The last thing she remembers is her lips on Damian’s when the flashpoint swallows them both in a light so blinding that she desperately searches for his hand. She cries out his name when her lips are torn from his so violently and the pain is so sudden and overwhelming she hardly has time to gasp when her soul-self is forced out of her, backwards through time.
Then she is soaring through dimensions, stuck in between alternate realities for what seems like an eternity but was only milliseconds before she is thrust back into her body once more.
Eyes blinking rapidly, she gasps and falls to her knees with a hand to her head, groaning at the unbearable spike of pain in her mind. The world around her is spinning as her soul catches up with her physical body and her limbs feel numb and tingly, and the sudden urge to vomit has her bending over with her hands covering her mouth.
Then Damian is in front of her and his mask wrinkles from his furrowed brows and a slight frown tugs at the corner of his mouth when he touches her shoulder gingerly.
“Raven? What’s wrong?” He asks her and his voice tethers her to this earth and she gasps once more when the memories come flooding back to her at once. She’s back to the beginning, back before the invasion and Superman is there, barking out orders and people are buzzing around the hangar, boarding the aircrafts. A panic rises in her when flashes of the battle cross her vision and she sees death and destruction and so much blood. She doesn’t know how she remembers it but now that she has she has to do anything within her power to stop it.
“No!” She yells in a panic as Superman is barking out orders and everyone stops at the pure terror in her voice. She scrambles to find her footing so she can stand and Damian helps her, graciously taking most of her weight. She tries to ignore the wave of concern that flows through him at her outburst.
“The flashpoint. I remember. You can’t go! You’ll all die!” She knows she’s rambling and they’re all looking at her like she’s grown another head but she doesn’t care. All she knows is that she has to stop them.
The silence is deafening and she can barely hear the whispers over the sound of her own heartbeat, and Damian’s grip on her tightens when a wave of fatigue has black dots dancing across her vision.
“Raven… it’s okay to be afraid. There are many risks that come with war.” Superman’s voice is soft as he tries to ease her bubbling panic, though there is an edge to it that leaves no room for discussion. The others sound similar words of agreement and Raven steps out Damian’s grasp towards them in desperation.
“No, no you don’t understand! You can’t do this!” Her power crackles at her fingertips and she knows she’s losing control but she ignores the way everyone looks at her with pity. Tears form at the corners of her eyes in frustration in pure unadulterated fear. They’re making the same mistake. Why do they not believe her?
The panic rises in her chest when the black in her vision grows at an alarming rate, but she pushes through it as long as she can.
“Darkseid… he’s watching…” She’s barely able to lift her finger and everyone’s eyes are wide when they all land on Cyborg. With that, she braces for the cold linoleum but never hits it. She lands into Damian’s arms and the tears finally escape her eyes and run down her face. He looks down at her and she thinks he’s yelling her name but she can’t hear it because of the sudden ring in her ears. He clutches her closer to his chest and he looks down at her with something akin to fear, for her.
“Damian… don’t let them… go.” She whispers, though she’s not sure he hears her- but she hopes that it’s enough to stop them because there’s nothing else she can do when her vision suddenly becomes a black canvas and everything disappears.
The first thing she notices when she wakes is her pounding headache, and she groans as her eyes flutter open. The next thing she notices is the steady beeping of the machine to her right and the cold, unwavering blue hospital light. She shifts and then looks down, realizing that she is lying on a cot in a hospital gown with a sheet covering her trembling body. There’s a slight movement to her left and a flash of red and green.
“ Raven .” He’s at her side in an instant and she drinks in the sight of him and takes in the hard lines on his face, mouth set in a grim line. His voice is raspy and thick and filled with an emotion that she can’t quite interpret, and she doesn’t understand why it sounds so desperate.
“Damian .” She says and questions are suddenly bubbling to the surface along with her rising fear.
“They’re fine, Raven. We made it out alive.” He tells her and he takes her hand reassuringly. Raven lets go of a choked sob and her shoulders sag in relief. She squeezes his hand in hers if only to convince herself that this is real and the man in front of her is tangible. When her eyes meet him again she’s taken aback when she notices that he’s grown, and he looks much, much older than the last time she saw him.
“How long was I out?” She croaks and Damian looks away from her for a moment. He swallows thickly and something is nagging at the back of her mind but she can’t place what’s bothering her. Then he looks back at her and she catches glimpses of his pain and his sorrow.
For a moment she can’t breath as her mind spins in disbelief. Three years. There’s no way that she was unconscious for three whole years- but she can see the 5 o’clock shadow on his face that was never there before and his voice is deeper than she remembers. Then the other hand that isn’t clutched in hers reaches up to cup her face and she looks into his eyes, so haunted by years of war, and she knows without doubt that he’s telling the truth.
She releases a noise that sounds somewhere between a laugh and sob as she realizes that her life will never be the same before the Apokolips war. Perhaps that was how it was meant to be, maybe that was her consequence for remembering the flashpoint and for changing fate.
“We all survived because of you.” He draws closer, enveloping her in his arms and she breathes in his scent of spice and pine. When the reality of his words hit her she begins to cry uncontrollably, and he pulls her tight against a chest that’s no longer lanky. He holds her as she shakes and mourns the loss of years that she’ll never get back. He tucks a stray hair behind her ear and murmurs soft reassurances and she closes her eyes tighter, allowing herself to indulge in the comfort he’s offering. She doesn’t know how long she cries into his chest and she’s sure that his uniform is soaked from her tears, but she doesn’t stop until there’s nothing left but an empty, hollow feeling of melancholy.
She lifts her head and sees Damian glance down at her with concern and she’s enthralled at how three years of growth transformed him. He’s beautiful.
He narrows his eyes at her and Raven’s eyes widen when she realizes she’s whispered that out loud. Embarrassed, she feels heat creep up her neck into her cheeks and he stares at her intently for a moment, silent. Usually she’s content to join in the silence with him, but he’s different now and she fidgets in his hold, lowering her gaze.
“I-I’m sorry.” She says quietly, biting her lower lip. She looks down in her lap and the hospital gown that seems to swallow her, and she can’t tell how much her own body has grown, if at all. She decides that she’ll look later, if she can still walk.
Damian seems to be having his own internal battle because he opens his mouth but stops and purses his lips, and then shakes his head for a moment before catching her gaze again.
Then he takes hold of her once more and pulls her against him, and rests his chin on top of her head.
“I can’t believe you’re awake.” He mumbles against her and kisses the back of her head. Raven freezes and realizes with a stark clarity that three years is a long time and she can’t even begin to comprehend what he’s gone through without her. She pushes back to look at him and she searches his eyes for any recognition that he remembers what happened before…
“Do you remember? The flashpoint?” She asks and Damian’s eyes narrow.
Her stomach drops because she realizes he doesn’t remember their kiss, but she’s also relieved that he doesn’t have to relive the pain that he felt when he watched his brother die right in front of him- or when he took that blast for Batman, sacrificing his life to give them all a fighting chance against Darkseid. Tears fill her eyes again at the thought of him dying, to save them all, to save her.
“Damian… you died. You all died.”
“We’re alive Raven.”
She sucks in a shaky breath, nods, and wraps her arms around him. She listens to his heartbeat and strives to match her breathing with his. She asks him what happened after she blacked out all those years ago and she patiently listens as he catches her up to the present, speaking in low voices.
They had realized that Darkseid was watching their every movement through Cyborg’s motherbox. Cyborg had collapsed, fighting for control over it, and everyone had erupted in chaos. Superman pushed for his plan but Damian had granted Raven’s request and stood his ground against Superman, rallying most to his side.
Eventually Batman interceded with a confession that everyone needed to regroup as soon as Cyborg had regained control. They learned of the parademons that had been reborn with Doomsday and changed their plan of invasion- without Darkseid’s knowledge. They had fought long and hard, but in the end they had persevered and Cyborg was able to hold Darkseid and the parademons on Apokolips with no way out- while the others were able to get away through his boom tube. There were injuries- some that ended up incapacitated forever, but at least they had survived.
They had all survived.
“The others will want to know that you’re awake.” Damian says softly and she nods in agreement and the pang in her chest hurts when she thinks of Gar and Kori, and everyone else who she hasn’t seen in three years. Her mind is still reeling that she was unconscious for that long and she fingers the fabric of Damian’s cape to remind herself that yes he is real and in front of her, a grown man. Damian takes notice but remains silent, though he does glance down at her with something that Raven can only guess is worry. Her chest hurts when she thinks once more of what he has gone through the past three years to make him look at her like that.
“Thank you.” She says and Damian raises a brow in a silent question leading her to speak further, “for believing me when everyone else thought that I was just being dramatic.”
He just gives her a look that’s unreadable. He places a hand on her shoulder and pushes her back gently into the surrounding pillows.
You should rest.” He says instead. “I’ll call the others.”
Panic grips her for a moment and she fists a hand in the shirt of his uniform because she doesn't want to be alone and what if she falls asleep and doesn’t wake up again for another three years and what if she wakes up and realizes that it was all just a dream and Darkseid really did kill everyone-
“Raven.” Damian calls out to her and she blinks for a moment as he places a hand around her wrist. Her grip is so tight on his uniform that her knuckles are pure white and she forces herself to breathe slowly as she releases him.
“Don’t go.” She says, looking at him and allowing him to see the vulnerability in her eyes. He hesitates for a moment and she thinks that maybe he’s changed his mind, but then he leans in and places a soft kiss to her forehead.
“I’ll be right back.” He says and she thinks she sees a flash of regret flit across his features but it’s gone in a moment and his face is an unemotional mask. She watches as he crosses the room to step out into the hall, taking out his phone in the process. She listens to the soft murmurs in the hallway as she looks up at the ceiling. She refuses to close her eyes, fearful that if she does she’ll be back on Apokolips.
She puts a hand to her head and sighs, then freezes. Her crystal is gone. A new kind of terror is shooting up her spine now when she realizes that Trigon is gone. She flings the covers from her cot and stands on wobbly legs, ignoring the dizziness that hits her swiftly and surely. She realizes there’s an IV in one arm and she tugs at it, breaking it free. There’s a need that’s rising in her to find him, defeat him, trap him so that he doesn’t hurt anyone ever again.
The world spins and she suddenly doesn’t have the strength to stand any longer as her legs give out from underneath her.
Damian gets there just in time (he always has) to catch her and she doesn’t flinch at the glare he shoots her for trying to get out of bed so soon.
“My crystal.” she says in explanation and is already clawing to get out of his arms. “Trigon.”
Damian holds her tight as he frowns at her fully, stilling Raven.
“Raven, you destroyed Trigon years ago when he broke out of your crystal the first time. You don’t remember?”
“What?” She leans back as if he had slapped her.
She doesn’t remember. She remembers trapping him. She remembers the constant pain and torture as he struggled in his restraints at every breath. She remembers the way he threatened to kill Damian just before he broke free to fight Darkseid.
She says it all out loud and Damian’s brow furrows further.
“The flashpoint can turn back time Raven, but no one knows the potential consequences that come with it. Whatever happened with your father before must have changed when Flash turned back time.”
His green eyes stare unwavering into hers.
“Yes. Trigon is gone.”
Joy slowly replaces her panic. She was free. But even as her joy rose at the destruction of her father, a nagging worry has her wondering what other changes happened because of the flashpoint.
“Oh my god, Raven.”
Raven smiles at the familiar voice that always sounds a bit alien when Kori strides into the room with arms wide open. She hasn’t changed a bit, she realizes, and is thankful for that and her smile widens when Dick follows closely behind her both in civilian clothing. She watches, bewildered, that they’re alive and well when the last time she saw the both of them they were irreparably broken by Darkseid. Tears form at the corners of her eyes when Gar and Cyborg walk into the room shortly after.
She realizes she’s still in Damian’s arms when he shifts her around so that he shields her from view long enough so that he can carry her back to the hospital bed. When the cool air hits her back she flushes in embarrassment when she suddenly realizes that she’s only wearing her hospital gown and a pair of underwear, but her lack of dress doesn’t seem to bother Damian at all even as her blush deepens when his hands graze the back of her bare thighs. He only helps her back under the covers so that the others don’t have to see her in her state of undress. Then he tucks another strand behind her ear and Raven glances down with mild shock to see that it has grown down almost to her waist.
“It’s so long.” She whispers and Damian gives her a small smile.
“No one felt like they had the right to cut it.” He tells her.
“I also enjoyed washing and braiding it.” Kori finally reaches her side and takes her hand. Damian rolls his eyes but Raven smiles, truly grateful, because Kori has always taken care of her.
“We’re so glad to have you back Rae.” Gar says, surprisingly quietly, and Raven raises her face to his and is mildly shocked to see how much he’s grown.
“Dashingly handsome? I know right?” He gives her the same goofy grin he’s always had and the anxiety in Raven’s chest eases at the fact that her friends may have changed but their essence has stayed the same.
Any tension remaining in the room leaves at Garfield’s light joking and a soft laughter fills the room along with happy chatter. Through it all Raven notices that Damian never leaves her side. She takes a moment to study him further. His muscles have grown well, everywhere, and he’s probably about a foot and a half taller than the last time she remembers seeing him. A few worry lines crease his forehead but he’s otherwise as dangerously handsome as he was before, if not more so. His attention goes from listening to Kori and Dick argue over where she will stay to her own stare on him and she flushes, feeling like she had been caught with her hand halfway in the cookie jar. When Kori insists that she stay with her Damian interjects without his gaze leaving hers.
“She’s staying with me at the manor.” His voice leaves no room for discussion and both Kori and Dick look up at him in surprise.
Kori looks like she wants to argue but Raven is getting exhausted from her flood of emotions and trying to interpret Damian’s so she hums in agreement and Kori snaps her mouth shut when Dick places a hand on her shoulder.
“We should let Raven rest Kori.” Dick says and he and Damian pass a glance.
Kori nods and turns back to Raven, “Let us know if you need anything.” She says and Raven nods but doesn’t feel the need to tell her that she has everything she needs now with all her friends in this room alive and happy.
Dick shuffles everyone out of the room and they all leave with a chorus of goodbyes and promises to visit again soon. Raven turns back to Damian when Dick finally closes the door.
“It’s strange,” She says, “everyone seems so different yet the same.”
The corner of his mouth quirks upwards in a slight smirk but he says nothing. She thinks that he might tell her to get some sleep but he doesn’t and she’s thankful because she’s been sleeping for three years and she doesn’t really want the odd intimacy between them to end.
“We’ve all missed you, I’ve missed you.” He admits to her and a smile graces her lips at the way that Damian so freely shared his thoughts. She has a suspicious thought that he’s still not always so forthright with his emotions, but maybe he feels like he can with her because he trusts her completely.
“I’m glad to be back.” She swallows thickly at memories that fight to the surface of the war. “I’m glad that no one remembers what happened before.” She stops herself with a hitch of breath. Damian grabs her hand again, bringing her attention back to his face.
“If you ever need someone to talk about what you remember, I’ll be here. I don’t pretend to know what you went through or what you’ll go through the next few months, but I’ll help you however I can.”
“Thank you.” She whispers and he nods once then settles into the chair that’s beside her bed. She looks around the room and sees the cold domineering machinery that kept her alive the years she was unconscious. It’s currently off now since she pulled out her IV and refused to have it put back in. The room feels… impersonal, but it doesn’t bother her because Damian is here.
“We’ll go home soon.” Damian promises her and Raven turns back to him with a small smile and a nod.
She doesn’t tell him that she already feels like she’s at home, because she’s always home as long as she’s with him.
Wow thank you for your sweet comments, I am blown away by the interest in this fic and so excited to share it with you! I cherish all of your comments and keep them in my virtual pockets for hard times.
*Warning for triggers of suicide, mental abuse, and violence and gore.*
There’s a pang in his chest when he watches her fight her body to stay awake, desperate to cling to consciousness, and he has to admit there’s a part of him that so selfishly wants to keep her awake too because what if she doesn’t wake up again for another three years?
But he wills that fear to ebb and he nearly smiles at the way she reaches out for him even as her eyes are drooping closed. He takes her hand in his and squeezes.
“Rest Raven, I’ll be here.” He tells her and the smile she gives him takes his breath away. An emotion swells in his throat and he swallows thickly. He hasn’t seen her smile in three years and he drinks it in, and he doesn’t think that he’ll ever get enough of her rare smiles.
When she finally succumbs her hand goes limp in his own and Damian closes his eyes, reminding himself that she just went to sleep and she is still very much alive. He knows he can still feel her pulse from the underside of her wrist.
He takes a moment to replace the IV in her arm and reset the machine, only stopping when he can hear the steady monotone, proof that she is indeed alive. He sits in the silence and watches her chest rise and fall with each breath.
His thoughts take him back to their conversation. I’m glad no one remembers, but she did, and he can- has imagined what that reality was like to see all of their friends and family die.
He knows that there’s so much more to what happened that she’s not telling him, and when she’s feeling stronger he plans on confronting her; but not now.
Instead he’ll watch her breathe over and over, and think back to a time where everything was normal, back before they met in the hangar when Raven passed out in his arms.
She groans slowly and shifts in her bed. Her face is pinched like she’s in pain and he’s at her side in an instant. He releases a breath when she settles a second later and her face is bliss once more. He takes in the gray of her skin and the sweat along her brow. She’s never been tan but now she’s so pale and so small he worries that she’s a ghost and she’ll disappear at any moment.
But then she whispers his name and his heart stops in his chest. The sound of his name on her lips fills him with an emotion he doesn’t know how to name anymore, but he does know that he would gladly do anything to be able to hear it again and again.
His fingers reach out to brush her hair- like he had so many times in the past while he waited for her to wake up- and he plays with a strand for a moment and he’s enthralled by how soft and silky it feels in between his fingers.
She’s beautiful, he thinks, and a smile graces his lips when he recalls that was the very thing she called him after she’d awoken. He didn’t know what to say then, didn’t know how to tell her that he had always thought she was beautiful. There was no way for him to be able to put into words what he felt in that moment, awake and in his arms after three fucking years.
