever or I can make it disappear by the dawn.
I can make you every promise that has ever been made. I can make all your demons be gone.
Raven looked up at her groom, whose eyes hadn't left her since she'd stepped out of the woods. He face was softly smiling, one fang protruding over his upper lip. His eye shined with love for her.
"Mitzi, Fritzi, Agnes, and all the rest can suck it," she though, indulging herself in an instant of cattiness. "I. Win."
Her skirt fluttered and flowed around her calves and feet and she strode forward with even more confidence.
"Um, Raven," hissed Cyborg, "Slow down!"
Raven glanced to her right and realized that she was a half-step in front of him. She'd been pulling at him, almost dragging him forward. The tiny woman slackened her pace as she drew closer to the wedding party.
But I'm never gonna make it without you
Do you really want to see me crawl
And I'm never gonna make it like you do
Making love out of nothing at all.
The sounds of her processional music faded away just as Raven stopped short of the wedding party, and Father Reznick spoke.
"Who gives this woman to be wed?"
Cyborg replied softly, "Her friends, and I."
Raven released his arm. He turned, bowed to her briefly, and took his place next to Garfield. Raven stepped forward in front of the minister, handed her bouquet to Starfire, and turned to face Garfield. He lifted his hands and gently folded back the hood of her veil so that she faced him bare-headed. His emerald green eyes bored into hers as he leaned forward. Her eyes began to close when Father Reznick softly cleared his throat.
"Ahem," he said. "We haven't reached that part yet."
Raven flushed maroon as she reached out to Garfield, who took both of his hands in his own. They felt huge as they gently squeezed her. They turned to face the minister.
"Dearly beloved:" he began, "We have come together in the presence of God and this company to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony."
He raised his voice and addressed the congregation. He raised his voice and addressed the congregation. "Do you," he said, "as a people of God, pledge to support and encourage the covenant commitment that Raven and Garfield do now undertake?"
The devout man led them through the ceremony with good humor, following the traditional Rite closely, until the time came for the vows. He stepped back. The golden disk was just about to touch the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean. The soft cry of a gull could be heard overhead in the silence.
"Garfield and Raven," he said, have written their own vows.
The couple turned and faced each other, their sides toward the assembled crowd.
There was a brief pause, then a muttered, "We will," from the gathered crowd.
"I, Garfield Mark Logan, last scion of the House of Logan, consent to take thee, Raven, for to wed."
Kid Flash leaned over to Nightwing and hissed, "Why on earth is he talking like that?"
"Dunno, but it's probably to impress Raven," Nightwing replied. "Now shut up."
Garfield continued, "Before God and his company, I take thee, Raven, to be my friend, my lover, and the mother of my children. I will be thine in need and in plenty, in peace and in war, in living and in dying, from this day forward, beyond death, until the world ends. I take thee in the love that I know of thee, and in the love of the things I have yet to know. I breathlessly await the chance to grow together, getting to know the woman thou wilt become. I promise to love, cherish, and care for thee throughout whatever life may bring us. Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee. For wither thou goest, I shall follow, be it unto the pillars of Heaven, or the gates of Hell. Wherever thou shalt stay, so shall I, and there I will be buried. "
Raven blinked in surprise, and swallowed. She hadn't seen that coming at all. All this time and she continued to underestimate him. Suddenly, Raven felt ill-prepared, though she had given her public vows a lot of thought.
Garfield's groomsman, however, gaped in jaw-dropping amazement.
"Where'd he learn to talk like that?" hissed Kid Flash.
"I didn't even believe he could read," replied Cyborg.
"I," Raven said smiling, "Raven, daughter of Arella and sole daughter of the House of Trigon, do consent to join my house unto yours, even though I still think you're out of your mind."
"Before God and this company, I swear to be your wife and partner from this day forward. I shall support you in public and in private. I shall stand by you in good times and in bad. I swear to love you unconditionally, to help you to reach your goals, to honor and respect you, and to cherish you as long as we both shall live. Above and before all others, I choose you as the person with whom I shall spend my life."
