Author's Note: Fair warning that this chapter is ridiculously long in comparison to its predecessors. Also, this will be the final chapter in this story. I am so glad that so many of you have read and enjoyed it, and your reviews have brought nothing but confidence and a multitude of smiles. Thank you so very much.
Disclaimer: I do not, nor ever will own rights to Teen Titans.
Raven felt hands grab hold of her from behind, pulling her flush against another body. A pair of arms wrapped around her snugly, and a set of lips pressed against her cheek. A week ago, Raven would have fought and kicked and probably have sent them to another dimension, but the past couple of days this had happened frequently, and by her own hand no less. Instances like these had been happening since she had pulled Garfrield into her room so lustfully a few days before.
"Hello Gar." Raven spoke out loud, feeling a slight shiver. The last time this happened, she had slammed him against a wall and kissed him ferociously before walking away without a word. She had been wondering when he would retaliate.
"Hello Rae." Garfield kissed her ear before moving onto her neck, "Excited about tomorrow?"
She sniffed at that, "Am I ever excited about my birthday?"
"You better be this year, because I'm going to make it so awesome that you are going to fall madly in love with me." He told her, his notorious fang gently scraping against the flesh of her throat. A very attractive confidence radiated off of his body.
Her breath hitched, "W-we'll just have to see about that."
"I'll see you in the morning Rae." Garfield tilted her chin so he could kiss her properly, "Goodnight."
Raven felt his arms retract, she would have watched him go, but he was gone by the time she thought to do so.
Raven's birthday began with breakfast. A breakfast heralded by a chorus of happy birthdays, a large banner, balloons, and a large frosted cake with her name on it to match. The team sang and made her blow out candles, and while they tried to insist that she have a piece of cake for breakfast, she managed to convince Garfield that she only wanted some tea.
"I figured," He had sighed with a grin, "I already brewed you some Jasmine, just in case."
Despite the teasing Raven knew would follow, she leaned over and gave Garfield a quick kiss on the lips. He had remembered her favorite tea.
Soon after, the others were pressuring her into opening presents. Starfire had insisted that her gift should be opened first, apparently very proud of the selection of hoodies that she thought would suit Raven. Raven was glad that it was something would actually be worn, last year it had been a white bikini that still had the tags on it.
Gifts followed up from Cyborg and Robin. Cyborg's present was a simple box about half the size of one of the T-Car's wheels, Raven had thanked him, thinking that it was a rather odd gift, at least until Cyborg explained the locking mechanism that kept it shut.
"Retina and fingerprint scanner along with a voice recognition system to help insure utmost privacy," Cyborg had stated with immense pride. Raven was sure to seem as sincere as she felt.
Robin's present lacked the originality that Cyborg's had, and didn't have as personal of a touch as Starfire's. The Boy Wonder handed over a gift card to a bookstore chain. The others taunted him, but Raven liked it well enough. Free books were hard to complain about.
Garfield had put his arm around her and whispered in her ear, "Mine comes tonight."
In the next breath, Garfield announced that it was time to initiate 'phase two'. Before Raven could ask what phase two entailed, Starfire had caught her arm and raced Raven out of the living room and back into her room. Starfire, with her alien strength and speed managed, against Raven's many attempts to stop her, to dress Raven in the bikini that had lain so useless for the past year.
Raven protested. What Starfire claimed to be swimwear, Raven thought to be very sturdy lingerie. What bathing suit needed lacy straps? And Raven was very sure she had bras less revealing.
Starfire had little care for that, instead the alien merely squealed in that girly way of hers and proclaimed how wonderful Raven looked before grabbing and running off with the birthday girl again. Starfire dragged her down to the bottom lobby where the boys waited for them.
"You look nice." Garfield had quipped with a knowing grin.
"Bite me." Raven had replied earnestly.
Garfield had only chuckled and handed her a beach towel that Raven immediately wrapped around herself. He leaned in, and whispered flirtatiously, "Maybe later."
"You two done yet? The beach is waiting!" Cyborg called, opening the doors to the tower and led the charge out of the tower, "Last one there's a rotten egg!"
Starfire and Robin followed Cyborg out excitedly, while Raven shook her head.
"You'd think it was their birthday." Raven said.
"Give 'em a break Rae, it's been awhile since we've done anything fun as a team," Garfield slipped his arm around her, "your birthday gives them a really good reason to celebrate after all."
Raven felt a smile stretch upon her lips, "Fine, but I'm not taking this towel off."
"Deal." Garfield grinned at her.
The rest of the sun-lit hours of her birthday were spent at the beach. For hours they played on the warm sand, alternating between volleyball and building sandcastles. Cyborg got buried to the neck, and abandoned after Starfire and Robin challenged Garfield and Raven to a game of chicken in the water. Raven had ditched her towel for the challenge, but after being tossed into the water and rising again to have sunlight splash against her face, she forgot it
After digging a grumpy Cyborg out of the sand, the team watched the sun dip beneath the horizon. Garfield pulled the forgotten towel around Raven's shoulders and then wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her against his chest.
