Sorry for the delay, everybody. I guess you guys have been stuck on the last cliffhanger for a while, eh? Anyway, about the game. I'm glad to say it was VERY close but in the end...
Yes, yes, commence with the boo's, all of them. As you remember (or not... it was a whole month ago), the options were 1) Malcolm dies 2) He's in a coma or 3) He lives but is placed in a mental hospital. Well, my plan was should there be a tie between 1 and 2 or 2 and 3, I would pick the one that is not 2. But if there was a tie between 1 and 3, I would go with 2 (because a coma is essentially the middle ground between life and death. Well, good ole' me miscounted and accidentally counted a tie for 1 and 3.
Which tbh totally was not my fault cause some of you guys were like "i like 2 but 3 is nice, but i think 1 is better, but i'm not sure maybe 1 or 3 or possibly 2. in the end i pick 1... or at least i would if it wasn't for 3. But 2 sounds good, too." JEEZ that's confusing for me to count considering there were some reviews like that (not as bad as that, I'm kidding).
But oh well... it still works fine. The next (and final) game will be in the end of chapter 22, so look forward to that! It will be very important as well, and I PROMISE I'll count carefully! :))
Also: Honorable mentions to 4getmenot for reading the entire story in a single night and for Artemis Jane for reading the whole story and reviewing close to every single one!
Chapter XXIV - To Be a Man
"What's my name?"
"Dick, please. It was just an accident. I was tired and—"
"What's my name?" the man repeated more firmly.
Raven sighed and shook her head slightly, giving up. "Richard Grayson, AKA Robin, AKA Nightwing."
"And what's hers?" He pointed at a woman nearby.
"Koriand'r Grayson, AKA Starfire, AKA Mrs. Richard Grayson." Starfire blushed slightly at this.
"Victor Stone, AKA Cyborg," Raven replied in a bored tone.
"Him?" Nightwing pointed at a green man nearby.
"Dick," Raven said sternly to her interrogator. "Really?"
"I said… him?"
Raven gazed into Grayson's eyes unflinchingly. "Garfield Mark Logan, AKA Beast Boy, AKA Changeling, AKA my fiancée."
Nightwing gulped slightly at Raven's subtly fierce tone as she said this. "She—she's fine," he said to the others. Starfire and Victor both gave a sigh of relief, Raphael cleared his throat, and Garfield, crossing his arms, avoided eye contact. What had happened to Raven? No more than half an hour ago, she had been a lost, confused person wandering Jump City with no relocation of the others at all. Now, as they entered his apartment, she suddenly remembered everything as if nothing had happened at all.
A knock on the door prompted the man to stand up and answer it. Opening the door, he let in Dr. Shay Veritas, who walked coolly in with some equipment. "I came as fast as I could," she said briskly. "How is she?"
"Fine, it seems. She just now remembered everything."
"I expected as much," the doctor said as she set her equipment on the table and began taking some out. "A familiar environment often helps in restoring memory."
"Familiar environment?" he asked. "We found her in Jump City wandering around like a lost sheep. She's lived there for years. How was that not a familiar environment?"
"She hasn't been there in the past five years, has she? In terms of familiarity, especially for someone who is slowly gaining amnesia, more recent memories like your apartment are more familiar than the long-term ones like Jump City. Okay, where is she?"
"In the living room," Garfield said, leading her to the place where Raven sat quietly.
The doctor approached her. "Hello, Raven. Do you remember me?"
She nodded. "Dr. Veritas."
"Good! Okay, I'm going to do just a few quick examinations on you. This won't be long."
"Actually," Raven interrupted. "I don't think that's necessary."
"No, you don't understand. I—I think I know what's happening now."
"What do you mean?" Cyborg asked her.
Raven was silent at first, as if she was contemplating exactly what to say and how to say it. "Where were you last night, Raven?" Dick asked, the question all of them were simultaneously wondering.
The sorceress took a deep breath. "This won't make much sense to you, Dr. Veritas. But the others will understand." Looking around her, she closed her eyes as if it was too painful to see their reactions. "Trigon... he—my father is returning."
"What!" all five of them cried aloud at once. Raphael especially was horrified—as a natural-born Azarathean, he was the only one besides Raven to truly understand the distress of Trigon's return. Veritas looked around confusingly.
"H—how?" Nightwing and Victor exclaimed at the same time while Starfire made a few dreadful squeaks. Garfield fell down to the sofa in shock. Raphael grew instantly pale as the blood in his face rushed out, as if it, too, were fearful of the utterance of the name.
"Tr—Trigon?" he stammered. "No that can't—no, no… What?—no!" He instantly had flashbacks of the first time the Dark Demon rose from his dimension and attacked Azarath when he was seventeen years old. He remembered the fires, the destruction, the fear incarnated.
Raven gripped her hands into a fist and began explaining what had happened last night—about Malcolm, about Rift, about his past, about his deal with Trigon, and about Trigon's plan. She took care to look away from the others as she spoke—she couldn't bear to see the looks on their faces, especially not Raphael and Garfield. When she was done, the others sat in shocked silence, Raphael's knees became horribly weak and began shaking, and Garfield stared at the ground in dismay.
"He's coming," Raven said. "I'm—I'm not going to be the gem to unlock him like before. This time… I am going to become him."
