Chapter 1: Prologue
It wasn't like she had planned this. Planned to be sleeping next to Starfire, planned to wrap her arms around the green-eyed goddess, planned to… well… to do anything done this night.
And yet, it happened.
Raven swallowed the bubble of fear rising up her throat. Her powers lashed out, throwing open the curtains, warmth streamed across her bed, drawing her attention outside. A bird flew across the skyline. She glanced back, expecting to see her lover's face, but only an empty pillow lay next to her. Her arms had wrapped around a bundle of sheets.
The window pane cracked, spidery lines webbing across the glass.
I hadn't happened.
The cracks deepened, pinging shards of glass to the floor. Raven pushed her head into her hands, willing the feelings to go away, trying to calm her emotions and quell the power deep inside her.
The web stopped expanding.
She dreamed it all. Like always.
Chapter 2: Awakening
Raven pulled on her cobalt blue cloak and sighed, running her fingers through her chopped hair. She eyed the broken glass and went over to it. The cracks splintered the view of the sunrise, rosy tips splashing awkwardly into her room. Even the morning seemed disjointed. She trailed her finger across the pane, skin catching at each mar before continuing on.
It didn't start off like this. Raven sighed, heaving the breath out of her lungs. At first their friendship had been simple. Why couldn't they go back to that? Outside, the grass glittered with dew. The sparkling sight cleaved deep into Raven's mind, sharpening a memory into focus at the same time it tugged her down.
Gorgeous. The floor-length dress was gorgeous. A hot pink creation that hugged all the right curves and slunk in all the right places. Darted with diamonds, probably fake, the fabric itself seemed to glitter in even the dullest of lights. Even under the store's fluorescent bulbs, the dress gleamed.
But Raven would never admit to that. Never verbalize her immense liking for it. Too pretty, too… girly. Her own black jeans and blue t-shirt seemed boyish in comparison. She zipped her black leather jacket closed and folded her arms across her chest.
Starfire flicked a lock of her long red hair over her shoulder, giving Raven a quizzical wrinkled look. "What do you think of this earthly fabric? Would it suit the ball?" Raven held up her hand, extending one finger. "Don't call it a ball, it's a dance." She extended the next. "The dress looks fine."
Starfire's face fell. "Just fine? I would like to look the best I possibly can when I attend this… dance… with Robin."
It took all Raven had not to roll her eyes. The woman consistently wore less clothes than this – and skin-tight no less – as fightwear. When did she become so self conscious? She eyed the dress once more just for show. "You look very pretty, Star, now can we leave soon?"
Starfire beamed, then spun. The clingy dress gave, but only enough for her boots to show. "Yes, we may leave soon."
Starfire trotted off to the back of the room, slipping behind a curtain parting the dressing area in two, and this time Raven really did roll her eyes. She liked spending time with Starfire – maybe a little too much, if she was honest with herself – but this shop made Raven uncomfortable. The frilly dresses displayed on mannequins, the purple carpet and matching walls, the faint scent of roses hanging in the air. Even the floral seat cushions and etched mirrors disturbed her. Raven stood, stretching her arms to the ceiling. Soon? She'd rather leave immediately.
Her gaze wandered from the heavy crimson curtains to the crimson trim lining the dressing room, cutting the purple floor and ceiling in half, and ended up on the small glass cabinet. Pairs of heels lined the shelves, each a varying hue of cherry. Was there no other color? One shoe towered above the others; its heel had to be five-inches at least. Raven shuddered, imagining the pain. Why would any girl wedge herself into that? The answer, too, seemed painfully obvious. To impress their suitor, of course. Starfire would need a pair of heels to go with her dress. Might as well get it over with now. Raven plucked a few from the shelves – two-inch silvers, three-inch blacks, and one-inch pinks – and turned to face the curtain.
Starfire threw back the parting, sporting her usual non-Titan clothing of tight jeans and a purple shirt. The pink dress hung over her arm. She smiled. A small strange wave of emotion rippled through Raven, catching her breath.
Starfire glanced at the heels. "Are my own boots not sufficient enough?"
Raven cleared her throat. "Your boots are okay, but they'll be a bit clunky if you actually want to dance with him. These heels are better for it." Confusion seemed to wrinkle Starfire's features, but Raven moved on. "Which one do you like best?"
Starfire floated closer, draping the dress over her other arm while she lifted the pink pair. "I like these."
Raven could almost smile. Of course she'd pick the matching set. For an alien, Starfire sure knew how to be a teenage Earth girl. "Those look good, Star, they'd go with your dress perfectly. Can we leave now?"
"Yes, we can go." Starfire led the way out of the dressing room and into the main shop, darting this way and that before ending up at the counter. Raven drew up next to her. Starfire's eyes had lit up, all but shimmering in the fluorescent lights. Gorgeous. That strange wave welled up in Raven once more. Was it excitement? Or something more? She pushed it away.
Starfire handed over the dress, the heels and a pair of elbow length white gloves she had snatched on the way over to the counter. "I hope Robin likes these."
Raven's powers flared at the third drop of his name, but she quenched it immediately. That emotion…was she actually jealous of Robin? She shook her head, knocking the thought from her mind. Ridiculous.
"They look fine, Starfire," Raven muttered and turned away.
Raven snapped out of the memory, blinking as the sun drifted higher, flashing against the glass. She palmed the pane, shards poking her skin but not drawing blood. She grimaced anyway. Perhaps their friendship hadn't been all that simple. Her powers darted outward, plummeting toward the grass and slamming into a snake. The creature stopped, twisted once, then died. She had been just too afraid to admit it.
Raven waved her hand. A violet-edged sphere formed over her bed and moved her comforter into position. Maybe using her power uselessly would drain some of it? But no, the power still jarred within her, aching to be free. She placed a hand over her heart. Why did she have to feel this way? Why did she have to like Starfire? It didn't make any sense, it wasn't… natural, and yet, when she thought of the green-eyed goddess, the power inside her calmed for a moment. Of all the men in the world she could be attracted to and her thoughts dwelled on a woman. And not just any woman, Starfire! She scowled.
"Perhaps some tea would help," she whispered.
Meandering downstairs to the kitchen, Raven filled a pot with water. Instead of turning the burners on she grasped the solid metal structure with both hands. The water boiled, a sharp whistle piercing the air. Raven flicked open the top, ceasing the sound. At least this newfound extra energy had one good use. She opened the cabinet, rifling through the medley of tea she had collected over the years, and selected an herbal white. Lifting a glass cup from its holder beside the sink she placed it on the granite counter. The cup shattered, spilling pieces onto the counter. Shards tinkled to the floor.
Raven's eyes widened. What the hell? She scooped a shard off the floor then jerked her hand back, letting it fall once more. The glass felt freakishly hot. Raven glared at her hands. Her palm shimmered as her powers ebbed outward. Of course, there were downfalls to the energy as well.
Raven selected a ceramic cup from the holder and repeated her movements. This time, the cup didn't break. Breathing a sigh of relief, she dropped the tea bag in and poured the boiling water on top. Steam drifted from the corners, carrying a soft hint of rosemary. Raven grabbed a cup cozy from the cabinet and wandered into the living area. She plopped onto the couch and sipped the hot tea, wrapping herself up in her cloak.