He would have gone through any Apokolips war to have been able to take her place, to sacrifice those years so that she could live on, but he didn’t get the chance, and so he’ll stay by her side and do whatever he can to shield her from this new reality she’s found herself in.
Damian sighs and leans back into his chair. He looks down at the text that pops up on his messages. Father wants to see her, but he tells him not yet.
He’ll bring her to the manor tomorrow.
Raven is the strongest person he knows, he decides, when she walks into the manor on two feet. He watches her grab the handrail that leads up the grand steps to the balcony overhead. Her hair cascades down her back gracefully and he believes that if given the chance he could get lost in it forever . She rests for a moment and he’s moving when she sways slightly. As he places a hand at her elbow she looks up into his eyes and she tries to wave him off.
“I’m fine, Damian.” She says but he disagrees and he knows he’s being stubborn but he refuses to remove his hand.
He says nothing and she purses her lips, like she’s about to say something dry and sarcastic and he wants to grin because he’s missed that so much, but doesn’t because Bruce is now crossing the room to the two of them. Damian knows that Bruce caught the near smile on his face and he shoots him a glare before his face becomes unreadable once more. He trusts his father with his life but there’s still a small voice in the back of his mind that tells him that emotion is a weakness, and he’s still compelled to listen- especially when he’s anywhere near Batman.
“Raven, it’s good to see you.” Bruce calls out and Damian wonders how he’s able to sound so commanding yet gentle at the same time. Alfred is close behind and he feels more than sees Raven straighten to face them both.
“Batman…” Raven trails and for a small moment her voice sounds so haunted Damian instinctively pulls her into his side and wraps an arm around her shoulder to try and shield her.
She doesn’t shy away from the Bat and Damian can’t help but feel proud at the way she faces her past and she takes a small step forward towards his father. Her hand reaches out, almost angelic, and everyone is suddenly so quiet Damian can feel the tension in the air.
“May I?” Raven nearly whispers and Batman stills, giving her an almost imperceptible nod. Damian’s eyes focus on his father’s for a moment when he sees the way he softens as she trails his jaw with her fingers.
“Real.” The whisper is so low that Damian almost misses it, but he catches it and he swallows back the sudden lump in his throat.
He and Bruce pass a glance and his heart drops.
“No.” He says and Raven looks back at him, confused, but his eyes are on his father’s.
“We need to know what happened.” Bruce’s voice is sympathetic but he’s still insistent and Damian knows that he’s right but he didn’t see the look on her face when she remembered.
“She just woke up father. It’s unreasonable to ask her to recall what happened so soon, especially since Darkseid is now destroyed.”
Bruce stares at him with that impenetrable gaze.
“It’s possible there’s a reason she remembers, Damian. We need to find out . ”
He bristles as his anger rapidly rises and he sneers.
“Why? You of all people should know that Barry has no real control over what happens after a flashpoint. Why make her re-live what she went through so soon if it’s for nothing?”
Batman’s eyes narrow dangerously and Damian is now sensible enough to realize he may have said too much, gone too far, but a part of him doesn’t care. He’s angry and not necessarily looking for a fight, but he’s more than willing to. It has been awhile since he’s gone toe-to-toe with his father, but he knows he can hold his own now.
Raven’s hand touches his arm lightly and he blinks, anger dissipating to a low simmer at the pleading in her eyes. He shoots his father another glare of warning before turning to her.
“I’ll show you.” She says towards Bruce and her lips press into a thin line. Damian opens his mouth to protest but she holds up her hand and he respects her wish for his silence and she turns to him.
“Batman has a point, and it may mean something or it may not… but it’s worth exploring if there’s even a possibility that something could happen.”
She closes her eyes tightly, releases a shaky breath, and opens them again with a nod. She’s not ready, he thinks but it’s her decision and she seems confident and he believes in her.
Her hands lift to hold either side of Bruce’s face.
“Wait,” He interjects and Raven looks back to him with a look of confusion, “Show both of us.” He finishes.
Her face suddenly becomes unreadable. Bruce thankfully stays silent.
“No.” Her voice is so matter-of-fact and Damian can feel his face heat up in anger even as he prepared for her answer. He somehow knows that there are absolutely no words that he can string together to convince her to allow him into her mind. His jaw tightens and he crosses his arms and he can’t believe that she doesn’t trust him.
“I trust you Damian, with my life.” She tells him and he realizes that his thoughts were so loud she heard them through the bond that was created ever since she healed him the very first time in Titans Tower when he was on the brink of death.
“I… can’t.” She tells him through their bond.
His chest tightens at the rawness of her voice and he can hear an echo of the brokenness within her, and Damian’s anger is replaced with concern. He’s suddenly regretting not holding his ground against this but her eyes are already shining a pure white and she chants her mantra.
Her fingers press into Bruce’s face and she reveals her soul-self and Damian has always looked at her shadow raven in awe and now is no different. It shines a glittery white, and it flows with so much raw power that he can feel it reverberating off her in waves.
It was only a few seconds, but he has a feeling that to Raven and his father time has passed much slower, and when her soul finally pulls back within herself she collapses. His adrenaline spikes and he lurches forward to cradle the back of her head before she hits the tile, and he shifts them so that she falls against the length of his body, wrapping one arm around her waist.
He settles her against him and when he’s certain that she is okay, just knocked out, he looks up to his father.
Fear shoots down his spine when he sees Bruce’s face so pale and so tormented.
“Master Bruce? Are you alright?” Alfred calls out to him with concern lining his features and his father blinks and says nothing. He looks to Raven and his stare is so far away Damian is left wondering just exactly what he saw, and he’s certain that now is not the time to ask.
Bruce clears his throat, “Alfred would you put some tea on? Chamomile.”
“Yes, of course sir.”
Damian’s eyes narrow because that’s Raven’s favorite tea and she only drinks it when she’s feeling distressed, but he says nothing as his father walks away soundlessly. He knows where he’s going and he has an urge to follow for backup because he knows that Bruce is livid and he has a tendency to lose control in his blinding rage, but right now Raven is his priority. So he scoops her up effortlessly and walks the familiar pathways to the room that he hasn’t stepped foot in since before.
It only takes seconds to contact Dick through the com-link.
“East side, patrol pattern 3. Keep an eye on him.” He says and Dick doesn’t ask why or how he knows what patrol his father is on because he knows that Damian makes it his business to know exactly who’s on patrol, when, and where. There’s a short and clipped affirmative and Dick cuts out. Damian glances down at Raven in his arms and he’s beginning to notice how light she is. It worries him that she’s lost so much muscle mass and he has no idea how long it will take for her to acclimate, if ever.
He just has to trust that she’ll have the courage to keep moving forward.
The steel piping is cold in her hands and it’s the first time in probably weeks since she’s felt something other than pain. She welcomes it and the pipe is whispering to her sweet promises of silence. All she wants is for her misery to go away and she lifts the jagged end up towards her face. It would only take seconds for it all to end and she can finally forget.
For a moment, she hesitates. She looks out across the Bay and watches the rapid stream of water flow in front of her. The reflection of the setting sun captures her attention and glitters across the Bay in swaths of pink and yellow and orange.
The light is a beacon, and her grip on her pipe feels numb in comparison to the redemption it offers. She is so tempted to put it down and allow the sun to swallow her whole in its warmth, and she closes her eyes when Trigon laughs maniacally in her mind, “You’re a fool Raven, for thinking the sun can save you.” She swallows back a choked sob.
Flashes of her teammates are strewn across her vision and she sees the paradooms swarm them all. She’s forced to watch one take hold of Wonder Woman, the strongest woman she knows, while the other one ruthlessly takes hold of her arm and tears. Another shows the spike crashing down just as it pierces Nightwing through his sternum. One focuses on Damian’s face, his pure horror and grief, as he runs to his brother in desperation but he’s also thrown back, disappearing completely in the water followed by the dark stain of his blood.
She also thought he had died then.
It’s all too much and she can’t take it anymore. She shakes her head but she can’t forget. The visions play back and rewind in her mind over and over like a screenplay gone rogue and there’s nothing she can do to turn it off.
Then she opens her eyes with a pure moment of clarity that she does have control over her memories because she can end it all now, right here. And the sharp edge shines and with the smallest prayer to Azar she raises it, closes her eyes, and she so badly wants to take the plunge.
She awakes with a gasp and shoots up to a sitting position, trembling and soaked in sweat. She sits up too fast though, and a wave of dizziness has her leaning back when those familiar black spots dance along her vision. She’s heaving and struggling to breathe when she doesn’t recognize the room that she’s in. Her eyes scan the lavender painted walls and her panic spikes when she doesn’t see Damian.
“Raven, it’s okay. It was just a nightmare.” Kori pops up in her vision, her eyes lit with concern and she does her best to give her a reassuring smile. The tightness in her chest eases with the familiar face of her leader, who is still whole and untouched by the violence of Darkseid’s war, but the heaviness of her dream still weighs her down and holds her in its vice grip.
“Not a dream Kori… a memory.” She gasps and closes her eyes and struggles through her mantra. The words are comforting and she wills her heartbeat to slow down as Kori puts a gentle hand on her arm in understanding.
“Must’ve been some memory.”
A new face peeks through the doorway, then walks completely into the room and Raven furrows her brows in confusion. She would have thought from first glance that he was Damian, but this man was taller and bigger . His black hair looks just like the others and despite the white strip that runs through it, there’s no doubt that he’s a part of the Bat family. He walks with a swagger that’s so different from Damian’s more subtle and stealthy gait. This man wants the world to know who he is. Unfortunately for him, she has no idea.
“Do I know you?” She asks and the easy smirk on his face falls for a moment, before he plasters it on again.
“Come on Raven, you wound me. Don’t tell me you don’t remember your favorite Robin.” She thinks he’s teasing.
Kori shifts beside her and rolls her eyes.
“Don’t be ridiculous Jason, you’re lucky to even be considered her friend.” Friend?
The man clucks in disagreement and pulls up a chair. He joins her on the other side of her bed in one swift movement.
“I’m everyone’s favorite sweet cheeks.” He turns away from Kori and back to her, “But don’t worry princess, it doesn’t bother me if you want to pretend you don’t know me. Wouldn’t be the first time.” His grin broadens as Kori reaches over to shove him backwards.
“And it won’t be the last.” Kori quips back, “Don’t you have something better to do than bother us? Raven still needs rest.”
“She’s been sleeping for three goddamn years Kori, I’m sure she’s ready to move around a bit.” His eyes waggle and Kori looks like she’s ready to say something else to spite him and Raven interjects,
“Actually, yeah. That would be nice to get out of bed.”
She drags a shaky hand through her hair and avoids looking at the man who is apparently named Jason because she’s uncomfortable that someone she doesn’t know is seeing how weak she is. He mumbles something under his breath that she doesn’t catch and when she looks up she sees that the laughter in his eyes are gone and he’s looking at her with what she thinks is an intense curiosity.
“Wanna talk about it?” He asks and Raven is confused.
“Ah,” Her eyes light up in understanding and she glances away as her fingers tighten around the blanket, “No.”
Kori begins to argue with him again, claiming that he was rude to be so forthright and Jason looks affronted. He’s very animated, she decides, when he colorfully tells her what he thinks of her coddling. Her eyes drift to the room that looks so empty, save for the bookshelf and nook in one corner for reading- with old and new novels, tomes, and scrolls that look eerily like the ones she read in Azarath. There is a desk that holds a vase filled with lavender and white roses that compliment the shades of color on the walls.
“Where’s Damian?” She interrupts them with the sudden thought that he isn’t here and the loss of his presence is a strange feeling because he’s been by her side ever since she woke. She fingers a strand of hair that falls over her shoulder and Kori takes notice.
“He had to step out for a moment and he asked us to watch you. He’ll be right back.” Kori told her and she gestures to her hair, “Can I braid it?”
Raven glances down at the sleek, silky strands, realizing for the first time that it is probably the softest it's ever been, all because of Kori. She nods slowly and leans forward when Kori moves to sit on the bed beside her.
“I hope you don’t mind that I touched it. No one wanted to cut and I didn’t want it to get knotted.”
Jason snorts and Kori shoots him a glare, but he remains silent and watches them closely.
“I- thank you, Kori. That’s one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me.” Raven admits and Kori seems pleased because she hums in satisfaction as she picks up the brush resting on the bedside table.
“I’ve always thought of you as a sister Raven. My own is… an evil dictator and very psychotic. I like to think that this is how sistership should really be.”
Raven is taken aback by the sincerity in her voice and she’s speechless, but Kori doesn’t seem to mind. She’s thankful that Kori understands.
“You wouldn’t believe how many times Damian has asked to brush it instead.” Kori brushes her hair absentmindedly, and Raven is taken aback once more at her words. Jason laughs out loud this time and leans forward with his elbows on his knees and face in his hands.
“You lovebirds make me sick. I can’t believe how many hours he sat with you. He even read your favorite books to you out loud.”
His words are meant to be comforting with a tint of humor but Raven is reeling and her breathing speeds up again. Kori’s soft movements against her scalp isn’t enough to distract her from a different feeling she doesn’t understand that is swelling inside of her so quickly.
“Lovebirds?” She whispers. She watches as Jason stills, the tension cold and thick, like ice, but Kori doesn’t seem to notice. He’s stopped and she has a sinking feeling that there’s something they know that she doesn’t- and he’s realized it too- and she’s also beginning to think that not being able to remember Jason is not from mere coincidence.
“It nearly killed him when you didn’t wake up Raven.” She shrugged her shoulders, the movement causing her to tug lightly on her hair, “I mean, you guys had already been dating for a year. It all kind of happened so fast.”
She continues talking but Raven can no longer hear her. She’s hyperventilating now and Jason shoots up from his chair and both of them are in her face, lips moving, but she can’t hear, can’t see, can’t breathe.
When the darkness envelops her again she welcomes it.
Damian has never believed in fate, but if he did then he would overwhelmingly agree that it was cruel.
In fact, if he believed in fate he would have thought that it was punishing him. As a demon spawn he can think of a million reasons that fate might warrant punishment- though there was a time when he considered those reasons justified. Perhaps he was never meant to be happy and he was willing to accept his punishment as it was for the crimes he’s committed in his life, but what he doesn’t understand is why fate would tease him with a taste of what pure happiness could be?
He doesn’t know exactly why he decided not to tell anyone, but it’s no surprise that Jason figures it out before anyone else (except father but Damian never counts him because he somehow always knows everything). He’s not sure why he hesitated; maybe it was because he can’t stand the thought of telling Kori that she wouldn’t remember all of their double dates, or the closeness of their growing sisterhood. Maybe he wants to cling to the hope that it’s all just a misunderstanding and that her memories will gradually come back, but he knows better. He’s trained to be tactical and calculating. He relies on data and science- and as much as he obsessed over how she could have possibly known about Darkseid and the Paradooms all those years ago, he knows that it wasn’t just a mere coincidence.
He would be doing himself a disservice to remain convinced that she still remembers them.
His heart sinks when Jason reveals to him that she doesn’t remember him. The evidence is there in the way that she speaks and regards him, and it just confirms his hypothesis.
He wonders who else she doesn’t remember.
The crevice in his heart opens wider, and the cracks spread along his chest as he steps into her room. He takes in the lavender, and the aroma of incense and spirits. He walks closer to her quietly, thankful that Jason and Kori leave without a word. Once he’s close enough to touch her he reaches out to brush his fingers along the bare skin of her arm. How can she be so different yet the same as he remembers her? It hits him hard because watching her sleep in her own room takes him back and it suddenly feels like no time has passed between them at all in this moment.
Memories of stolen kisses and sweet caresses roar to the surface of his mind when he touches the bed sheets she’s resting underneath. He desperately tries to force them back but they’re unrelenting and they flood through him. He feels like he’s caught in an undertow and he can’t swim back up for air and panic bellows in his chest when he can’t breathe from the emotion that swells when he touches her.
“I wasn’t meant to love Raven. Grandfather made sure I knew that.”
“Then tell me what I’m feeling through our bond Damian. If it’s not love, then what is it?”
“I have a lot of enemies who are always looking for exploitations. I...I don’t want to lose you.”
“I’m stronger than I look, you know. Besides, even if I get lost I know you’ll always find me.”
He inhales sharply through his nose because that memory had been tucked away in the deep recesses of his mind and ignored. It barrels into him and he feels a different, much deeper kind of loss than when he realized that she wasn’t waking up. Seeing her look at him when she woke as if he were more of a stranger rather than his lover kills him.
“I know that you’ll always find me.”
The riptide takes him completely and he’s drowning, and the temptation to let the water consume him completely is enticing.
She must not have been unconscious for very long because when the fog lifts and she opens her eyes again there’s still sunlight gleaming through the windows and its shadows are in the same places.
It takes her a moment to adjust to the room once more but when she does she recognizes the heaviness in her chest that has settled. Kori and Jason are gone but when she hears movement to her right she turns. Damian is there once more.
Emotions are bubbling in her throat all fighting for her attention and she can’t tell which one is winning, regret or guilt or despair.
He’s facing her but he still hasn’t realized she’s woken up, which is strange because he’s usually so alert and ready for a fight at any time. She can tell that he’s somewhere far-away. Alarm for him rises above her own warring emotions when she takes in his furrowed brows and his clenched jaw. His eyes are closed tightly and his chin is resting on his hands- both of which are clenched together and as pale as her own skin. She feels a brief stab of pain shoot down their bond. With a wince, she sits up slowly and calls out to him.
She calls out to him softly and her empathy reaches out to envelop him in a warm, soothing embrace. He immediately straightens and his eyes open and for a moment she can see the devastation in them that resonates with her own.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asks when his full attention is on her and he sighs through his nose and closes his eyes again. The weight on her sternum grows heavier with each passing moment, but she’s not one to shy away from a confrontation and she needs to understand why he would keep such a vital piece of information from her.
“When I realized you weren’t from this earth… I thought that it would be easier for you to adjust if you didn’t know.”