"Ready for the next round?" He asked her.
"There's another round?" Raven asked with surprise before turning to the others, "What exactly did you guys plan?"
"We didn't do anything, Beast Boy planned this." Robin replied.
"Yeah, so if anything goes wrong, you just blame BB okay?" Cyborg added.
Raven laughed lightly at the joke at Garfield's expense, but she felt Garfield stiffen slightly behind her.
"Whatever guys," Garfield replied before pressing a kiss to Raven's cheek, "You just watch, Rae. You'll love it"
Garfield morphed into a bluejay and took off in the direction of the tower, returning a few moments later in the form of an elephant. Using his trunk, Garfield lowered a pile of wood onto the sand. He then morphed into a cheetah and ran off towards the tower again. Just as the last rays of sunlight pierced the sky, Garfield returned yet again, but as a stork, with a full tote bag in his beak.
After he landed, Garfield changed back into his human form. "Cy, if you wouldn't mind?" He gestured to the wood pile.
Cyborg shook his head, yet complied, using one of his many gadgets to start a fire.
"Oh! Are we to do the roasting of mallows of marsh?" Starfire asked gleefully.
"And the roasting of tofu-in-a-blanket!" Garfield added with a wink towards Raven.
Garfield handed out food and the roasting rods. Cyborg complained about the tofu, but eventually ate it. Raven secretly agreed with him. Robin, after inhaling at least five of the tofu-in-blanket, began the first ghost story.
It was less than an hour before everyone had exhausted the supply of food, including the extra bag of marshmallows after they had finished off the s'mores. It was hours more until the ghost stories ended and all but Raven and Garfield remained by the dying fire.
Raven scooted closer, leaning her body against Garfield's. He wrapped his arm around her, and ran his hand up and down her arm to try to warm her.
"Cold?" He asked.
"No," Raven replied, "Maybe I just like you."
Garfield smiled, "I like you too Rae. Have a good birthday?"
"I am, thanks to you." Raven leaned over and kissed his nose, "Although, I noticed that we didn't go to the pier."
"Caught on to my scheme there huh? Well, I thought the beach and a campfire might be nice enough, but hey, I'll just take you to the pier for your next birthday."
"My next birthday? You want to plan my next birthday?" Raven questioned warily. That was a whole year away, he wanted to be there?
"Yeah! Unless you plan on dumping me before then." Garfield grinned jokingly.
Raven blinked blankly before she regained her composure, "No, I don't plan on dumping you. I just, I didn't know that you were thinking that seriously about…birthdays."
Garfield didn't respond directly to her implied question. "Did you know that today, along with being your birthday, makes four months? Four months that we've been together?"
Raven shook her head. She wondered if she should feel guilty that she hadn't known. After all, she hadn't exactly known when it had been only three months, or two, or one. She didn't keep up with dates, she and Garfield were together, and that was all there was to it.
"Yeah, it's been four, at least from the time where we decided that there was an 'us'." He confirmed, watching embers glow, before turning to face her, "Do you want your birthday present now?"
Raven smiled softly, "You've given me a whole day. I don't need another present."
Garfield smiled back and kissed her gently, "Let me spoil you? Just for today?"
She nodded, letting the heavy warmth settle against her, something far warmer than the flimsy towel around her shoulders. Garfield kissed her head, pulling her until she was practically in his lap, his lips to her ear.
"Promise not to laugh?" He asked with an odd tone of sheepishness, "I mean I'm not really good at the whole suave thing and well…"
Raven nudged him gently. "Just do whatever it is you're going to do, Gar. I won't laugh."
She felt him sigh against the shell of her ear. A moment later, he began to speak into her ear, reciting something in a slow, rhythmic way that was very unlike his natural tenor.
At first Raven didn't recognize it, but soon she realized it was a famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe, the one that mentioned her by name. It was meant to be a sad, haunting poem, but instead, Raven found it very… loving.
Garfield's tone was tender and his voice had a well-practiced measure. While Raven could have very easily recited along with him, his words, no less sweet, began to blur together. The heavy warmth was no longer a blanket that enveloped her; it pressed against her and grew heavier with each line Garfield gently narrated. The warmth spread to her bones at a far faster rate than she had ever experienced before, feeling as if she were burning from the inside. As Garfield finished the last few lines, the weight had settled against her chest, as if something far stronger than her stood on it.
"Shall be lifted- Nevermore!" Garfield finished.
With a loud pop the drowsy embers erupted into an inferno. The flames extended far past the original boundaries and snaked and curled around one of Garfield's unprotected legs.
The changeling roared in pain. Garfield tried to haul himself across the sand, but the fire that had encased his leg trapped him there.
"Stop!" Raven cried out, a wave of her hand dissipated the raging fire, drowning the flames with dark magic.
