All That Glistens
Notes: Hey all, I've been on this site for a LONG time, though these days I pretty much write original fiction to the exclusion of everything else or spent all my time going to college and not writing at all. So it goes. Just a fair warning: No plot, no plot, no plot. Just saying. This is a bunch of sap I wrote when I watched some old episodes with one of my friends and just could not resist.
Also, please review. I was conflicted about the non-linear timeline and then decided that I like it that way and that's more or less good enough. Even so, I'm interested to see what you all think.
Oh, and more in a few days. I already have most of it written.
One day, she will lean up and kiss his mouth and in the same moment wonder if she could possibly be right about all this. Today, she is sixteen, lying still, and dying in a cave.
"I have found her!" The scream echoes and she doesn't hear it and ...A string of words that are short, guttural and unmistakably inappropriate echo through the cave. The ice around her shatters with a crack and her weight is someone else's to bear.
The second voice gives a low whistle. "He threw her all the way down here?"
A sensor detects a pulse so faint that a human fingertip would have missed it, "B, turn into something that will get her warm, now, I'll go get the ship and bring it here, stop touching that head wound, she can heal that herself, Star, cut her clothes off first thing, they're wet and right now they're killing her." He does not waste breath to tell her to be careful with the hunting knife he has just tossed her.
He holds her still to make this, the life-saving part, go faster and as an afterthought just stares at her side instead of anything else, because if-when-she wakes up she's going to care about who did or did not see what but...Something ridged there, a scar that doesn't belong...His eyes focus, wander, and count and he stares.
Star notices as she wrestles off the heavy, sodden clothing and is disappointed and considers decking him. He escapes this by turning into an ostrich and pulling the nearly-dead one close under his wing. She is so cold it hurts, but not dead, and since when has anything else mattered?
"Raven," From the way he says her name, she knows he's noticed. "Try that again."
The third day of the team, of training, of cohabiting, of all the triumphs and terrors that will follow like a pack of wolves. When asked to explain herself, she owns only to the telekinesis and interdimensional origin and no one says a word. She knows, she knows how ridiculous this all is, to save lives just to take them away a few years later but to sit quietly awaiting her (and everyone else's) doom is unthinkable.
She tells herself that she's doing this to learn combat because when it's time for her to fight him...Impossible. She is here because they all sat and watched the sun together and in that moment she saw a life she wanted more than anything. At this moment, Raven is holding back because she doesn't want to scare them, is already both deeply attached to and afraid of the the idea of occupying a small corner of their lives.
This is a mistake. She tries it again, careful to rip up only half of the towering robots and let some of the faster projectiles nearly hit her, because all of them are here, within yards.
He sighs and it echoes through the enormous, rocky field and walks down to her.
"Raven," He begins and sounds tired. "Do you want to be here?"
She feels like a child being chastened by a teacher and for a moment Rage writhes in her container. "Yes," She grits out.
"Then why are you holding back?"
"I'm not." The feel of a lie on her tongue is foreign and interesting.
His eyes narrow at her."When the Gordanians were here you were more powerful and had better control. You put up a much larger barrier a lot more quickly. I don't actually care why you're holding back, but knock it off. You're either here 100% or I can't trust you to watch my back in a fight. "
He restarts. She rips up everything in front of her with an apparent lazy grace, concentrating hard. Then immediately she listens for fear and notices...Star and Beast Boy are discussing the merits of the fauna of their respective homeworlds, having lost interest in the proceedings twenty minutes ago, Victor sits gazing out onto the ocean, apparently still wondering just what he is doing here. Robin nods briefly in approval and cranks up the course several levels.
And just like that, the freakish, bizarre and source of deeply imbued shame becomes just a little bit less so.
New Years Party, Speedy staggers towards her with punch in his hand and almost doesn't slur at all when he requests her company for perhaps a three minute song?
They are standing together, because a month ago Terra tried to crush him with a rock and it will be another month yet before he does anything that is not in its essence passive. This lends itself to a lot of time with Raven at social events.
"He asked first," she lies and tows him after her. A cousin of a plea is on her face, so he schools the surprise off of his and follows.
"Thank you..." She mutters at its awkward (but no more so than, say, the beginning or the middle) end and he tells her not to mention it because they both know that she won't.
