So this chapter took a little longer to write... Sorry! But this chapter's also one of the longer ones and, in my opinion, one of the best and most important chapters of the whole story. So sorry it took a while, but I hope the wait was worth it. Onto the story!
(By the way, Beast Boy's answer to Raven's marriage proposal will not be shown "on-screen" but it's implied. And you really shouldn't have to be told what the implication is.)
Chapter XVII - Birthday Girl
Raven knelt down to the tombstone and placed her hands on the inscription—"Rita Farr: Loyal Teammate, Caring Mother, Loving Wife"
"When did she pass away?" she asked.
"About a year ago," Garfield replied. "Every year on the anniversary of Dad's death, she'd come here and spend the whole day with him." He pointed to the tombstone neighboring Rita's, which bore her husband's name. "She'd come just to bring flowers and talk to him. That's what she did all day every year. It's funny how they were about to get a divorce and now she couldn't keep herself away from him."
"Love is a funny thing," Raven said. "You never know what you truly love until it's gone."
"A year ago, she suddenly had the urge to come to him. After she didn't come back, Robotman came here and found her body lying on Dad's grave. The doctor said she suffered an aneurism. Negative Man supported this, saying Mom mentioned she'd been having a headache recently. She died quietly, peacefully." Seeing Raven gaze at the tombstone, he added, "You're not going to die, Raven."
She stood up and faced her boyfriend. "Let's go. Which doctor is the one we're going to now? The sixth in the past two weeks?"
"Seventh, I think," he responded. "Dr. Shay Veritas. A close friend of Superman."
"Superman? How'd we get a five-star doctor like that?"
"Dick might've convinced Batman to pull some strings," he smiled. "She's one of the best there is, so she'll be able to figure things out for sure."
"You said that about the last six doctors," Raven mumbled.
They made their way to Dr. Veritas' office by taxi and were amazed at how ordinary and small it seemed. "Are you sure this is the right place?" the sorceress asked, pointing to the sign outside. "It says Dr. Farell."
Garfield furrowed his eyebrows and took out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. "This is the address Batman gave us… Let's go in and see."
The inside of the office was just as ordinary as any family doctor's. There were a few people waiting patiently on the chairs in the waiting room. "Are you really sure, Gar?" Raven asked again. This time, he slowly shook his head and approached the receptionist.
"Excuse me," he asked in a low voice. "But what place is this?"
"This is Dr. Farell's office, sir," she politely replied. "Did you have an appointment?"
"Uh… sorta. We were told this was the office of Dr. Veritas."
"Oh—oh," the receptionist nodded and smiled. She stood. "Right this way, please." She walked around and opened the door, letting the two superheroes in. She led the two down the hall and rather than turning left where the rooms were, she turned right towards the staff's rooms. They went down the hall and around a corner until they made their way to a closet, which the receptionist opened to reveal a few shelves. The Titans watched in awe as she pulled the shelves to the right, which slid to the side to reveal a hidden staircase. "Right up this way and you'll find Dr. Veritas," she smiled and respectfully bowed before leaving. Garfield and Raven shared a look before making their way up.
"Welcome, Titans," a sharp voice rang in the air as a dark-skinned woman with reddish-magenta hair came into view. "I hope you two weren't too confused by the cover-up office downstairs."
"Just a little," Gar replied. "I'm sorry to bother you."
"No bother. I need a break from my office down near the center of the Earth. It's nice to come back up to the surface to a place that's less hot… and lethal. Well then, let's get started, shall we? Raven, you are the one I am to examine, correct?"
"Yes, ma'am," Raven nodded and walked over, sitting at the patient's chair.
Dr. Veritas began with basic examinations—height, weight, basic information—and evaluations—where the pain was, when it began, what her symptoms were. Raven, having said the same thing six times already, began reciting it like a speech.
"It started about five years ago in my stomach and groin area, where slowly it spread to my legs and thighs, then chest and arms. All throughout, I experienced frequent headaches and dizzy spells. In three years, I started vomiting frequently."
Then Dr. Veritas began when she called the physiological-psychological examination, explaining that these were necessary for superheroes as their symptoms may be affected by their superhuman abilities.
"Any trouble sleeping?"
"Kind of… some nights I have trouble going to sleep and others I have trouble waking up."
"Are there any effects on your superhuman abilities?"
"They've slowly been weakened to the point where I might have completely lost them."
"Any strange or recurring dreams?"