"Then… this is the Second Coming of Trigon?" Raphael muttered in a stony voice.
"No… it's worse," he said with a bereft face. "I—I heard rumors from something Azar said. She—she said she believes it might be… it might be a Second Sorcerer-Demon War."
"What?" Raven immediately jumped. "No, it can't be! Why would she believe that?"
"Wait, hold up. What's this 'war' thing you guys are talking about? We're not from Azarath. We don't know any of this!" Victor interrupted.
"The Sorcerer-Demon War was a great battle waged long ago on Earth," Raphael explained quickly. "The demons attacked humanity. The people were being massacred at first, but were saved through the efforts of three people. We call them the Three Magi—Azar, Leon, and Dante. It was said that Azar cast a protective spell over the people, Leon used his magic to fight the demons, and Dante travelled through the realms of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven to find the gift of magic to grant to a few people on Earth. After he did that, those who attained the gift of magic became sorcerers who fought alongside Leon and eventually defeated the demons. Dante stayed in Heaven, unable to return after giving up his physical body, Leon divided his power and life force into seven fragments that became the Seven Weapons of Azarath, and Azar, knowing that sorcerers and humans would not be able to coexist, created a separate world for them—Azarath. And now… now it's possible Trigon will rise with his demons and wage a second war."
They were silent.
"Well, I honestly do not understand any of this," Veritas said to the others. "I suppose I should go now. Raven, are you alright? Have your symptoms worsened?"
"I began coughing blood," she said quietly. "And my vision is sometimes blurry."
"I see… that, along with your lapse in memory isn't a good sign. Any periods of thought process slowdown?"
Raven shrugged. "I feel like lately there are some times when I feel very lazy or can't think of anything. Since I'm not transforming into Garfield, I'm assuming that's not a good sign either?"
Veritas chuckled at the woman's bit of dark humor. "Well, if anything happens, feel free to contact me. I'll be off." She bade the others goodbye and left with her equipment.
"If it's alright with you guys, I'm fine. And I think I need some time alone now," Raven turned to the others. "Do you guys mind leaving?" They looked at each other and nodded. Victor offered to take Raphael to his place and the four left. Garfield and Raven were left alone.
"Raven…" Garfield said immediately. "I've been thinking… If—If all that is true, and Rift was—was Malcolm all along, do you think—?"
"Garfield Logan," the woman said simply, having anticipated his question.
"Do you think he—he ordered… controlled me… that night?"
"Gar," she said. "I've thought about that, too. But it's over and done now. The past is in the past. There's no use in going back to the past."
Garfield did not relent. "But what if? What if it was him that forced me to and—I know I shouldn't be making excuses for myself, but what if that night… what if…?"
"I told you already," Raven said sternly. "I don't care about that anymore. It doesn't matter to me."
"Well, it matters to me!" the changeling suddenly burst. Raven was taken about by the sudden outburst, and fastened her lips shut. "How do you think I feel?" he said to her exasperatingly. "How do you think I've felt for the past five years knowing that I had done—done that to you? How do you think I've felt all this time? Feeling like a—a horrible piece of shit for what I had done! Worthless, terrible, stupid! Maybe… just maybe… If I could believe it wasn't me… I want to know that it wasn't me…"
Raven's mind slowly became foggy. "Gar…" she said slowly as she felt her body being lulled to sleep. "Please… don't blame… yourself…" Her eyes clamped shut and she fell asleep, her body giving way to exhaustion.
Garfield took a few deep breaths and stared at Raven's calm, sleeping face with a sad expression. Ever since she had come back, he had found that he could not once look at her face without being reminded of what he had done with Malcolm. The revelation that Malcolm was Rift all along only made it worse as he realized that it was his own very actions that not only hurt Raven but also helped Rift and Trigon at the same time.
He picked her up and carried her into his bedroom, gently laying her down and tucking her in before leaving silently. Raven slept there for the majority of the day, having slept very little the night before. When she finally woke up again, it was already close to midnight, and Garfield was already asleep on the sofa in the living room. Raven sat up on the soft bed, hugging her knees to her chest, and closed her eyes. "Azarath Metrion Zinthos," she chanted. She held out a palm and attempted to conjure an orb of dark magic. Nothing came. "Azarath Metrion Zinthos," she repeated. Although her powers had been completely suppressed, she still found the incantation to bring her some peace inside.
A beam of moonlight shone through the window of Garfield's bedroom, resting gently before Raven. She took no notice of it until the light began to solidify, rising up and forming the distinct form of a woman. Raven looked up in surprise and subconsciously shifted farther back on the bed before the light shifted into the figure of Azar.
"Hello, my dearest Raven," the sorceress greeted her.
"Your Holiness!" she said in return, giving a small bow with her head out of respect. "Why—why have you come here?"
"There is something I need to speak to you about," Azar said simply.
"There is something I needed to tell you as well," she replied. "Trigon—my father is returning."
Azar nodded. "I know of this. I have suspected as such recently. I sense you have heard that I predict the possibility of a Second Sorcerer-Demon War?"
"I have, your Holiness, but why? Why do you believe that?"
At this, Azar looked away, resting her eyes on the crystal bell that hung on the window. "Do you remember that story long ago that I used to tell you in my second incarnation? The Inheritance of the Three Magi?"
"I—I do remember some of it. But I never really resolved to remember a bedtime story like that."
