The inky sky above them was getting almost imperceptibly lighter as Beast Boy continued to dig. He only noticed because it was his timer at the moment: he had to be done before sunrise or risk getting caught grave robbing. Of course, that would only be another charge added to the list of felonies he was accumulating. His blistered hands clutched the handle of the shovel even tighter.
Up above the pit he was digging, Malchior alternating between pacing and staring down at Beast Boy with his arms crossed. So far, he kept quiet about Beast Boy's progress, but he could tell his patience was waning.
"How deep did you throw her down there?" he heard from above him.
Beast Boy was wondering the same thing. At this point he was past taking offense to Malchior's sarcasm and snark. Part of it was the mix of fear, adrenaline, and exhaustion that almost left him physically ill, though another seemed to be the all-too-understandable apprehension in his current cohort's voice. "I can trade you places," was all he muttered in reply.
Over the course of an hour, Beast Boy had been through seven different forms trying to hasten the excavation, though it seemed good old-fashioned digging with the strength of a gorilla in his arms was the most effective. If Raven were here, this would be a hell of a lot easier, he thought to himself with a grunt. Telekinesis would be particularly helpful. Of course, if she were here, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place...
"Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Malchior asked suddenly, causing Beast Boy to turn and look. He was in his favorite stance, arms crossed contemptuously. Beast Boy turned back to his work, knowing he had no time to waste. The strained politeness of the question made him curious though.
"Sure," he consented, "fire away."
"I just want to make sure I've got this straight. Raven, convinced of her demon father's second coming, allied herself with some psychotic mayor in order to assassinate herself in front of everyone at your city's largest party of the year, all without telling you or your team?"
Beast Boy pursed his lips. "That's... about right."
"Hm. And she thought this would rectify the situation because...?"
"Because Raven is a portal. Trigon gets to this universe through her," Beast Boy replied as he tried to focus on scooping out dirt.
"Ahh, well that's quite effective then," Malchior replied. "Though I find it shocking she would just up and off herself like that. Since you two were so in love," he clarified mockingly.
Beast Boy's grip tightened on the handle until it snapped, a splinter of wood burying itself in his hand. He grit his teeth against the sting, letting it distract him. It was the golden question. "She left a way to bring herself back," he ground out, sloppily digging the splinter out of his palm.
Malchior snorted delicately. "You hope. I told you this spell is vastly more complicated than you realize. She'd have to be amazingly talented to have pulled this off."
Beast Boy moved his hands down the shortened shaft of the shovel, shifting his leverage in order to continue digging. He gave Malchior a solid glare before he began. "She is. You taught her, remember?"
"Excellent point." He could hear the chilling grin in Malchior's voice. "And I'm sure the power of your love only served to strengthen the spell. Raven's always been quick to devote herself to anyone willing to spend more than five minutes paying attention to her."
"Enough!" Beast Boy yelled, using the strength in his arms to pull himself from the pit. He rose to his full height, slightly taller than Malchior, and slowly loomed towards him. "You pathetic waste of space," he ground out, voice close to a growl. "You have no right to talk about her like that."
To his credit, Malchior stood his ground as Best Boy advanced. "What are you going to do? We have an agreement," he reminded him coldly. "Without me, you will never see Raven again."
That made Beast Boy stop in his tracks. He focused on his breathing, the rise and fall of his chest, to keep himself from doing something stupid. He wanted to kill Malchior. He wanted to rip his papery skull in half. But he couldn't. Not yet. Because Malchior was right.
Even so, he seemed to need a reminder that he was not in charge of this operation. "Don't say another word," he warned, glaring at him for a few more minutes before lowering himself into the hole in front of Raven's tombstone.
He continued to shovel.
With every movement, every ache in his arms, every scrape of the rough wooden handle against his blistered hands, he tried to suppress the weight growing in his chest, threatening to break whatever control he had left.
He was so sure before, about Raven coming back. About everything being alright. He knew it was because he had to be. It was the last defense he had against the reality of the world he was faced to live in. But doubt had put cracks in his armor, and he knew it was only a matter of time before it broke.
So he continued to shovel.
Until he hit something hard.
Robin left his other two teammates to take care of the flight. The only thing he found himself able to focus on were the minutes ticking by on the dashboard clock. They had to make it home before Beast Boy did something that couldn't be undone.
"How much longer?" he asked, voice quiet and tense.
"Thirty minutes," Cyborg answered quickly. The atmosphere in the ship was uneasy and silent.
"Robin?" Starfire asked. She seemed to be waiting for something, so Robin turned in his pod to look at her. She offered a small smile. Nothing big, but enough to ease one of the knots in his stomach. "We will find him. All will be well." Her gentle voice soothed him, but deep down, he knew nothing had been well, not for a while now. He doubted that status was about to change.
"We got him!" Cyborg exclaimed, breaking the moment between them and making Starfire jump. "He just entered Titan's Tower."
Robin gripped the controls in his pod with renewed firmness. "Good. That's where we're headed."
"Give me the necklace," Malchior barked, drawing the spell book over to him with a flick of his wrist. Beast Boy took it out of his pocket, all but throwing it in his cohort's direction. They had about two minute before the Titans burst in on them in, meaning time was of the essence.
"What do you need?" Beast Boy asked, hands shaking with anticipation and fear.
"For you to be quiet!" He grit his teeth, watching as Malchior arranged a dozen candles in a circle before him. He took his place at the top of the circle, facing Beast Boy, who stood with his back against the door. As he let the book levitate before him, the candles lit themselves, casting eerie shadows through Raven's room.
After Beast Boy had finished unearthing the coffin, he let Malchior finish the final part of their task.