Raven paused. "For the past five years, I've had the same dream happen every night. A train—a ghostly white and blue one." Garfield looked him, remembering he had experienced that exact same dream the night he switched bodies with Raven.
"Interesting," the doctor noted. "Define recurring. Do you mean every night you only dream of this?"
"No, no. I dream of other things as well, but the train always appears every night."
"Okay. Have you frequently lost consciousness lately?"
"A few times, yes."
"When was your last menstrual cycle?"
Garfield nearly jumped. "Ex—excuse me?"
She turned to him. "Please, Mr. Changeling, but I need to know this." She turned back to Raven. "Ms. Raven?"
Raven glanced at Gar, who quickly turned his head away. She muttered to Dr. Veritas, "Five years ago."
Shay Veritas then proceeded with a few more questions before taking Raven to a large machine to perform a full-body scan. Afterwards, they performed a few physical examinations, such as having Raven walk on a straight line. Changeling thought those examinations were pointless at first until he saw Raven begin to trip over her feet and deviate from the line. Next, the two women sat down facing each other and Veritas raised her right forefinger, telling Raven to place her finger onto her nose then reach out and touch Veritas' finger, repeating the process over and over again. The sorceress did so easily, until the doctor told her to go faster, and Garfield noticed that she began to miss her nose and Veritas' finger more and more frequently.
A few more of such examinations took place, all with similar results—Raven failing to perform basic coordination tasks. Most chilling to the changeling watching the entire process was when Raven was ordered to run and catch a rubber ball that Veritas would throw to her. The first three times, she did so successfully, but the fourth time, Raven was running when her legs suddenly locked themselves and she stood paralyzed as the ball flew right past her. Garfield took a step back in surprise at this; Dr. Veritas also seemed slightly shocked as she jotted it down in her notes.
A few more examinations took place before the doctor thanked them and said to return in a week for the results. The couple thanked her graciously and left, a bit shaken at what they had seen. Walking back out into the cover-up doctor's office, they were greeted by the same receptionist and were kindly shown the way out. Stumbling onto the street, Raven said to Garfield, who signaled for a taxi, "Hey, you said you guys didn't know where Malcolm Crowe was, right?"
The mention of the name seemed to startle the green changeling for a moment. "Yeah," he replied. "Shortly after you left, he kinda disappeared off the face of the earth. He sold his house and we don't know where he went. He must've done a good job of covering up his tracks, too. I wonder why… Anyhow, Batman said that we have no reason to trail after the Crowe's anymore, not after the last incident with the Brotherhood of Evil when Anna Crowe turned out to be a possessed Madame Rouge."
"Did you guys try to find him?"
"Yeah. In fact, if you looked in our databases, you could see how hard Dick tried to find out where Malcolm was. He managed to find a few clues but eventually called it quits."
"There aren't any clues in the mansion he left behind? I'm sure with a huge house like that he must've left something," Raven inquired as a cab arrived and the two Titans stepped in.
Garfield told the driver the address of his apartment and said to his girlfriend, "Not much. The only weird thing we found was that every single one of his clocks were broken and set to the exact same time—1:07. And all the calendars were flipped to the same month and had the same date circled—March 15th."
"Weird, indeed. Why are you so interested in what happened to him all of a sudden, anyway?"
"No reason," Raven answered quickly. Gar raised his eyebrows, leading the woman to add, "I was just wondering if I could find him, to see if he knows if he has an STD or not."
"Well, don't worry about it," he said. "I already checked his medical records. Besides the accident he had at the nuclear reactor years ago, there's nothing significant."
"Nuclear reactor…" he thought he heard Raven mumble under her breath. He was just about to ask her what she said when her cell phone suddenly rang.
"Hello?" the sorceress answered the phone. "Oh, Starfire? Yeah. Yeah, okay. Did you pick up what I asked for? Really? Does it look good? Okay, thank you so much. Goodbye."
"Star?" Gar asked as the woman placed her phone back into her pocket. "What were you two talking about?"
"It's nothing," she replied. "I asked Star to buy me some new bras and stuff. Girl things, nothing that concerns you." Quickly, she added, "Nothing you should be thinking about, either," with a stern look.
"Hey, hey!" the man threw his arms up in innocence. "Who says I was?" The two laughed and Logan took notice of the smile that radiated from Raven, realizing just how much he had missed it. He remembered when he and she first switched bodies and he had been injured in a fight with Rift. As he lay in a bed in the medic bay, he took a spoon and smiled at it, admiring Raven's smile from the reflection in the spoon. Eight years later, he found himself still admiring the same smile as if he had never stopped.