"Well… it may not be such a bedtime story after all."
"What do you mean?" Raven's eyes looked at Azar's white face confusingly. The woman standing above smiled.
"Azar, who was also known as Azara… Dante, who was also known as Metrius… Leon, who was also known as Zinthian. The descendents of the Three Magi—their Inheritors—were said to reunite during the Second Sorcerer-Demon War and once again, defeat the demons—now manifested as Trigon, who is also known as Scath—for the final time. Do you not believe such a tale?"
"What is there to believe? The only Inheritor—if they even exist—is you. Dante… he stayed in Heaven. Leon… he perished."
"You never know, Raven. You never know. You might be surprised. For instance… you, too are an Inheritor of Azar."
Raven's eyes furrowed as she heard this. "I—I am? How?"
"During Trigon's first attack years ago, the second Azar used a great amount of her power to defend Azarath. Before she passed on, she succeeded her remaining powers to me and I became her third incarnation. But the powers that she had lost wandered around without a host, aimlessly, before they made their way to you. You became the host of Azar's lost powers. They rest within you know, making you an Inheritor."
"But—but…" Raven tried to process all this. "But even if that was true, that I am an Inheritor of Azar… even if the Inheritance was true, then I'd still have to find the other two. And even worse, how can I defeat Trigon if I am to become Trigon?"
"You will see. Fate will tell," Azar answered cryptically. "But be warned—Trigon already knows this. He has already tried to kill someone whom he believes to be the Inheritor of Leon. Additionally, it is possible he wishes to eliminate the threat of the Three Magi by becoming them, himself. If he were to unlock the gifts of magic from Hell, acquire the Seven Weapons of Azarath, and take over your body, then in essence he would have taken the power of Dante, Leon, and Azar."
"I've heard something like that from him," Raven replied. "The Father, the Daughter, and the Demonic Spirits. The Father, who attained the power of Leon. The Daughter, who has the power of Azar. The Demonic Spirits, who are blessed with the power of Dante. It all makes perfect sense now."
Azar nodded. "You know what you need to do."
"I just don't know if I can do it," said the woman skeptically.
"You can… just follow your heart and its emotions. Follow your mind and its reason. Follow yourself."
"Thank you, Azar." Raven bowed again
"There is one more thing." The grown woman's face betrayed a subtle look of sadness. "Lady Arella… your mother, has disappeared."
If Raven made any reaction to this news, it was quickly suppressed. "For how long?" she asked calmly as if they were talking about any other person.
"It is impossible to tell. She had used her magic to prevent any of us—even me—from finding out sooner." Raven remained silent, but Azar understood what was on her mind.
"She loves you, you know."
"With all due respect," Raven said to her, "I would prefer not to hear things about what my mother feels."
"It is the truth."
"For a mother who has hardly seen her daughter more than once a year all her life, a mother who had barely touched let alone held her daughter… I find that hard to believe."
"You must understand what she feels, Raven."
"I can never understand what she thinks… ever…"
Azar sighed. "You mother loved you then and she loves you now. That is the truth. Whether you choose to believe it or not is your choice." The woman placed her hand on the window sill and looked out onto the moonlight. "There is a deep magic that flows through us all, Raven. It binds through all of us, a powerful magic that can never be altered or changed or disturbed. Your people here on Earth know of it as well, though many refuse to believe its existence. We have given it many names—fate, destiny, providence. This magic guides us throughout our lives whether we know it or not. Everything that happens, happens according to the will of that magic. Everything happens for a reason. Everything." Azar disappeared in a smoke of light.
The entire team of the former Teen Titans along with Raphael gathered together early the next morning. Dick Grayson, in particular, had a grave face as he brought the local newspaper. As the others ate their breakfast, he read aloud from page thirteen.
"Tragedy strikes as a great fire destroys a home and nearly destroys the one person trapped within. Two nights ago, a small house located in the suburban area outside New York went up in flames. The police reported that they received calls at around 3:18 AM. The fire department did all they could to save the house but ultimately failed. Thankfully, however, an inhabitant of the house was found and rescued. The victim, not yet identified, is a Caucasian male in his early to mid-thirties, and is currently being treated at Virgil Medical Hospital for serious burns and injuries. The immediate cause of the fire is unknown. According to police reports, the home was owned by thirty-four year old Malcolm Crowe, who owned the house for ten years, but strangely has not been reported to reside in it. While it is highly likely that the victim of the fire is, indeed, Crowe, police refuse to confirm this until proper identification is complete."
Victor Stone gave a long, hard sigh as he heard this. "Unbelievable."
"Will he survive?" Starfire pondered aloud. "Malcolm Crowe… He will not die, will he?"
"Who knows?" Dick answered. "Anything could happen now. If we have time, we should go check up on him in the hospital."
"Whoa," Raphael interrupted. "Is it safe for Raven to go near him? After all, he is Trigon's servant."
"We've fought Trigon face to face," Dick said. "We're not scared to go near him one bit."
"Besides, from what I could sense, Trigon's spirit left him during his encounter with me," Raven nodded. "When Malcolm repented and caught on fire, my father no longer saw any use of the man and left him. The Malcolm Crowe in the hospital now is all there is… just Malcolm."
"Let's go now," Garfield suddenly nodded resolutely.
