Spelling of the title is intentional since I can't resist a pun and Dis is the name in Dante's Inferno for the deepest levels of Hell. Those who sinned just because they couldn't control their passions were in the upper levels, while Dis was reserved for those whose sins were driven by malice, intentionally harming others. I found a few parallels here with how I've been envisioning the different parts of Raven's mind.
I also drew a lot of inspiration for this fic from the musical Next to Normal (though it is by no means a direct interpretation of that story). If you've never seen it or listened to the music, I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out as it's epic. As this fic goes on, I may point out particular songs or quotes that match well with certain chapters/events to enhance the mood.
I'm rating this story Teen for safety because I plan to make some of the later scenes a bit intense. Just want to make sure I don't scare any kids reading.
Anyway, I hope all of you lovely readers will enjoy this one! It's a multi-parter, so it may take me a while to post the whole thing, but I promise it will be finished over time.
Cyborg was dreaming of winning the Superbowl, albeit against a team of Mumbo's giant animated gloves, when a notice from the Tower's security system woke him up. He shook off the bittersweet fantasy and called up the silent alarm's report. It wasn't a red alert, so the disruption hadn't been triggered by an intruder, but he had a back-up program that kept tabs on irregular movements within the Tower as well. Usually he could dismiss the heads-ups as a late-night snack raid, the occasional nightmare, or Robin and Starfire thinking they were being sneaky, so he yawned as he glanced over the signal on his bedside screen.
He frowned, his mind waking up more fully at the information the computer displayed. Raven's locator indicated she was on the move in the lower levels of the Tower. He glanced at the clock. 3:15am. Even the rare times Raven was up this late, it was usually just for a trip to the bathroom or to get tea in the kitchen. What would possess her to go to the ground floor at this hour?
That choice of words in reference to Raven was enough to make him decide to investigate.
He rode the elevator down, wondering briefly if he should have woken one of the others to go with him. Still, he had no reason to believe something genuinely dangerous was going on, and if Raven was just upset about something, she'd be more likely to open up if fewer people were around.
The doors opened on the garage level, where his arm display had shown as her current position. He stepped out cautiously, scanning the silent room for any sign of movement. "Rave?" he called softly.
There was no reply. The normally welcome shape of the T-car now seemed foreboding in the darkness, especially a darkness that might contain something that could put Raven on alert.
"Raven?" he called again, stepping forward.
As he passed a corner, he detected a surge of dark energy through his cybernetic eye just as she raised her hands at him from the shadows. Both jumped with a yelp as they recognized each other.
Cyborg held up his hands, soothingly. "Easy, Rave, it's just me."
The energy had immediately disappeared from her hands and she huffed a steadying breath. "What are you doing down here?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing," he said, crossing his arms.
"Just patrolling the Tower, making sure everything is secure," she replied casually.
"Why? You sense something wrong?"
"No, but I plan to keep it that way."
As she started to walk past him to continue her circuit of the garage, he arched an eyebrow. "You know I've got sensors so we don't have to have somebody up all night on guard duty."
"I know," she replied over her shoulder, sneaking along the adjacent wall, checking behind each tool cabinet and storage rack. "I just feel better doing it myself."
"Ooookay." Cyborg watched her slink between Robin's R-cycle and the far wall, moving like someone on a mission. "You want to talk or anything?"
"Nothing to talk about," she replied in a tone that brooked no further argument.
He nodded awkwardly, but wasn't ready to give up just yet. "Want some company?"
"I work better alone."
Cyborg sighed. "All right, well, I'm going back to bed. Don't wear yourself out too much."
He watched her a moment longer, trying to place why her even-more-brusque-than-usual behavior seemed familiar, then attributed it to being overtired and headed for the elevator.
"Hold up, I'll ride with," Raven said, walking up beside him.
"Sure thing." Cyborg held the door open as she walked in and settled into a ready pose, arms crossed, legs squared. She stayed in that pose, eyes straight ahead as they rode up to the ground floor.
"You know, you've got a pretty impressive security system going here," she said, sounding genuine.
He looked down at her, surprised. "Thanks."
"There are a few spots I think I could reinforce with magic, but overall, really solid against most threats."
"Enough to reassure you that you can go back to bed?"
She snorted a slight laugh. "In a bit."
The doors opened on the main entranceway and she stalked out into the darkness. "Later, Cy."
"Good night," he called after her.
Before the doors closed, he saw her resume the same pattern of checking every possible hiding place in hallway, fingers curved at the ready to summon her powers. But she didn't seem to be in immediate danger, so he chalked it up to just another bit of Raven weirdness and decided he could wait to ask her more about it tomorrow.
Cyborg had nearly forgotten the strange interlude by the next morning, when his mind was far more occupied in a desperate race with Beast Boy for breakfast ingredients.
"I said I'm doing the cooking this morning," he insisted, using his greater size to block Beast Boy from getting to the stove while grabbing a carton of eggs from the fridge. "And that means real eggs!"
Beast Boy shrugged his shoulders with a suspiciously casual grin. "Fine, you can cook the eggs, but I'm making the pancakes."