"Hey," he said. "You know what I've noticed?"
"We never really figured out why or how we switched bodies when we were kids."
"Oh—," Raven paused in thought. "Yeah, you're right. We never did figure that out."
"Y'know, I can barely even remember it now. There was a cook or something, right? And he gave us wine that switched our bodies. But for what?"
"Do you remember what he said? I can't recall it for some reason."
"It was too long ago. I remember him saying some weird stuff but I can't really remember," Garfield said. "And you know what? How did we switch bodies this time?" Raven was silent. "This time, neither one of us drank the body-switching wine. How come we just suddenly switched again?"
"I dunno," she replied.
"Maybe there's some kind of timer," the man pondered. "Like if we don't switch in five years or so, we'd automatically switch again. But that doesn't make sense… Or maybe that cook switched our bodies again! But why would he do that on such a random time?"
"It's not really important," Raven replied. "At least we're back together and in our own bodies now, right?"
"I guess so." He smiled at Raven, who gave him a shadow of a smile back. That same smile… Garfield was pacified and did not feel like asking any more questions, as the warmth he gained from Raven's smile was all he needed.
That night, a bright light illuminated from the computer in Garfield's room as Raven rapidly typed in commands onto the keyboard, bringing up the Titans database. From there, she traced Nightwing's search history from years ago and—thankfully due to his meticulously organized personality—was able to find several collected files of his search for Malcolm Crowe. There, she spent several hours rummaging through the database for any clue as to where the man was. Hearing a ringing in her head and feeling the pangs of a painful migraine, she ignored it and kept on typing. It wasn't until the pain became so unbearable that she felt she was going to pass out that she decided to stop for the night. Every night, that became her practice, her nightly nocturnal schedule. In the few instances when she'd hear Garfield approaching, she'd quickly shut off the computer and jump onto the bed. Right when he left, she'd leap back onto the computer and continue her research. So it continued until the day she found Malcolm Crowe's location.
Dr. Shay Veritas had asked the couple to come to her secret base hidden inside a local hospital for the appointment. They came early, anxious to hear the results. The doctor's grave expression didn't help.
"This is going to be a little… difficult to explain," she began.
"Difficult how?" Logan replied cautiously. "The good kind of difficult or the not-so-good kind?"
The doctor expressed that it was the not-so-good kind. She explained that she was bewildered at the results of the tests and had to gather a few of her colleagues to come help her. "The results looked more like something I'd read about than something I'd ever see with my own eyes," she mentioned. "We simply can't explain anything. We doubt it's a sexually transmitted disease due to the incredible range of symptoms, but at the same time, the start of the sickness seems to directly correlate with the moment of sexual intercourse, and the second most damaged area of her body is the reproductive system."
"Whoa, whoa, wait," the man replied. "Slow down." Raven sat quietly as she listened to it all.
"Her symptoms range greatly and some are extremely uncommon," Veritas explained deliberately. She took out some papers and started listing off some of Raven's symptoms: "Severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cramps, severe disruption of menstruation, epistaxis—that means nosebleeds—, intense waves of pain throughout the body. Then there's the less normal ones: gradual loss of superhuman abilities, inability to properly measure distances, hyporeflexia, macular degeneration causing slowly, infrequent moments of vision blurriness, ataxia…"
"You can stop there, please," Raven interrupted. "Just, please. You know what we're here for."
The doctor nodded and placed down her papers. "We have no idea what it is. And that being said, we can't hope for a cure." Garfield felt like a bucket of ice had been thrown down his back. The woman continued, showing the two a few X-rays of Raven. "The two most damaged areas we found were her reproductive system and her brain. The brain damage is undoubtedly causing the majority of the symptoms, thus making it extremely unlikely that it is any kind of known sexually transmitted disease. By looking at the MRI scans, we can predict some symptoms that will appear next. The first sign that you should watch for is hemoptysis."
"Hemoptysis?" Garfield asked. "You mean… coughing up blood?"
She nodded, "That is correct. Second, there seems to be an increasing amount of damage in these areas of the brain"—she pointed at each section as she went along—"meaning further blurriness in vision and possibly short bursts of complete loss of vision is possible. However, the biggest concern we see is in the cerebellum, particularly the cerebral cortex. This indicates that in the near future, Raven might experience some lapses and slowdown of thought processes and memory loss."
"Memory loss?" Garfield's eyes widened. He felt Raven's hand squeeze his.