The others looked at him. "Now?" Victor asked.
"Yes, now. Why not? We all want to see what happened to the man. Let's go to him now." With this, the changeling stood up and headed out the door. The others looked at each other and silently followed suit.
The half-hour trek downtown was made in two separate vehicles—the T-Car transported Victor, Garfield, and Raven while Nightwing drove Starfire and Raphael in his own car. Raphael, in particular, was dazzled at the prospect of being driven in an Earthly machine. Upon arrival, the six men and women asked the receptionist of the condition of Malcolm Crowe, whom she revealed had survived but, due to severe burns and injuries, had fallen into a coma. She then gave them his room number and allowed them to visit him. They made their way to his room and entered, finding a doctor and a nurse standing next to a man lying in a bed.
"Oh, hello," the doctor said. "Are you here to visit our patient? You're friends with Mr. Crowe?"
"Y—yeah, sure," Victor Stone nodded.
"Oh my, aren't you the Titans?" the nurse exclaimed. She placed her hand over her mouth as if to cover her excitement. "I can't believe this! I watched you guys on the news all the time when I was little!"
After the doctor proceeded to excuse the nurse, who left after requesting autographs, he asked them, "Well, our local superheroes. I suppose you're here about Mr. Crowe?"
"Yes. How is he?" Nightwing said, glancing over at the man in the bed. He was deeply asleep and was connected to life support. His skin was in patches and mismatched while his hair and face was completely hairless. If it weren't for the sign on the door that contained Malcolm's name, Dick Grayson would have never guessed that that was Malcolm Crowe.
"It's… difficult to say," the doctor replied, taking out a clipboard and reading off the papers. "We've managed to remove the carbon monoxide in his lungs and kept his respiratory tract from being damaged. The clothes he had been wearing melted onto his skin but we managed to remove them all. All of his lost skin has been replaced by skin donors. His hair was mostly burnt off so we cut it all off. After checking him for any injuries, we hooked him up on life support. He's been like this for about twenty-four hours now."
"So he is alive?" Starfire inquired.
"…That's where the difficult part is. He… Malcolm Crowe is virtually brain-dead."
"Brain-dead?" Richard, Starfire, and Victor shouted in unison. Raven and Garfield both took a step back in shock. Raphael looked around wondering what 'brain-dead' meant.
"Are you sure?" Richard said.
The doctor shook his head. "Brain-death is blurry territory." He turned towards a monitor, which was monitoring Malcolm's systems, and pointed at an image of a brain. "Different places classify brain-death different ways. Most define cerebral death as brain-death, others don't. Mr. Crowe's cerebrum is damaged beyond repair, and there are zero brain signals in that area. However, some other parts of his brain are still functioning, which is why his heart is still pumping and he is still breathing. Here in Virgil Medical Hospital, we do not yet consider him dead, so he cannot be taken off life support. He is quite literally hanging on the line between life and death right now. However, his pulse is steadily decreasing. Should it stop beating, then he's officially dead. At this rate, it may only be a few more days."
"So… what's the chance of him surviving?" Raven asked the doctor without taking her eyes off the comatose man.
"If his heart improves, extremely slim," the doctor answered. "But if his heart doesn't improve, or gets worse—which it most definitely will—then his chances of surviving are zero to none. Essentially, he's just waiting to die now."
After a few more minutes, the Titans thanked the doctor and decided to leave. Raven and Garfield insisted on staying back, asking Victor to go home with the others.
"What are you thinking?" Raven asked Garfield as the others closed the door behind them.
He shook his head. "To think it was all him… all this time. Impossible."
"I know what you mean. I thought so, too, at first. But in the end, it's the truth. All of this, since the very beginning, was Malcolm Crowe."
"I'm sorry, Rae. But could I be alone for a little bit?"
Raven nodded understandingly and said she'll go visit Dr. Veritas. The woman left the hospital room and stood outside the door.
"Who was it?" she heard Garfield mutter from inside the room. "Was it you? Or was it me? That night… That night five years ago… Did you order me? Did you control my mind and force me to do—… or did I do it on my own accord? Tell me. Tell me! Wake up and tell me you controlled me! Wake up and tell me it wasn't my fault, that I had no choice, that I couldn't have done anything. Tell me it wasn't my fault I hurt Raven. Tell me it wasn't me!" He slammed the table next to the bed with his fist.
Raven gave a hard sigh and left quietly.
She entered an elevator and descended a few stories until she reached the level where Dr. Veritas' room was. As the elevator doors opened with a ding, Raven stepped out and made her way down the halls, where she was surprised to find a few children standing patiently in front of Veritas' office. The children—there were three boys, two of which were twins, and a girl—surrounded an old, stout woman who was speaking with Veritas. Upon seeing Raven, Veritas held up a finger, signaling Raven to wait a moment.
Raven watched patiently as the elderly woman nodded and smiled before handing the girl to Veritas, who smiled graciously. As the woman turned and left with the three boys, Veritas turned her attention to Raven. "Sorry about that," she apologized. "Those were the kids in the local orphanage across the street. They had a thing where they get to visit a doctor for a day. I'm in charge of this one here."
Raven looked down at a young girl, no older than ten years, with crisp, brown hair and blue eyes. "Hello," Raven said. "What's your name?"