The both turned and faced Father Reznick, who smiled and said, "By the power vested in me by God and the State of California, I now pronounce you man and wife . . ."
It was then that there was Hell to pay.
The sky darkened, filling with Endless Night. Above Titan Island, the firmament slashed open in an ugly, ragged gash that glowed with a pulsing crimson, the shade of new blood. A warm, fetid wind blew across the wedding guests, carrying with it a unique stench.
Garfield knew that stink of old, and knew it well. Someone had opened a Gate from Outer Perdition. He stepped back from Raven and Father Reznik to give himself fighting room, spread his feet shoulder width apart, and gathered his will to shift into his T-Rex form. Without warning, a vast yellow clawed foot slammed down onto the wedding party from the rift above. The attendants scattered and Father Reznick rolled clear. The little gazebo was pulverized and Raven was driven to her knees. She looked around, eyes wide.
But Garfield was just gone. In the place where he had stood was the giant insectile claw. Raven did not look up. She did not assess the situation. She just stared at the claw where her husband had just been.
Then, many things happened at once. From the back of the crowd came a battle-cry first heard the day Clark Kent came to Metropolis.
"Up, up, and away!" The Man of Steel kicked off from his seat and flew toward the head of the giant demon as it clambered down from the hole in the sky.
The thing looked as though a demented praying mantis had mated with a lion in the core of the Chernobyl reactor, and this was the offspring. The chitin of the things hide was the sickly yellow of infected mucus and appeared slimy to the touch. It had four legs, the first two of which had attacked the wedding party. Its head was that of a gigantic lion, almost. It had huge black compound eyes like those of a fly. Its mane tapered off into a mangy ridge of fur that went down the center of its back. Beneath the folded wings on its back, a bulging ovipositor pulsed with unborn spawn. The mouth opened. Its voice was a bizarrely feminine cross between hiss and a roar.
"I," it said, "am Praeconor, She Who Comes Before, the Preparer of the Way, Herald of Trigon. Hear the words of my Master!"
The demon's head began to twist and writhe. Its jaw opened wide in a scream of pain as an additional set of eyes opened on its forehead, all four turning the color of old blood. The jaws shifted, becoming more human-like, and opened again.
"HA! Well done daughter! I never would have thought of opening a way by forging a spiritual bond with one of the natives of this world. As you are bound to me, and are now bound to him, I may use your bond to cross over. He looked down."
Raven continued to stare at the clawed foot where her husband had stood.
Nightwing turned to Kid Flash. "Flash, get the children and civilians clear! Gather Mas y Menos and, um, Flash to help you."
Mento, Negative Man, and Robotman moved fast, shoving other members of the crowd clear, because they knew what was coming. Sure enough, in the blink of an eye, Elastigirl was at her maximum size, and murder was written all over her face, her eyes wide, her teeth bared, and the tendons on her neck stood out.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SON?" her voice boomed out.
The seam on the left sleeve of Cyborg's tails split away as his trademark cannon powered up. The back of Bumblebee's dress split open as her wings extended and she took to the sky. Jinx's own dress fluttered in the wind and she turned handsprings getting clear of the demon's feet. Hal Jordan's suit faded away as his ring powered up, revealing the uniform of the Green Lantern Corps. Speedy somehow produced a takedown bow and assembled it as he sprinted toward the massive form. Starfire, knock to her hands and knees by the initial footfalls of the demon shoot her red mane of hair from her eyes, set her jaw, and looked up in defiance, her pupils invisible as her eye began to glow with jade fire.
Praeconor/Trigon laughed as one of its massive feet pulverized the folding chairs that had, until a moment before, held the gathered wedding guests.