"Unfortunately, that's what the scans indicate," Dr. Veritas answered gravely. "We'll be working as hard as we can on this case, but right now any chance of a cure seems unlikely."
"How long will I live?" Raven asked suddenly.
"Raven!" Garfield protested, but he saw the look on her face and kept quiet.
"How long do I have to live?" she repeated with slightly more force.
Dr. Veritas sighed and took off her glasses, laying them gently down onto the table and looked at Raven eye to eye. "I'm sorry," she said. "But according to our calculations… maximum, three months."
"And minimum?" the sorceress pressed. "What about minimum?"
She sighed again. "Maximum, three months. Minimum… indefinite."
"Indefinite?" Logan asked. "What does 'indefinite' mean?"
"It means that for all we know, she might not be alive tomorrow," the doctor said bluntly.
"Three months…" Raven mouthed. She spoke, "The last doctor I went to said I might have a year. I went to him about a month ago."
"He might've been right at the time. It seems like your symptoms are rapidly worsening, the rate of which might be much faster now than it was a month ago."
To this, Raven excused herself and left the room for a moment while Garfield stayed behind to talk about what options they had. The sorceress stepped out into the corridor of the hospital, contemplating, lost in thought. She felt a heavy weight on her heart. Perhaps she had never truly believed that she would die when she had heard the other doctors say it. Perhaps the thought of dying didn't affect her when she was still living alone, but terribly scared her now that she was back with her friends. Perhaps had been away from loved ones for so long that she had forgotten the worth of her own life, both to her and to others.
She was… going to die. The sudden and final realization of the fact shook her greatly as if she was abruptly struck by a moving train, thrust about upon its rails before being tossed mercilessly aside. She glanced around her and saw the doctors, nurses, and patients here and there. Were those patients on the brink of death as well? Whose lives would be affected by their deaths? Would death be painful? Would her loved ones be in pain when she would pass away? Raven noticed she began to breathe frantically in fear and tried to calm herself down, by chanting her old mantra, "Azarath Metrion Zinthos." Her heart rate and breathing gently slowed down.
Her attention was then caught by the sound of tears. Looking to her side, she saw a hospital bed being wheeled down the hall—a doctor and a nurse were pushing it while a sobbing woman was trailing behind. The man lying on the bed was completely covered by a blanket—signifying a dead corpse, a lifeless body, a departed soul—with his hand limply hanging out of the blanket. As the bed passed Raven, she felt the cold fingers of the body brush her right hand, almost as if they were calling her, beckoning her to join them in the afterlife. She held her breath as her eyes gazed at the dead body that had touched her, watching it until it was out of sight. Her right hand twitched. She had seen the face of death.
Her hands shivered and her fingers shook. She felt her lips begin to tremble as a wet warmth engulfed her eyes. Her heart began to pound faster and faster as she felt her breath entering and escaping her mouth as if without her will. She lost balance of her foot and leaned on a bench before crashing down onto it. Her hand instinctively covered her mouth as she broke down, tears painfully piercing out and sliding down her cheeks, burning her eyes and making her mouth taste salty. She began to sob with the sudden, full realization of what death was and how once she was gone, all those she knew would be in pain. She cried not for the pain she felt within but for the pain her death would bring upon others. She wept at the thought of leaving Garfield alone so soon after returning to him.
Death is a peaceful end only for her, she realized. To the ones left behind, it is a hole that will never be filled, a wound that will never fully heal.
"I'm sorry the visit didn't go so well," Garfield sighed as he fumbled with his keychain, searching for the one to open the door to his apartment.
"Don't be," Raven replied quietly. "It's not like I was expecting anything much better."
"To be honest," the man confessed as he unlocked the door and slowly opened it, "I was kinda hoping for better news. Luckily, I prepared something that I thought might cheer you up."
Raven barely had time to mutter a "What?" before she was startled by a loud "Surprise!" As Garfield flipped on the lights, she could see Richard, Starfire, and Victor standing inside a decorated room. "Happy birthday!" they shouted.
"W—what is this?" she gasped.
"Are you deaf?" her boyfriend joked as he led her inside. "Or did you really forget what today was?" Raven stopped for a moment in an effort to remember the date. Was it her birthday already? Perhaps because it had not been celebrated in five years, she had almost forgotten when it was.
"Oh yeah," she realized. "I'm 26 now."
"So…" Nightwing piped up. "Considering we haven't celebrated your birthday in so long, we decided to make this extra special!"