The girl was silent. "Go on," Dr. Veritas nudged her. "Tell her your name, sweetie." Raven knelt down until she was eye-level with the young girl.
Raven attempted a smile, as if to show she meant no harm.
"You're very pretty," the little girl said to her. "You look just like my friend."
"Oh, I do?" Raven said.
The girl nodded. "Miss Bennet says she's an imaginary friend, but I know she's real. You look just like her."
"What's your name?" Raven asked her kindly, trying to make her voice sound as least scary as possible.
The girl opened her mouth. "Lucie."
"Lucie," Raven repeated. "What a pretty name." She examined the young girl from her soft, brown hair to her bright blue eyes. She was a very pretty girl. Her nose was small and dainty and her ears and mouth were fair. Something about her seemed a little familiar. "Lucie, have we ever met before? I might've seen you somewhere."
Lucie tilted her head slightly. Veritas answered for her. "I doubt you would have, though maybe you've seen her on the streets in the couple of times you came here. The orphanage is very close."
"Yeah, that's probably it," Raven nodded.
"Raven, if you weren't visiting me for something important, and if you're not too busy, can you do me a favor? I need to go fetch a couple files. They're in a restricted zone so I can't bring Lucie. Do you mind watching her for a bit?"
"Oh, uh—of course," she answered half-heartedly. Babysitting wasn't exactly a forte of hers.
"Thanks, I'll be right back!" With a smile, Veritas left. Raven sighed and held out a hand to the girl.
"I guess you're coming with me then." Lucie placed her small hand in Raven's. The woman suddenly felt her heart begin to beat faster. She curiously placed her free hand over her heart.
"Weird…" she whispered to herself before standing up and leading the little girl back up to Malcolm's room.
The two rode the elevator back up. They were silent, though it did not seem awkward for them. Raven's heart continued beating as if she were nervous or scared. They exited and walked together down the halls. Upon seeing some doctors leave Malcolm's room, she quickened her pace and swiftly walked in the hospital room to find his heart monitor beeping at a very slow rate.
"What happened?" she immediately asked Garfield, who was sitting down in a chair at the end of the room.
"He's almost dead," Gar replied darkly. "His heart is going only 35 beats a minute. He's dangerously low."
"He might pass away sooner that we've expected," a nearby doctor said. Lucie took her hand out of Raven's and walked towards Malcolm. The instant she did so, Raven felt her heart calm down.
"Who's that?" Garfield said, nodded towards the girl.
Raven opened her mouth to answer, but found that she had forgotten the child's name already. She sighed, knowing it was no use now trying to remember. "Just some kid I'm babysitting for a few minutes," she said. "Malcolm—he's not going to die right now is he?"
He shrugged. "His heart nearly stopped just a moment ago. Look!—it's gone down to 28 beats a minute." Raven turned around in fear. Was she going to witness a death right at this very moment?
But then something strange happened.
The little girl—Lucie—curiously gazed at the man as children her age so often do with everything they find, and reached out to touch him. As her small, innocent hand wrapped itself around Malcolm Crowe's index and middle fingers, the monitor began beeping once again. The three adults immediately shot their eyes towards the monitor, which displayed his heart rate at 30, then 35, then 39. As if by a miracle, they watched petrified as Malcolm's pulse and breathing slowly climbed back to normalcy.
"Malcolm!" the doctor immediately cried as he examined the monitor. "It's a miracle!"
"What—what just happened?" Garfield exclaimed in a daze. "I can't believe this… One minute he's fine, the next he's seconds away from death, now he's perfectly fine again."
Raven gave a sigh of relief. Something in her did not want to see Malcolm die. In a way, he was just as much of a victim as she and Garfield were. He repented for his sins. He deserved forgiveness. She forgave him then and there. Now, she hoped that he would not die, not yet. In a way, she saw Garfield in Malcolm.
It was nighttime when the couple went home. Raven went immediately to the bathroom and locked herself inside, for during the car ride home, her vision suddenly became increasingly blurry. By the time she had managed to lock herself in the safety of Garfield's bathroom, she had begun experiencing brief moments of almost complete blindness.
Garfield knocked on the door to the restroom. "Raven," he called. "Rae, are you in there?" There was no answer. "Raven!" he repeated.
"I'm fine," a voice replied weakly.
"Are—are you sure, Rae?"
"Yes, I'm fine! Leave me alone." He heard her turn on the faucet to drown out the sound of her moans.
"Raven!" he cried again. He knew she was not fine. "Raven, let me in. Please!" When no response came, the man stepped back and morphed into a fly, flying underneath the crack of the bathroom door and reverting to human form. There, he saw Raven sitting on the ground, leaning on the wall limply. Her face was pale and looked famished. "Raven!" he said again as he ran over to her, turning off the faucet and picking her up. When it appeared that she was too weak to stand, he sat down onto the floor and let her lean on him, wrapping his arms around her chest.
"You idiot," he chastised. "If it hurts, you yell. You scream. Don't just hide in here and keep it all in."
"If I yelled…" she whispered back at him. "If I yelled, you'd start crying before I did."
"Whatever," he replied as he hugged her even tighter. "At least now I know you're fine. It's been too long since you've made fun of me or bullied me."
"Heh, have I always been that way then? That if I were nice to you for a day, it would mean I'm dying?"
"You've always been mean to me. You called me a Steve Urkel, remember?"