"I regret," said Praeconor/Trigon with good humor, "that I cannot manifest personally. I would truly like to deal with you insignificant mortals with my own hands. But, thanks to Daddy's darling little girl, I will be indisposed for quite some time. My servant should have plenty of power to deal with this paltry mortal world."
Elsewhere, in the dark, there was only one thought. "The weight."
With skill born of years of experience working together, Superman and Green Lantern flew in a helix pattern swapping sides as each approached Praeconor/Trigon to engage her/them. Her two foreclaws flashed out farther than anyone expected and faster than the eye could see and snatched both heroes from the air. She squeezed, laughing. Superman groaned and Green Lantern's entire body flashed green as his power ring flared to prevent him from being crushed.
"So," said Praeconor/Trigon, "It seems that, super or not, you're just a man, after all."
Her eyes flashed grey and both Jordon and Superman twisted in agony, then turned grey and froze in place . Praeconor/Trigon sneered, and dropped them both to the ground.
"Great Hera," said Wonder Woman as she launched herself into the sky. "It has a cockatrice gaze. Don't let it look directly at you!"
Nevermore: Raven's Mindscape
"He's gone!" cried Eros.
Sloth, uncharacteristically said, "We've got to do something."
Wisdom stood, trying to speak. "I . . . I . . . we . . ."
Intellect just blinked.
Valor looked back and forth between them, "Say something! I have to have some direction."
Intellect spoke hesitantly. "I, um, don't know what to do."
A voice from behind them all spoke in a low, gravely snarl.
"Well, I do."
A long shadow fell across the confused and suffering aspects of Raven's personality, and then they vanished behind a curtain of crimson.
Back on Titan Island
Rita pounded forward, her hands extended toward Praeconor/Trigon, her mouth open in an inarticulate scream of fury.
"Larry," shouted Mento, "Get my helmet from the vertijet. I'm useless without it."
Negative Man nodded and his body collapsed on the ground while his dark spirit flashed forth, headed for the roof of Titan Tower.
Robotman simply leaned forward and charged.
Batman raised a communicator to his lips and spoke rapidly. "J'onn J'onnz," we have a situation here. That thing took out Superman and Green Lantern like they were children."
The alien voice immediately crackled back. "Understood, Batman, we were watching via video link. We're bringing the particle beam online now."
The Martian Manhunter's voice changed timber as he turned away to address the technicians, "Commence primary ignition . . . "
Raven, on her knees, scrabbling in the sand next to the gigantic demon's foot, suddenly threw her head back and screamed. It started high and loud. It was a scream that keened of pain, of loss, and of fury. She raised her hands in front of her face and watched as the grains of dust and sand ran between her fingers, and the tone of her scream changed. The pain and loss faded away, and all that was left was the voice of Rage. And then Raven changed.
A second set of scarlet eyes opened on her forehead. Her wedding dress fluttered loosely about her skeletal frame as it elongated, terminating in a roiling black pool of darkness where her feet used to bee. Her hair flew about wildly as she was surrounded by winds of eldritch power. With a shriek of fury, Raven, or whatever it was that she had become, rose into the air and lifted her hands above her head. Throwing them forward, claws extended, a blast of dark energy leaped forth to impact the side of Praeconor/Trigon, whose head jerked to one side.
The strange voice hissed in pain, then laughed. "Yes, daughter, drink in your pain. Feel your fury. Feel the power grow. Strike! Slay me, if you can."
Praeconor/Trigon's laughter seemed to drive Raven to greater heights of anger. A dark nimbus of power began to gather around her.
Starfire, Bumblebee, and Argent flickered around Praeconor/Trigon's head, peppering it with starbolts, stings, and blasts of silver energy, but they seemed to have little effect. Rita grappled with the demon, a claw in each hand, and Wonder Woman dropped her golden lasso around the creature's neck. With a jerk, Praeconor/Trigon flung Wonder Woman to the ground, the lasso dangling like an id badge. While Rita was almost able to hold the monster still, none of the flyers seemed to be having any effect. Robotman began to pummel at one of its feet while Cyborg blasted away at the other side. The creature seemed interested only in Raven, who appeared to be the only person who could injure it, using her dark energy. She screamed again while the creature laughed.