"We will make this the best birthday party you have ever had!" Starfire cheered. Raven thought to herself that this would be the last birthday party she'd have.
Raven naturally was not a party person, but did her best to express her gratitude to her friends for having thrown her a party. After all, her time alone had taught her to treasure moments like these. Deep down, she also did not want her friends' memories of her last birthday party to be bad ones.
As they brought out the food, she did her best to eat normally and—though more than once she struggled to pick up some food—she knew that the others were courteous enough not to bring it up. She smiled and complimented the food, hiding the fact that she felt she was slowly losing her sense of taste as the food seemed to become more and more tasteless. Near the end of the dinner, she experienced a heavy headache like a bell ringing sharply in her head and had to excuse herself for a moment to keep the others from noticing her painful expressions.
In the end, the others apologized that they didn't have the time to buy any presents, though Raven returned that them being there for her was more than enough a present. She saw Garfield look around and nod at the others, who then promptly said their goodbyes to Raven and left. Confused, she looked back at them as they walked out the room and switched off the lights. It wasn't until Garfield returned carrying a cake with twenty six candles alighted that she understood. "I asked them if we could have this time alone," he whispered as he placed the small cake onto the table before the birthday girl. "…if you don't mind." She nodded with a small smile and said that she didn't. The man sat down in front of her.
A flash. The couple was startled and turned towards the door, where they spotted Victor with a camera, who gave them a thumbs up before immediately leaving. "Tch, paparazzi," Gar muttered. Turning his attention back to Raven, he said to her, "I know the others didn't get you a present, but I had to get you something." Reaching down, he pulled out a small glass container and handed it to her. She examined it inquisitively and saw that it was filled with about a hundred or so pills.
"What is it?"
"Medicine," the changeling replied with a grin. "Medicine to make you better. Take one a day before you go to bed, two if necessary." He added cheekily, "Don't overdose."
The Azarathean let out a snort as she said back, "I guess now's a good time as ever to give you my present."
"Your present?" His eyebrows raised. The woman stood up and walked to the bedroom, returning shortly afterwards with a small box in her hand, wrapped in green paper and adorned with a red bow.
"I know it's a little unorthodox to give you a present on my birthday, but consider it compensation for the last five of your birthdays that I've missed," she explained as she handed him the gift. "Open it."
Curiously, Garfield examined the small box and undid the ribbon, which came off easily, and gently tore open the wrapping. He nearly dropped the box as he peered inside. Reaching his fingers in, he took out a crystal bell, exactly like the one that had hung in his room. "You got another bell?" he asked.
"No," she said with a hint of a proud smile. "That's the real bell, the one in your room. I found this place and asked Starfire to go and have it fixed." She was pleased as she saw his jaw drop as he examined the bell in the light of the candles. "It looks as good as new, doesn't it?"
"It—it's amazing," he said. "It's—It looks just like it was never broken in the first place. You can't even see the cracks anymore!" He looked up at her. "Why did you take the trouble to have it fixed when you could've gotten a new one? That would've been faster and less expensive."
Raven shrugged. "The best and most expensive bell in the world wouldn't have nearly as much worth as that one. I didn't want the best. I didn't want perfection. I wanted what's ours."
Garfield gave a broad smile. "Well then, birthday girl," he declared. "It's time for you to make a wish."
"Let's do it the Azarathean way," the sorceress said. "You remember the way Azarathean couples do it, right?"
He chuckled. "How could I forget?" The way couples in Azarath do birthday wishes was that both the man and the woman would clasp their hands together in prayer and both create their own wish before blowing the candles out together. The one whose breath blows out the final candle would be the one whose wish would come true. Normally then, they would both wish for the same thing.
Closing his eyes, he clasped his hands together and knew Raven was doing the same. "We know what we're both wishing for, right?" he asked.
"Of course," came the reply.
"I wish," Garfield thought in his mind as the image of Raven appeared. "I wish that Raven would live. Please, God. Please protect Raven."
Raven placed her hands gently together in prayer. "I wish," she thought in her mind as the image of Garfield appeared. "I wish that when I die, Garfield will not live in pain. Please, Azar. Please help him to forget me."
Together, the two blew out the candles. Neither had remembered to open their eyes. Neither knew whose breath blew out the last candle.
That night, Raven sat in her room clutching Gar's present, wondering what it was. She unscrewed the lid and took out one of the pills. She slowly realized that the pill was not meant to be swallowed, but was a small container that could be screwed open. Carefully, she twisted one end of the pill, which easily came off to reveal a tiny roll of paper hidden inside. She curiously took out the tiny piece of paper and saw some pen marks on it. Holding it up to the light of the lamp, she read the writing on the paper—"Why can't I stop thinking about you? It's like a disease."