"And you called me the Wicked Witch of the West," Raven retorted.
Gar smiled. "I never thought I would fall in love with you."
"You know what? I think… I think I always knew."
She nodded. "I never told you this—never told you because I hardly believed it myself. But the thing is, I beat you to it," she smiled playfully. "I loved you first. Even before the whole body-switching incident happened. I guess in a way… I kind of felt like I would always be with you."
"Not always," the changeling shook his head. "Not always. We lost five years."
"We'll lose a lifetime after I die."
"You won't die." Garfield squeezed her slightly and kissed her temple.
"It hurts… Gar," he heard her say. He released his grip slightly. "No," Raven shook her head. "Not you." She lifted her hand and pointed at her heart. "My heart… it's hurting. Tightening… Burning."
Garfield's arms shook as Raven began gasping for air. "Why…?" he muttered. "Why…? Why did I do this to you? I'm the reason you're like this… I'm the reason… I'm such an idiot…"
"Yes, you are," the woman replied bluntly to him. "You are an idiot. But so was I. Look, this was my fault just—just as much as it was yours."
"No, it was not! This was all me… All my fault. If I hadn't been such a jealous, stupid, childish, bratty piece of—"
"If I hadn't been all that, you'd still be alive. If I hadn't done what I did, you'd still be able to—to live the rest of your life."
"Please, Gar… please don't make this hard on yourself. Please don't let me die knowing that you'll live the rest of your life in guilt."
"You're not going to die!" he shouted at her. Raven weakly lowered her head. "You're not going to die," he repeated softly. "I won't let you. You can't die, you hear me? You can't! You have to live—you have to live and tell me… tell me that you never loved me. You have to live and tell me you can never forgive me for what I've done. You have to live and tell me that you're leaving me because you can't stand the look of my pathetic face. You have to live and tell me… You have to live…"
Raven's breathing and heart beat gradually slowed. "Garfield, I—" she gasped. "I want you to—to—" The changeling's eyes widened as he looked at her in horror. Her eyes were half-open and were in a daze. Her body was quivering and she was gasping for air profusely. "Forgive…" she managed to say. "Forgive… yourself…" She took one last breath.
Her cold hand fell to the ground.
The two lay in silence. Garfield's bottom lip began to tremor as his shaking hand clasped Raven's. It felt cold. "R—R—Raven?" He stuttered, choking in fear. Slowly, terrifyingly, he raised a finger to the woman's nose. They felt nothing. "Raven?" he repeated again, his voice cracking. Then suddenly, a breath of air escaped her nose and she began breathing again. Garfield let out a sigh of relief as Raven's chest began bobbing up and down once more.
Before he knew it, he felt tears strolling down his cheeks. The scare of Raven's near-death brought him to tears, coupled with the knowledge that all the pain she was enduring now was because of him.
The man broke down crying and hugging Raven, silently begging for forgiveness within the dim light of the bathroom.
The next morning, the sound of birds chirping filled the air as a changeling stood in front of a mirror adjusted his necktie while a sorceress sat on the kitchen table drinking a cup of tea. "Do you really have to go?" Raven asked him.
Garfield gave half a smile and answered. "Of course, I do. Dr. Veritas has to go talk to me about your living arrangements. She's setting up a safe room underground below the Virgil Medical Hospital downtown, basing the design from the safe room in Titans Tower that we set up for you the first time Trigon attacked. Captain Etzel had some Azaratheans come place some charms and protective spells on it as well."
"Do I really have to go?"
"Your symptoms are worsening, Rae. It's precautionary."
"I feel safer here than in a prison cell."
"It's not a prison cell…" he sighed. To be honest, he wasn't quite convinced he wanted her to go live inside a basement, either. "Victor's taking me there. He should be here any moment now."
"…Will they kill me if I start the transformation?"
"Promise me they'll kill me." Raven turned around and faced her fiancée eye to eye. "Promise me you won't do anything stupid and risk letting me become my father."
Garfield forged a smile and refused to answer. He could feel Raven's glare as if she was burning a hole through his back, but ignored it. After a few minutes, she seemed to forget why she was glaring at him and turned away, resuming her drink. Gar gave a small sigh of relief. Although it must've been cruel of him to think so, there were some advantages of her mind easily going blank.
"Raven," he said to her. "Do you remember what happened last night?"
She hesitated for a moment. "Y—yeah. Of course I do."
"Really?" he tested her. "What?"
She hesitated again. "You—uh…" Raven answered. "You showed me those photos of Victor and Karen. I remember because we made a bet on how long it'd be before he proposed."
Garfield smiled to her. It was a week ago that they had done that. "Yeah, you're right," he lied. "We did do that yesterday. Looks like you're improving."
A honk from outside the apartment interrupted him. "That should be Vic," he said to Raven. "I'm off. I'll be back as soon as possible."
The sorceress turned around and was faced with a warm hug from her fiancée. "You are hugging me…" she said in an annoyed voice. The man chuckled and gave her a peck on the lips. "By, honey," she said to him.
"Goodbye. I'll be right back," Garfield said as he turned around and headed to towards the door.
"I love you!" she called to him. The green man let out a laugh and spun around on his heels.
"Whoa!" he cried. "Raven Roth telling me she loves me? What's the occasion?"