The weight slams down harder with his words. He only wanted to protect her. She would have jumped at the chance on her earth to be with Damian. She regretted not joining him when he took over the League of Assassins- because in hindsight she would have taken advantage of every moment to explore the relationship that was blooming. Now that she’s learned that they were together in a different reality she doesn’t know whether to laugh bitterly or cry. The thought that they were probably much happier, and without the threat of Darkseid and the destruction of their world looming over their heads seems so out of reach.
But she so desperately wants what she had in this reality, but it wasn’t supposed to happen like this, and oh god she’s caused him so much despair and it feels so wrong.
“I’m so sorry your Raven is gone.” She can’t contain the sobs that are racking her body at the thought of Damian losing the one person in his life that is always consistent. She can’t mistake the love that he has for her through her bond, for a different Raven.
His eyes widen in shock at her words and his sudden movements frighten her when he stands up suddenly and crushes her with his arms, holding her fiercely. He hushes her immediately.
“Look at me.” He says, and grasps her chin with his fingers. She chokes out a breath as tears continue to slide down her cheeks.
“You are my Raven, you know why? Because my Raven would have done anything she could to save her friends and family, and she wouldn’t have shied away from the consequences because she’s incredibly brave.”
She sobs harder and tries to pull her face away but his hand holds firm.
“Do you feel the bond that we have? It’s still there because what we have goes beyond inter-dimensional universes, and I will fight every single time for it.”
“I will fall in love with you in every alternate reality we meet because you are the most kind, and generous, and selfless soul that I have ever had the privilege to know.”
“ Don’t ever apologize for the sacrifices you made for all of us.”
His words resound down to her soul and he holds her tight when she continues to cry, for the both of them. She’s sick of crying because it always made her feel so weak but was more than grief. It was for a loss so shattering it leaves her aching, but she wouldn’t take it back because he was right- she would have made the same decision to save her friends and family, regardless of her own outcome. She just regrets what Damian lost because of it.
He holds her until her sobs subside and when she begins to settle he pulls back to kiss her forehead, and she can’t help but feel that it’s a goodbye to the memories he had before.
“What now?” She whispers, voice thick. Damian gives her a small smile.
“Have you ever seen the manor before?”
“No.” She admits and looks away. She shifts in his arms when she looks around the room. It all seems so clear now, this room was meant for her. She wonders just how close she was to the Bat family in this reality.
“Well then I will give you the grand tour.” He pulls back from her and holds out his hand.
She nods and reaches out.
She looks so fragile and frail when she reaches out for him, though he knows for a fact that she is anything but.
When she comes out from under the covers he makes a strangled noise in his throat because Kori has dressed her in his sweats and t-shirt. His sweatpants hug the shape of her legs before cuffing at her ankles, and his shirt is so oversized it falls over one shoulder revealing smooth, pale skin underneath. He has to remind himself that he can’t pull her close and roam his hands over the curve of her waist like he used to and he clenches the other hand at his side to prevent himself from doing so. He swallows as she places her hand in his.
He didn’t realize that this was going to be so fucking hard .
He sets his jaw and keeps moving. He hears the small padding of her bare feet as they walk across the floor. He makes a mental note to ask Alfred where a pair of Raven’s slippers might be…
“I didn’t know that you had another brother.” Raven says to him softly as he leads her to the hallway. He chooses to go down the left.
“Jason?” He looks down at her and she nods.
“He became the second Robin after Richard joined the Teen Titans. He was killed by the Joker and then resurrected in the Lazarus pit.”
He watches as she furrows her brows in thought. He can imagine the wheels that are spinning in her mind, trying to understand.
“Were we close? Jason and I?” She asks. He hums in agreement even as he’s frowning, recalling the pain in his brother’s eyes when he told him she didn’t know who he was.
“You told me once that you thought of him as an older brother of sorts. Kori was always jealous.”
Her eyes light up in amusement and he almost smiles.
“Is Batman here?”
“No, he went out on patrol.”
He watches the concern grow on her face. “Nightwing is out with him.”
Her concern eases, just a little bit. She might not be from his earth but he can still read her like a book. She purses her lips and he can tell that she’s struggling with something internally, and she’s determining what she wants to tell him and how.
“When I showed him what happened, he witnessed his torturing and he saw unspeakable horrors he committed while under the influence of Darkseid. On my earth, you fought him while he was under control and he nearly killed you.” She takes a breath and she slows to a stop in the hallway. He stops with her and grasps her forearm encouragingly. He’s glad that she still feels comfortable enough to confide in him.
“He remembered and didn’t follow through, but Darkseid sent a blast that was meant for him. You jumped in front of him and took the brunt of the blast without hesitation so that we could all have a fighting chance against Darkseid.” Raven looks up at him and he’s taken aback by the despair in her eyes as tears form in the corners once more.
“He watched you die in his arms.”
A tear escapes and runs silently down her face. He brings a hand up to her face and gingerly brushes it away with his thumb. Her eyes close and she shudders under his touch and he shoves down the sudden urge to pull her close and kiss her pain away. There’s a sharp pang in his chest.
God, he doesn’t know how he’s going to get through this.
“We are no longer suffering Raven,” He urges her, “You are evidence that timeline no longer exists.”
“Yes.” She breathes, following when he encourages her to keep walking. He can sense that she’s ready for a change of topic and he doesn’t say anything when she does.
“The manor is beyond what I imagined it to be.”
“Oh?” He asks, raising a brow. He missed her curiosity- he admired that it was an eternal burning flame that fueled his own.
“I didn’t know that Bruce had such good taste in decor. There’s so many rooms, it’s like a maze.”
The corners of his mouth quirk at the way she’s entirely enthralled by the stone art sculptures, tall grandeur ceilings, and large, open windows. He leads her further into the manor, turning another corner.
“I’m led to believe that he preferred it to be sort of like a labyrinth, to keep people out.”
She remains silent and hunches her shoulders. He notices the way her fingers itch at her sides. She yearns for her cape, he realizes, so that she can indulge in the familiar comfort he knows it brings when it’s wrapped around her.
He’s used to wearing his cape and uniform nearly everywhere he goes. In one swift movement he takes off his own cape and settles it around her shoulders. She looks up at him in surprise and he shrugs.
“You looked cold.”
He was taught to look for every nuance in shifts of body language when learning hand to hand combat so it’s an easy lie. He admittedly pays considerable attention to her comfortability- especially in a place that she could easily get lost in. But he doesn’t want her to realize just how closely he watches her yet.
Raven murmurs her thanks after a moment and shifts her shoulders to get used to the heavier weight of it.
“Did we spend a lot of time here?” She asks after a few minutes of silence and Damian has to think back. Most of the memories of before are purposely filed and locked away and he resists the urge to fidget when thinking about the past. He doesn’t realize just how much he’s been avoiding confronting what happened and he doesn’t like the nostalgia that creeps in the back of his mind.
“Yeah.” He says, voice low. He leads them into a different hallway, passing one of the smaller ballrooms. He doesn’t explain further because the sudden tightness in his chest makes it harder to breathe, much less speak, and he’s relieved she doesn’t push further. Of course, he’ll answer any questions she has, but how can he explain to her how much it hurts him?
He doesn’t want her to feel guilty. None of what happened was her fault after all, and it was true what he told her earlier. She was his Raven, she was just a bit… lost.
He smiles when he stops them at the end of one hallway, in front of two extravagant french doors. She looks to him curiously when he reaches out to grab a wooden handle. He shoves down the hollow, empty feeling in his chest.
“I think you’ll enjoy this room.” He says, and he pulls the door open for her.
The smell of books hit her first, and she relishes in it. Damian ushers her inside and closes the door softly behind them and she drifts into the room.
It takes her breath away.
It’s massive and there’s shelves of books that stack as high as the ceiling while paintings of renaissance artists line the walls. The gothic architecture is breathtaking and she imagines that if heaven is real this is what hers would be like.
Her eyes scan the room and find the recliner chair in the corner with a small nook. The reading space is perfect, she decides, and the window casts light beside it affectionately, beckoning her closer. She turns to Damian and flushes when she sees him staring at her, gauging her reaction. He smiles warmly and it relaxes her enough to stride further into the library.
She could get lost in here forever and she wouldn’t mind a bit.
“Like it?” He asks her and she nods even though she knows she doesn’t need to. She can tell he already knows that she does.
Reverently she glides her fingers over one of the bookcases. She doesn’t even know where she would start, but the thought makes her grow in anticipation.
“There’s so many.” She says and Damian snorts.
“Father insisted that we all stay well-read.”
That was an understatement of a lifetime, she thought. Any scholar would be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of journals, tomes, scrolls, and parchments the Wayne Manor library had to offer.
“You can pick out whatever you’d like. You can bring whatever books you want with you.”
Her eyes light up at his words and she drifts towards the middle. There’s no way she can hand pick just a few.
She lingers over to the classic literature, fingers scanning the titles. One in particular catches her eye and she’s not sure why. She picks it out and is alarmed to hear Damian’s sharp intake of breath and she feels a whisper of sorrow through their bond. Turning the cover in her hands she reads the title. ‘Jane Eyre’.
She had read Jane Eyre before, but didn’t understand why it would warrant such pain. She flips open the hard cover and pauses when she sees his familiar scrawl.
Thank you for the part that you’ve played in my redemption. You helped teach me what it was like to love truly and freely, and for that I’m forever grateful. You’ve given me more than I could ever imagine and I will spend the rest of my life giving back.
Happy Birthday Raven,
P.S. I will always find you
There’s so much emotion in those few short sentences that speak of a love that she’s never really known. Suddenly there’s a flash and she feels a ghost of Damian’s lips on hers and she’s laughing softly over something he’s whispered to her and she’s so in love.
She doesn’t understand it and she’s not ready for the pure heartbreak that consumes her and it sets her on fire and she doesn’t know if what she’s feeling is Damian’s or her own. Every nerve is burning and it’s so cruel that fate would lead her to this novel.
Damian clears his throat to cut through the tension.
“I should have expected you to pick up ‘Jane Eyre’, you were always a sucker for classic literature.” He calls out and she knows he’s trying to make light of the note she just read but the humor he attempts in his voice sounds more haunted than anything else.
She tries her best to shake off what she felt but it’s difficult. Her movements are slow as she draws herself out of her mind and back to the present.
“I will always find you.”
The echo of his voice is in the back of her mind from a memory that’s not hers. She wants to reach out to Damian and just hold him but she doesn’t. She’s not sure he wants that from her now, and she has a sinking feeling that her touch will just make it worse.
She’s not sure what to say, she doesn’t think there are any words that can describe the guilt she feels for what he’s lost. Never had she considered what the consequences might be for those around her when she made the decision to do everything within her ability to stop the timeline of the Apokolips War.
Their eyes meet and Raven opens her mouth with a need that she has to say something, but a low bark interrupts them and their attention shifts to the open doorway of the library.
“Titus.” Raven breathes as the Great Dane pads into the room with purpose. He is exactly as she remembers him.
Damian smiles openly towards his dog, and Raven thinks that there are certain smiles he saves just for Titus. The dog pauses at his owner for just a moment and he sniffs Damian’s open palm. He noses it in acknowledgement but moves on quickly because she is the reason for his sudden attention.
Unsure, he creeps up to her and the hair rises on the back of his neck and Raven suppresses her nervousness. She lowers onto one knee and stills as he sniffs her once, then twice. She opens her palms as an offering for peace and he sniffs them too. There’s a pregnant pause and she feels Damian tense beside her but then he licks her and she knows it’s okay.
As if a trance had been broken his body begins to wiggle excitedly and he’s suddenly in her face, licking her. She can hear the thump of his tail against the floor and she laughs openly because Titus recognizes and accepts her. And maybe, just maybe, everything will turn out okay in the end.
“I’ve missed you boy.” She tells him and he seems to agree because he rests his head on her shoulder lovingly. She puts her arms around him and breathes in the smell of grass and dog- and she doesn’t like it but it grounds her and she’s thankful for that.
She looks up and Damian is giving her an unreadable look, but there’s a half-smile on his face and she releases a sigh.
“I picked out Titus for you back… before. You’d probably be amused by the look on your face when I gave him to you as a surprise.”
His eyebrows quirk and he looks intrigued- as much as she can tell- because his face is rarely ever expressive.
“Did I give him to you here as well?” She asks and he turns his head to seemingly look at her from a different angle, as if he were seeing her in a new light.
“No, father did. Actually, you and Titus never got along before.”
She scoffs at this and digs her fingers into his fur to give him the scratches he’s whining for. She laughs softly when his tongue darts out over the side of his mouth at her touch.
“That’s nonsense. Who could not get along with someone so affectionate?”
She sees him smile softly as he watches her scratch the back of the Dane’s ears.
“It was your only flaw.” He admits with a smirk and she raises her brow then, aware of the way they fell into an easier conversation.
“I wasn’t aware that I had flaws.”
He blinks at her words and Raven takes delight in the way that she’s caught him off-guard. Then she hears him laugh for the first time- it wasn’t much more than a snort and it only lasted a few seconds, but her heart swells at the sound of it.
“Perhaps you do remember Todd. That sounds like something he would have said.” He tells her, eyes filling with mirth.
“Perhaps.” She hums and says nothing more. They fall into an easier silence, the tension leaving as swiftly as it came.
There’s a look on his face that looks more wistful now as he continues to watch her with Titus. She swallows and clings to the dog who gratefully accepts the attention.
“I think he’s found his best friend.” Damian muses.
She’s silent for a moment, mulling over his words. Then, she gives him a small smile.
“Yeah, I think so too.”
Hope blooms in her chest, slowly.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Raven sighs when the door behind her closes and she finally gets a moment alone to herself.
She’s aching from that short walk but also the past two days have left her soul hollow. Her mind is exhausted from overuse and her heightened emotions have left her power drained.
Her eyes scan her room and she inhales the incense, drawing comfort in the familiar smell. A flash of blue catches her eyes and she looks down, scrutinizing. Mysteriously a pair of slippers have been left at the foot of her bed. With a smile she walks over to slide her feet in them and she wiggles her toes in the softness of them with an appreciative hum.
She tries not to think about how they were probably hers and how simply being in this room is a big indicator of how close she was to Damian and his family.
Noticing the door to her right for the first time, she remembers that Damian had told her she has a master bathroom. Bruce has more money than she can fathom, but she supposes someone has to pay for all of the equipment, tech, intel, and uniforms.
When Raven walks into the master bath she freezes.
A soft gasp escapes her when she takes in the full-body mirror at the end of the bathroom, taking up a large portion of the wall.
It’s the first time she’s seen herself since she’s woken up.
At first glance she immediately sees how much weight she’s lost. Her skin is paler, ashier, and her cheekbones are slightly protruding. Thanks to Kori her hair was currently braided down her back and it fell just below her breasts.
Upon closer look she notices that although her face looks tired, it’s matured and she can tell that her body has grown despite the three years she’s been unconscious. She hasn’t really gotten much taller, and her healing trance has taken care of her body as much as it could and she’s thankful it’s staved off muscle atrophy as long as possible.
Tears form at the corners of her eyes and she can’t believe she still has tears to cry after all this time. She blinks them back and sighs. It takes effort to tear her gaze away from the mirror but she does.
It would be a waste of time to keep mourning what could have been.
She takes a breath and turns around the walk back to her bed to take a rest for a moment. She doesn’t want to think, just wants to close her eyes and let her mind wander elsewhere….
A knock on her door pulls her from sleep and she opens them blearily to see a figure clad in orange and purple.
“Kori.” She says and the alien smiles at her name and closes the door shut softly behind her.
“How long did I sleep for this time?” Raven asks her. The joke cuts short at her hitched breath but if Kori notices she says nothing.
“A few hours at the most. Alfred sent me up, he’s setting the table for dinner and I’m to help you get ready.”
Raven’s brow rises and she sits up with a small yawn and scoots to the edge of the bed. She blinks when Kori starts sifting through drawers absentmindedly.
“It’s more of an informal dinner so the dress code is casual,” she says and Raven notices Kori’s blouse and skirt for the first time, “I think it’d be best to find something that you feel comfortable in.”
Raven nods solemnly as Kori turns to face her, clothing in hand.
“You can never go wrong with leggings and an oversized sweater.”
Somewhere in her chest constricts at how easily it is to be around Kori and how casually she goes through her drawers as if she knows exactly what she needs and where. Raven wouldn’t even know where to begin.
She holds up a pair of black leggings and a navy blue cotton sweater and it may not have been something Raven would have picked out for herself but she figures she should try it since it was in her drawers. She also has a sneaking suspicion that Kori may have had an influence over her wardrobe in this reality.
Kori grins when she accepts the clothing gingerly and there’s a tense silence when Kori just stares at her for a moment. When she chews the bottom of her lip and Raven can tell that there’s something on her mind.
“What’s wrong Kori?” Raven asks her. Kori glances away and shifts her weight. Raven watches her sigh then look back up to meet her stare.
“Damian briefed us all on your… condition. I know you don’t remember our friendship, but we were really close Raven. I want to apologize if you are ever uncomfortable with anything I might say or do in the future. I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now. It’s going to be an adjustment for all of us.”
Raven lowers her gaze to the bundle of clothing in her arms and swallows back her sorrow. With her attention on Damian the last two days she hasn’t contemplated how the others would be affected as well.
“I-I’m truly sorry Kori. I don’t know if I’ll ever remember…the past, but I do know that I feel more comfortable with you than with anyone else besides Damian… and I hope that you don’t resent me.”
Kori walks over and the bed dips when she comes to sit beside her. Raven takes comfort when Kori places a hand on her shoulder.
“None of this is your fault Raven. You did what you had to do and no one blames you for that. In fact, we all owe you our lives. No one had realized how many of us would have died if we had gone through with Clark’s plan.” She pauses and catches Raven’s eyes before continuing, “I’d love to continue our friendship, and we can move forward together.”
Raven gives her a genuine smile and hopes that Kori can feel how grateful she is for her understanding and grace. Kori has always been one of the kindest people she has ever met and that still reigns true to this day.
“Thank you Kori.”
“Of course, now get dressed we have a dinner party to attend.”
