Disclaimer: I don't own Teen Titans.
Nightwing is the first to find Raven curled up into a tiny ball on the corner of the roof, blue cloak and long, purple strands of hair whipping wildly in the wind, looking much as she had when she was only sixteen.
He walks up to her, coming to a rest beside her and sits in the same fashion as she. Raven does not look sixteen anymore, he realizes fondly; his sister, who has, admittedly, always been mature for her age, is all grown up, but for better or worse he does not know.
Nightwing throws a sideways glance at his teammate, whose chin has fallen atop her knees in a careless gesture and whose amethyst orbs do not meet his gaze. The man does not probe, for he is only far too familiar with the ease of hiding behind a mask. After all, Nightwing has done it for- how long?- too long, much too long in his short life. It is a melancholy thought that can be mulled over for years and still not find a solution. Thankfully, this hero does not dwell upon it. This is Raven's time to shine, Nightwing affirms before chuckling inwardly at the irony. The Raven that he knows would not like that phrase in the least.
And maybe that's the problem. Nightwing knows her well, but he does not, in fact, know what she needs. They are too alike, too similar, both with dark sides so tremendous, never to be released into the conceivable world, for fear of rejection. They are both very afraid of letting go, of showing their true selves, of being naked to those around them.
It is called a hamartia. Their fatal flaw. The fact that it is shared does not make it any less real or any less bad.
Nightwing agilely flips to his feet like the acrobat he is. He turns to leave, having said his good-byes and having no further obligation to the girl before him. Nightwing is almost down the stairs when he remembers the real reason he came up here for.
Nightwing makes his way back to the empath, who hasn't moved so much as a centimeter throughout this entire ordeal. Not that he'd expected her to, of course. He picks Raven up, still in her fetal position (not exactly what he had had in mind, but it would still do). Richard Grayson, in all his fame and glory, hugs Raven Roth to his heart and pretends not to feel the moisture slowly seeping through the fabric of his uniform as small, pale hands clutch at his chest and spasms wrack through his best friend's body.
Tomorrow is her birthday. And yet, it is not why she is on the roof.
Starfire is the next to come, and this time, Raven appears to be meditating quietly in her sheltered little corner of the roof, shielded from the outside world as she usually is. However, Starfire, having meditated with Raven on more than one occasion, knows that she is not actually in contact with the spirit world given her bobbing levitation as opposed to the usual stillness of her meditating form. That is also how she knows that everything is alright and not alright at the same time.
The kind alien assumes a position alongside her most treasured girl friend and realizes that her beautiful eyes are, indeed, open. She is either uncaring as to who sees her up here or simply too tired to pull any facades. Starfire decides that it must be the latter, given the current circumstances.
Starfire sympathetically studies her friend, noting the way her bright eyes droop and posture slouches just slightly. The woman, though unfamiliar to many of Earth's customs and to Raven herself, is quite possibly the only one to understand what the sorceress is going through, having been through a good portion of it herself. Starfire, of the four, knows the most about Raven's past as well, and thus knows exactly where to start when she begins to speak.
"Friend Raven, do not fear the tomorrow. It is a joyous occasion with which you are presented, an occasion that you shall remember forever. He treats you well, does he not?" The Tameranian eases into it slowly, careful to dance around the situation as daintily and unobtrusively as she can. She pauses for a moment, not really expecting an answer from her quiet friend, but still giving her the chance to speak if she wishes to. When she resumes her speech, Starfire is not talking about the same man.
"If there is anything that I have learned through my experience as a Teen Titan, it is that we trust and care for each other beyond the mask of being the hero. We are more than friends, Raven; we are a family. I am also quite certain that you would not let him into your heart if you were not certain that he would take care of it, perhaps even forever. And while it did not turn out the way you may have wanted…that is what this is all about, yes?
"Friend Raven, if you truly loved him, there is nothing to fear. There are many things that will happen in the future, but there is nothing anyone can do to change that. Nothing is perfect, Raven. In this world, happiness is scarce, and it is hard to embrace all of that without hurting inside. There is war and there are homeless people and there are criminals and there are murders. The real question is whether or not you choose to look past that and see that there is so much more. There is family and there is happiness and there is love. Friend Raven, believe that he did not try to break your heart. We have known him long enough to know that."
Here, Raven begins to cry, hot tears that leave trails down both her cheeks and drip onto the ground, unrelenting tears usually accompanied by the smashing and exploding sounds of glass. There is nothing to break on the roof, though, a fact for which Raven is bitterly glad.
Starfire pulls her friend in for a hug, stroke Raven's matted purple hair and trying not to squeeze her to death with her boundless strength, instead trying to comfort her in the most maternal way possible. Raven doesn't reject the hug, for which Starfire is pleasantly surprised, though she feels it is because Raven doesn't exactly have much of a choice at this point.
The alien leaves her friend still sniffling on the rooftop. She knows Raven is strong, and that she will be alright.
"Tomorrow" is the day Terra came back to the Titans. It is part of why she is on the roof.
Cyborg comes up not long after Starfire leaves and Raven is not even surprised anymore. She has calmed down considerably and is kicking herself for losing control so carelessly when something so awful could have happened with her powers. Losing control is something that Raven is used to, but not being able to suppress it is something that she is not. And truthfully, it scares her.
At this point, Cyborg is behind her, and he is clearly concerned for his little sister. Raven, he knows, is more fragile than Starfire, though she puts on a strong face for the rest of the world. She does not let anybody protect her, does not let him protect her. This girl has been alone for far too long, has been around people who don't treat her as well as they should. Cyborg knows that tomorrow, things will change, and that everything will be different for the Teen Titans.