A smile cracked on Raven's face as she realized what Garfield's present was—a jar full of pills that contained a handwritten message inside each one. Quickly, she picked up another message pill and unscrewed it, taking out the paper and reading its contents—"No rain, no snow, no ice can cool down my love for you."
Raven found herself smiling and chuckling at the paper. Greedily snatching up another pill, she made quick work of the pill shell to get to the message hidden inside—"When I'm with you at night, it feels as if it were day."
At this, the woman let out a small laugh of joy as she picked up another pill. "When I'm with you, nothing has to make sense."
She began a cyclical motion of snatching up a message pill, opening it quickly, reading the paper hidden inside, and laughing quietly in joy at each one until tears began to emerge. "When I close my eyes, all I see is your face shining brightly at me."
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray."
"No matter what has happened. No matter what you've done. No matter what you will do. I will always love you. I swear it."
"I wanted to tell you that wherever I am, whatever happens, I'll always think of you, and the time we spent together, as my happiest time. I'd do it all over again, if I had the choice. No regrets."
"In your smile, I see something even more beautiful than the stars."
"Sometimes I can't see myself when I'm with you. I can only just see you."
"I knew the second I met you that there was something about you I needed. Turns out it wasn't something about you at all. It was just you."
"You make me happier than I ever thought I could be. Thank you."
More and more she read, more and more she laughed, more and more she cried.
She didn't realize how long Garfield had been standing at her door. When she finally took notice of him, he said to her, "Idiot. I told you not to overdose." Raven looked around her and realized she must've looked like a mess—her eyes red, her cheeks wet with tears, pills and paper tossed casually all over the floor and bed.
"I couldn't help it!" she cried out. "I was scared."
At this, he chuckled as if he was listening to a baby. "What's there to be scared of? You don't like your present?" he asked as he walked over and sat down next to her.
"No, no I love it," she sobbed. "But I was scared—scared that I would die before I could read all of them!"
The smile on the changeling's face faded as he wrapped a warm arm around Raven's shoulders. She leaned on him and continued to cry.
"It was me," she sniffled. "It was me…"
"What was?" he asked gently.
"I switched us," she confessed to him. "I was the one who switched us. Back when I left five years ago, I took with me a small vial of the body-switching potion and sent the rest back to Azarath. I just wanted to keep it with me. But after five years away from you, I couldn't stop myself anymore. So one night, I drank it, and that's when we switched bodies a few weeks ago. I was the one who switched our bodies because I wanted to see you again."
A tear glistened from Garfield's eyes as he heard these words. "Oh, Raven," he smiled. At that second, something deep down inside him wanted to freeze time, to forever stay in that moment. For some reason, he felt that though they were both in tears, they were both the happiest they had been at that very moment. If they could've lived forever in that place in time, Garfield Logan would not have argued against it.
The room was quiet save for the sound of Raven and Garfield's tears. The peaceful calm and serenity of the night was broken then by the sound of music.
"You are… so beautiful… to me…" Gar began singing out of nowhere, as faint as a whisper. Slowly, his voice grew strength and confidence. "You are so beautiful… to me. Can't you see?" He stood up and held out his hand. Raven smiled shyly and took his hand, joining him on his feet. He continued his song, "You're everything I hoped for, you're everything that I need." He held Raven close to him, guiding her right hand to his shoulder and placing his left hand at her waist while holding her other hand outstretched in a dancing position. "You are so beautiful to me…"
"Garfield…" she said as she gulped down her tears and smiled, feeling his warmth caress her.
"You are so beautiful to me, you are so beautiful to me. Can't you see? You're everything I hoped for. You're everything I need!" he sang. Bringing his voice down to a whisper, he gently sang into her ear, "You are so beautiful, to me…"
For a moment, they were no longer twenty six year old man and woman, no longer reunited lovers after five years of separation. There were no longer tears, no longer empty message pills and pieces of paper strewn on the floor, no more STDs or death or sorrow. For a moment, they were eighteen year olds once more, dancing together for the first time as a couple in the Crowe mansion on Christmas. She was his fairy princess. He was her guardian angel. Together forever, at least for a moment.