Kori gets up to rummage through her closet. Raven fingers the fabric of her sweater for a moment, wondering if Kori intended to leave. When it seemed like she was content to stay Raven shrugs. It wasn’t as if Kori hadn’t seen her naked before. She did help her get changed in the hospital when she was being discharged. With that thought she shrugs and begins to strip and it’s strange that it’s not as awkward as she thought it would be.
“Who all will be at this dinner party?” She asks as she slips on her leggings. The cloth feels good against her legs and she makes a note to wear leggings more often. Perhaps Kori did have good taste in this reality.
Raven raises a brow at the hesitancy in her voice. “I’m not going to remember any of these people am I?” She asks point blank and she notices the slight grimace on Kori’s face.
“We don’t really know. Richard thought the gathering would be a good idea to see who all you did remember and if being around all of us would…help.”
“You mean everyone wants to know if it will help bring my memories back?” She deadpans. Kori nods and Raven doesn’t have the heart to tell her that it likely won’t help. She probably already knows that anyway.
“Okay,” she says instead and shuffles the sweater over her head drawing comfort from the softness of the cotton. Yes, Kori has much better taste. “It’s a good idea to help me get acclimated.”
It was true, if she was going to be living in this new reality she needed to adapt as quickly as possible for her sake and the others around her, and from the rumblings of her stomach it agreed too.
Kori pulls out a pair of black boots that lace up to her ankles and hands them to her. It only takes a few seconds to slip them on. Very comfortable indeed.
“Wonderful, you look beautiful Raven. Let’s go before Jason steals all of the bread rolls.” Kori says and it takes a moment for her to realize that she’s dead serious. She suppresses a chuckle and allows Kori to take her arm, leading her down the hallways to the dining room.
“Does Jason steal bread rolls often?” Raven asks, seeing Kori give her a sideways glance.
“You have no idea.”
Raven does allow herself a small chuckle this time which causes Kori to laugh with her as they walk. It’s easy to talk with Kori and that eases some of her anxiety.
She hears the loud chattering and clinking of silverware before they reach the room and any comfort Raven’s felt erases as her dread builds. Kori notices this and stops them just outside the room where no one has spotted them yet.
Damian must have noticed them immediately because he steps out into the hallway, seething.
“Hello Damian, are you ready for Alfred’s fettuccini alfredo? It smells amazing.” It really does.
Whether Damian thought so or not she doesn’t know because he ignores Kori’s comment completely and flicks his eyes up and down her body. His face is unreadable for a moment before his attention shifts back to the Tamaranean.
“I thought I explicitly told you and Grayson both that you should wait to plan dinner for the entire family.”
Raven can feel his irritation even without their bond but there’s also worry there, for her.
Kori laughs nervously and glances down at her.
“Richard disagrees, but don’t worry Damian. Everyone knows and will be on their best behavior.”
Raven’s anxiety rises and Damian’s attention shifts to her. His eyes soften when he meets her eyes. “Raven, you don’t have to attend dinner if you don’t feel comfortable. No one will mind.” He shoots a glare at Kori who is intelligent enough to remain silent and nod in agreement. Raven looks between the both of them for a moment.
As nervous as she was about meeting everyone she knows that she’ll have to eventually and she’s also curious to find out who all she knows and who she doesn’t.
The smell of Alfred’s alfredo lingering just a few feet away pushes her in favor of attending.
“I’ll be fine Damian. It’s just dinner.”
He doesn’t seem to agree and his eyes narrow slightly but he doesn’t argue with her. Before he says anything else he sends another look to Kori and she scurries off, mumbling something about making sure Jason hasn’t hidden any bread baskets.
They watch her leave and then Damian touches her arm lightly.
“If you feel overwhelmed at any moment you let me know and we will dismiss ourselves immediately.”
He reaches out his arm to her and she takes it, grateful for the extra support. Walking seems to still be taking a lot of energy out of her.
“Just as precautious as ever I see.” She comments and Damian raises a brow.
“It’s always better to be prepared. It’s only been two days since you’ve woken. My family is… a lot to take in.”
“You always were a skeptic.” She says and plasters on a small grin to smother her nervousness.
“You may change your mind once you step into the dining room.”
He doesn’t know how she’s managed to make leggings and a sweater look so breathtaking but she manages without even trying and it’s like a punch to the gut. He itches to envelope her in his arms and kiss her fears away but he can’t. His worry grows when she feigns nonchalance because she doesn’t know what she’s about to walk into. From his observations he’s inclined to believe that she won’t remember most of their family.
When they step into the room he can tell that Raven is taken aback by the amount of people inside. Though it is large and open, it’s buzzing with activity and it’s an organized chaos. Drake and Duke are heading back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room and he can barely hear the whoosh of the swinging doors as the others are yelling, talking, and laughing over each other. Alfred is still setting plates down while Bruce is carrying casserole dishes with various sides and entrees. And in the middle of it all Dick is yelling out directions.
His anger at his brother for planning this surprise dinner is short-lived when he sees Raven pale beside him and fidget her hands in her sweater. He steers them over to the side with a hand to the small of her back as people start to take notice of her. Thankfully the act of setting up the table serves as a distraction so that she can watch from afar. Then Richard looks up and their eyes meet. He gives Damian a sheepish smile then turns his attention to Raven.
“Hey Raven!” He looks like he’s going to cross the room to meet them but Kori’s outraged yell interrupts everyone. “Jason put them back!”
“Alright, alright. Damn sweet cheeks it’s just a few pieces of garlic bread-ow!”
“I swear to god Jason if you fuck up this dinner I will shove those bread rolls so far up your ass you won’t be able to shit for a week without smelling garlic.” Stephanie.
“She’ll do it too, I’ve seen it.”
“Cass do not encourage her. Also, fuck off Steph. I was fine until Miss Priss decided to pitch a fit.”
“Can you all please control yourselves.”
“Awh come on Babs, we’re just playing around.”
Damian watches Richard storm through the corridor, disappearing to the kitchen. All arguments cease at his presence.
“All of you get out of the kitchen now.”
“Fine, but this is not my fault Dick. Control your girlfriend.” There’s a sudden flash of green and the acrid stinge of electricity fills the air with a loud blast.
“Ow! Damn those starbolts hurt .” Jason swaggers out into the dining room first, rubbing the back of his head that was slightly smoking.
“You had it coming for you dumbass.” Steph calls out after him.
“Shut the hell up.” Jason’s eyes meet theirs easily across the room. “ Hey, princess! Welcome to the party! All eyes land on Raven and Damian has a sudden urge to wrap her in his arms once more to shield her from the attention that she so obviously doesn’t want.
He feels her tremble slightly and he glares at both Jason and Dick.
This is a horrible idea.
There’s so many of them and they’re everywhere.
Her heart sinks because she doesn’t remember most of them.
When Jason greets her and everyone’s eyes shift to her she tries not to shake but she can’t help it. It’s been a long time since she’s been in a room full of people like this without having to worry about surviving the next moment. But everyone is looking at her expectantly and she doesn’t know what to say.
Bruce clears his throat, easily slicing through the tension and everyone’s attention shifts to him. Raven feels her body physically relax and Damian wraps an arm around her waist pulling her close. Raven accepts his touch gratefully even as a blush creeps up her face.
“Let’s get everyone seated so that we can all have a moment to relax. ” His eyes glance to Jason and the girls around him knowingly and they all straighten silently, completely chastised with just one look.
Then he looks at Raven and the corners of his eyes lighten in sympathy and even though Raven hates that she allowed Bruce to see what she’d been through she’s thankful that she’s not alone and someone else understands.
Everyone moves at his words as quickly and efficiently as possible and Damian leads them both to their seats. She’s glad that she gets put between him and Kori because they’re probably her closest two friends right now and she practically clings to her chair to force herself to stay still.
The other seats are quickly filled and Raven scans the crowd. In her musings she felt a slight bump against her inner thigh. She looked down and felt a nose sniffs her palm. Grinning, she lifted the tablecloth to see Titus, hunched over and looking at her with those puppy eyes.
“Hey Titus.” She hums and scratches his ears. He pants happily and she smiles, thankful for the presence of her animal companion.
Then she turns her attention back to Bruce when he sits down at the head of the table, Alfred beside him.
“As you all know Dick has graciously hosted this dinner for Raven who we are all grateful to have back. I know you are all… excited but please be courteous at the dinner table.” She grimaces and closes her eyes.
“Yes! Thank you Bruce,” Dick cuts in before anyone else can get in a word, “I know that you are all curious to know what Raven remembers but I think it’d be best to go around the table and introduce yourselves just in case.”
“Grayson.” Damian growls in a clear warning as her anxiety heightens and she knows he can feel her leg bobbing up and down beside him. She bites her lip and releases a shaky breath, then places a hand on his arm. She can do this.
“Thank you Richard I think that is a great idea...and to anyone who I do not remember, I’m sorry.”
It seems like she’s been saying sorry a lot lately.
The tension is thick at her words once more because they’re starting to realize that she really doesn’t remember most of them and she can feel in their auras that they’re not sure how to respond.
“Don’t worry about it princess,” Jason speaks up, “It wouldn’t be the first time something as fucked up as losing your memories has happened. I literally died and it was awkward as hell when I first came back home. Most of them aren’t memorable anyway- especially Drake.”
A chorus of replies fill the air.
“That is true.”
“I’m not offended, I hate myself.”
“Jason , apologize immediately . Also, watch your language. ”
“Woah, Tim. We are definitely having a conversation after dinner.”
“No thanks Dick I’m good.”
Others begin to chime in that they’re grateful for what she did and that they have no qualms with growing relationships with her again. Tears form at the corners of her eyes for the millionth time that day and she blinks them back as best she can.
“Well you’ve already met Jason who is a pain in the ass. I’m Stephanie, I go by Steph and I joined the family a few years ago. I used to be a Robin.” Raven doesn’t have to tell anyone that she doesn’t remember her, they can all tell.
“Unfortunately.” Jason quips. Stephanie smacks him then gives her a grin and points to the black-haired woman beside her with her thumb.
“This is Cass, she doesn’t talk as much, but hang around and she’ll open up. Usually when we have our girl’s night every weekend with Kori and Barbs.”
The red haired woman beside Cass gives her a small wave.
“I’m Barbara, Barbs for short. I used to be Batgirl, now Oracle. We’re glad to have you back Raven.” Raven smiles kindly but is unfamiliar with the woman. She feels a tinge of disappointment in her aura and Raven looks away.
“Tim Drake and Red Robin. This is Duke, he was a Robin but now he’s called The Signal.”
Raven is confused for a moment and looks to Damian, “You’re all Bruce’s children and sidekicks?”
Damian gives her a look of chagrin, “Something like that, yes.”
“How many Robins are there?”
“Nope. We are not going down that rabbit hole. That will take forever to explain and I am starving, sorry princess.” Jason shakes his head and crosses his arms. The others nod their heads in agreement.
“It really is a long story isn’t it?”
“Do you count as two Robins if you died previously and came back to life?”
“This is a legitimate question I would like to know as well.”
“I would say yes, personally.”
“No don’t be ridiculous you can only be one Robin.”
The argument continues to heat up and Raven can’t help but laugh breathlessly at all these people Bruce has taken in and they’ve formed this wonderfully broken, beautiful family.
And she was once a part of it- maybe still is.
That thought has her grinning.
He’s been watching her all through dinner, analyzing every hitched breath. He’s tense, ready to pull her out of the dining room at any moment because most of his family members can be diagnosed as clinically insane. There’s a part of him that is terrified that she’ll see them all and decide that she doesn’t want this anymore, and he wouldn’t be able to argue that she should stay because she’s from a different world and she didn’t consciously choose this life.
So far it goes relatively well and Raven seems to be taking it in stride as she always does. It’s impressive that she’s able to remain so calm when she’s meeting everyone all at once, even more so that it’s the Batfamily.
The arguments between his siblings escalate and he resists the urge to roll his eyes. He knows that someone will catch his movements and call him out and the last thing he wants right now is to draw attention to himself and Raven.
Then out of the corner of his eye he sees her grin, flashing white teeth, and the sight of her throws him back for a moment because she’s absolutely breathtaking when she smiles like that. He feels himself grinning beside her and he can’t resist himself so he leans closer to her.
“I haven’t seen you grin that big in a long time.” He feels her resist a shiver when his lips hover over the shell of her ear, whispering low. She turns her head to catch his eyes. They light up, twinkling with mirth and he thinks that from an outsider they probably look like conspirators.
“Your family,” Raven is still grinning, now at him, “They’re more than I imagined.”
His lips quirk, “That answer was both vague and bewildering. Care to explain further?”
“They have all these different stories and feelings. My empathy can feel their courage and their bravery. All of your auras are bold. You and your family are… beautiful.”
He raises a brow as he’s thrown back once more, not expecting her answer. He’s never considered what someone else might see in his aura. Feeling the heat of his cheeks flush with her words, he realizes that he’s actually flustered for the first time in over three years.
He’s not sure whether he likes that or not.
He clears his throat to swallow back his embarrassment. “I can’t imagine anyone who has killed would have beautiful auras, least of all a member of the League of Assassins.”
He watches her eyes light up even more so at the thought of his own aura and his chest itches with an emotion he’s unsure of.
“Yours is very complex, but spectacular. A bright hunter’s green with splashes of red and yellow, and there is a thin swirl of glittery black. You’d think they’d mix together and form this muddy brown like most of humanity- but yours doesn’t.” She squints as if she’s trying to view something more visibly. “There’s this bright iridescent light that fills in between the cracks and it keeps all the colors from intermingling. You know who you are and what you’re capable of but you don’t let your past define you. You’ve… grown.”
She looks at him imploringly and he struggles to keep his expression neutral even as conflicting emotions battle for his attention. They’re too complex to unpack and he’s not sure that he wants to understand what he’s feeling.
They stare into each other’s eyes for a moment, each wondering if they should say. He wonders, not for the first time, if he should tell her that he’s still completely, irrevocably in love with her.
“Raven, you should try some of Alfred’s fettuccini. It is better than sex.” “That is also true.”
Damian blinks and then glares at Stephanie’s crass words. Raven hides her laugh in a cough, catching Damian’s glare.
“It sounds amazing Stephanie.” Raven says and Steph scrunches her nose in disgust.
“Call me Steph. Stephanie takes me back to high school algebra with Mrs. Miles.”
“She was the worst.” Cass says without looking up from her food.
“Definitely the worst.” Barb chimes in.
“I always thought she was sexy .” Jason cuts in casually and all three women roll their eyes. Damian sees Bruce shake his head in disappointment. Jason flashes Raven a grin with a wink. Jason wasn’t a complete idiot, he thinks, when he realizes that Jason has been creating diversions all throughout dinner for her.
Then his family starts asking questions.
“So Raven, do you remember the amusement park dates?” Kori asks first and he tenses. He shoots a glare to Dick who shrugs apologetically. He was afraid of this. It didn’t matter how many times he told them all not to ask her about the past but his family was too fucking nosy.
“Yeah, what about our t.v. show binges?” Duke says and Tim looks up, nodding with him.
“Or our sleepovers every weekend?” Steph says around a mouth full of alfredo.
More questions fill the air and it’s challenging to distinguish them all, but he’s not really listening. His attention is on Raven and he sees her pale considerably and puts delicate fingers to the sides of her temples. Pinching her face as if she’s in pain, she doubles over.
He places a hand at her upper back and he moves closer to her. She’s only been awake for a few days and they still didn’t know how her coma affected her empathy.
“Raven are you okay?” He asks her. He tries not to cringe at the slight panic everyone can hear in his voice. He doesn’t bother looking at them.
At his question everyone stops immediately and Raven sighs, seemingly fighting for control over her power. She opens her eyes after a moment and looks up at him.
“Yes.” She stands slowly and he moves to stand with her, placing a hand on her forearm to help steady her.
“I don’t remember anything related to being here at the manor. I’m sorry, I know that means that I don’t remember most of you but I never intended for this to happen. I don’t know how to fix it or if I even can. I hope you all understand. Please- excuse me.”
The pain in her voice pierces his chest and he scans the room. No one is meeting either of their eyes but that’s okay because they’re leaving now anyway.
“You don’t have to apologize Raven, they should know better.” He murmurs beside her but he’s loud enough for everyone to hear. He wants them to know how childish they’re all acting. After a brief silence, he leads Raven out of the room and doesn’t look back. With a clinking of metal, Titus moves out from under the table and trots to catch up to them.
“On behalf of my family, I apologize.” He says to Raven once they’re both out in the corridor. Raven shrugs half heartedly and waves him off, then wraps her arms around herself.
“I know they mean well.” Her lips quiver and Damian can’t resist anymore. He pulls her to him and envelops her in his arms and he sighs when she melts against him and in different circumstances everything would be perfect in this moment.
But it’s not even close and that makes his heart break a little more.
“This is hard. ” She whispers to him, voice raw, and the tightness in his chest is from something else, not because it’s getting harder not to cry with her. Swallowing hard he flexes his arms and holds her tighter as he breathes in the peppermint of her shampoo. It breaks him when there’s not anything that he can say to make it better. There are no words that can really explain what she’s going through and as much as he wants to ease her pain and her sorrow he’s not sure he can.
So he just holds her and lets her cry into his chest again and he murmurs in her ear.
“I know, Raven. I know.”
Triggers for signs of anxiety, depression, and ptsd and just overall detachment from reality.
just a gentle reminder that sometimes if all you do today is eat- that's okay.
Every passing day only seems to get more challenging.
As much as she wants to fit in she just can’t. Every time she talks with a member of the batfamily they casually mention something she doesn’t remember mid-conversation; then it sours into awkward silence and half-stuttered apologies. She doesn’t really know how to respond either, so it’s better to just avoid them altogether.
It heightens to a point that they’re unsure of what they should and shouldn’t say and she doesn’t have the energy to explain that she’s not the same Raven they knew, and that she really is from a different world. It may be a small inconvenience to them, but every detail she learns that is different about this universe is macroscopic.