"Good. Even you can't make pancakes weird," Cyborg snorted as he started cracking eggs into a bowl to scramble. He paused, then turned around to look at what Beast Boy was doing. "Aw, man! You are making the pancakes weird!"
Beast Boy looked up from his cutting board, innocently. "What's wrong with them?"
"There's no meat in pancakes, so why are you putting tofu in them?" Cyborg demanded.
"Everything's better with tofu, Cy." He smiled, going back to mincing tiny white cubes and scooping them into the pancake batter. "Trust me, these are going to be the best pancakes you ever had!"
Cyborg glared. "All right, but don't you touch my maple syrup." He cradled the bottle protectively just in case.
"Relax, dude, maple syrup's from a plant anyway. Totally vegetarian friendly."
"I still do not understand why it is acceptable to eat products from a plant in your beliefs," Starfire commented, putting a bottle of mustard in the microwave to warm.
" 'Cause plants don't feel pain, Star," he explained.
"I see. But is syrup not made from sap, which is the blood of trees, and procured by stabbing a metal tube into the tree and allowing the sap to bleed out into a bucket?"
Both men in the kitchen had frozen, hands poised mid-cooking, and stared at her.
Beast Boy hesitated, looking at the brown bottle. "Uh…"
Cyborg pouted. "Man, now she ruined syrup for me!"
Beast Boy shrugged. "Well, at least the pancakes are still cool."
"Pancake mix contains the flour of wheat, correct?" Starfire asked. "Which I understand is ground up seeds, which are the babies of plants?"
A look of perplexed horror crossed Beast Boy's face and he didn't answer.
The door opened and Raven drifted in, not even looking over at the others.
"Good morning, friend Raven!" Starfire chirped, heedless of the other girl's mood.
Raven grunted an acknowledgment back. Picking up her kettle, she turned around to fill it with water and stopped as she saw Cyborg mourning over the bottle of syrup and Beast Boy staring into the bowl of pancake mix pensively. "Should I be glad I overslept this morning?"
"I don't know," Robin said from the table across the room, where he was reading the paper. "It's been pretty entertaining so far."
"We have been discussing the ethical quandaries of even a vegetarian diet," Starfire explained. "It does not seem to be sitting in a good way with Cyborg and Beast Boy."
"Star, maybe you should just let the guys cook. Otherwise we're never going to eat," Robin suggested.
Starfire nodded, but patted Beast Boy on the hand as she floated up over the counter. "Do not worry, fruit is made by plants solely to be eaten by animals. When the seeds are produced, the plant's ovary swells—"
"Star!" Robin snapped.
Beast Boy shook his head, fiddling with a spoon in the pancake batter grimly. "Everything we eat was once alive," he murmured, sounding haunted.
"And it was all going to die one day anyway," Raven commented as she passed him. "You either get eaten or you rot."
"That's a bit grim even for you, Raven," Robin said, looking up from the paper. "Everything okay?"
She grimaced slightly as she set the kettle to boil and got out a tin of tea leaves. "I haven't slept well in a few days. No nightmares or visions," she assured him quickly, "just not feeling rested when I wake up. It may be starting to add up."
"Told ya you shouldn't be staying up so late," Cyborg said, scooping the eggs around the frying pan.
"I've been going to bed at my usual time."
Cyborg watched a still-solemn Beast Boy pour pancake batter onto the skillet beside him. "Well, I'm sure getting up again for late night walks isn't helping."
Raven stared at him, confused. "Uh, I don't go for late night walks."
He arched a knowing eyebrow at her. "You mean that wasn't you I caught prowling around the Tower doing a ninja act last night?"
Now all of the Titans were looking at him and Raven.
Raven frowned back. "I didn't do anything last night. I went to bed and woke up there. I didn't even dream."
"Cyborg, are you sure it was Raven you saw?" Robin asked, shifting into alert mode. "Or could Madame Rouge be back sneaking in?"
Doubt crept into Cyborg's mind but he shook his head. "The Tower's sensors showed Raven's locater moving around patrolling the building, so I went to go check it out. It was you, Rave. A little more gung-ho than usual, but definitely you. You seriously don't remember?"
Raven shook her head slightly, looking troubled. "No. I thought I slept through the night."
"But how can it be you could have entire conversations and nighttime adventures without knowing it?" Starfire asked.
"Sounds like you were sleepwalking, Rae," Beast Boy said, perking out of his funk at this new topic.
"Maybe," she said, sounding distracted.
"Have you ever had problems with that before?" Robin asked.
She shook her head. "Not that I know of."
"Um, might this explain the conversation you and I shared the other night?" Starfire asked.
Raven's head shot up. "What conversation?"
"Two nights ago, I woke up from a dream in which the Silkie had gone into a cocoon and come out as a giant Florgnarf, so to calm my mind I went to the kitchen for the warmed milk. You were already there having ice cream and we had the most wonderful conversation!" Starfire's eyes gleamed as she recounted the tale. "We laughed and told stories of our childhoods and you said that we should plan to have the Time for Girls more regularly." She ducked her head, her smile subduing slightly. "But do not worry. I will not hold you to that promise if you do not remember making it."