Raven began to grow. Nightwing, staff out, grenades in hand, was preparing to race up the spine of the monster in an effort to block its eyes. He looked over and saw that the Raven-demon was getting larger.
"That's new," he remarked.
Raven shrieked as the monster laughed again.
"Yesssss," it hissed. "More power. Drink in the pain, the fury!"
Over and over, Raven hammered at the head and side of the creature with blast after blast of energy, and growing still larger.
Alone, in the darkness, one thought. Weaker. Quieter. "The weight."
Raven was approaching Rita's size, and continuing to grow. She blasted away at Praeconor/Trigon without regard to the flyers around its head or the fighters at its feet.
Nightwing licked his lips. "I don't know much about magic, but I know about the motivations of psychopaths. And that thing's too happy."
"Raven," he shouted, "Stop! Something's wrong!"
Raven was inarticulate. She heard nothing but her enemy's laughter, saw nothing but it's insane, smug, satisfied grin, and felt nothing but pain.
Then he saw it: for all the power, all the energy on the beach, the single most powerful thing there was Raven. If Praeconor/Trigon actually managed to push Raven completely out of control, it wouldn't matter of the herald demon was destroyed. Raven would finish the job for him. Nightwing looked at his old friend. All four eyes were squinted narrowly in pain, and leaked black tears. Her face was twisted in a rictus of pain. Her hands stretched before her were bent into savage claws that trembled with each widening energy blast. Raven was clearly pushing herself to draw on powers and emotions she'd never unleashed or touched before. And she couldn't hear or see anything. There was no way to reach her. But there was.
Nightwing abandoned the idea of blinding the demon and instead found a sheltered spot and sat down.
Fire lanced down from the sky as the Watchtower's particle weapon fired. The beam struck the demon on its carapace where the prothorax met the mesothorax.
"That," said the creature "could become inconvenient given time."
It looked up, and quad beams of white fire lanced out from Praeconor/Trigon's eyes to vanish into the black sky.
On board the Watchtower, the entire structure shook. Klaxons began to sound and automatic firefighting gear began to spew foam.
"All non-essential personnel to the teleportation stands," the voice of J'onn J'onnz rang out aboard the space station. We have a fire contained in the lower decks. All non-essential personnel are to evacuate as a precaution."
"Batman," he continued more privately into the pickup, "The particle lance is off-line, perhaps permanently.
"Understood," Batman replied, and broke off the connection.
The Caped Crusader broke out his own grapnel and looked up at the monster, weighing his next move.
Larry's dark spirit returned with Mento's helmet, then darted back into Larry's body for its mandatory one minute recharge. Robotman continued to pound away at the creature's feet to no affect, while Rita wrestled it to a standstill.
Nightwing sat with his back to Titan Tower and closed his eyes. This wasn't going to be easy, and he didn't really know what he was doing. He began searching for the tiny part of Raven's mind she'd been forced to leave behind the time she'd entered his mind to lead him back to himself. Most of the time he did what little he could understand to keep it pushed down and suppressed. Now he felt around in the darkness, seeking that tiny thread. He'd never been able to talk to Raven through it. But sometimes they could share impressions. It was the only way he could think to try and reach her. He glanced up. She was larger. Soon she'd be Rita's size, then the size of the demon.
"There," he thought, "there it is."
Nightwing's link to Raven, normally a dull, inert spot in the back of his consciousness was a red, festering, pulsating ball of pain.
"This," he thought, "Is going to suck."
With great care he constructed a concept in his mind, and put all of his will behind it. It was a simple concept, but one he felt, if he knew her the way he thought he did, would get through to her. Then he seized on the link, and shoved as hard as he could. Nightwing's back archer up with pain and a shout of pain escaped his lips.