The woman shrugged. "Just thought I'd say that." She stared directly at Garfield Logan and said to him: "I love you, Raphael."
The smile on Gar's face faded. He twitched ever so slightly. "B—bye, Raven," he choked as he quickly turned around and left, closing the door silently behind him. Raven gave a short smile and went back to her tea.
"That's weird," she said to herself. "Wonder why he left so quickly when I said that. The Raphael I knew would've tried to hug me again." Gulping down her tea, she casually walked over to the fridge and examined the photo placed on the door. She reminiscently held the photograph in her hand. It was the picture that Cyborg had taken on her birthday, with her and Garfield staring at each other, illuminated by the light of the candles on her birthday cake.
She placed a hand over Garfield. "Raphael…" she said to herself. "Raphael the green freak. How did I ever fall in love with you?" Smirking to herself, she flipped the photograph over to the back. There, in smooth writing, was a short message from Victor: "Happy Birthday, Raven, from all your friends. This is for you, Raven and Garfield."
"Hm?" the sorceress wondered aloud. "'Garfield'? Who's that?" Her eyes wandered for a while. "Do I know a Garfield?" Suddenly, she dropped the photograph, which drifted to the floor. Her hands covered her mouth as she realized the horrible mistake she had committed.
"What?" Victor said. "She called you—by his name?"
Garfield nodded. "She looked straight into my eyes and called me Raphael. 'I love you, Raphael,' she said. 'I love you.' He melancholically stared out of the car window. He and Victor were on their way back to his apartment from the hospital. To be honest, he was not sure he wanted to see Raven right now, afraid that she would call him Raphael once again.
"Well… try to understand her," the robotic man said. "She's losing her memories. Trigon's ghost is slowly taking over her mind and she can't think straight. You know she doesn't mean it."
"But what if she does?"
"I know she didn't mean to say it, but what if deep down, that was how she felt? Just yesterday, she remembered Raphael but couldn't remember a thing about Jump City, about you or Dick or Star. Now she doesn't even remember me, but she still clearly remembers Raphael."
"She remembers you! She just got the names mixed up," the former Cyborg defended.
"But what if? What if? She loved him, Victor. She loved him. And Raphael never hurt her like I did. She loved him…"
"Gar, would you just shut up and listen to yourself?" Victor shouted. "Look at you! Listen to yourself! You know who you sound like? You sound like the twenty-one year old Changeling that had hurt Raven in the first place. Five years ago you hurt her because you didn't trust her. Yes, to be fair, she did not handle her feelings for Raphael very well, either, but now she's changed. She's proving to you that you are the only one she loves. And yet, all this time you're still doing the exact same thing you did five years ago? Have you changed the tiniest bit? Because I don't see nothin'! I still see a childish green boy sitting in my car instead of a fully grown man. Now I'm going to drop you off and you're gonna march right up there and tell Raven that you love her and trust her with all your heart, y'hear? You're going to show me that you've grown, that you learned to trust the woman who loves you so damn much. And from now until you die, Garfield, do not ever even dare to think for one second that she still has feelings for Raphael. You got it?"
Garfield lowered his head in shame. "Y—yes, sir," he mumbled.
"Good!" the bigger man bellowed as he drove. "Sorry, BB. But you needed that. You were starting to piss me off."
"It's fine. I did need that." Garfield took a deep breath. "Thanks, Tin Man. You're always there when I need you."
"Didn't I tell you before?" Victor smirked. "You and I, we're brothers. We're brethren. You're an only child, and so am I. So's Richard. Us three, we have no family of our own. But we have each other. We are brothers."
"Thanks," the green man laughed. "Bumblebee's gonna have one hell of a husband." Victor blushed for a tiny moment but didn't hold back his smile.
As the two men reached Garfield's apartment building, the changeling got off the car and bid his brother goodbye. He headed inside the building and took the elevator up to his floor, where he went to his apartment and unlocked the door with newfound confidence. Stepping inside the apartment, he called with a grin, "Raven!"
But there was no answer. Gar's grin slowly faded as he searched the apartment for her, but found that she was gone. There was no trace of her anywhere. The bathroom was empty. The living room was lifeless. The bedroom was abandoned. The kitchen was—. He paused, his eyes floating down until they gently landed on a photograph that had fallen to the ground. Kneeling down, he reached towards the photograph and picked it up carefully. It was the photo of him and Raven on her birthday, staring at each other from two separate sides of her birthday cake. Garfield furrowed his eyebrows and placed the photo onto the kitchen table, where he saw a paper folded up.
Curiously, the man abandoned the photograph and crept towards the paper. Sitting down, he unfolded the paper and read its contents, wiping away the tears that spilt as he read it.