The muscles in her neck unknotted, her shoulders relaxed. Mornings. This was the time she loved most. The quiet of the Titan Tower, the quiet of the city, no one else moved. The snake certainly didn't. Raven's fingers slipped, the cup nearly fell from her hands. She shoved it onto the counter. Her powers had never been that ruthless before. That out of control. Her frown deepened, worry creasing her forehead. How could she be so out of sync with herself? It was unnatural, just like her attraction to Starfire.
A rustle whispered behind her. Raven smirked. "Beastboy, you're not trying to sneak up on me, are you?"
Huffing a disappointed sigh, Beastboy leapt over the couch and landed next to her in a heap. His black sparring outfit clashed horribly with his green skin. "How can you be always so alert?"
"I have to be." She twirled the tea bag, watching the white foam curl at the edges.
He poked her shoulder and gave her a toothy grin. "One day I'll be able to sneak up on you."
"I eagerly await that day's coming." Raven sipped her tea, the liquid burning her tongue and throat.
Beastboy opened his mouth to retort, but a warning beeped on his wristwatch, ending their conversation. His piercing gaze darted downward as he flicked open the Teen Titan communication band. Raven did the same.
Robin's face appeared on the screen. "Mammoth escaped from the prison, but Cyborg and I are caught up keeping the remaining prisoners contained. Can you three handle it?"
Beastboy nodded, rising from his seat. "No problem."
The communications band detailed the coordinates of Mammoth then went black. Raven set down her tea and rose as well, intending on calling for Starfire to join them. When she turned, though, Starfire had all ready floated into the common room and balled her hands into fists, beautiful even now. The familiar wave of emotion kicked Raven's gut. She averted her gaze.
"Are we ready to leave and fight the enemy? I am prepared, are you?" Starfire's voice rose an octave, like it always did when she was ready to fight, but, when Beastboy didn't answer, Raven faced Starfire. Brilliant green eyes stared back.
Realizing the question had been directed at her, Raven cleared her throat. "Yes, I'm ready."
Starfire floated away, heading to the stairs that led to the ground floor. Beastboy charged after her. Raven took a single moment to compose herself, then followed her team outside. Flying in practiced precision, Raven in the lead, Starfire shockingly close beside her and Beastboy taking up the rear. Every time Raven turned, her arm would brush against Starfire's. Heat radiated upward from even that slight a contact. Raven tried to keep her distance but with the narrow streets and necessity to fly low, the contact seemed inevitable. She kept her gaze trained to the pavement.
It was a childish error.
A bright yellow hunk of metal careened towards her, swamping her field of vision. She swerved, and only just missed being hit, tumbling in the airwave of the attack. The car door flew behind her. It landed with a crunch on the pavement, folding over on itself, but Raven gave it no more thought, turning back to the one who threw it.
Mammoth. He hunched down, leaning over the yellow van to rip off another one of its doors. The car shuttered. His bulk had cratered the roof. Raven drew the powers inside herself up, condensing it into a ball in her right hand. She hurled the sphere at him.
Mammoth held the door up like a shield, but the blow knocked him off the car. Starfire zoomed down and kicked the shield away. Mammoth stood, catching Starfire by the leg and pulling her down. She crashed into the pavement.
Anger sparked through Raven. Windows beside her shattered. She hurled herself at Mammoth, punching his jaw. He stumbled. Raven prepared another attack, ready to rip the idiot limb from limb when Beastboy charged, a great green hulking elephant, right into the enemy. Mammoth grabbed onto Beastboy's tusks, but couldn't help sliding backwards. Occupied and exposed, perfect. Raven fueled her anger. Filling herself with her power, the energy ripping through her, Raven let it all out. She blasted him with one steady energy burst. His grip ripped free, and he flew away from Beastboy. She arched her next blow and slammed Mammoth into the ground. He stayed there.
Beastboy changed back into his human form, pumping his fist. "Wow, Raven, you pummeled the crap out of him. I thought that was supposed to be my job." He transformed into an elephant once more and trumpeted, then transformed back, a huge grin splitting his face. Starfire flew down and slapped his raised palm, smiling.
But Raven wasn't done yet.
She still raged, power coursing through her. She couldn't control it. Her powers lashed out, slicing the yellow van in two before moving onto the light posts until they, too, fell over. A fog of rage wrapped around her. At herself. At her cowardice. At her own mixed up feelings. She darted upward, desperately trying to get away from her friends before something terrible happened. She only got a few feet into the air when Starfire flitted in front of her, ceasing her ascent.
Worry creased the sides of Starfire's eyes. "Raven, what is wrong?"
You, Raven wanted to say. You're wrong. You're not the person I'm supposed to fall in love with. You're not the person I'm supposed to want. Instead she glanced beneath her, saw only pavement, and unleashed her anger in one powerful stroke. The blast dimpled the pavement, cracking it in half, then ricocheted off into an office building nearby.
Raven heaved with the effort. Everything she had went into the blast. She drifted downward onto the ruined pavement. It wasn't enough. Power still jerked inside her. What would she have to do in order to stop it? Starfire landed next to her. She placed a soft hand on Raven's shoulder, but Raven couldn't look up. Finally, after a few breathes, she met those bright green eyes. Raven's breath caught. The all too familiar wave boiled inside her, crashing through her, it would carry her away if she let it. They were so close. Close enough that if she leaned in, she could kiss Starfire. Raven almost did when a cry from Beastboy shook her back into her senses.
He knelt beside a figure prone on the floor just inside the office building. Dust fell around them, still descending from Raven's attack. He waved them over. "Guys, come quick, Raven–"
They flew over. A woman lay next to Beastboy. A cut lip bled onto her chin, darkening her pale skin. The sleeve of her blue blazer tore free of its stitches, displaying a reddening bruise on her shoulder. Dust coated her matching pencil skirt and one black heel had been knocked off to the side.
Starfire knelt beside them and rested her hand on the woman's forehead. "What is wrong with her? Her wounds are not terrible, why is she in distress?"
Beastboy's gaze met Raven's, his dark eyes widening then darting back down. "Raven's power hit her in the head."
Raven backed away. Her powers did this? Hurt an unarmed woman? Her heart pounded in her chest, her vision blackened around the edges. She did this. Raven shook her head. Her legs tensed, wanting to run away from this horrible accident. But she couldn't. No, she had to fix it.
She strode back to them and knelt, placing both hands on the stranger's cheeks. Slipping into a trance, she gently eased her darkness out of the woman, lifting the veil shutting her out of the world, and brought her back into reality. The woman's hazel eyes fluttered open. After a quick intake of breath, the woman feinted.
"Call an ambulance," Raven muttered, tilting her gaze to Starfire, who followed her command. "She'll be fine."
Beastboy gave her a lopsided grin, but fear still quivered in his eyes. "Of course she will."
Chapter 3: Discussion Number One
Robin sat across from Raven sipping a cup of black coffee. The potent smell wafted over to her, wrinkling her nose. She downed the last of her herbal white left over from the morning. Robin had called her in for a talk as soon as he heard. His frown deepened. It was not going to be a pleasant discussion.
Finally, after three agonizing minutes of silence, Robin set his cup down. "What happened?"
Raven breathed once in, once out, calming her nerves. "We battled and won."
"I know what happened with Mammoth. What happened with you?"
She averted her gaze. "I…" There were no words to describe it.
Silence lingered. She didn't look up, rather focusing on the scratches in the wood. Her powers rumbled, but she couldn't let them free. Not yet. Not here.