Beyond the fury, beyond the pain, beyond the power, a single thought struck Raven with blinding clarity.
"Would Garfield want this?"
Garfield, who bought her stray kittens to try and heal. Who was so kind to little kids. Who worked so hard to save Terra, despite all she had done. No. He would not want this. He would not want it at all.
Raven gasped and her eyes turned amethyst. Her body snapped back to its human form and normal size and she crunched into the sand next to the demon's feet. Warm, human tears continued to stream down her face.
"Garfield," she whispered. And then she reached out, with mind and spirit, trying to see if there was a tiny remnant of his aura she could feel before it faded. The huge, vile festering spiritual cesspit that was the demon confused her senses for a moment, but she was able to get it all sorted out. She could sense the heroes above her, still battling the evil, and she cast about, seeking just an echo, to commit to memory.
Instead, she found her husband. And then just like that, he was gone.
The painted turtle, Chrysemys picta, is the most common turtle in North America. It is also one of the smallest adult male turtles in the world. Only six inches long, its hard shell and small size combined with the soft, loose sand of Titan Island had caused Garfield to be driven deep into the sand, not crushed under the demon's foot. But he couldn't move and couldn't breathe. The turtle's slow metabolism had bought him a little time, but it had all run out.
"NO!" shouted Raven, as Garfield slipped away.
Without hesitation, she went after him. She knew the way. She'd been there once before.
He couldn't remember anything. Except that he knew he didn't hurt any more. And there seemed to be a light somewhere up ahead. He wasn't sure where he was, but the light ahead was soft and gentle. And the air seemed to feel a little warmer. A voice spoke from ahead.
It was familiar. He'd heard it once before. A long time ago. He remembered more. A waterfall. North Africa.
He leaned forward to take a step. All it would have taken to move on would have been the decision to move, when he heard another voice come from behind him, in the cold darkness he'd just come through.
"Garfield? Are you there? I can't feel you."
He stayed where he was. It was cold and dark behind, and warm and light ahead. Two voices and both knew his name, which was more than he knew at the moment. The voice behind him spoke again.
"Garfield, I'm not going to last long here. If you can hear me, I need you to come to me so that we can go home. Don't leave me."
He wavered. It was so warm and peaceful up ahead. He could feel it. And the other voice had been so full of love and tenderness. Then the voice behind him spoke again.
One word: quiet, pleading, also full of love, and maybe a little desperate.
And it came back to him. All of it.
Back on Titan Island, Raven's eyes snapped open and her mouth moved into an 'O' of surprise. From her knees she fell backwards onto her butt on the sand and crab-walked backwards rather than take the time to stand or levitate. Her husband, no, her mate was coming back. And she didn't want to be in the way. No, she did not. Raven wasn't sure what was coming back from the darkness, but it/he was pissed.
Praeconor/Trigon's voice boomed from above, "I am weary of playing with you mortals. It's time to finish . . ."
The creature got a very odd, surprised look on its face, and jerked its foot away from the sand. Raven, the closest, was the only one to clearly see what happened next. The green blob burst from the sand, growing larger as it emerged. She briefly made out the form of a wolf before it writhed and grew still larger. A tiger flashed past, but it grew larger still. She saw the now-familiar form of the Beast, but only for an instant, as the creature continued to grow. The T-Rex, the largest land form she'd ever seen her husband take came and went in a flash as the Changeling continue to shift. Larger and larger still he grew. A long, sinuous neck stretched out from his shoulders. Always green, the colors on his back darkened, to Lincoln or forest green, shading in different layers to a lighter belly. A thick, powerful tail extended from the end of his spine, terminating in a barbed point. Large, heavy fighting horns extended from his heavily ridged brow. Vast leathery wings burst from his back. Drifting in the air, the emerald dragon stretched out his wings to a span of over two hundred feet.