They are still children, and still "her kids" as much as anyone will ever be. Her teammates are playing video games and she chuckles softly as she hefts the smallest one (even he is four now) onto her hip and spins around as quickly as she dares. She throws his blond head back and laughs with his gape-toothed mouth and she is so thankful that his mother said, literally, that she would allow her son to visit Raven, who had gotten hit by a tank fighting for his life, even if Raven currently resided in hell or a Wal-Mart. The woman whose son had lost the genetic lottery (or won it, depending on how seriously you take Flash's opinion) has no idea how close to accurate the former is, because no one told her.
She smiles tightly at childish joy and a cereal box on the counter loudly rips itself to pieces. That round of games ends with an explosion and she looks up, because no suppressed sigh (they are far too old to yell now) or enthusiastic but still appropriate offer for a rematch emerges. Her eyes scan the scene, instinctively noting everything about it out of habit (in case it should be needed for testimony later. Never mind how funny it is that she swears on the Bible).
Robin's shoulders are tight and his face is toward the television, doubtless pondering what a pathetically motherless lot they are. Vic and Gar both eye the scene with a charged and hungry feeling that she does not recognize: Victor's blank eyes on the giggling child's face, and Gar's on her.
They notice her pause and both divert their eyes rapidly, Gar embarrassed, Vic just sad. She has the sense that something important and perhaps even life-changing has just missed her, much like yesterday's bullet.
Raven, of course, wakes up because that's something that she's really, really good at. It was Cyborg's shift to watch her so he smiles down at her and claps her shoulder.
"What happened?" She rubs her head.
He summarizes, explaining what they did and why they did it because whenever she has to go into someone's mind she does the same.
Vic shrugs. "You want some tea?"
Tries to stands, finds this impossible. Because it's Vic and he has not once pushed her and will never bring up that she is perfectly capable of getting her own tea whether or not she can sit up says, "Yes, please."
He carries her into her bed, props her against a dozen pillows, brings over as many books as he can carry and asks her to please never scare them like that again. She says nothing, not being one to make promises she can't keep, and for a moment she wishes that he was truly her brother by blood (but in this scenario there is clearly an alternate father) but isn't yet a person who can say such a thing to a friend. So she whispers thank you and goes to sleep.
One day, she is twenty and it just happens and mere months later everyone knows. At first, she notices that he is a height now that would make allow her to comfortably lean her head against his shoulder and that his eyes are more than one color. When alone, she has a newfound tendency to flip through all the words and smiles he'd shared with her that day, to cradle and treasure every small and unremarkable kindness that he offers. They all go swimming and she has to concentrate, hard, to not stare. He takes a nap on the couch, and she notices, horrified, that she wants to curl up with him, listen to his breath.
Naturally, she talks to Wisdom. "I'd like to introduce you to someone new. Not to worry, Affection has subdivided very recently." Raven is worried and rightly so, things only get worse.
Robin, screw him, notices first. His eyes flicker to him and back to her twice, then he makes eye contact and simply raises one of his eyebrows. She blushes and trains her gaze at her feet the rest of the afternoon.
A few weeks later Star appears outside of her door. "I cannot help but think that perhaps you have feelings present that you may benefit from voicing with a female ear listening? Only, you see, this is an expression and you will be discussing with my entire self rather than just my ear your recent and apparent crush on-" She managed to thank her and mention that she wasn't ready to talk about that yet before she slammed the door.
Cyborg, months later, lets lose a deep belly-laugh. "Rae? You want to know who you're foolin'?"
"No one. This isn't the end of the world..." A potent pause perfect for an exaggerated sweat drop. "Ha ha, sorry...I mean not a big deal. Just talk to him."
Last..."Dude? Have I got something on my face?"After a solid three minutes of rubbing at non-existent tofu crumbs she realizes that not quite everyone knows and spends a moment being thankful.
"Rae," His tone is so serious she does not bother with the token protest, "A few months ago, in that cave...I saw some things and I've been thinking about it a lot and..." Eyes wide, realizes what he has just said, sputters, apologizes in the face of Raven's blank silence and finally just says the words.
"You have more scars than you've been hurt. Then...like..." He gestures towards her right shoulder. "You didn't get shrapnel there, but I did and then you healed it. It's not just that, you've got when Robin got stabbed, that time Slade found a bullet that could hurt Star, when Cy's armor melted onto his skin, even when Terra landed on all that glass..."