Robin shifted in his chair and filled the quiet. "Beastboy says you went nuts, flying off then pounded the pavement with an energy burst. He said you smacked a woman –a civilian no less – in the face."
Raven locked her jaw. The statements weren't accusatory, yet it felt as if she'd been slapped in the face. She couldn't have done those things. She wouldn't have. Not willingly. She swallowed the bile rising in her throat. There had to be some redeeming quality. Her frantic thoughts honed in on one. "I came back and made sure she was okay."
"True." Robin sipped some of his coffee. "But why did you have to do that in the first place? Is there something you want to tell me, Raven?"
The question seemed harmless enough, but a sudden tightness in Raven's chest caused her to remain silent. Should she tell him about Starfire? She threw that suggestion out. No, he had no right to know.
Finally she answered his question. "No, everything's fine, Robin."
"Raven," he cocked his eyebrow. The disbelief played out in his voice just as much as it wrinkled his features. "You seem off, distracted. You haven't been on your game for the past few months. Are you sure nothing's wrong?"
"I'm fine," she snapped out the words. Her powers snapped out as well, shattering the mug between her palms. The heavy ceramic pieces fell to the table, their blue flower designs splintered.
Robin eyed the broken mug. "Starfire even said you were acting off."
Raven tightened her hands into fists. An insane pang of jealousy rocked through her. "Have you two been talking about me behind my back?"
"We're just concerned for you, that's-"
Raven cut him off. "Don't."
The mere thought of them meeting, talking, even just hanging out together pained her. What kind of teenage emotion was that? Of course they'd hang out. Of course they'd speak to one another. They'd have to. What was she doing?
She fumed, heat rising from the back of her neck. "Don't talk about me. I'm fine."
But she couldn't help it. It reminded her too much of the dance. Of the night Robin and Starfire shared together. And, how, just the day before, Raven taught Starfire the steps.
Raven thumbed her iPod on. The sloping timbres of classical music filled the quiet room. Nerves raced through her body, wringing her hands and straightening her cloak. What kind of stupid idea was this? Teaching Starfire to dance. Like the alien needed any more help. She already floated with the grace of a falling leaf, twisting and turning in battle, eyes glowing a steady green. What did she need lessons for? Raven clenched her hands into fists. Idiotic stupid stupid stupid idea.
Starfire walked in.
Raven's hands unclenched. Her jaw slackened slightly before she clamped down again, biting her tongue in the process. No need looking like a lost little puppy dog around her. That wouldn't make a good impression. Raven blinked. A good impression? Since when did she need to make a good impression on her friend? She straightened.
Starfire sidled up to her, resting her hand on Raven's arm. "Are you ready to prepare the steps for the dancing tomorrow, Raven?"
"Yes." The skin beneath Starfire's arm pulsed. Raven swiveled around, breaking their contact, and clicked the classical music off. It seemed too much at that moment.
Starfire's grin slipped. "Why did you turn off the musical accompaniment, friend?"
"First you need to learn the beat in your head before putting it to music."
Nodding, Starfire brightened. "Yes, that does make sense. Thank you for taking the time to teach me the steps."
Raven turned away once more. Why did she agree to this in the first place? When Starfire came up to her after their shopping spree, tears in her eyes, Raven could hardly say no. Well, that wasn't entirely true. Raven could've said no, but the strange emotion wave crashed over her before she could get the word out, changing the no into a yes.
She cleared her throat and positioned herself next to Starfire. "No problem. Let's get started, okay?"
The training hall seemed much more expansive today. And yet, it wasn't suited for dancing. Heaps of weights, piles of floor mats, and heavy machinery littered the space. Raven growned. She probably should've cleaned up a little before Starfire came in.
Starfire, too, noticed, looking around. "How will we do the steps if there is so little room to do them?" She nudged Raven in the side, pointing to the window. Light streamed inside, dappling the floor. "Perhaps outside would be a better place?"
Raven tensed. "No." The word came out much harder than intended. She softened her expression. "It's not a bad idea, or anything, I just figured inside would pose less of a problem, interruption-wise." Really it was because she wanted this to be secret. She waved at the window, a flash of green snaked past. The boys were out training in the yard this particular day.
Starfire nodded again. "Yes, I could see how the boys could… pose a problem."
"Good," Raven said. "At this event you'll probably be doing some faster dances, the ones with modern music, where you just jerk around and sway to the music. Like club dancing."
Confusion wrinkled Starfire's face.
Raven closed her eyes. Ugh, would she actually have to demonstrate club dancing, too? When she opened her eyes once more, Starfire tilted her head to the side. Apparently.
"Like this." Raven moved, back and forth, hands following feet, in a simple motion. It probably looked ridiculous. But club dancing wasn't her strongest suit. She usually never even went to them to begin with.
Starfire grinned. She twirled around, pulsing her hands in the air and swaying her hips much more gracefully than Raven had. The all-too familiar wave washed over Raven again. Beautiful, the alien was simply beautiful. Wait. What? Raven shook her head, but the thoughts tumbling around persisted. How could she see Starfire as beautiful? Attractive, even? Starfire, still twirling, burst into laughter, tearing Raven from her thoughts.
"Like this, Raven? Does this count as the dancing and the steps?"
Raven gestured for her to stop. "Yes, just like that, Star."
Ceasing her twirls, Starfire beamed. "The dancing is easy, then."
"To some people, maybe." Raven shrugged her shoulders. "But you might be doing what we call slow dancing, too."
Starfire eyed the iPod. "Is that what the beat and the music was for?"
"Yes," Raven said.
"Teach me that, please, friend Raven."
"Okay. First, there are different kinds of slow dances, but the dance I'm going to teach you is called the waltz. Robin likes classic moves, so if you show him this one, he'll be impressed." Raven's powers fluttered to live, crashing against her chest. Why, though? She pushed the energy back into its cage. "There are usually three steps overlapping a beat. Classical music is played, normally, but you can waltz to anything as long as the beats line up."
Starfire, looking like an eager student, blinked a few times. "I do not understand. Can you show me the steps?"
Raven swayed, stepping back with her right foot, diagonally with her left, then pulling her right to meet it. She moved forward with her forward with her left, diagonally with her right, and pulled her left in again, completing the square. Simple, elegant and easy. She spared a fleeting glance over her shoulder. If any of the boys saw this.
Starfire, however, seemed thrilled. "Amazing, Raven, amazing! Do it again, please."
Raven completed the steps again and again, while Starfire followed her lead. Raven turned on the music and counted out the beats. Soon, Starfire mastered the steps.
She still had questions though. "What do we do with our arms?"
Raven demonstrated, holding out her arms as if holding another person. "While waltzing you don't look at the other person, but I'm sure Robin won't mind if you don't follow all the customary traits of the dance."
The thought of Robin and Starfire looking lovingly into one another's eyes flashed through Raven's mind. Why did she have to say that? It would be better if they didn't look at each other at all. Her powers pounded through her. Control. Emotions. She took a breath, recited her usual mantra, and shook herself free of its grasp.
Starfire thrust out her own arms and tried waltzing, but soon stopped. "I still do not understand. How are we supposed to dance together if we have our arms out like this?"
Raven winced. Of course she'd ask that. "Well, we're doing the woman's steps. The man's steps are just like ours, only backwards. And, when you're dancing, you're holding onto one another."