"Hey Trigon!" said Changeling's voice from everywhere, and nowhere. "You wanted fury? Well, um, taste the rainbow!"
The Dragon's mouth opened and a scarlet ball formed and emerged. Then it burst forth as a torrent of red hot liquid flame. With a roar it impacted the side of Praeconor/Trigon and knocked it sideways. Then, he hit it again. The creature screamed and staggered to one side as the chiton that made up its exoskeleton began to heat up, cooking the organs within.
Raven rose to her feet and smiled.
"What gives," asked Cyborg as he stepped up next to her. "I thought he could only do, you know, real critters. There's no such thing as dragon DNA known to science."
Raven spoke quietly, still smiling. "He used the same spiritual bridge that Praeconor used to get here. He's drawing on the mystic world through his connection to me. Excuse me. I just got through swearing to support my husband in all his endeavors."
Raven spread her arms and black wings of dark energy sprang from her back and began to spread. As she rose, her tiny form was enveloped by a vast black bird made of dark energy. She flew, swift and true, to the opposite side of the demon.
As Garfield inhaled for another blast Praeconor/Trigon whipped its head around and a blast of grey light shot from its eyes directly at Garfield's face. Instead of ducking, Garfield opened his mouth and another ball of fire formed, and then shot out at the demon's face, this time, the color of white hot molten steel. The two beams met midway between them, fanning out and spreading.
Starfire, Argent, Bumblebee, and Wonder Woman landed on the ground. Rita shrank down to her normal size and joined the group. The men gathered in a similar knot nearby.
"Did you know he could do that?" Cyborg asked Nightwing absently.
The disk of flame and energy began to be forced toward the demon, yard by hard. Raven slammed the demon from the other side with a broad column of dark energy. The thing staggered into the water of Jump City bay. Garfield bore down harder and Raven hit it again.
Praeconor/Trigon gave a cry of "NO!," spread its wings, and leapt for the rift in the starless sky.
Raven spread her wings out widely, brought them together, and a vast arc of dark energy shot forth. At the same time, Garfield's chest welled, his mouth opened, and a beam of pure, white hot fire shot out. Both beams met on the body of Praeconor/Trigon, in the middle of the mesothorax. Where the black and the white met, a white sphere of coruscating energy formed and began to pulse, larger and larger, throwing a ovoid net of lighting and mystic energy around the body of the demon. Larger and larger it grew, fed by the fire and energy the young couple. It grew and grew until it finally detonated.
A wave of light passed over, through, and around Titan Island and the surrounding city. When it cleared, the gash in the sky was gone. The golden disk of the sun was almost set beyond the Jump City Bridge, and the stars were just beginning to emerge on the eastern horizon. A stiff sea breeze blew salt air across Titan Island, clearing away the last of the stench of Outer Perdition. Superman and the Green Lantern both stood, flesh again, as all of Praeconor's/Trigon's spells faded away. The emerald dragon touched down on the beach and then shrank away, to reveal the form of Garfield Logan. Garfield turned to Wonder Woman, golden lasso in hand.
Beside him, Raven gently levitated to the ground, her vast Raven aegis melting away to reveal the tiny woman inside.
Her eyes opened to find him there, smiling at her. She darted across the narrow space and thrust herself into his arms, her hands clasping just below his shoulder blades, pulling them together.
"Azar," she whispered, "I thought I'd lost you."
Then, to his total shock, her shoulders began to shake. Garfield looked around at the crowd of staring people. Unsure what do so, he lifted his hands to her shoulders and squeezed.
"Raven," he said softly, "it's all right. I'm here, and I'm okay."
Her shoulder shook a moment longer. She held him close and inhaled his scent.
"How," she thought, "can he not be sweating?"
She looked up at him, eyes swimming.
"I'm sorry," she said, "but we can't . . . stay this way."
Garfield's eyes widened.
"What are you talking about?" he frowned.