He sits down next to his little sister, whose feet dangle off the side of the Titans' roof. The half-robot cannot help but stare at the tear tracks still fresh on Raven's face, though from what, Cyborg cannot ascertain. He knows that tomorrow will be the hardest day of his life, and that Raven might not make it through unscathed. He knows that Raven is hurting inside because of it, not because of the wedding or her birthday, but because of something else entirely, a lot of something else-s that no one can protect her from.
But maybe that's the point, he thinks, that Raven learns the true meaning of protection. Cyborg knows that protection is not only erecting walls around himself, blocking out everyone and everything that the world throws at him. Protection, he thinks, is being vulnerable to those who love you, but making sure not to fall when things get hard. Protection is like…Raven and Changeling combined.
Cyborg does not know that Raven understands that.
"Rae," Cyborg starts softly and Raven turns to look at him, "Everything's gonna be alright. Just hang in there."
He leaves then, leaves with Raven simply staring at the vacant spot with a blank expression in her eyes.
Tomorrow, both Changeling and Raven will get married. Raven is on the roof because they will not be getting married to each other.
Nightwing, Starfire, and Cyborg meet on the roof. Nightwing, being the typical team leader, begins.
"She's really torn up about this."
"Yes, I fear Friend Raven will not be able to heal after this, perhaps even forever."
"I still don't know how he could have done this to her."
"He knows she's emotionally unstable."
"It's not completely his fault, though."
"You are right, Changeling needed someone who is as expressive as he is."
"It's not right."
There is a palpable silence after Nightwing's last three words. He clears his throat awkwardly.
"You going to Changeling's or Raven's?"
"They are in the same church, are they not?"
"It's gonna hurt one of them either way."
"I'm sticking with Raven."
"As will I."
"Alright. Guess I'll be at Changeling's."
Raven appreciates Nightwing's silence, Starfire's words, Cyborg's protection. She knows, however, that all of it will not stop the pain that is coursing through her veins as she glances over at Change- his blushing bride. Terra looks beautiful, Raven admits and it makes her sad that she has to deal with this bitterness on her wedding day. She never thought she would get married in the first place, but a part of her knows that this isn't the way Raven wants it to go.
It hurts, Raven thinks, it hurts a lot. A lot more than she could have ever imagined, a lot more than any pain her father could inflict upon her.
This- everything- is ripping apart the team.
Raven lets a tear slip and her dress rips slightly at the hem. Starfire, her one bridesmaid, gets to work on it quickly. She doesn't even like her dress. It is white because her fiancé is big on tradition, but Raven does not think it represents who she is at all. It doesn't matter, though, she imagines, because this entire marriage does not represent who she is either.
She just wishes this were all over.
Changeling is happy. He never knew he could feel this elated in any one moment, but then again, he never knew that Terra would come back.
There is something missing, though. This day is not only for him, but for Raven as well. He knows that she is hurting inside, and he wishes that she were not, but it's beyond him at this point. There is nothing, it seems, that he can do; she made her decision, and he made his. Changeling knows that Raven will always be his "what if" in life, however much he wishes it weren't true.
He is happy, he convinces himself, because what else is there to feel? He cannot call off his wedding with Terra, cannot hurt her that way, and yet…is everything really worth it after all? Changeling cannot help but think he is making a decision that will change his life in a way that he might not want it to, and he is sa- no. He is happy.
The shape-shifter cannot dwell on Raven's feelings at this point. The wedding music is starting up, and he must take his place at the altar. He will marry Terra alongside Raven and her fiance, who, in his opinion, doesn't deserve her anyway. Forget it, he thinks.
It's none of his business, and anyway, the music is starting. Showtime.
Nightwing and Starfire's daughter walks ahead of them. She is the sole flower girl for both of them, but Raven does not focus on her. She sees the rows of seats that align the aisle, and realizes that her side is fuller of Honorary Titans than his and Terra's is. It is something of a small consolation that does not make her feel any better.
Kid Flash, seated beside Jinx, winks at her playfully from her side and Aqualad throws her a smile, but she does not acknowledge either. She knows they will understand. After all, they were there when…
Never mind. Raven needs to stop herself before she really creates a scene.
The ring boy, Cyborg and Bumblebee's son, is already at the altar, handing off the rings. Raven walks a bit faster, unnoticeably enough so that she is still to the beat of this horrid music, but in all honesty, Raven just wishes it would all be over. And then, it is. She is at the altar beside Terra, who looks stunning, whereas she looks dreadful, and they are saying their vows as their audience gazes on. Changeling, she forces out the name, and Terra kiss, sealing their marriage, and Raven glances up, startled, at her own fiancé. Before anyone can say another word, though, she is gone.
The entire time that Terra and Raven walk down the aisle, Changeling only has eyes for Raven. It is a fact that he is ashamed to admit- what kind of a husband-to-be is he if he ogled his ex-girlfriend at his own wedding?- but it is the truth, and the truth, he remembers cannot be denied.
His first thought is that Raven looks horrible. She looks tired and dejected and ready to give up, and then it's all over because they are at the altar and it is time to say their vows.
Terra leans in after it's over and kisses him and the audience cheers and claps, but the entire time, all he can think is that she's gone.
A beautiful little boy with green skin and tousled purple hair comes running up to the roof, followed closely by his younger sister, who has pale skin but a fang poking out of her mouth and adorable jade eyes.
Raven collapses on the roof.
The children disappear as they laugh happily and chase each other around the roof.
Raven watches as all that could have been vanishes right before her very own eyes.
Titans' Tower's roof is a place of late night and early morning reflections.