Dropping her arms, Starfire frowned. "The man is backward to the woman while doing the steps?"
Raven sighed. Perhaps the waltz was a bit too complicated. Demonstrating how would put them in very close proximity. Her powers hummed inside her at the thought. "Not backwards, really, umm… more like opposite our own."
"Can you show me, please?"
Raven couldn't say no. She positioned herself in front of Starfire. "So, the man would put his arms around the woman, like this." Raven rested one hand on Starfire's waist and slipped her other into Starfire's hand. Raven's breath caught. Breathe idiot. Breathe. Control emotions and breathe. "And the woman would put her free hand on the man's shoulder. Like so."
When Starfire rested her palm on Raven's shoulder it seemed as if the world stilled. Just for a second. The heat from Starfire's skin permeated Raven's, shot tingles through her body and hummed gently in her core. Her powers settled, relaxing. Yes, definitely attraction. Just breathe. Move and breathe.
Raven met Starfire's green eyes. "And now, we move in the way I taught you."
They danced in a slow circle. Music filled the space, keeping a steady beat, creating the flow of movement as Raven and Starfire drifted. Everything in Raven's body stilled. She had never felt so at ease. Starfire looked happy. But did she feel the same way? Could she?
As if hearing her thoughts, Starfire asked, "You said the man would be the opposite, is there ever an instance where two women dance together… in the parallel?"
Raven's heart skipped a beat. Heat crept up the back of her neck. Down, down girl! No need to get excited about a simple question. Starfire's an alien to Earth after all. "Yes, I'm sure there is a dance like that… though I can't think of one right now."
Truthfully, she could think of many. But none decent enough to say in front of her friend.
Starfire's lips turned down. "Ah. Well, there should be many where two women dance together."
Raven smiled. "I agree."
The music stopped.
Raven had to pull away. If the pounding in her chest got any louder, Starfire would be able to hear it. Her powers stirred inside. Odd. They had never acted to erratic before. Some emotion must be controlling them. Raven pushed the thoughts away, focusing on the here and now.
"You learned quickly, Starfire, good job," she said.
Starfire rubbed her arm and tilted her head. Was that a blush spreading over her orange-tinted cheeks? "You are a good teacher. Thank you for taking the time to help me."
Starfire clapped her hands once, a smile brightening her face. Her eyes sparkled in the dim lights of the training hall. "And now, Robin will be most pleased! He and I will be the best dancers of the steps in the entire ball!"
Robin? Of course. Raven's chest tightened. Robin. Her powers surged within her, knocking against her body, wanting to be released. That's why she was teaching Starfire to dance. How could she have forgotten?
"Dance," Raven said. "But, yes, you two–" her voice failed. She cleared her throat and started again. "You two will be the envy of everyone."
Beaming, Starfire floated to the top of the ceiling then twirled to the floor, heading out door. Her voice carried back to Raven. "I will be sure to tell you all about the steps when I get home."
Starfire definitely was happy thinking about… him. No question about it.
All at once, jealousy speared Raven's heart. Her powers ripped from her, slamming the door outward in one solid blow. Starfire glanced back over her shoulder, briefly meeting Raven's gaze, before the door swung shut. How the heck did that happen? Raven reined her powers back in and turned away.
Raven's head snapped up from the table, a glob of spittle dripping from her lips. Crumpled paper rested by her hand and seemed to glow as light streamed in the window. She rose from her seat, pushing her chair back with a dull thud. When was the last time she had fallen asleep at her desk? Her wristband beeped and Robin's voice came muffled through the door.
"Raven! They've escaped… the HIVE operatives! Let's go!"
Chapter 4: The Last Blow
Raven flew beside Beastboy, the green eagle wingtips just barely grazing her skin. They soared upward, Beastboy caught an updraft, spiraling higher. Raven followed, checking the enemies' positions below. The park with its cherry slide, three neon yellow swings and deep brown climbing rope didn't seem very threatening. But the beast waving a torn-off section of that slide did. His companions did, too. It wasn't the entire HIVE. Just Jinx, Gizmo and Mammoth. Not an easy battle, but one they'd won before. Small victories.
Jinx's hands glowed pink as she hurled an energy burst in their direction. Raven swerved. She answered with her own dark magic, spiraling some to the ground. Beastboy dove behind the attack. Jinx leapt to the side to avoid the energy, but Beastboy barreled into her, knocking her off her feet. Raven darted to the ground after them, slamming a fist into Jinx's side. Beastboy changed into a boa. He slithered around Jinx and squeezed.
He nodded to the second fight. "Help them!"
Robin, Cyborg and Starfirebattled against Gizmo and Mammoth. Gizmo broke from the pack and darted under the broken slide. Starfire followed. Robin leapt into the air and somersaulted over Mammoth, grabbing hold of the giant's arms, creating a clear target for Cyborg's energy burst. The shot crumpled the giant. The boys had him under control, but where was Starfire? Raven searched for her. Not under the slide, not behind the fort, not anywhere.
A green laser sliced through the air behind her. Raven spun. Starfire zoomed from behind a nearby car, tailed by Gizmo. Starfire shot another green burst. Missed. But Gizmo wasn't attacking. Why wasn't he attacking? Starfire tried to dart around the kid but each time he blocked her path, forcing her to go higher into the air.
"Raven!" Beastboy's cry distracted her.
Jinx had gotten away, Beastboy lay sprawled in the dirt, some form of wire mesh holding him down. One down. Mammoth launched upward, slamming into Cyborg and ripping the electric unit from his arm. Immobile. Cyborg's immobile. Two down. Mammoth tossed the unit to Jinx, who sprinted toward Robin, hurling a burst of her pink energy, hitting him square in the chest. A shockwave scattered over him, curling him to the dirt. Cyborg's electricity. Jinx towered over him, hands lighting crimson. Raven dombed a shield around him, pulling Cyborg and the writhing mass that was Beastboy under it as well. They couldn't be hurt anymore, as long as Raven kept her shield up. But they couldn't help either. Mammoth hurled himself against it but it didn't dissipate. It wouldn't if Raven kept her concentraition. But with three of her teammates down, Raven took to the sky, heading after the only other member left to hurt besides her. Starfire.
It seemed Gizmo finally decided to go on the offensive. He threw a bomb Starfire's direction, flapping his mechanical wings to increase the weapon's speed. The bomb exploded, shockwave hitting Starfire and knocking her out of the air. Raven tried to cushion her friend's fall, but Jinx countered the attack, slicing through Raven's darkness with a pink energy scythe.
Gizmo hurled another gadget at Starfire. Another bomb. Another explosion. Slamming Starfire into the dirt. Starfire didn't move. She didn't move at all.
Raven's voice caught in her throat. Her concentration wavered. The shield fluctuated. She couldn't do much. She couldn't do anything. Not while keeping the shield. Not while Jinx aimed an energy charge their direction, the power coursing around her, encasing her in a maroon glow.
Mammoth leapt onto Starfire, pulling her limp body from the ground and tossing her, bodily tossing her, back up again. Gizmo sliced her arm open with the tip of his wing. Blood spurted to the ground, Starfire fell right after, crashing into the dirt. She still didn't move.
Gizmo dropped another bomb, yellow metal strapped around a bundle of wiring. A white light flashing on top of the spherical weapon.
Bleeding, Starfire was bleeding and unconscious and maybe worse.