After a while she decides that she doesn’t want to feel anymore so she just shuts down. She knows that it’s probably the worst thing that she can do right now but it’s getting harder with every sympathetic glance and tentative step, and as much as she wants to just scream it takes less energy to do nothing at all.
They’re all acting as if they’re walking on thin ice- and maybe they should.
She tries to find solace in the library and she picks out her favorite books to read. At first she’s hopeful that the books she read on this earth will help her remember something. But it doesn’t, and now when she flips through the pages she doesn’t really read them.
Sometimes Kori visits her and she talks about what they all did before her coma. Kori must believe that the more memories she shares of the past the better chance she’ll have of remembering. Raven stops listening after Kori starts talking about Damian. The pain is too fresh and she’d rather feel numb.
Minutes feel like hours, and hours feel like days, but the sun always sets at the same time and she sits in the dark until Damian comes by to walk her to her room. It takes everything within her just to move under the covers and allow unconsciousness to take her because the nightmares always come.
She sits by the window and stares, and scours her mind for any trace of this life. Wishing to remember her time here with Damian, and to forget what happened on her original earth three years ago.
She sits as memories swirl around in her mind and she doesn’t fight it anymore when the battle in her mind replays over and over and over.
Not even the peace of the courtyard below her can distract her from her blood-stained hands.
Damian leans against the wall and stares at the empath through the threshold of the library. She’s currently curled up on the cream-colored recliner. The window is cracked, allowing a slight breeze to rustle the pages of her book that’s open but unread. A mug of herbal tea sits on the coaster beside her, forgotten, and Titus lays at her feet sleeping.
He smiles faintly at the hoodie she’s found in her closet. It’s old with two faint, weathered letters and the insignia of Gotham Academy. He swallows back the lump of nostalgia in his throat.
It was his, years ago.
She has the hood drawn and she’s facing the window, all to shield herself from the world. She doesn’t notice him in the doorway and she continues to stare out of the window, unblinkingly. Her eyes are unfocused and he knows that although she’s staring out into the courtyard below, her mind is somewhere else completely.
She’s sat in that recliner for the past seven days.
“She’s not eating.”
He doesn’t move to look at him but he knows Jason has perched himself against the side of the other french door, arms crossed. Damian’s small smile is replaced with a frown and his brows furrow.
“I know.” He says and doesn’t comment further. He knows that Jason is aware they’ve both noticed, but the fact that Jason is telling him this out loud shows how concerned he is for her well-being.
“Have you heard anything else from Zatanna or Constantine?” Jason asks.
Three days ago neither magician had an explanation for Raven’s memories- and lack thereof.
“I’m sorry Damian. When flashpoints occur we’re never really prepared for what could happen. Even now that Raven is awake we will probably never know the full extent of what happened that day in the hangar. We just need to trust that the timeline will fixate on its own.”
They had promised they would continue to research but all that he heard was that they had run into a dead end, and they had no idea how to help her. Useless.
She hadn’t reacted when she learned that they didn’t have a solution. It was like she had already retreated within herself by the time they told them there was nothing they could do. It was as if she already knew the outcome long before anyone could confirm it- and was running away from it.
Jason places a hand on his shoulder and Damian allows himself the small comfort his touch offers. Not that he’d ever really admit to Todd that he appreciates his presence. Though he has an idea that he doesn’t need to, Jason already knows.
He doesn’t say anything when Jason walks away. He closes his eyes and listens to his retreating footsteps for a minute. He knows they all check on him as much as they do her.
They’re all worried.
He sighs and opens his eyes to watch her again. She remains unmoving and when Damian stares too long at her he thinks that she’s actually a photograph, frozen in time. For a moment she seems so unreal and untouchable as she stares unto the courtyard with a certain haunted desolation.
He pushes himself off the wall and takes slow, silent steps towards her. Titus lifts his head at his approach and when he recognizes Damian he dips his head back down between his paws, tail wagging lazily.
He walks all the way up to her but Raven doesn’t move, doesn’t even blink, and his worry heightens. He crouches low in front of her and takes the book out of her hands, placing it on the desk beside her. Then he grasps her arm gently.
“Raven.” He watches as she blinks twice. Then her eyes begin to focus as her brows furrow in confusion and she breathes in, looking around as if she is noticing her surroundings for the first time today.
“Damian?” She asks with uncertainty, voice hoarse, and Damian knows that’s probably the first word that she’s spoken in days.
“Yes, it’s me. I’m here.” He rubs her arm encouragingly even as his heart breaks a little more.
Her eyes sweep him up and down and she takes another breath and grasps his arm, tight. Her fingernails dig into his skin through his long-sleeve shirt like she’s anchoring herself to this earth from his touch and he rubs his thumbs over her upper arm to help tether her.
When her eyes finally focus on him with comprehension he releases the breath of relief.
“It’s around noon, do you want to come with me to the kitchen? Alfred made some broccoli cheddar soup.”
The question seems to confuse her for a moment and her eyes wander beyond him. Her eyes begin to unfocus once more and Damian squeezes her arm again to bring her back to the present.
“Raven, come on. Let’s go for a walk.”
She obeys silently and allows him to pull her to her feet. Titus stands with them to follow. It worries him at how light she is. Ever since she’s woken it only seems like she’s continued to lose weight. He sees that her tea is mostly untouched and he vaguely wonders if they should give her a walking I.V. just so that she can at least get the fluids she needs.
He stops that thought for now though because moving seems to help and her steps are firmer once they make their way out of the library. The hold on his arm gets stronger and her breaths become more prominent and she finally seems to realize where she is.
“Did you see anything note-worthy in the courtyard this morning?” He asks casually as they turn a corner.
“There was… a deer.” Raven says slowly. Damian nods thoughtfully.
“What did you hear?” He asks next and for a moment she’s silent as she contemplates.
“Someone was… training. Richard… and Kori.”
Damian smiles softly. Richard and Kori usually sparred in the mornings. They kept a tally of wins on the push pin board in the batcave. Damian had taken notice of the fresh tally mark on Kori’s side an hour earlier.
“Any particular smells?”
Raven looks up at him funnily and scrunches up her nose and Damian has to resist the sudden urge to kiss the tip of it.
“My tea had peppermint in it today.”
“Oh?” He says lifting a brow, “Perhaps Alfred thought that you had bad breath this morning.”
His light teasing seems to help too and she actually looks at him, a bit affronted. He smiles at her because any other expression is better than her constant blank one.
“My teeth were brushed clean before visiting Alfred, thank you.”
“Mm.” He says, shifting her hold on him so that he can take her hand, threading his fingers through hers, “And what did you feel this morning?”
She looks down at their hands and blinks. “I feel…” She takes a breath and looks at him again, “Damian I feel like I shouldn’t be here…” Her brows draw together, “I feel like I wrongfully took someone else’s place…”
He inhales deeply and he feels the sharp pain in his chest at her words, but he’s gotten her to talk about what she’s going through and that’s a good thing, regardless of how much it hurts him that he can’t help her.
“Raven no one else feels that way, at all. We just want to help you adjust as much as we can.” He stops them in the hallway and grabs her other hand, holding them both between them with intertwined fingers.
He kisses the top of her hairline underneath her hood and feels her tremble slightly. “We’re all worried about you.” He murmurs against her skin.
“I’m sorry.” She whispers and Damian pulls back because he wants her to look directly into his eyes.
“Hey, no more sorrys. You have nothing to apologize for- except for refusing to eat.” He adds at the end and gives her an intimate smile, hoping that he’ll earn one in return.
She says nothing, just looks at him and his heart sinks. He can see that she’s yearning to return to a state of apathy so that she doesn’t have to feel the guilt that he knows is misplaced. All he wants is for her to feel better and he just wishes that he can take her pain. But he can’t and he’s not used to this helplessness. It’s hard to just listen to Richard when he tells him to just give her time. All he wants to be able to do is just fix it.
He squeezes her hands and lets go of one to continue their walk, leading them to the dining room. The rest of the walk is in silence, mostly because he’s not sure of what else he can say to her. When they step, Richard and Tim are already in the dining room.
“Hey Raven, Dami. Will you be joining us for lunch?” Richard asks and Raven blinks, saying nothing. The room is beginning to grow tense with her silence so Damian speaks for the both of them.
“Good afternoon Grayson, we will be joining if that’s acceptable?” It’s an open question, to give Richard an opportunity to let him know if he’d rather them not. Richard smiles genuinely, and pats the open seat next to him.
“We’re happy to have you both, right Tim?” Grayson looks to the younger man who raises a brow, mirth in his eyes.
“I don’t know if I would say happy… it’s closer to begrudging acceptance.” Damian rolls his eyes and if he were anyone else he might have stuck his tongue out at his middle brother- but he’s not, so he doesn’t.
Instead he says nothing as he steers Raven to the seat beside Richard and walks to take his own across from them. He reaches for the pot in the middle that Alfred conveniently set down for them all and he grabs the ladle.
“Where’s Todd? I just saw him not too long ago.” He asks as he pours the soup into two different bowls. Richard shrugs and scoops a spoonful of broccoli and cheesy potatoes in his mouth.
“He said he has ‘errands’ to run.” Tim flicks his eyes up to Damian with a knowing glance and he nods in affirmative. Everyone around the manor knows that’s code for ‘doing things that Bruce would never approve of’. Why he still allows Jason around the manor is beyond him. Personally, he thinks Todd is a reckless idiot- but at least he doesn’t go on murder sprees anymore (to his knowledge).
He sets down a bowl in front of Raven and purposefully holds out the spoon in front of her so that she acknowledges that there is food in front of her and that she should eat it. He ignores the stare Richard and Tim both give him as Raven reaches out to take it hesitantly.
“I see that Kori is now four points ahead for the monthly tally. What is your strategy to combat that?” Damian says and Richard scowls as a smirk tugs at the corner of his mouth.
“This morning was not a fair sparring match. Feminine wiles should be illegal during a training session.”
Tim nearly spits out pieces of broccoli through his nose and Richard shoots him a glare, “Tell me you haven’t lost a match right now because of the exact same thing,” He gives Tim a self-satisfied smirk when he ducks his head as a faint blush creeps up his neck, “Yeah that’s what I thought.”
Damian returns his attention to Raven who has yet to take a bite and he raises a brow. He narrows his gaze when she lowers her spoon and places her hand in her chin to stare beyond them.
“You need to eat, you know.” Tim says casually and everyone looks at him, then Raven. She looks at him blankly and Damian is impressed when Tim is unperturbed. “You’re allowed to grieve in your own way, and it’s okay to feel lost. But you have to eat.”
Raven purses her lips and Damian knows that she’s trying to read his aura and look for any hint of a memory of who Tim is and why he’s talking to her like that. Richard watches the exchange silently and the tension in the room is suddenly so thick that it’s a little harder to breathe.
“What do you know about grief?” She finally asks, swallowing thickly. Damian watches Tim give her a small smile.
“More than you think I do. And I do know that you have people here who are worried about you- and if you don’t eat, then you hurt them just as much as you hurt yourself.” It was a gentle admonition, one that Damian hadn’t gotten the courage to say to her himself yet.
He watches her mull over his words seriously. And then, her eyes seemed to light up with awareness and she looked down at her bowl. He watches with baited breath as she picks up her spoon again and dips it into her bowl, then takes a small bite.
She doesn’t really remember the walk to the dining room, or even how she got into her seat beside Richard. All she knows is that she can’t even look at Richard because if she does, all she sees is that Paradoom stabbing his heart. So it’s better to not look at anything at all and by the time Damian has placed her bowl of soup in front of her she’s tuned out whatever they’re saying next.
She’s indifferent to the world around her and she knows that shouldn't be okay but it takes more energy than she wants to spend to do anything about it. The moment she realized that there was no fixing whatever happened to her she’s retreated from everyone and everything. She’s so tired of waking up every morning disappointed that she still remembers before.
As the men talk it’s easy to fall back into apathy like it’s a security blanket. She figures that feeling numb is better than feeling pain.
Then Tim confronts her about being allowed to grieve in her own way and a flash of irritation flows through her. How can he possibly have any idea of what she’s been through? He didn’t see what she had; didn’t experience pain so great that death is a better alternative to the hell she was living in. He doesn’t even really know her so how dare he tell her that it’s okay?
But when she asks him what he knows about grief she feels a stirring of great sorrow and pain in his aura and he gives her a sad smile that speaks of true despair and she looks at him from a different light.
“...and if you don’t eat, then you hurt them just as much as you hurt yourself.”
She blinks when his next words sweep through her gently but compellingly and she immediately thinks of Damian.
He’s been by her side nearly constantly the past week and a half and she’s pretty much ignored him after the second day. Yet he continues to consistently be there for her and he brings her tea and her meals every single day, even when she never touches it. She closes her eyes when she realizes that even though they all probably worried about her the only person that really matters to her enough to really care is Damian.
So she picks up the spoon, not for herself, but for the one constant in her life.
And maybe it’s too much today to try and do anything but take a few bites of broccoli cheddar soup.
But that’s okay. Tim said so, and Damian agreed.
At least it’s something-
And the small smile on his face is worth it.
A/N Warning: Allusions to suicide, ptsd, depression, etc.
When they ask her how she’s doing she’s never sure what to say.
Another week goes by, then two more, and she’s growing frustrated with her lack of progress.
Where apathy offered her the sweet comfort of nothingness, frustration is unwanted and it makes her feel resentful. How can she tell them that she hates that she’s in this situation despite the fact that everyone here is safe and happy and whole, and that she can’t even look Damian in the eyes without feeling shame or guilt?
Not to mention she still hasn’t told him about their kiss in her former life. Though at this point she’s not sure it’s necessary. It’s clear that Damian has no intention of leaving her side, regardless of the fact that she’s not really his Raven. There’s a conversation they’ve both been avoiding that needs to happen, but how can they even move forward when she can barely get herself dressed in the mornings?
She hasn’t even thought about trying to train again. She knows she needs to subject herself to what will probably take months of workouts to get back to where she was before. The sooner she can rebuild muscle mass the better. But she doesn’t even know the full extent of her power anymore, or if she can even use her power with the absence of her father. The fact alone that he isn’t a part of her anymore is… strange. Welcome, but strange nonetheless, and she doesn’t know how to talk to anyone about that either.
And they’ve all handled this world’s problems without her for three years already… there might not even be a place for her on the Titans anymore.
There might not even be a team of Titans anymore, if there ever was.
She can’t help but feel like she’s just drifting, and she’s just wondering when her grasp on this reality will loosen. She wonders if this is all just a mirage of a reality she’s created for herself in her own mind and that Darkseid will suddenly appear before her and fracture it into a million pieces. Would he finally send her into oblivion and kill her once and for all? Maybe death would be easier.
That last thought haunts her more than anything.
It’s in the middle of the night about two weeks later, when her nightmares escalate to a point where they sweep through their bond to his own unconsciousness.
He sees a younger version of himself, through her eyes, as he jumps to intercept a blast that Darkseid fully intended for Batman. It’s almost as if he’s watching a replay in slow motion- the slow raising of Darkseid’s arm. The way that his own muscles tense for the impact. The low whine and acrid smell of the charging blast. Batman with his back turned, completely unaware.
The blast itself doesn’t faze him. He’s visualized his own death before; prepared for it many times.
What ruses him from unconsciousness is her pure scream of terror, and his name on her lips. The despair that shoots down their bond has him jolting fully upright in his bed.
Before he’s even aware of what’s happening his feet are already untangling themselves from his sheets and running down the hall. His heart is beating rapidly in his chest and he moves, needing to get to her room. The only thing that can be heard in the manor is the padding of his feet across the floor and his harsh, erratic breathing- a reaction that is not his own.
He doesn't hesitate to open the door to her room when he gets there.
She’s thrashing about, entangling herself in her sheets. He rushes to the edge of her bed without thinking and shakes her shoulder.
“Raven.” He urges, “Raven, wake up.”
She’s whimpering and shaking and then her eyes open suddenly, shining bright. Her power flairs, casting her outline in an iridescent white. Damian grabs both of her shoulders and shakes her harder.
“Raven, it’s just a dream.”
She’s starting to seize and her power shines brighter. His alarm heightens and he does not tremble when both of his hands cup her face.
“Raven.” His voice rises higher and her mouth opens in a silent scream. He doesn’t want to have to smack her but he’ll resort to it if he has to, but he tries to wake her one more time.
With a gasp she wakes, shooting upright in a blind panic. For a moment she’s searching for his body so that she can heal him. She doesn’t notice her power responding to her panic by flexing wildly across her room and grasping the first object it reaches- a picture frame. It shatters on impact and the noise jarrs her into calling upon her full power and she glows pure white.
Then her world tilts and the grasp on her power is lost when she suddenly finds herself thrown back against her mattress. Her back of her head hits the pillows and her breath is forced from her lungs.
“Raven, calm down.” She looks up to see Damian hovering above her and pinning both of her arms above her head. His face is contorted with worry and his voice drops down to a more intimate tone, “You’re okay habibti. It was just a dream.”
There’s a pregnant pause and she’s just trying to catch her breath and her chest heaves, rising to brush against Damian’s. There’s something that nags in the back of her mind at his words, like there’s something that she should remember , and she reaches for it but she can’t quite grasp it.
She releases a half-sob and Damian’s face pinches further. He releases her to gather her in his arms. One hand goes to the back of her head leading it to the crook of his neck and the other wraps around her waist.
He begins to murmur to her in his native tongue. She doesn’t know what they mean but they’re somehow more comforting than anything he could have said to her in their common language. He holds her and her hands reach up to fist his t-shirt. She holds on so tight her hands nearly shake and her knuckles are pure white. But if she is holding on too tight he doesn’t say so. He does nothing but continue to murmur soft reassurances and rock them both back and forth.
She listens to the steady beat of his heart and strives to match it with her own. Eventually her breathing slows enough for him to pull back and peer into her eyes.
“Are you alright?” He asks softly and she nods silently. He sighs, then pulls back with the intention of helping her back underneath her covers. She shakily tucks her legs back underneath and panic lurches in her chest when she realizes that he’s turned to leave. She grabs his wrist and he looks back at her with concern in his gaze.