Scrambling across the small space of sand between them she returned her attention to Garfield. Rambling apologies and curses for her own weakness and stupidity as she hastily tried to mend the damage done to his leg. A few minutes of deathly silence and the blue glow of her hands concluded in the three degree burns being reduced to two. His flesh was mad and pink, and so ugly in comparison to his green complexion that Raven couldn't look him in the eye.
"At least you didn't laugh." Garfield said; his voice flat and toneless. "You didn't meditate today."
Raven dared to glance at the perfectly stoic expression on his face; she looked back to his damaged leg. She had only seen that look on his face once before, when Terra had betrayed them, betrayed him. The anger and hurt rolled off him like rocks down a mountainside, but it was nothing compared to the guilt Raven felt all on her own.
"No I didn't. I should have. I know better, I-I…"
The world blurred and she felt moisture on her cheeks. Raven touched her fingers to the wetness, half expecting that she had hurt herself, and now there was blood. The wetness appeared clear against her fingertips and she felt confused.
"You're crying." Garfield supplied the answer, his indifferent tone breaking at his own surprise.
Raven soon began to understand what it meant to be racked with sobs, to have flooded the water gates. Her body convulsed and the tears ran seamlessly down her face, Raven struggled to gasp for breath between each choking sob.
Each single sweet thing that Garfield had ever done for her raced through her mind, fueling the tears and the convulsions. After all the patience and consideration he had given her without a second thought. How freely he had given his time and effort, how easily he understood. How quickly she had hurt him.
She had hurt Garfield.
Raven convulsed more violently, surely she had drawn blood now, based on how hard she was squeezing her own arms, nails tearing skin. She tried to get words out.
"I-I am s-s-s-sorry, sooo s-sorry."
Raven had long since doubled over, but a sudden tug landed her against something warmer and more solid than sand. She felt Garfield's hand on her head, smoothing out her hair, his arm kept her against him while he whispered something indiscernible in her ear.
"It's not okay, stop telling me it's okay." She managed to say, swallowing an oncoming cry. It burst out of her on the last syllable.
Garfield tilted her head with his hand and forced her to face him. Raven couldn't make out what he was feeling; she was still surrounded by the cloud of her own. All she could sense was the intensity in his eyes.
"I'm not saying its okay." He told her sternly, "I was saying that it was going to be okay."
Raven shook her head, she would only hurt him again the next time she didn't, or couldn't meditate. She took too many risks with him, despite how much she knew better. Hadn't she always secretly feared that this might happen? Yet, his arm was tight around her and his eyes were swimming with some mystery emotion she couldn't discern from inside her own fog of frayed emotions.
"Rae, I want you. This," He nodded his head in the direction of his leg, "Doesn't change anything about how much I-"
He paused, loosening his arm around her, giving her the slightest amount of physical space. Raven's tears had dried, but Garfield knew that she was still overwhelmed; he could feel how her body still trembled. He continued.
"If you're scared, I get it. I'm not exactly happy about my leg, but I want us, I like us."
His sincerity showed in every inch of his face, and the cloud around her began to dissipate. Maybe he sensed it, because a smile unwound on his lips.
"Besides, you managed to go four months without hurting me, that's not bad. If you can manage to keep that pace, I'll only get hurt three times a year!"
"Gar, don't joke about that."
He continued anyway, "I mean, three times a year is nothing to a guy who fights psychotic bad guys on a regular basis."
Raven knew he was just trying to lighten the situation, to make them both feel better. One glance at his leg, which was now littered with big, yellowish blisters made her feel guilty all over again.
"Please, I don't want to hurt you again." Raven whispered, leaning her head against his shoulder, avoiding his stare. Tears pricked at her eyes again. "You're too forgiving, you're too nice. Don't let me take advantage of that."
She felt him ruffle her hair after a moment. "Rae, even if you were taking advantage, I'm not exactly able to walk away."
Raven lifted her head to meet his gaze. He was smiling at her of all things. His fingers brushed against her cheek.
"Not that I want to, like I said earlier, I like us." He chuckled, "You make me happy even when I'm burned all to hell."
Raven bit her lip, "Garfield, I…"
He stopped her, leaning forward and silencing her with a kiss. Slowly she returned it, feeling the similar sensation from earlier, before she made the fire erupt. She felt the warmth curl around inside of her chest. He pulled away, his fingers still against her cheek.
"I need you Raven, partly because I'm sure I can't make it back to the Tower on my own, but mostly? You make me feel…warm."
The warmth curled tighter inside of her, closing in on her very core. She glanced for a half-second at his leg, before returning to his eyes.
"A lot of people have that sensation after I've set them on fire." Raven replied with an attempt at a comical tone.
It earned her another smile, brighter than the ones previous. Gingerly, she helped him stand and helped him hobble back to the Tower. More than once on their way back did a breeze come off the bay to take them by surprise. With the emotions that relayed between them, Raven doubted she even felt the chill.