The shield wavered.
Time seemed to slow.
The bomb seemed to drift to the ground, growing closer, closer, closer to Starfire. The light flashed faster.
Starfire, who bled on the ground.
Starfire, who was unconscious.
Starfire, who couldn't fight back.
Starfire, who Raven loved.
And, finally, Raven snapped.
Her shield shattered.
She caught a brief glimpse of the shocked faces of her team before her powers overwhelmed her. Energy sucked back into Raven's core. Energy she burst out again, lashing at the Jinx before the witch could do anything, knocking the legs out from under Mammoth, snapping the wings off of Gizmo's wings, hurling them all up, up, up into the air and slamming back down again.
See how much they like it.
She wrapped her power around them, smashing them together, holding them tightly, squeezing the air from their lungs. There was nothing they could do to stop her. No one could stop her.
Yet the bomb still fell. Now just inches above Starfire's chest. But energy coursed around Raven, stilling time, slowing it down. She worked her darkness into the bomb, weaving the tendrils around the wires, creating a lacework around the weapon itself. Then she guided the bomb away from Starfire and hung it over her enemy instead.
Her teammates seemed to be shouting something, their mouths opened and closed but no voice filtered through Raven's mind. Her power controlled her now, muting out the world, demanding to be felt, to be harnessed, to be used to their fullest extent. Her vision darkened around the edges.
She squeezed the enemy trio harder. Their faces grew red, their eyes bulged.
Nothing could stop her.
But she wasn't a murderer.
She dropped the bomb, encasing the trio in a bubble of darkness and hurling them toward the prison on the far side of town. She projected her voice inside it.
"This will take you to the prison. You will be taken captive. You will go quietly. If you don't, this bomb will explode and you will die."
She shoved the sphere away from her, watching it hover around a corner and out of sight. She flicked open her wrist communicator, inputted the outbreak and capture, and sent the information to the prison. They could deal with the HIVE now. Her powers ceased. The world flooded her senses. Shouts from her teammates came through. But her vision blurred. She fell to her knees, scraping the gravel with her palms, and fainted.
Raven awoke on the couch at the Tower, a blanket tucked around her and a pillow beneath her head, her very own cocoon of warmth. Comfortable to most, stifling to her. Especially now. She had to get away. Throwing the blanket aside, Raven stood, swayed, then plopped back on the seat. Lucky she didn't go far. She closed her eyes. She sensed another presence nearby and groaned. After the day she had, why couldn't everyone just leave her alone? Her eyes flew open. Darkness inked the windows, night had fallen since her... What had happened to everyone? What had happened to her? Suddenly, she wanted whomever occupied the room with her to come forward. She magiced the light on, a soft yellow glow filled the room. A person stood just out of reach of the golden flood.
"Come sit with me."
Robin obliged. "Raven."
"Robin, what –" She paused at the frown creasing deep lines across his face. That frown told her this conversation wasn't going to be the one she wanted. He couldn't possibly know about her and Starfire though, right? Or rather, her attraction towards Starfire since the gorgeous green alien probably had no idea. Now, all Raven had to do was play it calm.
He sank into the seat next to her. The couch cushions leaned more toward him and Raven shifted slightly away. Her power pulsed, but she kept it under control. For now. Her hand clenched the pillow and drew it over her lap.
Robin met her gaze. "You like Starfire."
In a whiplash of power, the pillow disintegrated. So much for being calm. "Wh-what?"
Robin's gaze flitted down as ash now covered Raven's lap. His frown deepened. "It's not a question."
Raven's heart pounded, a frantic bird struggling in its cage, while her power clawed like a giant cat trying to escape. This couldn't be how he found out. How did he even know? She tried to wave off his query. "Well of course I like her we're friends, why wouldn't I?"
Grabbing her hand in one of his, Robin held it up to eyelevel. "This means more than friends, Raven."
Her hand – her whole damn hand – glowed deep violet with her power. Her cheeks heated. How could she explain that away? Even through Robin's piercing gaze, she tried. "That's nothing. I just have some extra power stored up. I haven't been meditating as much as I should."
The truth, slightly askew, was better than a lie. After all, she hadn't been meditating… not on her power, not on herself. Her thoughts had been too preoccupied with another life-force. Too focused on one being to become still as water and allow her to dive into herself. Too overwhelmed by emotions to settle down.
Robin dropped her hand and leaned back on the couch. "I think it's more than that, Raven. You've only acted differently around her for a few months."
"Acted differently… how?" She had kept her feelings in check. Her power pulsed, tingling her skin.
"You look at her more often now –"
Desperate to throw him off, she interrupted. "A few looks, that's what you're basing this off of?"
Robin smiled. "I've seen people fall faster with less looks than you've shot Starfire. Plus, I've noticed and the others have too, that your power surges when she's around. Just like today."
The trap closed on her. Of course he'd see what happened earlier. Of course he'd notice how she'd dealt with the HIVE. How intense her reaction had been.
Robin leaned forward once more. "When Gizmo's bomb almost hit Starfire…you could've killed them."
"I would have," she said, her voice soft.
He clasped his hands together and rested them on his knees. "Why?"
She looked away, had to, his eyes bore too deeply into her soul. She lied to the table instead. "Because she's my friend."
"No, Raven. Answer me honestly. Why did you react so strongly to that attack?"
A crushing sensation pushed down her shoulders, the weight of her decision constricting her chest. Her heart beat erratically. What if they didn't understand? After all, lesbianism, while gaining more acceptance, still had opposition. Radical ones who killed for being different, beat to somehow throttle the trait out, or shunned like gayness was some sort of deadly contagion. Her breath caught. What if the Titans turned away from her? They were her friends. But something this big, something she had kept secret for so long, could change everything. Her power surged through her, thrashing to be released. She finally returned her gaze to Robin. All sound ceased except the beating of her heart and her breath whooshing from her lungs. A high pitched ring replaced the silence. She had to tell him.
"Because I love her." The whispered confession seemed to fill the room, expanding until every nook, cranny, and corner flowed with it. She didn't know what she expected for a response, but Robin's certainly wasn't it. His soft smile calmed the heavy beating of her heart. "I figured."
Raven laughed, one short quip that bubbled to the surface. Was acceptance really that simple? Her power ebbed, as if satisfied someone else shared her secret.
"I don't mind at all. And I doubt anyone else would either." Robin glanced again at her hand. Her skin no longer glowed. "Why is your power reacting the way it is?"
She brushed the pillow ash off. "Because I've never really loved anyone before… not like how I love Starfire. My powers are fueled by my emotions and whenever I see her. Or watch her get hurt. They just..."
Raven tilted her head. "Try to protect her, more like. Or call attention to me. I'm not entirely sure. I just know the moment I started liking Starfire my powers responded. The moment I knew I loved her… well my power responded to that, too."
A crash of lightening forked the air, brightening the room for a second before fading. Robin gave nature's display of force only the barest of glances. "Why haven't you told her?"
There it was - the real question. It burned in Raven's heart for so long, the words seemed to sear into her. She took her time before answering. "Because I'm afraid she won't love me in return."
Robin frowned again, folding his arms. "So, instead of facing the problem, you're just hoping your feelings will go away? That you'll somehow stop loving her and your powers will go back to normal?"
Raven shifted in her seat, tucking her feet under her. "I don't think they'll ever be normal again. Not with feelings like these awakened."