The vague look of horror on Raven's face throughout Starfire's account had shifted to thoughtful distraction. "Hm?" she said, bringing her attention back to her friend. "Oh, no, we can try something like that if you want," she offered half-heartedly to reassure the other girl. "So, I was unusually…chatty, huh?"
"I assumed it was because you had just had a very good night or your meditation had gone especially well. Your stories sounded like you. I do not think it was an imposter I was speaking with."
"Neither do I…" Raven muttered.
"You think you know what's going on?" Robin asked.
"Unfortunately, I do," she scowled. "Did I do anything else odd lately?"
"That's all I saw," Cyborg said. "Anybody else have any weird nighttime encounters with Raven?"
The others shook their heads, except Beast Boy, who had frozen slightly. Cyborg frowned. "Hey, BB. You trying to charbroil that pancake?"
Beast Boy snapped out of it, noticing the burning pancakes he had forgotten in front of him. "Whoops! Sorry."
As he started trying to scrape them off the skillet in pieces big enough to flip, Raven narrowed her eyes. "So when you saw me, Starfire, I seemed very happy, and when I ran into Cyborg I was single-minded about protecting the Tower?"
"Yeah." Cyborg snapped his fingers. "That's what it reminded me of! It was like when BB and I went in your head and met that version of you in the green outfit."
Raven sighed. "I'm afraid that's exactly who you spoke to."
The others stared, intrigued. "You mean…?" Starfire asked.
Raven nodded, glaring at empty space. "I believe different aspects of my personality took advantage of my unconscious state to escape containment."
"You mean your emotions took your body for a joyride?" Beast Boy arched an eyebrow at the thought.
"I didn't know they could do that," Robin said.
"They shouldn't be able to. When I go to sleep, they're all supposed to be 'asleep' with me. I've had strong emotions slip through my control due to distraction before, but they should not be able to assert dominance without my permission. That would be far too dangerous."
Her eyes widened slightly and she looked back up at her friends. "None of you have seen…the bad one, have you?"
They all knew immediately what side of herself she was speaking of.
"Nope," Cyborg said, scooping the eggs onto a plate. "I think if that one got out, we'd know about it."
Raven nodded, but didn't look reassured.
"Have you been doing anything different lately, Raven?" Robin asked. "Any changes to your meditation techniques that could have caused this?"
She sighed. "I can't think of anything. I'm not even one hundred percent certain this is more than simply sleepwalking or automaticity."
Robin accepted a loaded plate from Cyborg, but his mind was already clearly preoccupied with this new problem. "Well, there's one way we can find out."
"Are you sure it's wise to do this here?" Raven asked from her seat on a bed in the Infirmary.
"The equipment here will give us the best chances to monitor you and get a clearer picture of why this is happening," Robin replied.
She watched Cyborg setting up various sensors around the bed. "But what if the one that emerges is my demonic side? It would be better to attempt this in the safe room."
"I don't know if it'd make a difference. Trigon was able to get through there despite our defenses," Cyborg commented. He saw Raven's head hang in fear and shame and immediately set down his equipment, turning his full attention to her. "Hey, it's going to be okay, Rave. We'll just put you under for long enough to confirm your emotions are taking control, then I have this second injection that will wake you right up. We're not gonna let anything happen, okay?"
She grimaced a bit. "You're sure I can't just meditate instead?"
"When you meditate, you're more in control of your emotions," Robin said. "You need to step back for this to work."
"Yeah, I know," she sighed.
"Rest easy, friend," Starfire said kindly, putting a hand on her shoulder. "We are here watching over you."
"You'd be smarter to watch out for yourselves," Raven retorted, but she lay back on the bed as Cyborg readied a syringe.
"You should start to feel the effects in just a few minutes," he explained, carefully injecting the sedative into her arm.
"Can't wait," she grumped, making him smile a bit.
She stared up at the ceiling, trying to keep her mind calm as she waited for the drugs to kick in. Now and then, her nervous energy made bits of nearby equipment rattle, but she contained it quickly each time.
The others lingered nearby, watching with varying degrees of concern and curiosity. Shortly, they saw her start to blink more often and jerk her head slightly, instinctively fighting the effects of the sedative.
"It's all right, Rave," Cyborg assured her gently. "Just go with it."
Gradually, her eyelids closed fully and her body relaxed, her breaths falling into a steady rhythm.
Cyborg checked the computer's display of her vital signs. "She's out."
Robin leaned back against a nearby cabinet, shifting his stance so his staff would be easily accessible if necessary. "Now, we wait."
They each settled in for a long vigil, looking for things to occupy themselves around the infirmary, but to their surprise, after only a few minutes, Raven stirred, drawing a deep breath. She stretched her arms widely and sat up, blinking as she looked around, locating them in the room. Then she crossed her arms and arched an eyebrow at the others, who were watching her warily, poised to react should the situation turn dangerous.
"Well? You wanted to talk?"