The letter read:
"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. Please forgive me. I never meant to do that. I never meant to break your heart like that. Oh Azar, what have I done? How could I have done such a stupid thing like that? Idiot, idiot, I'm such a stupid idiot! I wanted to make you happy but all I've done is put you in pain. Forget what I said, forget it all! Look at me! Look at me through my words, through this letter, through my writing. Look through it and look at my heart. Let me show you my heart and who I truly love: I, Raven Roth, will forever love you, Garfield Mark Logan. You, my Garfield Logan. Oh my love, Garfield Mark Logan. Do not believe me when I forget your name. Do not believe me when I forget who you are, because I promise you that you are the one I love. My Beast Boy, my Changeling, my Garfield, let me show you my heart before I lose my memories again. Let me show you my heart before I lose my life in the end. I, Raven Roth, will forever love you, Garfield Mark Logan, and only you. I cannot forget that. I don't want to forget that. I must not forget. Can you see that yet? Can you feel my heart? The heart that beats only for you, my love. I'm afraid my memory will leave me again or my life will end before I have a chance to tell you everything I want to say. I don't want your last memory of me to be me calling you the wrong name. I want your last memory of me to be me telling you that I love you. Let this be your last memory of me, my last will and testament. And so I'm leaving. Five years ago, I left because you had hurt me. Now, I left because I had hurt you. I'll find somewhere to die alone, peacefully. I'll make sure my body is destroyed before my father can control it. Garfield, you were the best thing that has ever happened to me. You made me happier than I ever thought I could be. I am thankful for having met you and I am thankful for having had you in my life. I don't have to remember you. You're a part of me. I don't have to be scared of dying. I will always live inside your heart. I, Raven Roth, now and forever love you, Garfield Mark Logan. Thank you, I'm sorry, I love you.
~Difficult Words to Say~
Oh no! Raven! Yes, World, our dear Raven is gone again. What will happen next? Keep on reading to find out! All you have to do is wait a few more years because that's probably how long it's going to take me to actually finish this story! :)
Sorry if this chapter felt a little... jumbled. Yes, I admit the scene did change many times within one chapter, which is generally something I want to avoid because it cant get pretty confusing. The next few chapters will be much more easily flowing.
Anyway, this story is getting closer to its conclusion. Just a few more chapters left, followed by a (somewhat long) series of epilogue chapters!
JasonVUK - Oh really? Did you predictions come true? Keep on reading! (and PS don't feel shy to PM me your predictions. I like to hear what you guys think will happen. Maybe they'll end up being better than what I had planned.)
CleoArrow - First her memory's gone, now Raven's gone! Another twist! Keep on reading! :)
Kaarlinaa - Oh, you have my promise I'll continue this story until it's over. Just keep on reading. I'll write the next chapter as soon as I can.
Whoelsebutme11 - Interesting theory, though I'm not sure Trigon would like to control someone who has failed him now.
Lilypad009 - Yes, it was Trigon all along! The twists! :) Thanks for you review!
Thebookthief18 - Thanks for the review! And yeah, haha I enjoyed writing Malcolm's background, though I was a little scared that so much reveal in one chapter would be a lot for readers to handle. Hopefully it wasn't so much all at once? And sorry, this story will not have a sequel. I do have a "mini-sequel" in the form of a 5-chapter epilogue planned though. Think of it like the direct-to-video sequels to your favorite Disney movies :) BTW if I haven't mentioned it already, I loved The Book Thief when I read it.
shugokage - Awh, you're not going to vote? Haha, thanks for your review anyway :)
Bluedog197 - Haha thanks for your review and vote! I'll drop you a little hint here because you seem to be dying for one: later near the end, Anna will make an appearance and everything will be understood!
f - Thanks! Hope you enjoyed this chapter as well :)
Fasteddy1138 - Wow! Honestly, I didn't even think of that. Malcolm was saved from fire 10 years ago, so he should die by fire now. Wow! Great observation. I would've never thought of that. Props to you, my man! :)
HL - Oh, I'm just dying to know what your theory is! Can't you PM me and tell me? Please? Thanks for your vote anyway and hope you enjoyed this chapter.
darlsonalice - Haha thank you for your kind words, though I've never planned on writing professionally. It just seems too much like an underpaid, underappreciated job in my opinion. But thank you, anyways! Hope you enjoyed this chapter and keep on reading.
Artemis Jane - To be fair, Malcolm Crowe was never truly evil. The honor of that title goes to Trigon. Malcolm, on the other hand, was just a very damaged and mentally unstable man who felt such a strong desire not to let go of the woman he's loved all his life. All of his actions, he had done as a way to save his memory and his love for Anna-the thing that he valued most. By the time he and Raven fought, he was so mentally and emotionally unstable that the slightest push would've caused him to explode. So yes, while it does seem a little unrealistic that Malcolm would suddenly "see the light", it truly was because deep down, he was dying to find light again. But yes, hope you enjoyed this chapter!
lExIFeA - But why? Oh well, thanks for your review anyway :)
BB and Rae fan - Thanks for your vote and review. Hope you enjoyed this chapter!
4getmenot - Thank you, and amazing dedication you must have to read it all in one night. I hope the story was interesting enough for you! Thank you for you words. I try my best not to make Raven too OOC.
BartWLewis - Lol, yeah. I got a message saying "BartWLewis has now followed Difficult Words to Say" and I was like "didn't you already follow for the past 18 chapters? haha" But anyways, thanks for the review and for checking up on my story :)
Guest - Thank you! There's still more of the story to write and more for you to read! :)
lunae57 - Thanks for your kind words! :)
ShatteredDistance - It was not too late but I had miscounted! Nooo! And as for why Raven apologized, that was a moment of foreshadowing that will be gradually answered as we go along. You'll see soon enough, just keep on reading ;) And no, you don't have a slow head. I'd say you have a fast head for having noticed that small detail! Thanks for your kind words. I hope this chapter was good, too.