"Then you should tell her."
Of course, Robin, the wonder boy, her leader and her friend, was right.
Raven tossed her covers aside; sweat beaded on her forehead and neck. She wiped her hand across her skin and pushed the sheets farther down. As if that would help her. As if anything other than Starfire could in this moment.
Warmth seared through Raven's body, her power spiraling to the very tips of her fingernails, straining against her pores, against her will. Wanting more than to be just let free, but to be satisfied in a way that made heat creep up Raven's cheeks. Of course she wanted Starfire in that way, body on body, sweat slicking the curve of a breast, tasting every inch of her.
Raven sliced that image out of her mind and pushed her powers down. Another bead of sweat leaked from her forehead. It wasn't right to fantasize that way. Not without Starfire's permission. Archaic maybe, stupid definitely, but Raven couldn't help feeling guilty about thinking such thoughts. If Starfire didn't know… it just didn't feel right.
Raven sat up and threw her pillow across the room, lashing out with a single strand of power. A tiny amount, insubstantial in the scheme of her strength. Darkness whipped out of her, wrapped around the fluffy pillow and ripped it to shreds like a dog ripping into a toy. Except this dog came constantly at her heels and didn't want to stay down.
No. It seemed like the only way she'd find peace was to tell the gorgeous alien how she felt. Her chest tightened. Her conversation with Robin a few hours ago flashed through her mind. The anxiety of it all. But if telling Robin had been difficult… how could she possibly confess to Star? Her bright green eyes surfaced in Raven's mind and she let out a laugh. Star would probably think it's a joke, tilting her head to the left like she always did, confusion darkening her eyes to jade instead of emerald. Raven's breath caught. It wouldn't be difficult, it would be impossible. Her heart pounded even now, even at the thought of telling Starfire how she felt. But her power thrashed against her skin, wanting to be set free of its cage.
What if she hurt another bystander? Or worse, what if she hurt her friends?
Her logical mind took over, as it so often did. The others took it well enough. She had confronted the boys in the workout room just an hour earlier.
"You're gay?" Cyborg arched his eyebrow. "And you're hot for Starfire, right?"
Raven's mouth fell open. "How did you know?"
Beastboy smirked. "Aw, come on, Raven, you're not that good at hiding your emotions."
"Pah, tell me about it! You're powers go haywire every time you see that girl." Cyborg winked. "And I gotta tell you, you have a good eye."
Beastboy wheeled around, dropping his weights to stare at Cyborg laying on the bench press. "You've got a thing for her too?"
Cyborg sat up. "She's a green skinned, green eyed alien who can shoot energy out of her palms and fly and likes real food? Who wouldn't like her?"
Beastboy twisted around to look at her. "Am I'm missing out on a club or something?"
Cyborg got up and clapped him on the shoulder. "Don't push too hard or Raven'll power you through the wall."
Raven stepped forward and started to speak when Cyborg smiled at her. "I'm only kidding, Rae, don't worry about it."
"Yeah, go after her all ready."
Although grateful they accepted her, Raven still crossed her arms. "You two seem too keen on me talking to her."
Cyborg and Beastboy shared a look. Beastboy smiled. "We've played through our games and need a new form of entertainment…"
"At least until the new system comes in." Cyborg added.
Entertainment? Raven narrowed her eyes. But the goofy smiles on both of their faces melted her anger. "What do you think I'm going to let you watch?"
"Pah, you've been hiding that you're gay. You could have all sorts of weird fantasies." Cyborg sauntered over to her, flexing his muscles. "Ever have a thing for robots?"
Beastboy leapt up, green fur spreading over his face and body, changing into a tiger. "Or a furry cat fetish?"
Raven flicked her power out just an inch and snapped them both away. But a grin curled her lips. "Sorry, there's only room for one."
The boys laughed and waved her tendrils of power away from them. "One fantasy you mean?" Beastboy said, wiggling his eyebrows.
Heat rose on the back of Raven's neck and traveled across her cheeks. She spun on her heel and walked out before the boys noticed but not before giving them a rare smile and a nod of thanks.
Raven picked at the sheets at the base of her bed. They had made it easy. They were more interested in what would happen with Starfire than with Raven's confession. But, of course, that's what it all came down to at the end. How would Starfire take it? Taking a deep breath, Raven stood.
There was only one way to find out. She opened her door and stepped out into the dark hallway.
Chapter 5: Starfire's Response
Raven's breathing seemed to grow more painful with every step she took. What the hell was she doing? She rubbed her arms to stop the trembling. Every fiber in her being screamed to turn back. She almost listened but her power crashed in waves with each beat of her heart and forced her to go on. The walk from her room to Star's seemed to take forever, longer than forever if there ever was such a degree. Raven's legs felt like rubber. They barely held her weight. This couldn't be how someone was supposed to feel when confronting their emotions. This couldn't be how someone would feel when confessing their love. No one would ever do it.
What if Starfire truly didn't understand? What if she was repulsed by the idea? Darkness seemed to press in on her, the shadows calling her to their depths. To hide from her rattled state. To hide from it all.
But Raven kept walking. Her logical brain throttled her with facts. If she didn't tell Starfire, her power would harm someone else. If she didn't tell Starfire, Star might feel left out of the group when she found out. If she didn't tell Starfire, Raven might be overcome with emotions she couldn't handle.
If she didn't tell Starfire, Raven would never know how Star felt in return.
What if Star liked her back?
A glimmer of blue light shone in the darkness. Holiday lights. A smile curled her lips upward. Starfire had put them up weeks in advance, as usual. Earth holidays captivated her. Raven reached Starfire's door, the blue glow brightening her hand as she lifted to knock on the hard surface.
Raven dropped her fist as a new, more terrifying thought hit her. What if Star did understand, wasn't repulsed, and yet still rejected her? Rejection by a friend, and fellow Titan, might be more than Raven could bear. She took a step back. The awkwardness alone would cause her to leave. And then where would she go? Raven knew relationships were hard… but a relationship with a fellow Teen Titan might be the end of everything. What if telling Starfire would destroy the group forever?
Raven turned away, shifting her gaze to the shadows. The warm glow silhouetted her form on the hallway. But it wasn't about them.
This was about her and Starfire. No one else.
Swiveling on the ball of her socked foot, Raven lifted her hand. So much lay in wait on the other side of this door. A possible romance. Raven's future. Starfire. Raven's power surged through her shoulder, down her arm, and pooled in her fingertips, a steady violet swirling across her palm. She had to tell Starfire. Raven knocked twice. The sharp sound reverberated through the quiet hallway.
She waited. Her power thrummed in her ears. Her heart thudded against her chest. Clenching her hands by her sides, Raven tried to calm her rapid breaths.
Why hadn't Star answered?
Raven inched closer to the dark wood. Her muscles tensed. Her entire reason for being narrowed on that door, everything else disappeared. She knocked again. Waited. Nothing.
"Starfire?" Raven called out in a soft voice.
A hand plopped on Raven's shoulder, startling her. Raven jerked away, the world snapped back into focus. Darkness. Shadows. Dark wood. Blue lights. Starfire.
Starfire stood, bathed in the azure light of her own twinkle lights. She tilted her head. "Did you wish to speak to me about something, Raven?"
Where the hell did she come from? Raven struggled to find her voice hiding the depths of her tightening throat. "Yes. For a minute. If you have time."