A month passed before Raven decided it was time. Perhaps she would have waited longer had she not waken up in the morning in a fit of coughing blood—the first sign of her weakening state. She quickly shoved the blood-stained pillowcase into the washing machine before Garfield noticed.
That night, she opened the drawer of her bedside nightstand and pulled out a piece of paper she kept hidden underneath some books. Unfolding the paper, she read the address she had written on it—667 Thrushcross Lane, New York.
The woman snuck out of the apartment, careful not to wake Garfield, who was lying asleep on the sofa, and walked out onto the street, signaling a taxi and handing the address to the driver. "Please, as quickly as you can," she instructed.
She couldn't tell how long the car ride was, for a deep ringing and pain in her head distracted her for most of it, and when she came to the house, she immediately got out, casually throwing back a $20 and telling him to keep the change. She approached the dark, shadowy house warily, reminding herself that she couldn't back down now, for she had been searching for this man for the past few years. Walking towards the door, she rang the doorbell numerous times. To her surprise, the door was opened within moments as if its owner had not yet slept.
"Raven!" Malcolm Crowe called in surprise. "You—you're here. It's been so long. How did you find me?"
"May I come in?" she said curtly. The man opened the door and welcomed her in. She strode in past him quickly. Malcolm gestured her to the kitchen table, where she sat as he offered to prepare a drink for her, which she promptly declined. He sat before her.
"How has everything been, Raven?" he started. "It's been, what, four years now?"
"Five. And I haven't been very well lately," she replied. "Though I suppose you wouldn't know anything about that."
"I'm afraid I wouldn't," he said back. "What's wrong?"
Raven observed Malcolm's dark green eyes, like dark, cloudy mirrors in which she saw her own reflection. "Nothing you should be concerned of," she replied. Her attention was brought to a small, scratching sound nearby. "What's that sound?" she asked.
"Oh," he said. "Probably just the neighbor's cat. It does that sometimes. Would you please be quiet?" he called. "Stupid cat!" The noise stopped.
"Anyway," Raven continued. "Let's get to the point, because I have a feeling this night won't be very enjoyable for either of us."
"What do you mean, Raven?" he asked in a confused tone.
"July 16th. Ten years ago," she declared. "You and Anna Crowe were involved in an accident near a nuclear reactor. You suffered a blow to the head but were declared medically unharmed. Anna, on the other hand, contracted a great deal of radiation leading to cellular degeneration. Am I correct?"
"You are," came the reply. "But how did you know that?"
"I think it's best for us that you not ask me how I know these things," she snapped back. "Let it just be assumed that for the past five years, I've had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking and researching. Are we clear?" Crowe nodded. Raven continued, "As I was saying, that is what the official medical reports say. However, that is not what happened, is it? In reality, Anna was the one who suffered a blow to the head and you were the one who was exposed to radiation."
Malcolm was silent.
"Anna sustained a heavy amount of head trauma and died almost immediately. Her body was burned when the reactor exploded. You, on the other hand, were the one who contracted cellular degeneration, leading slowly to brain damage and insanity."
"None of that is true," Malcolm answered. "What are you trying to say, Raven?"
"Eight years ago, you said you came into a sizeable sum of money just in time to pay for your wedding with "Anna", who turned out to be a possessed Madame Rouge. Where did you get that money?"
"I inherited it from an uncle."
"Strange that you inherited it in the same time that a certain masked man stole a rare fragment of Unobtainium and sold it for a handsome amount of money," she said.
"Ever heard of coincidences?" His voice no longer had a friendly tone.
"I think it's also strange that Rift has a tendency of controlling others like the Titans East to do his work when he's perfectly capable himself, especially during the fight at your mansion when the Brotherhood of Evil attacked. In fact, it almost seemed like Titans East was ordered by Rift to purposefully mess up the Brotherhood's attack in order to protect Anna."
"And you know, I've always wondered why Rift was always so obsessively searching for Anna Crowe when he must have known her to be dead. Or perhaps why you were so easily fooled into believing a disguised Madame Rouge was your wife when you, too, knew the real Anna Crowe was dead. Unless, of course, some sort of brain damage caused you to become insane to the point where your mental state depended on there being an Anna. You couldn't accept that Anna was dead and so you decided to go out and find an Anna for yourself. You went out and found Madame Rouge, controlled her mind and ordered her to shape shift into the form of Anna Crowe and made her believe she was your wife."
"Would you please stop asking me these questions?" Malcolm suddenly cried out. Raven felt a herself unable to ask any more questions, as if by a force, but that only seemed to confirm her suspicions.