“Please, don’t go.” She licks her cracked lips before wincing at the pleading in her voice but she strengthens her hold and presses on,
There’s a moment of hesitation and his body tenses, but after a few seconds nods and Raven shifts to the other side of the bed. He decides to lay on top of the covers, but he does allow her to lay her head on his chest. His hand gravitates to the top of her head while the other rests on her arm and she closes her eyes to listen to the steady beating of his heart. Alive and tangible. Real.
She looks up at him briefly and he leans down to kiss the top of her head. Then his fingers begin to thread through her hair, playing languidly with the strands.
“You’re safe habibti. Sleep.”
She sighs softly at his words and closes her eyes, falling asleep to the rhythm of his fingers running through her hair.
“She needs to talk with someone about what she remembers father. You’re the only other person here that can even begin to understand what she’s been through.”
Bruce just stands there, his expression an emotionless mask. Any other time he would have been impressed by his father and his impeccable talent for his composure. As it is, he is growing more frustrated by each passing second.
“If she wanted to talk to me, then she would have come to me already Damian.” He says cooly at his desk. His eyes flick up to meet him from his desk, then lower back to the tablet in his hands.
Damian releases a sigh through his nose, “Just two weeks ago it was all I could do to try and get her to eat.” He pauses until he gains his father’s attention once more, “Please, for my sake if not hers.” His eyes lower to the floor, “I’m...worried.” He admits.
Bruce stares at Damian, face unreadable, for a minute. “Okay,” He relents and sets the tablet down, “I’ll speak with her.”
Damian releases a breath of relief, “Thank you. That’s all I ask.”
Raven stares out of the window unto the courtyard as she has for the past month. The leaves have long since turned color and are now beginning to crumple to terrace below with each gust of wind. She watches the servants below as they trim the bushes for the week. One is tasked with raking the fallen leaves into piles.
She notices his presence not from his footsteps but from his aura. Though he always keeps his emotions under tight lock and key, humans cannot contain their unconsciousness. They whisper to her, like all do, and she resists the temptation to read his intrusive thoughts.
“Hello Bruce,” She says without looking away from the courtyard, “I can’t say that I’m surprised to see you. Damian’s intentions weren’t exactly hard to miss when his aura was practically screaming at me.”
She ignores his pensive stare, just takes a sip of her herbal tea. She hums in appreciation. Alfred always makes the best tea.
He doesn’t ask her how she knows he planned to see her. She figures he was already aware she knew of their intentions. Batman knew everything, after all .
“These dreams, do they happen often?” He asks her, not one for pleasantries. She appreciates that he doesn’t make excuses for her trauma- just accepts it as it is.
“Often enough.” She finally sighs and sets her mug down, “I just want them to end.”
There’s another moment of stretched silence and she tries not to fidget at his attention.
“When I think of how easy it would be to just end it all, I think of my sons,” He begins and Raven finally looks up at him in surprise when he takes a seat across from her, “I think of Alfred and Gotham and the people who look up to Batman.” He looks away to the spot in the courtyard that she was staring at just moments before.
“Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing you can do to move passed what happened,” He leans forward on both arms and his eyes soften when he meets her eyes, “But then I remember that although I can’t take back what happened in the past, I can do everything in my power to make the future a better place.”
Raven swallows back the lump in her throat and wills the tears in the corners of her eyes not to fall as she takes another sip of herbal tea. Then she clears her throat and meets his stare again, “I keep seeing his death, over and over in my sleep. I see all of them. It was real . How can I move forward from that? How do I know that timeline is really gone?”
“We may never know if it’s truly gone,” Bruce says and she sucks in a breath, “but you’re here with us now, and you shouldn’t punish yourself for the decision you had to make in seconds.”
He reaches over and places a hand on her shoulder, “For what it’s worth I think you made the right decision. I’ve been through a couple of multi-dimensions. It gets easier… with time.” He gives her a half-smile, “It helps to focus on what you can do in the present, like perhaps talk with my son about how you’re really feeling.”
Raven gives him a tentative smile, nodding at the implication in his words, “I will eventually,” She says and her smile turns to a grimace, “But right now it still feels so… raw. Like each time I try to talk about it I’m picking and prodding at an old, festering wound.” She places her hand on her chest and Bruce nods and Raven sighs in relief because finally someone understands .
He stares out unto the courtyard once more and Raven joins him. Now Kori and Richard have made their way unto the terrace, stretching out sore limbs. Raven watches Bruce smile softly as he looks down at his son and she wonders if he ever looks at Damian that way too.
“Damian loves you, regardless of which timeline you are from.” Bruce looks back to her, face suddenly unreadable once more, “But he’s willing to let you go if you need to leave. He realizes how hard this is for you, they all do. There’s a monastery, in the Himalayas. Damian went there- years ago. It’s not a solution... but it might help if you’re so inclined.”
She chews the inside of her cheek in thought and takes a hold of her mug, twirling it in between her hands. The option was so tempting, to run away from everyone she knows and meditate until her memories are bearable again. But the monks wouldn’t be equipped to handle her trauma, and what if she lashed out at one of them in the middle of the night thinking that it was a Paradoom… or worse? And Damian wouldn’t be there to chase away her nightmares and settle her rapidly beating heart.
“Thank you, I’ll… keep that in mind.” She tells him and he nods once, then stands to leave.
But she doesn’t get a moment to herself, because Steph walks in right after Bruce crosses the hallway. There’s a pang of jealousy in her chest, at the way she smiles so carefree and steps into the room with purpose. Her aura is friendly and many have underestimated her, but she knows that Steph is just as dangerous as the other bat family members.
“Hey Rae, wanna go shopping with me and Cass? Jason and Dami are coming too. We all need to get swimsuits.” She says while plopping down into the chair across from her. Her blonde curls bounces around her shoulders and Raven raises a brow,
“In the middle of November?”
“Yeah,” She flashes her a smile, “We’re going on a vacation. Well, not Bruce- he never takes vacations.”
“Vacation?” Raven shifts in her seat as Stephanie’s grin grows wider,
“Can you believe it? Bruce is paying for all of it. Everyone’s going except for Barbs and Duke. Barbs is staying behind to help out and Duke still has school.” She makes a face of disgust before leaning forward as if to reveal a secret, “Bruce bought an entire beach house just so we can all hang out for a week. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to the beach.”
“Me neither.” Raven says, clutching her mug tighter. Truthfully, she’s never been to the beach. She never really had a reason to go. It wasn’t like vigilantes could afford to take time off to go on vacation- at least not in her timeline.
“I don’t think anyone has in years,” Steph puts a finger on her chin in thought, “I’m not even sure if Cass has ever seen the ocean.” That makes two of us, then.
“When is everyone leaving?” Raven asks lightly.
Steph gives her a curious look, “You mean ‘we’? You’re going with us right Raven?”
“I-” Her eyes flick up to where Damian has now entered the library, leaning against a bookshelf and crossing one leg. He’s dressed in civilian clothing today with denim jeans and his signature black turtleneck long-sleeve shirt. He flashes her a small smile, and it’s suddenly difficult not to give one of her own.
“I suppose I am.” The corners of her mouth tugs upwards when his smile grows and his eyes shine with approval. She flushes, almost positive that her cheeks flare pink, but if he notices he doesn’t comment.
“Steph, are you ready? Todd’s patience is wearing thin and I will not hear the end of it if we don’t leave soon.” He says, eyes lighting with mirth and Raven marvels, not for the first time, at his growth and his allowance for emotion other than anger and disdain.
“Yeah, yeah.” Steph rolls her eyes but grins nonetheless, “Let me go get Cass and we’ll meet you out front.” She looks back to give Raven a quick smile before standing to leave.
“Five minutes.” Damian calls after her.
“Ten!” She quips back, then disappears into the hallway.
Raven smiles fondly at the two of them, but that’s quickly replaced with a frown at the thought of going on vacation. She can think of a dozen things that could go wrong and a dozen more reasons as to why a vacation with most of Bruce’s kids is a very bad idea.
“Bruce thought that it would be a good idea… to let you get to know us all on a more… level playing field.” Damian walks closer to her, taking the seat that Steph had just left. He shifts forward on the balls of his feet and rests his elbows on his thighs.
“Raven, I know this has been hard for you. I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers, but I saw-”
“Don’t.” Raven presses her lips together and Damian’s eyes soften but he isn’t deterred.
“I saw my death through your eyes last night. I felt your pain and your fear. I want to help you, but you have to let me.”
Raven releases a shaky breath and looks down to pick at the stray yarn in her sweater.
“You can continue to push me away if you want, or you can take a chance and go on this vacation with me,” He takes her hands in his and urges her to look at him fully, “A change of scenery will be good for you- for both of us. But the choice is yours, it always is.”
She looks at him; face full of hope and love. And she doesn’t know how to interpret the tugging feeling in her chest, but she knows that Damian helps ground her to this earth. And she has to try, for him. So she squeezes his hands softly and gives him a small smile.
“Alright, I’ll go.”
He strays behind the group a few feet as his eyes sweep through the parking lot and entrance of the mall. By now it’s pretty much instinctual to look for potential threats and all emergency exits. When he deems the pathways clear he allows his mind to wander as the girls lead them through all the stores.
Damian knows that his father must be planning something in their absence, but he plays along for now. He’s never taken a vacation before, but he figures now is as good a time as any, especially if it will help her recover. Later he’ll confront Bruce and find out why he sent them away to a beach in Florida.
Besides, he could use some time to gather his own thoughts.
Steph pulls him from his musings with an undignified groan of relief.
“Thank god there’s at least one swimsuit store open in November.” She says rather dramatically, tugging Cass on one arm and Raven on the other, “This is probably our best bet for finding something before we fly out tomorrow.”
“Let’s hope they have something in your size Steph,” Jason quips, “Since it looks like I’m not the only one whose been sneaking extra bread rolls at dinner.”
“You can kiss my ass Todd.” Steph sticks out her tongue while Cass snorts on the other side of her. Of course Todd was joking considering Steph was the smallest of them here.
“Come on guys, let’s go find some bathing suits,” Steph pulls the girls on her arms forward before she looks back at Jason, giving him a knowing look, “Don’t wait up.”
Damian smirks at Jason’s scoff, then raises a brow when he turns to him with a mischievous grin, “So, little bird, how are you holding up?” He slings an arm over his shoulder and they start walking through the store towards the men’s section.
Damian sighs, “Do you really want to have this conversation Todd? I think it’s pretty clear how things are going.”
He doesn’t miss the look of concern Jason throws his way and he stops them both in the middle of the clothing aisle. “In all seriousness, Dami, you know you can talk to any of us right? If not me, then Dick. God knows he would love to have a heart to heart.”
“The audacity to encourage healthy conversations about one's feelings.” Damian deadpans and Jason gives him a toothy grin,
“Exactly, you get it. We’re all fucked up in one way or another.”
Damian says nothing for a moment and Jason lets the silence grow, content to pick through the selection of swimming trunks. Damian runs a hand through his hair, “I just wish there was something that I could do.” He finally sighs.
Jason’s eyes flick up to meet him and Damian knows that he allows him to see the sadness in them. “You and me both, but I think you’re doing the best you can.” He looks away and snorts bitterly, “At least she remembers you.”
“I almost wonder if it would be easier if she didn’t,” Damian admits, “the version of me that she remembers is different, and so is she. It’s… complicated.”
Jason barks out a laugh, “Yeah, no shit. It’s fucked up is what it is,” Jason stills and suddenly stares at Damian intensely, “Do you still love her?” He asks.
Damian doesn’t even blink.
“Yeah.” He says, which is true. He doesn’t hesitate. He would give anything, his own life included, just so that she could be happy.
Jason gives him a half-smile, “Then it’ll work out.”
“That’s a strangely optimistic thing to say Todd.” Damian says drily and gives him a small smirk.
Jason clucks his tongue, “I know, I know. I’m getting soft in my old age,” His brows draw together suddenly, “Maybe I’ve been hanging out with Dick too much, I’m going to have to go beat the shit out of some thug now to make up for it.”
Damian shakes his head but says nothing. He was the last person who was going to tell Todd his vigilante methods were inappropriate. As a former member of the League of Assassins, he’s done much worse.
“Hey Dami, what do you think of this one?” Jason holds up a pair of lime green swimming trunks with little slices of watermelon all over it.
“It’s a pair of swimming trunks. It’s suitable.”
“Well duh, but the question is does it match my eyes?” He asks with a grin, fluttering his lashes. Damian rolls his eyes and crosses his arms.
“You’re an idiot Todd.”
“Yeah, but you still love me.”
“Mm, that’s a gross overstatement.”
“Awh, love you too Dami.”
Damian shoves him with a hand and Jason laughs, and just like that his chest feels a little bit lighter, and he can breathe a little bit easier. Maybe it was worth talking to someone else about his feelings.
He still isn’t going to tell Jason that though.
The next day passes in a blur. She falls back, consumed by her own mind and detached from reality, as if she is walking in someone else's shoes and the voices around her sound so far away. For the better part of the day she spends fighting back memories that swim to the surface, all vying for attention. Sometimes they’re so intense it’s as if she’s back on Apokolips, and she steps on crunching bone instead of dying leaves. Visibly flinching, she has to repeat her mantra as pure white magic crackles at her fingertips.
Then there are also moments where she feels nothing at all.
She might experience dissociation, Zatanna and Constantine had told her. At the time she didn’t care to listen to what they had to say to her. They can call it whatever they want, they don't understand. They don’t remember what she does.
But somehow, the next time she blinks she’s standing in the middle of the first floor of the beach house, the energies of the auras around her sparkling with an excitement that even she cannot ignore. And in the distance she hears Kori handing out orders like she would in battle, effectively and succinctly. To her left, two pairs of thundering feet reveal Jason and Steph rushing by her to race up the stairs, each yelling at the other for first dibs on choosing their room.
A ghost of a smile plays on her lips, glad for the normalcy and she focuses on it, allowing the shadows of her past to slowly ebb. As her mind begins to clear and she takes in the house for the first time, her gaze catches the sliding doors towards the back that lead directly to the ocean.
With reverent steps she makes her way to the door, the handle shining a bright white with her power, and it swiftly slides open. The breeze hits her face first and she inhales deep, smelling brine in its gentle, warm air. It beckons her further out and she ventures, boots hitting soft sand, and for a moment she considers taking them off- but then the sound of waves crashing fills her ears and she looks towards the sound as her hair gently whips around her.
She had read about the ocean, seen pictures and watched people playing in it on t.v. She never thought it was worth making a trip out to the ocean, let alone the fact that they never had an opportunity. Living next to the Bay was always close enough for her.
But now, standing alone, and only about twenty feet away from the moving waves, she never prepared herself for how much it would stir her soul looking at it. It’s so vast and wide and boundless and she’s never felt so insignificant and small in this moment. Even her father would be swallowed completely in its depths.
It’s the first swell of emotion she’s really felt since she’s woken, and she finds herself wanting to hold onto the feeling for the sake of her sanity, and she walks the rest of the way to where the waves end just as the tip of her boots.
For a minute she just watches the waves roll in gentle, hypnotic motions, following some all the way to her feet, until the water pulls back reluctantly. Then, in a rare moment of impulse she moves to slip off her boots and socks and she dips her feet in the water, enthralled. It’s shockingly cold and her toes sink into the sand and she wiggles them, the movement making her laugh breathlessly at how something so simple can make her feel alive.
“This is the first time I’ve actually seen you enjoying something.”
Raven turns to find Damian behind her, a half-smile on his face, and she gives him one in return, hiding her surprise. Sometimes she forgets how stealthy he is; his ability to walk soundlessly is truly unnatural.
“I didn’t realize how much I would.” She admits honestly, catching the surprise in his own eyes. She can almost see the mechanical gears turn in his mind, connecting the dots quickly, as expected.
“You’ve never been to the ocean before.” It was more of a statement, though she still caught the silent question in his tone, asking for her to explain. So she does.
“No,” Another wave of water slides over her feet, now up to her ankles. “We never had the time.” There’s something in the way that he stares at her that strikes her odd. Then, her eyes light up with a sad epiphany.
“You went with her in this timeline?” Her voice is gentle but she doesn’t mistake her use of pronouns. She needs to keep them separate, for his sake as much as her own. His eyes lower to her feet and she feels a tinge of sadness in his aura.
“We had a mission off the coast of California once,” He sounds almost wistful and it makes her chest clench tight, “It was on the beach where we had our first kiss.”
An apology is already on her lips when she pauses, somehow knowing that it will already be inadequate. The only form of comfort she can really offer is the touch of her hand and she places hers on his shoulder tentatively, though she knows the hollowness in his aura will take time to heal, maybe just as much as her own. In turn, his hand drifts up over hers and she revels in the warmth of his touch. It’s a burning ember that kindles the fire in her soul, allowing her to keep moving forward.
His touch continues to heat her skin through her clothing, quickly climbing to an uncomfortable temperature, and the burn doesn’t make any sense. But Raven doesn’t have time to investigate further when it travels up her arm and the memory suddenly hits her, full force, and she’s completely swept away by it.
The sun is setting and they only have a few more minutes before they’re due back to the T-ship. It will only take an hour or two to fly back but it’s clear that Kori wants to make it back in time to see Dick before he leaves for his own mission. Still, the fact that she allowed her and Damian time to walk the beach for a few minutes (so that she could see the ocean one last time before they leave) speaks volumes. The kindness in her heart is genuine, and Raven loves her for it.
The clear water glistens under the reflective light of the sky above and it’s gorgeous, though Damian is strangely quiet beside her. He seems to be battling an internal conflict from the way he’s fidgeting with the ends of his cape with one hand, the movement so small that only she would catch it. Normally she’d tease him for it, but today is different. Their mission didn’t go as planned, and she nearly got impaled if it weren’t for Damian’s reflexes and master swordsmanship. Instead, she finds herself stopping their walk so that she can hopefully ease his mind.