But not here. Not here. Not in the hallway. Not someplace so public.
Starfire's grin almost melted Raven's resolve. She was just about to suggest the hallway when Starfire tugged at her hand, pulling her to the stairs. "Of course I have time! Please, follow me to the roof. I was enjoying some stargazing earlier. It would be the perfect place for a discussion."
Raven allowed herself to be dragged upstairs and outside. It gave her a few precious moments to figure out what she would say. Starfire, I like you sounded too blunt. I have to tell you something sounded too serious. Thoughts swirled through Raven's mind. Cool moist air on her skin brought her back to her senses. Starfire lingered in front of her, staring with such intensity Raven's breath caught. Starfire's emerald eyes pierced through her, spearing her soul and her thoughts at once.
Raven motioned to sit down. Starfire knelt at once, spreading her hands wide as she leaned back on her palms and surveyed the sky. Raven settled down beside her and, to steal more time than anything else, she glanced up as well. The stars, on a backdrop of darkness, went on forever. Constellations formed in Raven's mind as she recalled the few she knew.
She pointed skyward. "That cluster of stars is called Andromeda."
Starfire twisted to look behind her, following the path of Raven's finger. "Andromeda? I have not heard of such a figure."
"It's named for the Greek myth of a woman named Andromeda. She was this princess sacrificed to a monster for the sins of her parents." Unwillingly, Raven had stumbled into the perfect opening for her confession.
"That doesn't sound like a pleasant myth." Starfire wrinkled her nose.
Raven laughed. "Well, it gets better. Andromeda was rescued by Perseus, a passing hero. The myth goes on to say he fell in love with her. How her beauty captivated him. He made this deal with her parents that if he killed the monster, he would get to marry her. They agreed. He slayed the monster and she was freed. They got married and, according to the mythology, lived a long and happy life together."
Starfire stared at Raven with wide eyes. "How do you know so much about this myth?"
This could be it. She should tell Starfire how she felt right now. Right now. Now. Damn it, now! Raven's throat tightened. Finally, she shrugged. "I read."
Starfire looked away again, gazing at the constellation. Raven glared at her knees, pulling her legs underneath her. It had been the perfect opportunity to tell Starfire how she felt. She couldn't. Wouldn't. Even after her power hummed through her body, warming her, giving her strength, her voice still gave out. Her heart began to pound again. Raven breathed inward but when she exhaled no words formed on her tongue. Why was this so damn difficult? Even through the warm night air, her arms trembled. She crossed them, but a tendril of her power leaked from her fingertips and pulled toward Starfire. She yanked her dark cloak around her, shielding Starfire from the power. The tendril disappeared. Raven sighed. How did anyone get around to talking about anything important?
But then, Starfire turned to her and said, "I would be so lucky to have someone love me like that. A man willing to slay a monster for me."
Raven's stomach plummeted. A man? What about women? Perhaps she didn't need to be so freaked out at all, so damn emotional. Pure curiosity drove Raven to say her next words. "There are many different kinds of love."
Starfire, seeming to sense the importance of Raven's statement, nodded. As she spoke, she ticked the types off on her fingers. "True. There is friendship love. Brotherly love. Passionate love–"
Raven interrupted. "Yes, but there are other kinds of love, too. Other types of love. Other lovers."
Nerves tied her tongue, rambled her speech. What was she saying? This wasn't how it was supposed to go. A bead of sweat traced a path down Raven's back. Afraid Starfire would notice her shaking legs, Raven pushed her cloak over them, too.
Starfire tilted her head to the left. She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them. "What do you mean other lovers?"
There was no getting around it. No stopping this conversation. Yes, Raven could divert it to other topics. Yes, Raven could ramble on about something else.
But she didn't want to. For the first time in a very long time, Raven wanted to talk about her feelings. Her voice came out shaky at first. "Well, there's the love between a man and a woman, of course."
At Starfire's nod, Raven continued, voice stronger now. "And there's also the love between a man and a man."
"Those men are considered gay, yes?" Starfire trilled.
Raven jerked her head down. One short nod. Her heart beat so hard she was afraid it might burst. The weight of her emotions shoved her down, curling her shoulders. Her lips turned down. "And there's the love between two women."
"They're considered lesbians." Starfire twisted her fingers together on her knees. She narrowed her eyes. "Are you feeling well, Raven? You are pale, even for your skin tone."
"I'm fine." A lie. But Starfire could probably see right through it anyway. Unable to contain it any longer, Raven barreled on. "I have something to tell you, Star."
"Yes?" Starfire leaned closer.
So close. They were so close Raven could reach out and pull Starfire in for a kiss. A warmth spread through Raven's body at that thought, her power stretched to every inch of her skin. Tingling. Prickling. Wanting to be released. Needing more. Clawing against its cage. All sound disappeared under the unsteady beating of her heart. The only concern of hers was Starfire's reaction. That's all that mattered in the world right now.
"I wanted to tell you." Raven stopped, breathed. Then tried again. "I wanted to tell you how much I liked you."
What if she didn't understand?
Uncertainty gripped Raven, held her rooted to the spot, drove her to clarify even further. She spoke to her knees, the ground, her cloak, the sky, eyes searching for something but unable to find it. "And not a friend like or a sisterly like. A passionate like."
Finally her gaze landed on Starfire. Those emerald green eyes captivated her, held her, settled her. Raven reached out and grasped one of Starfire's hand. "I'm a lesbian, Star, and I've fallen for you."
Silence. Gripping, terrifying, horrible damn silence. Raven let go, drew back.
Starfire's shocked expression melted away into a soft smile. "We have a name for this feeling on my homeworld, too. It's called the arhaie love. It has pulled me towards you for some time now." A blush darkened her cheeks. "I am happy to be your Andromeda." She pulled Raven in for a hug. "I am also happy there are no monsters in your world."
Face full of Starfire's vibrant red hair, Raven grinned. The berry soap Starfire had used permeated Raven's senses. She hadn't been rejected. The green-skinned alien readily accepted her and, if Raven interpreted Starfire's words correctly, actually liked her back! She couldn't be happier. But her powers jerked within her, pressed upon her bones, muscles, skin, as if needing to explode. Raven's joy faded a little.
"Don't rule out the monsters just yet, Star," she whispered.
Starfire squeezed harder in response.
Raven woke with a smile. Last night, the sheer intensity of the day had taken its toll and after their embrace, both Raven and Starfire went back to their respective rooms for the evening. Not like anything else could have happened. They had just started this whole dating thing. The all-too familiar tingle of her awakening power spread down her back. She flexed her arms, allowing her power to fill her, grateful for once for the warmth it provided. A happy warmth. Much better than before. She stepped out of her bedroom and into the hallway.
Something slammed into her side, causing her to stumble. What the hell? Starfire wrapped her arms around Raven's shoulders and pulled her upright.
"My arhaie, how are you this morning?"
Startled, Raven pulled away at first. Starfire had always been the kinesthetic type, but this sudden influx of physicality surprised Raven. But Starfire's smile melted Raven's alarm away and she leaned into the embrace. Her powers hummed. "Better than in a long time, Star."
Starfire tilted her head and pulled her to the kitchens. "If this was weighing you down so much, Raven, then why not tell me sooner?"
A simple question. Yet Raven didn't quite know how to answer it. She stumbled over her words. "Well, I wasn't sure… I didn't know if… it's kind of a big deal on Earth."