"I know who you are," she revealed. Again, the scratching sound rose, causing Raven to quickly turn her head. She stood up and followed the sound to a nearby closet. Glancing back at Malcolm, she placed her hand on the cold doorknob and cast the door open.
A woman emerged from her hiding place—a woman who bore a great similarity to Anna Crowe. Raven watched as the woman crept towards Malcolm, whispering in a frightened tone as she gazed uneasily at her, "Malcolm, who is she? Why did you tell me to hide in there? I'm sorry I wasn't quiet enough. I tried, I really did. Who is that woman, Malcolm?" The Azarathean stared at the woman standing next to Malcolm with a look of cold understand and disgust.
Malcolm, who had been glowering at Raven the entire time without paying a second thought towards the woman who resembled Anna Crowe, suddenly said aloud, "Enough of this." With a swift movement, he grabbed the woman's head and twisted it violently, snapping her neck and dropping her lifeless corpse onto the ground, her head bent at a gruesome angle.
Raven took a step back in shock, grabbing the closet door behind her, but stood her ground. She attempted to be unfazed by the assault but her heart was thumping faster and faster. "Azarath Metrion Zinthos," she thought to herself. "Peace, calm, tranquility." She couldn't attain any of these as the man eyed her ravenously.
"You're smarter than the others," he spoke in a low voice. "I suppose I should have expected no less from the child of Trigon."
"You—" she gasped. "You know my f—father?"
He lowered his head until his eyes were shadowed. "The time has come for the Second Coming, Child of Trigon." Raven backed down slowly until she felt a coat inside the closet graze her hand. Grabbing the coat, she flung it in one swift movement at Malcolm then took towards the front door. Sprinting towards it, she suddenly came to a stop as he teleported directly in front of her, blocking her from the door.
"Would you please sleep?" he commanded her. Raven instantly felt a drowsiness overcome her. She attempted to fight back, but knew that she was absolutely helpless without her powers. She attempted to keep on running towards the door, but her legs felt like they were being weighed down by iron casts. Her eyelids began to drop and darkness began to enclose her vision.
"It was… you all along, M—Malcolm," she gasped in her final conscious moments. "You're…"
"Yes," he confirmed as the woman dropped to the ground in deep sleep. "I'm Rift."
~Difficult Words to Say~
Dun, dun, dun! Was that a shocking enough twist for you guys? Well buckle your seat belts cause this train is just starting to leave the station. First stop, Plot Twist Station, then the Feels Trip! Remember to REVIEW and, if you haven't yet (which I doubt, but still), FOLLOW and FAVORITE! :)
And yes, Dr. Shay Veritas is a real DC character and an ally of Superman. Yes, I took the time to research a DC character JUST to be mentioned in probably only this chapter.
By the way, I'm considering changing the second category of this story from "Fantasy" to something, but I don't know what. Originally I labeled it as "Romance" because of the obvious and "Fantasy" because of the body-switching, but at this point, I don't think "Fantasy" really covers the story anymore. Review and tell me what you guys think I should change it to. I'm edging on "Drama" or "Angst" right now but I really don't know... Tell me what you think!
Kaarlinaa - Well that is just plain hurtful! Why would I want to cute Raven? I don't even know what that means!
CleoArrow - No worries! This story will always be up here. Thanks for the review and yes, we all hope they will make it through this.
Whoelsebutme11 - Better late than never, am I right? Thanks a lot for the review, and keep on reading! I hope you'll like it.
Bluedog197 - Some shocking revelations coming up! Keep on reading. It's getting more and more hardcore from here! :)
JasonVUK - Not a bad prediction. Obviously I can't tell you what's gonna happen, but it's an interesting idea you put up.
shugokage - Thank you! I hope you liked this chapter.
Thebookthief18 - This is a pretty feelsy chapter for me to write (balanced good and bad feels). It took a little while, but I hope it was worth it. Keep on reading! :)
Guest - Thank you! It won't be a dancing on roses ending, I promise you. Ehh I can't promise that no Titans will die, but I'm not saying that they will either. However, you can (and should) expect some more deaths though. (hint hint)
gabylokita41 - Thank you so much for your kind words! It gives me great pleasure to write, especially knowing people like you love to read it. :)
darlsonalice - Ahhh! I'm impressed at what a great eye you have! Seems like you caught a lot of the early foreshadowing! And your thinking and logic is very nice, too. I can't say how right you are (because, my dear, how can an author spoil his own story?) but just know I am very impressed with your keen eye!