“Damian, your mind is restless. I can sense it. What are you thinking?” She says, tugging his arm to pull him back. The muscles in his bicep tense, then relax in her hold and he relents, turning back around with a slight frown. She arches a brow and remains silent when he doesn’t immediately answer her knowing that he will in due time, when he’s able to string the words together.
“Today’s events have been on my mind.” His words are clipped, nearly defensive, and she wills him to continue with silent encouragement. With a sigh, he kicks the sand with one boot before looking back at her.
“Raven, when you nearly got killed I was terrified that I wouldn’t get to you in time. I-” He cuts off and swallows back a lump in his throat, “And afterwards all I could think of was that I would have never had the opportunity to tell you how I feel.”
Her heart beats fast in her chest and her breath gets caught in her throat when his emerald eyes capture hers, and she sees the anguish and despair swirling in them.
“Damian…?” She trails, mind sprinting to catch up with his words as he grasps her forearms to pull her closer to him.
“I love you, Raven.”
Too many emotions swell in her chest all at once and she doesn’t know how to name them all and her power flares around her at his admission, evidence of her shock. Damian doesn’t even blink at her magic, clearly prepared for her reaction, and his hand lifts to her face to cradle it softly. Inhaling sharply at the contact, she nearly shivers when his thumb brushes her lip, realizing for the first time that he’s not wearing gloves.
“I love you.” He repeats with a low murmur, drawing her face closer. She laughs breathlessly, leaning into his touch, reeling from the fact that her best friend, Damian Wayne, loves her.
“I love you too, Damian.” She says with a grin and throws her arms around his neck, closing the distance between them.
Their first kiss is a little sloppy, not at all perfect, but it’s his kiss and that’s all that matters. After his initial surprise at her boldness, he recovers quickly (there’s a reason he possesses the mantle of Robin after all), and his lips search hungrily for hers. Responding in kind, she tugs him closer, not at all bothered by his inexperience. What he lacks he makes up for in an eagerness that fuels her own, (and she has a feeling they’ll have plenty of time to practice perfecting the technique in the future).
Reluctantly, Damian pulls back so that she can breathe and then they’re both searching the other’s face, looking for any regret but finding none. Then, she’s grinning hard enough for her mouth to hurt and he mirrors her own, an intimate smile just for her, and she thinks that her heart will always skip a beat when he smiles at her like that.
But then his face warps into a frown and she blinks because the world around her shifts, rippling as if she’s staring at a reflection and someone had tossed a stone into calm waters, and Damian grasps her shoulders tight.
“Raven are you alright? Talk to me.”
She looks at him, confused. Then, he curses in Arabic. She blinks as her vision ripples once more, her panic rising. What’s happening to her?
“You’re okay Raven, just come back when you’re ready.”
Why does his voice sound so haunted?
The sand shifts from under her feet and all she can do is stare as it moves, swirling and darkening and it fills the sea, covering it in a black abyss. Her face lifts back to Damian, who stares at her, whispering sweet-nothings in his native tongue, and he raises a hand to tuck a hair behind her ear. “It will be okay habibti.”
But it’s not okay. The sand grows at an alarming rate, but it doesn’t hurt when it rises up to her ankles. Even so, she has no choice but to succumb when it swallows them both completely, Damian’s name on her lips. When the sand fills her mouth it tastes of ash.
Then, there’s nothing but darkness.
There’s a loud ringing in her ears and her head pounds in sync to her rapid heartbeat, and she knows that something is wrong but she can’t place what happened and why.
The first thing she does is stare at the sand, blinking back the small grains that stick to her lashes, her lavender hair splayed around her. Confusion clouds her mind as her awareness of her surroundings begins to grow, but she stops short of moving when she feels short stabs of pain shoot up her legs from overused muscles.
A tiny gasp of pain escapes her and there’s movement above her. A hand rests on her shoulder, stilling her, and it takes effort to shift her head enough to meet emerald orbs filled with worry.
She intends to open her mouth to speak but her tongue feels heavy in her mouth, as if filled with cotton.
“Don’t try to speak, I want you to lay on your side for a few more minutes before you try to sit up. You had a seizure.”
Raven blinks. Her mind is fractured, and comprehension is slow. Her headache isn’t helping. What takes probably only a few minutes feels like hours to fully understand what he’s saying. Seizure. Memories begin to flood back as she remembers what happened.
In the distance she hears a voice that she eventually recognizes as Jason’s but can’t catch the low whispers he’s saying to Damian, fast and flurried. Then, he pauses when he feels her gaze on him and he turns and bends at the waist to meet her eyes, giving her a rueful smile.
“Hey sunshine, heard your brain took you for a wild ride. Do you know where you are?” He asks.
Raven knits her brows together and thinks. Yes... Beach . Sand. Thankfully Jason recognizes the answer in her eyes. “That’s a good sign, looks like your cognition is coming back.”
Damian chews the inside of his mouth in thought, then walks back over to her and touches her shoulder again. It doesn’t burn this time.
“Do you want to try to sit up now?” He asks and she nods as much as she can with her head still in the sand. He grabs one hand and the other wraps around her back gently. Her muscles scream in protest at the movement and she grits her teeth, pushing through the pain. Her motions are sluggish and awkward and she admittedly leans on Damian for the most part, head spinning slightly. Vaguely, she feels Damian’s hands sweeping over her figure, wiping off grains of sand that sticks to her hair and clothes.
“I’m sorry.” The words are out of her mouth before she even realizes what she’s saying as a flash of embarrassment flashes through her. Both Jason and Damian look at her incredulously, the latter only pressing his lips together- no doubt precariously holding back an emotion he doesn’t want either of them to know. Usually she can pick up on it with her empathy, but the pounding in her head is enough to keep her from focusing on her power.
“Don’t worry about it, we’ve all had a seizure at one point, I think. Comes with the gig of being a Robin.” Jason flashes her a big smile, though Raven can see right through it despite the incapacitation of her power, but she says nothing. She’s now focusing on the memory she had witnessed.
No, not witnessed, lived through. It isn’t hers but she remembers it now as if she was the one who walked down that beach with Damian. Even now she can recall it, feel his ungloved fingers on her lips, the taste of his kiss, the devotion she felt when they both admitted their feelings for each other.
This is not good. Is she absorbing Damian’s memories? Perhaps her empathy is to blame for picking up on his strong reaction to that particular memory when his hand touched hers, but she remembers it through her eyes, not his. And even now it’s as if the memory has always been with her since that day and the familiarity of it is as vivid as the day her and Damian kissed on her previous earth, before the flashpoint.
What is going on?
“Are you alright Raven?” Damian peers into her eyes, hand never leaving her shoulder to keep her steady. She meets his stare, mouth poised to tell him what happened when she realizes that she needs to be certain of what she thinks is happening first before she says anything. What will he think if she admits that she remembers their kiss on the beach like it was yesterday? The last thing she wants is to give him false hope that she’s, well… she doesn’t even know how to describe what’s happening to her.
“Yeah,” She bites back a groan when he helps her stand, legs wobbling like jello. “I think that I need to visit Constantine again.” Her mouth tugs downward into a frown. “I think that my seizure is connected to the flashpoint somehow, maybe he can help.”
Damian looks like he wants to argue but holds his tongue. She knows he doesn’t think he or Zatanna will be able to do anything else for her. His hold on the reigns of his emotions has slackened, though from the change in his character in this timeline or if he purposely allows her to pick up on them she’s not sure what. Instead he reaches down for her boots.
“We should go back to the manor.” Damian says, causing Jason to let out a noise of protest. Raven speaks up before he opens his mouth to argue further,
“No, it’s not fair to ruin everyone’s vacation. I can wait a week.” She says, waving him off, though it’s hard to do when he’s taken on most of her weight.
“What if you have another seizure?”
“If I do then I’ll be better prepared, and I’ll just go into my healing trance.”
“You didn’t go into your healing trance this time.” He points out.
“Next time I will.” She hopes he doesn’t hear the slight tremor in her voice. The truth is, she shouldn’t have even had the first one. Her body should have unconsciously reacted on its own, reverting into a meditative state immediately. Given her own observations, her power should have weakened it, if not warded it off completely.
“Stubborn as hell, Rae. You two are a match made in heaven.”
Raven feels more than sees Damian shoot Jason a glare and it’s almost comical to see Jason clamp his mouth shut when an audible clack. She might have smiled if circumstances weren’t so grave. Instead, his comment just feels like a dagger twisting itself deep in her chest.
“Hey guys, what’s up?” Raven turns her head to see Kori and Steph walking over to them, the former with a bottle of water in hand and the latter barefoot and kicking up sand as she struts over. When she notices Raven leaning against Damian she stills, “Woah are you okay?”
“What happened?” Kori asked beside her, nearly a second after. Sighing, she sinks further into Damian’s side, and he tightens his arm around her waist.
“I’m okay and I had a seizure.” Raven replies.
“Oh, that stinks. I had one before, it was after I got hit with Scarecrow’s fear poison.” Steph shivers as Kori throws her a worried look. In contrast, Jason gives her a high-five. Raven watches the exchange with languid eyes.
“Do we need to go back?” Kori says, worry in her gaze.
“No, it’s okay. I feel better,” She glances down to see the towels in Steph’s hand for the both of them, “I think I’m going to go lay down but you both should enjoy the beach.”
There’s a tinge of guilt in their auras. “Are you sure?” Steph asks, shifting back towards the beach house.
“I’ll stay with her.” Damian interrupts, nodding at the others.
“...Okay,” Kori says, clenching the bottle in her hand tighter, “Let us know if either of you need anything.”
Worry gnaws at his abdomen at the sight of her barely able to stand. He’s already taken most of her weight and he doesn’t think she’ll be able to walk the rest of the distance to the house but she insists on trying.
The first few steps are painful to watch and he decides that’s enough. Then, as if he’s done it hundreds of times before, he wraps one arm around her waist and the other reaches down to the back of her knees and he scoops her up effortlessly. She doesn’t even argue, just sinks into his hold, which causes his worry to grow.
She’s so light in his arms. Too light.
“You’ve lost more weight, I thought you were eating more?” Damian asks her, lowering his voice even though the others are already far away.
“I am.” Her brows knit together in thought.
Her hair tickles the bottom of his chin when he shifts them both to slide open the door. A blast of cool air hits them, a stark contrast from the heat outside, and Raven sighs in relief. For a moment he thinks to lay her down on the couch, but thinks better of it. The bed upstairs will be more comfortable and she’ll need help walking up anyway. He may as well take her up now.
“Thank you Dami.” She says tiredly, and he nearly pauses at the sound of his nickname on her lips. His throat swells with emotion when he thinks of a time before, when it used to slip off her tongue naturally all the time.
“You’re welcome Raven.” He says, voice thick. Some of the stairs creak as he carries her up, filling the silence that settles over them.
The room isn’t as large as the one in the manor, but it has a nice ocean view with a balcony and two wicker chairs. It’s walls are painted a light sea green and there’s a nice oil painting of a sailboat in the sand, illuminated by a sunset. The comforter of the bed is creme-colored with decorative lace that makes the lower half look covered in small, dainty seashells.
He notices Raven turning her head to look out to the sea through the transparent balcony door, and then he remembers her smile before joining her earlier.
“I’m sorry that you didn’t get to spend much time in the ocean.” He says as he lays her down delicately, placing her so that she can lean against the headboard.
“There will be more opportunities, you should join them.” She tells him, sliding her eyes closed as she lays her head back to rest against the wall.
He doesn’t respond, instead choosing to observe her features more closely as he sits at the edge of her bed, at her feet. Sweat beads along her forehead and she’s slightly shaking- not enough for anyone else but him to tell. Her body should have already recovered by now. Should he have pushed further about her healing trance? She hasn’t trained or really tested her power since their first meeting with Zatanna and Constantine weeks ago. Maybe they should go back home.
“Damian?” Raven asks, pulling him from his thoughts. He lowers his gaze to see her staring at him, curiosity swirling in them.
“Yes?” He asks, raising a brow.
“What does habibti mean?”
He blinks in surprise, chest tightening at her question. She doesn’t know what she’s asking from the confusion in her voice. Did the Damian on her earth not call her that before? He grimaces,
“It’s, uh, a word in arabic. A title of endearment.” He sighs then looks at her fully, “It means my love. ”
There’s a beat of silence, then “ Oh.”
Raven twists a hand in the bed sheets. “He called me that once on my earth, but never explained what it meant and I’m usually not one to pry.” She blinks, “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable asking you that, I just thought that since you both said it…”
“He loved you.” Damian says and she gives him a small nod.
“I loved him. I told him the day that-” She swallows, hard. Then takes a breath as he places a hand on her shoulder, encouragingly. “We didn’t really get a chance to explore our love, together. Our first kiss was also our last.”
He sucks in a breath. Jesus Christ , no wonder she’s been struggling so much.
She breaks their gaze first, looking to the dolphin trinket on the nightstand. “I-I think that I love you too, but I don’t know if it’s from this timeline or if it’s from the bond or-”
“Raven,” He cuts her off, reaching across to grab her hands. “It’s okay. It’s complicated and you don’t have to try and explain. I understand.”
She blinks back the tears that form in her eyes and then shoots him a wry grin, “Yes, you do.” Releasing something akin to a snort, her next words sound more bitter than comical. “I don’t know what’s worse- losing someone after being in a relationship for a year or losing someone just as it was beginning.”
His heart feels heavy in his chest, “I don’t know.” He admits. All he can do is squeeze her hand.
Sighing softly, she leans back further, sinking into the pillows. He takes in the exhaustion in her movements, the bags under her eyes.
“You still aren’t sleeping well?” He asks and Raven shakes her head.
“The only time I really slept was…” His eyes widen a fraction.
“The night that I stayed with you?”
She nods shortly.
He had wanted to give her space, let her dissect her thoughts, but perhaps she doesn’t want that at all. At least not anymore. How long has she wanted him to be with her?
“Do you want me to stay with you now so that you can rest?” He asks and when she nods again he stands to help her slip under the covers. When she hesitates to pull the blankets back up he raises a brow and she chews her lower lip.
“Ah, do you, er, want to sleep. With me?”
His brow arches higher and a grin tugs at the corners of his mouth when she stammers, eyes widening. “N-not like that. I-I mean rest. Unconsciously. Together.”
God she’s so cute , and that’s not even a word he considers part of his vocabulary. For a moment he wants to tease her further, see just how far he can go, but he decides against it. The blush on her cheeks shows just how flustered she is already. So he sobers and he gives her a polite smile.
“Of course I will Raven.”
He slides under the covers beside her, laying on his back. “Come here.” He says, voice low, opening his arms. Complying, she scoots over to curl into his side. When she places her head on his chest and finally settles he closes his eyes and threads one hand through her long hair, breathing in her shampoo. It’s different this time, vanilla and lavender. It suits her.
An emotion spreads through him slowly, one that he can’t interpret. But it’s deep and it stirs him and he finds himself pulling her closer, relishing in the comfort it brings him just to be able to hold her. She hums in response and reaches one arm around his waist, and his breath catches in his throat. Then Raven glances up at him through sleepy eyes.
“Would I also call you habibti?” She asks. The sight of her, looking up at him through hooded eyes and wind swept hair sends a pang of nostalgia through his chest. “No.” He says, eyes softening, “You would say habibi.”
“Habibi.” She lets the word roll off her tongue, testing it for the first time. Then she smiles, “I like it.”
He releases a soft puff of air through his nose in amusement, then kisses the top of her hairline before resting his chin against her head.
“I’m glad.” He relaxes further back into the mattress, “Get some rest Raven.”
The light snore that he hears shortly after tells him she already is.
He dreams of her.
The swell of her hips, his lips pressed against the curve of her neck. Hair tickling his cheek. Tangled limbs against satin sheets. Soft, pale skin that goes on forever. So angelic from the reflection of the moon. The smell of her shampoo— Lavender. It was always lavender.
Low, gentle whispers that speak of a promise. His promise, to her; And her promise to him.
It’s a ghost of a memory, one that’s now bathed in melancholy.
She leaves him reluctantly, hauntingly, and when he floats into consciousness her name is on his lips.
Unbidden tears are at the corners of his eyes when he wakes. It had been years since he had last cried. Back before he realized that there are some things that can’t be changed, no matter how hard he trains to be stronger, to be better . They stick to his lashes, threatening to fall, but he blinks them back— or, he tries to.
It slides down the side of his face slowly before disappearing into the white cotton pillow he’s resting on, his chest rising with a shaky breath.
In the darkness, delicate fingers trace the path it left, and wipes it away before he realizes what happened.
Then the softness of her lips follow behind with gentle, sweeping gestures. Small, fleeting kisses are being placed on his cheek. Eyes fluttering, he opens them fully to peer into her own, and the next time he breathes in, deep, he feels like he’s teetering at the edge of a cliff with no end in sight.
Is he still dreaming?
Details pour into his peripherals slowly. The sheets are cotton, not silk. Waves are crashing dully beyond them, and the trinket on their bedside table is a dolphin, not the picture they had framed together.
The look on her face is one of sorrow, not pleasure.
She murmurs something in low, soothing tones. It’s a language that he can’t interpret but recognizes as Latin. He didn’t know she’s fluent in Latin.
How many attributes does he still not know of her? Will he ever know them all?
How can she be so familiar, yet also a stranger?
He doesn’t resist when her fingers trace the features of his face. His furrowed brow, the dip in his nose, down and across his upper lip.
Before, he would have captured her finger in his mouth and nibbled at the tip teasingly. Even now, he can feel his body aching to gather her in his arms, like he had done so many times in the past. Muscle memory , he thinks, even after three years.
But he can’t. It’s all so fucking wrong.
Her fingers draw up to his forehead, over the creases that had gathered above his brow.
At once, her power flows through him. Rolling waves lap at his mind, enveloping him in her calming, healing magic. The tension in his muscles ease just as she replaces her fingers with her lips at his forehead, and the emotions warring in his chest lull at her command.
“ Somnum .” It’s a breathy whisper, one that carries too many emotions for him to interpret.
His mind grows heavy, laden with a sudden drowsiness that takes over his senses. Her voice eases him back to sleep and he thinks he feels her lips ghost over his just before he falls back into unconsciousness.