He gestures his arm again, at the catalogue of the physical manifestation of what they should all already know: She loves them so much she would do all of their suffering for them if it were possible, would rather hear her own bones break than see their blood spill out on the floor, begged the devil for their lives, would and did end the world before cradling their bodies. They are her world, she is unique in that there is nothing and no one else she treasures.
"So I guess, when you heal us, that hurt has to go somewhere and I guess that somewhere is...you."
She nods. "Part of the my healing is pain absorption and in extreme situations that leaves its own mark." She can both feel and see his nausea and adds, "I can't die from a wound that I've healed."
"Please, just," He looks so sad and guilty. "Don't do that, like, unless it's a life or death thing. I know everyone else wouldn't want...Geez, Rae, if I-we- knew that you absorbed the pain...Just, please, lay off. I'll explain, next time it comes up or..."
She eventually agrees, with the same baffled and grateful look she wears when they forgive her for her heritage in a breath, chuckle at how her nightmares can and do leave her head, refuse to leave her alone with five stories of demon, self-preservation be damned, are truly indifferent to the fact that her personality could field a soccer team. He hugs her and lets go before she has a chance to react.
"Join us at eight, for this electrifying just-released footage of a three-year-old battle between Raven of the Teen Titans and Dr. Light and then stay tuned for the shocking truth of her heritage, followed by a panel discussion on demonology. Could Jump City be in more danger from "heroes" than criminals? Join us later to find out!" The bosomy blonde manages to show what surely must be all of her teeth in the smile that follows.
The facial expressions in the room include five flavors of horror, one rapidly flattened.
Robin speaks into that void first, "Maybe it's not too late to stop..." The clock reads 7:50.
"Yes, it is," whispers Raven and knows that if she were someone else she would cry.
This is precisely the second crush of her life and he is not paper, does not live in her room, teaches her no book-knowledge, would die before doing her harm. What does she do? She has the most bizarre and aggressive desire to behave like a lunatic in his presence and ignores not just it but any attempt at all but the blandest conversation. Then, one day, he smiles and says hello when she walks into the common room and the toaster separates violently into its components in response. She turns to what has solved every problem she has ever encountered (excepting the prophecy, but she squashes that thought as soon as it emerges): books.
She begins with the ancient, powerful myths, finds it most unhelpful: He could easily tear down acres of columns whether or not she cut his hair, she will not be evaluated on the whiteness of her arms or how many children she is likely to bear, has no intention of chaining herself to any seaside rocks. Perhaps more current books?
Mary Shelley and Emily Bronte seem to have an incomplete grasp of the problem. James Fenimore Cooper, among many, many others, recommend passively waiting for male action in not just this, but all situations. James Barry implies that she is still too young for any such thing. Shakespeare suggests her confession be in iambic pentameter and that she consult her father first. Hemingway wants her to just gives up and goes on a long, rainy walk before this all gets worse.
She moves on to Jane Austen, who seems like the most relevant yet and horrifies her most completely. In the nearly unimaginable event that she brings the problem up with its subject, is she expected to explain the causes, intensity, and duration of her passion? The truth of that-That he is kind endlessly, thoughtlessly, without reason, when there is nothing to gain, to anyone at all-is too embarrassing to say even to the women inside her own head.
Later that day, he casually throws his arms around her shoulders, which in itself is not unheard-of. Instead of wincing and removing herself as quickly as possible, she leans into the touch for the second it takes for four ceiling tiles to blacken into dust. She then walks away quickly without a word and without a backward glance. This cannot go on as it has, if only for the sake of the furnishings.
So, having been thoroughly let down by books and her fading ability to feign apathy, she approaches the only person in her life who would have any understanding of the situation, who is coincidentally also her best friend and very occasional confidante who offered to help ages ago.
"Star, what do I do?"
Star speaks like a sister and Raven listens to things she does and does not already know, not for one minute or three but for fifteen. Her shoulders slump as she realizes that she can either speak the truth on her own terms, soon, or wait until even the most oblivious finally notice, which will not be never. They again rise slowly as for the first time she begins to consider the possibility that this, truly, is not the heinous life-ending thing she thought it was, but is rather something normal, small. Routine, even. She accepts the hug, for a second and then shuffles back to her room.