"Open it. She has the necklace on." As much as he wanted to seem strong in front of Malchior, removing something from the decomposing corpse of the woman he loved was not something he was prepared to do.
Malchior didn't say a word. He just traded places with Beast Boy, emerging a few minutes later with the pendant in hand.
Now, Malchior took a deep breath, calming and focusing himself for the task at hand. Beast Boy watched with his breath held as Malchior closed his eyes. When they opened again, they glowed white. Like Raven's, he thought distantly. As Malchior began the spell, it was like the rest of the room, even the rest of the world, seemed to fade away from him. All he could see was the scene before him. The rest was darkness, soft and warm, crackling with energy and anticipation of the magic to be performed.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos. Despiritus, Levarious, Amnaron." Malchior's chants were strong and commanding. Beast Boy watched as the candles burned brighter and the book began to glow. Everything glowed in this aura, a color that wasn't a color. Beast Boy couldn't name it, but inherently understood it. Magic, power, energy. The necklace that hung from Malchior's hand floated into the center of the circle, pulsating as the light that emanated from it grew.
"Santirious, Ebonin, Azarath. Netirion, Netirion!" Beast Boy clenched his eyes shut as the pendant burst with light, blinding him. He was thrown back by and indescribable force that pulsed through him. He clambered to his feet, blinking in the darkness that was left after the explosion. As his eyes adjusted, his heart dropped into his stomach.
There was nothing there.
Malchior stood where he had been before, looking stupefied and awestruck at the head of the circle. Each candle was out, the necklace lying on the floor at the center.
Beast Boy's lips moved, only able to form sounds at first. "Wha-where, where is she," he breathed, feeling his knees grow weak. His ears rang. He felt like he was floating, like he wan't on the ground at all. "What's happening?" He looked to Malchior's face, dazedly demanding an answer.
"I-" Malchior began, blinking. His gazed darted from Beast Boy to the necklace, to the book in his hand. "I don't know," he said softly. "It was working." His words were drawn out and faint.
Something was wrong with Beast Boy's chest. His mind was foggy, and slow, but he registered that his lungs felt funny, like something was pressing on them. He didn't solve the mystery until he felt the hot liquid spill over his cheeks, and realized he was crying. That was it. Everything was over.
Until a beam of light shot out from the middle of the room.
Another came to join it, and another. Beast Boy saw that it was coming from the crystal before it became so bright he had to close his eyes. All at once his senses were overwhelmed. Wind whipped around his form, which made him fall unsteadily into a crouched position on the ground. The light played against his closed eyes, coming in surges and patterns. And powerful sounds screeched into his ears. It sounded like they were in a construction accident, all metallic and loud enough to echo in his chest and gut.
Beast Boy was terrified. Something was going horribly, horribly wrong.
He tried to open his eyes. Through the bursts of light emanating from the center of the circle, he could see Malchior, slowly backing away from the scene in front of him. Beast Boy's heart hammered in his chest.
He didn't know if the light was becoming less intense, or if he was simply becoming accustomed to it, but it seemed to be taking form now, and he could see it clearly. It grew and twisted into flesh, into bone, until the wind died down, the sounds faded, and instead of light, a girl floated before him.
Beast Boy was frozen. Everything was. The only thing that moved was the woman in front of him, who slowly descended towards the ground, bare feet hitting carpet. She was draped in white, looking every bit like an angel.
He just stared.
This girl looked like Raven. Had her same delicate features, angular jaw, violet hair. But her skin had lost its gray. Her hair flowed around her like it was suspended in water, all the way down to her waist. And when she opened her eyes, she looked right through him.
"Raven?" he asked softly. She heard him though; when he finished uttering the two syllables, her consciousness, the girl that he had fallen in love with, slammed back into her, radiating through her wide purple eyes.
Seconds passed. A minute. Maybe two. It felt like an eternity that he just kneeled there, looking at this creature in front of him with awe, and hope.
"Beast Boy," she says, voice soft. Her voice. She takes a cautious step forward, then another. Beast Boy rose from his knees, watching her move. He couldn't imagine what he looked like, to make her move with such uncertainty.
"Is it really you?" he asked, and her advance halted. Her mouth hung open, her breath shaky. She blinked once, and a tear slid down her cheek. The corners of her mouth turned upward, forming a beautiful, sad smile.
She nodded once. "Yes."
That was all the proof he needed. He crossed the space between them in two bounds, wrapping his arms around her familiar form. He pulled her so close against him that there was no space between their bodies, not anywhere.
"Raven," he cried on a sob, hands frantic to touch her hair, her face, her waist, to reacquaint himself with every part of her. It had been so long.
"It's okay," she said into his chest, her voice meek and wavering, "it's going to be okay. I'm so sorry Gar. I'm sorry."
Somehow they were on the ground, Raven huddled on his lap, and he clung to her small form. He pulled away from her for a moment, to see her face. It was wet with tears, some of which were likely his. His breath caught in his throat out of pure joy and relief.
"You're back. You're alive," he choked out, running his fingers over her cheekbones, his thumb over her bottom lip.
She let out a strangled laugh. "I'm back." She wrapped her arms around his neck, bringing her lips to his. The kiss was deep and desperate, each of them trying to meld even closer to one another. Beast Boy told her with every touch, every movement, how much he had missed her, how much he had needed her.
"I love you," he whispered between kisses. He moved to her neck, placing kisses up and down her collarbone and up to her jaw. "I love you."
She pulled back, looking up into his eyes. "I love you too Gar." The adrenaline was starting to fade, and he realized, with more bliss than he had ever felt at once, that she was really here. Safe, with him. Here to stay.
He brought his lips to her forehead, whispering, "welcome home."