His dream haunts her.
It twists and distorts until it becomes her own.
His sorrow wakes her and seeing him cry in his sleep while whispering her name nearly kills her. She forgot while she was wallowing in her own despair that he’s been suffering just as much as she has, if not more .
She watches his fingers twitch as if trying to keep hold of something. Her heart aches but she pushes the feeling aside to focus on healing his own.
While reaching out to wipe his tear, she has an overwhelming urge to kiss him. Before she realizes it, her lips are tracing his face, committing every slope and dip and curve to memory. The love that swells in her chest terrifies her. She pushes that feeling back too.
It takes more out of her than she realizes to ease him back to sleep, but she manages. Drowsiness hovers her own mind, but she doesn't allow herself to succumb to sleep until the rising of his chest slows to a more normal heart rate.
When she’s sure he’s fallen asleep she gives in to the temptation to kiss his lips, just once. It’s light and quick, and as soon as their lips touch she pulls back, suddenly afraid to allow herself to indulge further.
With that thought in mind, she turns over as silently as she can, drawing away from him. At least for now. The Damian on her earth always needed space when he felt overwhelmed with an emotion or a situation he wasn’t equipped to handle. Maybe he does too.
But she doesn’t want to think too much about that anymore. So she turns over and lays her head back down on the pillow, and tries to bury the vision of Damian and the lone tear streaming down his face.
Thankfully sleep takes her quickly, and she’s soon swathed in darkness.
The rustling of sheets and the smell of sea salt rouses him from unconsciousness. It takes him longer than he’d like to admit to recognize where he is, still rousing from the grogginess of a deep sleep. But when he hears the distant sound of waves crashing somewhere behind him he remembers that they had made it to the beach yesterday, and his eyes open to confirm that he’s in the same room he fell asleep in that afternoon.
Vision still hazy, he groans lightly when flashes of his dream come back to him. Wanting to rub at his eyes he starts to shift, then frowns when his arm doesn’t move.
His eyes widen when he realizes why.
It’s tucked around her waist, wrapped all the way around her so that his fingers are grazing against—
Warm, and very bare skin, underneath her t-shirt. Just at the underside of her breast, down to where he can feel every single one of her ribs. Her head is tucked just under his chin and each breath causes more strands of her plum-colored locks to brush against his face.
A breathy moan escapes the empath a moment later, and she arches against him, bringing every nerve within his body to life. No, no, no. He wills away the arousal that threatens to coil low in his stomach. Now is not the time to be thinking about how good her legs feel tangled in between his and that it would only take a flick of his wrist to cup—
He tries to withdraw his arm but as soon as he moves it she clutches it in both of hers, keeping it there snug around her. Then she releases a sigh of content, cuddling farther into his hold. Fuck. She’s so goddamned adorable and it makes all of this impossible; But she doesn’t know what she’s doing to him. Still dead to the world, she probably thinks he’s the Damian from another earth. Her Damian.
He tries not to think about how that thought makes him feel.
When she moans softly once more, she also whispers his name, and he can’t help the strangled noise he releases at the back of his throat.
Was she having one of those dreams? About him?
Then another, wild thought occurs to him just as he remembers his own dream of her last night. Would...would it be possible that he accidentally shared his dream through their bond? It seems so. Ever since she’s woken their bond has only strengthened, regardless of the fact that aside from the first couple of days since she woke she’s put as much space between them as possible. Sometimes he can even feel undertones of emotions that aren’t his.
And he had seen her dream that night she’d woken up screaming his name in terror.
Now the idea that she might be experiencing one of his private memories is...unsettling to say the least.
He wonders whether he should wake her, and when she whimpers in a sound that he definitely recognizes as pleasure he swiftly props up on his arm that she doesn’t have a vice grip on and he lowers his face to her ear.
“Raven.” He says gently, and nearly groans when she shivers against him. Gods what such exquisite torture. He’d love nothing more than to tuck her underneath him and wake her up to the feel of his kisses covering every inch of her body, but he doesn’t think he can anymore— doesn’t know if she’d want him to, if ever. And even if she did, now's not really the time. Everything is still so fucking complicated between them.
“Raven.” He says again, pulling his arm out of her grip gently. “Wake up.” She groans louder this time and turns around in his hold, allowing him to lift his arm from her grasp. Her eyes blink lazily a few times, before they settle on his— and then they widen in either surprise or fear he’s not sure.
“Damian? What—” Her voice is husky, eyes hooded, and cheeks flaring pink— probably from embarrassment of what she dreamt. Or maybe arousal. He doesn’t know, he’s not sure if he wants to know. What he does want to know, needs to know if it was his.
“Your dream, what was it about?” He asks her, watching as her body tenses when she sits up in bed, and her cheeks redden further.
“Nothing.” Her eyes find a point beyond him, no longer willing to look him in the face. Liar. Like Grayson, she’s always been a horrible liar.
“Was I in it?” He presses.
Her brows draw together and she pulls back. He can almost feel the invisible walls she’s beginning to throw around herself to shield herself from him.
“Raven.” He winces at the frustration in his voice but it gains her attention. “Tell me.” His tone leaves no room for argument. “Was it my dream?” He doesn’t have to explain. He can tell that she knows what he’s asking.
He watches her bite her lip, then meet his eyes. “Yes.”
Now it’s his turn for his brows to furrow.
“It started out as your dream, and then it...changed.” She offers as an explanation, only confusing him further. More questions are bubbling up his throat. What does she mean? Did something bad happen? Was it something related to their bond? This timeline? Her original timeline?
He doesn’t get a chance to ask when she’s already shutting him out again. Shutting down. His frustration grows and as a result he reaches out to grasp her arm, holding her in place because all he can think about is how he’ll do anything to prevent her from going back to a place of apathy where she completely ignores everything around her.
His hold on her arm isn’t strong or painful, but she flinches from his touch anyway. Hoping that he’s able to conceal the hurt that threatens to flash across his face, he refuses to let go. “Raven, talk to me. Please.” He hopes she hears the slight tremor he allows in his voice, and hopes that she knows she’s the only person he’s ever said please to.
For a moment she hesitates, looking as if she’ll refuse him. He almost expects her to shrug off his grip on her arm and turn away from him completely, and if she does then he’ll let her; But she doesn’t. As one, her entire body seems to melt back against the mattress, and she lets go of a sigh. “Okay.” She says, then faces him fully. “I-” She takes another steady breath. “I dreamed of you— and her.”
He watches her intently, nodding his head once as encouragement to continue.
“I believe it was your memory, right?” He nods again. “I must have been able to see it through our bond.” Grimacing, she runs a hand through her hair. A nervous habit she seems to have kept. “Anyway...it changed into my own dream. With you and me, and all the...feelings that came with your original one.” She ends lamely.
There’s a heartbeat of silence as his brain fills in the gaps of her words. Then, Oh. Oh. So it was one of those dreams.
Clearing his throat, his eyes flick away from hers. “Ah, I see. I’m sorry.”
He’s surprised when her face contorts and she pinches the bridge of her nose with her fingers, suddenly sitting up rigidly. “No, you don’t need to apologize. Ever. None of this is your fault, Dami.” His breath hitches when she says his nickname again. Naturally, like she had done it hundreds of times before. “I just need you to understand that these feelings I have are so...convoluted...I don’t know if they’re really mine or yours, or if it’s some backwash emotion from...her.” Then she’s out of the bed and pacing alongside it.
She ignores him, emotions flashes so quickly across her face and down their bond that he can’t even think straight.
“I feel like if I give into these feelings I’m somehow betraying him, but how does that make any sense when you’re standing here right in front of me? I mean, that reality more than likely doesn’t even exist anymore right? You should be proof that he’s, well, you.” She whirls back around to face him, one hand now fisting in her hair, and he can do nothing but watch as she says more words to him about this than she has in the entirety of the month. “But the memories I have are still so real that sometimes I feel like the line between dimensions is blurred, and that if I take one step forward I’ll be right back on Apokolips.”
“And what if—” Her face twists in agony and he feels it shoot all the way down their bond to his chest. “What if I can’t move on from this, and I hurt you because of it? What if you realize that I’m just a fraud and I’ll never be your Raven?”
She releases a choked sob when she looks at his face. “You’re the last person I want to hurt Damian.”
It’s too much. The anguish in her eyes is too much. “Hey, hey. ” He soothes, easily crossing the distance of the bed to envelop her in his arms. “I’m not going anywhere okay?” He grasps her chin to tilt it up to his face. “I’ve known you weren’t from my earth for years Raven. I’ve had time to grieve and come to terms with what happened. You’ve had one month. That’s hardly any time, and last I heard there’s no deadline for healing from what you went through.”
“And I’ll be okay too, even—” He swallows thickly. “Even if you need to...leave, I’ll support you.”
Tears well in her eyes and Damian thinks back to last night, when she had wiped his own. The sorrow reflected in her eyes just before she—
“Damian… I don’t want to string you along. I-I don’t know how long it will take for me to get over this. I don’t know if I ever will. This isn’t fair for you.”
He tucks her head into his chest, ignoring the truth in her words— not willing to face them. “I know the feelings you have are...complex, but that’s okay. Just… do whatever feels… right. I’m staying here, for you, not for the hope that you’ll one day become… her.” He kisses the crown of her head.
There’s a beat of silence, and maybe a sniffle before he hears her speak again. “Even though it’s probably my fault that she’s gone?” It’s barely a whisper, muffled into his shirt. Damian squeezes his arms around her tighter.
“You will not blame yourself for what happened. None of the events that occurred that day were your fault. If it was anyone’s fault then it was Kent’s.” He can’t help the slight edge to his voice at the thought of Superman, again. What can he say? Old grudges die hard. He still doesn’t know how many would have died at Darkseid’s hands if it weren’t for Raven.
Raven sighs deeply into his chest and something shifts, almost feeling as if he had just talked her off a window ledge, and maybe he has. He eyes the balcony window warily. He can put the pieces together of what happened on Apokolips, especially after witnessing his own death through her eyes. He’s not afraid of his own death, but he is terrified of hers.
And the truth is that he’s not entirely sure that she wouldn’t leap off that balcony window just for the sake of ending all of her torment. Two stories can do more damage than one would think, and in her state… he’s not confident she would be able to heal all of her injuries.
That thought sends a spike of panic up his spine, and he holds her closer to his chest.
Raven sighs again. “I’m not going to kill myself Damian.” Every muscle in his body tenses at the blataness of her words, but she seems unperturbed— as if she expected his thoughts.
“There was a time back before, when I was ready to end it all. Everything had gone to hell, you left to reorganize what was left of the League of Assassins, the chains of my father were growing weaker and weaker everyday.” Her lips press together, but they don’t tremble. “Everyone was… gone, and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. If I…” She trails before clearing her throat. “I thought it would be best. Without a portal then my father couldn’t take over the world, even if it was the apocalypse, and I wouldn’t have to feel anymore.”
She really had the weight of the world on her shoulders.
“Raven, I’m so sorry that happened to you.” There’s nothing else he can really say, and well, he’s never really been the best with words. This morning is a rare exception to the amount of conversation he usually has with others; But this...and her… it’s too important, too cumbersome to ignore.
She shrugs it off, even as he clearly sees her grimace. “You said no apologies right? There’s nothing that can be done now anyway… so let’s just try to have a nice day out on the beach together?” She pauses, eyes squinting in concentration, then gives him a half-smile. “Steph is up, and I think Jason is too.”
There’s more that he wants to say to her, to get out in the open, but she’s had enough. He allows the shift in conversation, deciding that he’ll find another time to talk more about what happened. In the meantime he’ll continue to keep a close eye on her the rest of their trip.
“Hm.” He says, hand coming up to rub light circles over her back, slightly frowning as his fingers ghost over the vertebrae of her spine. “Do you want to go downstairs for breakfast? I can make waffles, if you still like them.”
He admits it’s satisfying to see the awe that grows in her eyes when she pulls back to scrutinize him. “I didn’t know you could cook.”
He shrugs and gives her a half-grin. “Alfred had to leave the manor for a week one year and we all had to fend for ourselves. I found out I enjoyed it.” His grin grows at the curiosity in her face. “Come on, I’ll tell you more about it downstairs.”
“I’d like that.” He releases her when she shifts with the intention to search for clothing in her suitcase, and he’s already moving to walk out of the door to give her privacy. When he gets to the threshold, he hovers, glancing back to make sure that she’s really okay, at least for now, and she turns to meet his gaze.
He decides right then that the small smile she gives him is worth everything.
As soon as he closes the door she slides down the wall, head bumping against it lightly.
Even though she just woke up, their heavy conversation left her exhausted, but it had been necessary. Both of them were still walking precariously together, across a battlefield with hidden landmines that either of them could step on at any moment.
And her dream…
She shakes her head as if to force the snippets that form in the forefront of her mind back. It makes her feel things that she’s not ready to confront yet. Whispering softly, she repeats her mantra, over and over until her breaths are even and steady.
She needs to move on— to at least try. Damian deserves that from her.
Her fists clench determinedly by her sides. She won’t shut down again. Whatever it takes, to get better. For him, she’ll persevere.
The smell of breakfast distracts her from her thoughts, and for once it doesn’t make her feel nauseated. She can’t remember the last time she had waffles. The corners of her mouth flick upwards at a new memory that she’s now reminded of. It’s a fond one. It was back in Titan’s Tower, when Vic came to visit and he made enough to feed the entire city of Jump.
Would Damian make her waffles the way she liked them back on her earth?
She’s curious to find out, and the motivation to get dressed only increases when she smells bacon.
Beginning to rummage through her suitcase, she stops short when she realizes that she didn’t remember packing any of her clothes. Kori had packed them all.
And when she starts to pull them out she renounces her earlier sentiment that this Kori had better taste in clothes. Oh, no. Her suitcase is filled with so much color. Pinks, yellows, purples, baby blues. All kinds of prints and stripes and gods don’t get her started on the bathing suits her eyes gloss over.
Didn’t Kori know by now that she prefers grayscale?
She grimaces when she pulls out probably the skimpiest pair of shorts she’s ever seen. Forget the fact that it’s ninety-five degrees outside, she will not be caught wearing something that.
Is there nothing else in here that she can wear?
When her eyes scan the room again her eyes catch the other suitcase on the other side of the bed. It must be Damian’s. She immediately brightens, striding across the room without a second thought.
Comfortability means more than many people realize to her, and she has a feeling that Damian wouldn’t mind if she snagged a pair of jogger shorts and a plain, gray t-shirt.
The decision made up in her mind, she pulls out the first pair she finds and throws on his clothes with deliberate movements, catching a view of her front in the body length mirror when she finishes. His shirt swallows her whole and the hem ends at her mid-thigh, and she has to roll up his shorts and tighten the drawstrings, but it works.
With strengthened resolve, she makes quick work of walking down the stairs, careful to not trip over the shoes thrown haphazardly at the bottom. Following the trailing smell of breakfast, it leads her to take a left towards the back of the house where the sliding door opens directly to the ocean. The kitchenette is to the right, with a bar large enough to sit four stools. Two of them are already occupied, and like she suspected earlier, Steph and Jason are already awake.
Damian notices her first, and turns with a smile playing at his lips before he halts, eyes widening at the sight of her. The spatula that’s scrambling eggs goes slack in his hand a moment, and she quirks a brow at him.
Jason notices the movement, and looks backwards at her. He stops what he’s doing too as a sly grin grows on his face. “Well good morning Sunshine, looks like you slept really well last night.”
She blinks when Steph throws her a knowing grin. Oh, they thought— and she’s wearing his— Oh, Azar.
Damian recovers before she does and gives Jason a very heated glare. “Tch, not another word Todd.” Despite the fact that he’s nearly snarling, Jason isn’t moved in the slightest. In fact, his grin only grows.
“Are you feeling better?” Steph asks brightly while simultaneously shoving Jason in warning.
Raven nods without a word, cheeks still heating from Jason’s insinuation, and then takes in the rest of the kitchen, opening her mouth before Jason can tease her further. “Where’s Kori and Cass? Or Tim, or Richard?”
Everyone looks at her quizzically, then Jason speaks up once more. “You must’ve been really out of it yesterday huh? Timbo, Cass, and Dickface didn’t come. They stayed behind to help Bats with a case that came up.” Jason shoots Damian an imperceptible glance.
In front of her, Damian’s brow creases further into something that looks like anger and his grip on the spatula tightens. Apparently there was an earlier conversation within the bat-family that she missed.
“Oh… and Kori?” She asks.
“She’s already out on the beach. You know her, never one to waste an opportunity to enjoy the ocean. Come on, sit down. Dami’s almost done with breakfast.” Steph pats the open stool beside her. “You still like waffles right?”
Raven nods slowly.
So he did make them how she likes them, even laid out the appropriate condiments. Cream cheese, strawberries, and a light drizzle of maple syrup overtop it all. Damian adds a few pieces of bacon to one side of her plate, and it entices her to take the seat Steph offers without hesitation.
“This looks really good.”
The corners of his mouth quirk, and Raven can see the warmth in his eyes when he hands her a glass of milk. That warmth is so genuine, so rare, and he gives it to her without question. He’s given her so much. It’s time for her to start giving back.
“Thank you, Damian.” She takes his hand before he can turn back to the stove and squeezes it lightly. He squeezes back.
“You know they taste even better than they look Rae.” Jason says, taking his own plate and filling it with scrambled eggs, giving the fork next to her plate a pointed look.
She takes the hint with a roll of her eyes.
“Yeah, eat up before Jason steals your waffles. I’ve seen him do it before.” Steph says, laughing when it’s Jason’s turn to shove her. And albeit the small scuffle that ensues a few seconds later, Raven takes it in stride, keeping her eyes on Damian as he does his best to mediate.
Absentmindedly she grabs her fork, parting a fluffy piece of her waffle before smothering it in the small puddle of maple syrup and bringing it up to her mouth.
Wow, these waffles do taste even better than they look. Damian is an amazing cook.
She tells him that too, and she decides right then that the small smile he gives her in return is worth everything.