"I never thought . . . the spiritual bridge between us. Our marriage is a path for my father to come to this dimension. He sent that servant the instant it was there. If we stay married, he'll only use it again. We can get an annulment. I don't think a divorce is necessary for a union this short. We can just . . ."
"No," he interrupted. His voice wasn't loud, but it was strong, and solid. Like Colorado bedrock.
"But," she said, "we have an obligation . . ."
"Raven," he interrupted again, even firmer, "Trigon is always going to be out there. He is always going to try to get in. We kicked his butt. And we're, or the people who come after us, are always going to be there to stop him."
Father Reznick appeared at their side. Raven looked him up and down. He was filthy dirty. He had a black eye and blood down one cheek. His cassock was torn in two places. Garfield looked over at Kid Flash.
Flash shrugged. "The dude refused to 'leave his congregation.' He helped us get the civilians clear, then started praying and slinging Holy Water."
Father Reznick spoke with authority. "There's that, but I also wasn't finished."
He took Raven's tiny hand and folded Garfield's over it.
He cleared his throat and looked out at the ragged group of heroes.
"What God has wrought let no one put asunder. You may kiss the bride."
Raven opened her mouth to object again and Garfield covered it with his. Firmly. He put one hand on the back of her head and the other in the small of her back and pulled.
Her body pressed up against his. At first she tried to push his chest away, but he wasn't having any of it, and in a moment, she relaxed and returned his embrace.
When they drew apart, still holding hands, the minister spoke again.
"Mrs. Logan," he said with authority, "When love's denied, evil wins."
She looked back at him, then at her boyfriend. No. Her husband.
"I . . . I . . ."
So he kissed her again.
Raven decided to just shut up. She wasn't thinking very clearly, but she'd realized that breaking the married would, in some way, cause or allow Garfield back out of arms reach, and that wasn't happening for a while.
"And now," said Garfield, "I believe we had planned a party!"
"Oh Azar," thought Raven, "the reception."
Raven looked her husband up and down. Her veil was gone. Her makeup was smeared and her hair was a tangled mass, a single long lock dangling over into her eyes. Her dress was full of ground in sand from the beach and she was missing a shoe. Garfield, on the other hand . . .
"None of the creases of your suit are even spoiled," she said, flatly.
"I'm a wreck, and you don't even have any wrinkles."
"Well, see . . . Raven, the first thing that happened was I transformed. And my clothes disappear when I transform so . . ."
His voice trailed off. Her eyes narrowed.
"Shh . . . I'm thinking. There's got to be a way to make this your fault."
Father Reznick interrupted again.
"Ah . . . we still have to sign a few papers. That's why there's always a delay before the bride and groom show up at the reception. I don't think anyone is going to object if the bride also does some 'damage control.'"
"Don't worry, Padre," said "She's not really mad at me. It's just a thing we do. She's not very comfortable sharing her feelings. She puts a lot of work into acting mad, I act scared. We both know that we love one another very much because of all the work we put into the acts."
Raven turned away, flushing maroon. He wasn't supposed to say it out loud.
I'm tired again. It's late again, but this should satisfy the "geeze that was short" commenters from last chapter. Twenty one pages. Over nine thousand words. And it only took me a few days, too. So there.
Sorry – I left Superman and the Green Lantern turned to stone, and the Golden Lasso dangling around the demon's neck. Fixed now.
Missed a couple more points. Raven never knew about Aqualad's dirty picture. Only Cyborg knew, and he never told a soul. Raven only knew Cy had done something to look after her. So I have edited that point. I've also adjusted a little of the text and put a tiny bit of polish on the wedding ceremony, you know, since I had the file open.
 Sex with a partner one has never had sex with before. Most often used in the context of a guy in a steady relationship, i.e. "I love my girlfriend, but man, I'm dying for some strange, y'know?"
 "Making Love Out Of Nothing At all" – Air Supply, 1983.