They reached the door leading to the living room. It slid open, revealing the boys seated on the couch. Raven shifted away from Starfire, heat creeping up her cheeks. They knew, of course. But she didn't want to flaunt it. She rubbed a hand over her arm and glanced away from their friends. Her voice seemed to be lodged in her throat. Maybe they should play it down for a little while? But why should they? The boys seemed fine with it yesterday. And whenever the boys had a love interest they made gooey eyes all the time. But with her and Star… would it make things awkward?
Raven stood in the doorway. The full weight of her decisions rooted her to the spot. She never had a girlfriend before. Not a real one anyway. Heat snuck up to her ears now. Surely they were crimson. Surely her entire face bloomed red. Like that wouldn't be obvious. Why wasn't anyone talking? Had the boys stopped when her and Star arrived? They were like some great cloud of awkwardness descending into the room. Raven's legs tensed. Her power swirled within her, pooling into her palm.
A light behind them flickered. Her power slithered, then cracked the glass.
How could they get through this? She stole a glance at Starfire and gawked. Raven's powers dimmed.
Starfire beamed. Positively beamed. Her green eyes shimmered. Her orange tinged skin caught the pale light from the kitchens and seemed to bounce it away again. She seemed to freaking glow. How could the woman be so calm? Before Raven could stop her, Starfire latched a hand around one of Raven's hand pulled her into the space.
"We are arhaie!" she said.
"What the heck's an arhaie?" Beastboy scratched his head.
Cyborg chucked. "I'm guessing that's your term for 'together'?"
Starfire nodded. "It is our term for the female bonding Raven and I now share."
A cup shattered on the table. Dark liquid spread across the hard surface and dripped onto the carpet. Robin's face turned as red as his uniform. "The… bonding?"
Raven jumped in. "Not what you think. She just means relationship. Starfire and I are in a relationship."
"Yes." Starfire's smile grew wider. "The arhaie relationship."
Raven glanced at her, smiling. "Yes. That one."
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. But then Beastboy wiggled his eyebrows and heat rushed to Raven's cheeks again. She untangled herself from Starfire and went over to make a strong cup of tea. "Do you want anything for breakfast, Star?"
"Not currently," Starfire replied. She settled on the couch next to Cyborg and drew a blanket over her lap.
Raven started a pot of water but Starfire and Cyborg's conversation still drifted over.
"You have something similar back on your homeworld?"
"Why didn't you tell us before?" Beastboy had joined in.
"I did not know it was such the big deal on Earth. On Tamaran, we love regardless of who is giving and receiving."
The water boiled. Raven opened a cabinet and grabbed a packet of strawberry tea.
"Have you ever had a girlfriend… an arhaie love before?"
Of course Beastboy would ask that question. Raven had just plopped a teabag into the boiling water. She picked up the cup and tried, as nonchalantly as she could, to head back to the chairs. Of course she wanted to hear Starfire's reply. Robin scooted over so that Raven could settle next to Starfire. It seemed as if the boys didn't mind at all. The warning edge of anxiety within Raven dulled.
Starfire took her time in answering. "I have had arhaies before."
Raven winced. Great. She had competition? And what did the women back on Star's homeworld look like? Probably just a gorgeous as the one sitting next to her.
"I would not consider them serious though. Not ones I would like to remember or redo." Starfire met Raven's gaze. "Not like ours."
Raven's eyes widened. They had only just started dating. Just last night! How could she be so… sure? It seemed as if nothing – no question, no probe, no anxiety – could pull Starfire down. Finally, Raven asked, "You aren't worried about us at all, are you?"
"Why would I worry? The bonding – especially an arhaie bond – is one to be celebrated." Starfire twined her fingers through Raven's then looked at the rest of the group. "We should all eat the cream made of ice and drink the bubbly canned sweetness."
Robin laughed. "That sounds like a date to me." At Starfire's push though, he added. "We'll celebrate with you two later."
The date of ice cream and soda went over quite well. Starfire talked more than Raven, but Raven marveled how easy their conversations had been, fluid almost. More so than with anyone else. One couple passed by just as Starfire reached for Raven's hand. The black haired man had scoffed. Heat had crept up Raven's neck. Maybe the pizza place wasn't such a good option. Such a public area, they were bound to get some looks. But Starfire waved at the couple, didn't seem to mind their accusatory eyes and so Raven tried not to, either.
And when they got back to the Titans Tower, the boys did celebrate with them. Beastboy had made dinner comprised entirely of tofu, Robin popped corn, and Cyborg put in a scary movie. One that snuggled Starfire close to Raven, hugging tight and burrowing her face into the nape of Raven's neck. One that made the boys laugh at Raven's awkwardness. She just couldn't get used to the… publicity of it all. Raven had to admit, even though these actions weren't new coming from Starfire (she'd clung to all of them at one time or another) this time seemed different. This time was.
The days passed by smoothly, simply. Raven grew bolder at their displays of affection. One time, she even reached out for Starfire's hand. Another, she stole a kiss. Each time, Starfire responded with ten times the enthusiasm. Happiness infused their life couldn't remember a time where she felt so calm, so sure. Being with Starfire felt… right.
A few weeks into the relationship, they were alone once more. They boys had gone out for pizza when Raven suggested they go to the roof. Wind carried their voices away, as well as the sounds of the pavement below, so they had decided to just be with each other. Enjoy each other's company for a little while.
Arm in arm, up here Raven could get as close as she wanted to. No prying eyes stared at them here. And she needed to be close to Starfire. Her power responded to that contact and when they had gone for a while without it – a day even – Raven's magic burned for more. She wrapped her arm around Starfire's thin waist and kissed her cheek. A particularly strong gust whipped across the roof, swirling Raven's cloak, playing with Starfire's hair. Starfire shivered. Raven unhooked her cloak and set it around Starfire's shoulders, guiding them to sit down. Lower, the wind wasn't such a nuisance.
Finally, Starfire shuffled closer to Raven and asked, "Have you ever had a serious girlfriend before?"
Raven's stomach clenched. She hesitated. Memories surfaced in her mind. Raven couldn't call the flings she had had girlfriends. So her answer simplified. "Only one."
"One?" Starfire drew the cloak around them both and placed a hand on Raven's leg.
"Yes." The place Starfire touched smoldered beneath Raven's skin. Her powers gathered there in an instant, but Raven settled them. They had agreed to take it slow. She conjured up a tiny ball of fire instead, letting the magic flame lick her fingers.
Starfire stared at the inferno. "What was her name?"
Raven hadn't thought of her in years. White hair, piercing blue eyes. Hadn't wanted to. They hadn't ended on very good terms. The last fight still crisp in her memory and the wound delivered still numb to the touch.
"Her name was Hoarfrost." A voice snapped behind them, startling them both.
Starfire spun around to face the newcomer. But Raven stilled. She didn't need to look to know who that sharp staccato belonged to. She extinguished the flames and took a deep steadying breath as the voice spoke again.
"Still is, actually."
Chapter 6: To Love and Be Loved
Raven couldn't sit there forever. Not when Starfire had already gotten up to greet Hoarfrost. Not when Raven had already extinguished the flames. Not when Hoarfrost had already said hello. It would be rude. But when had that ever bothered her before. She could be rude… if she wanted.
Warm hands pulled her up and Starfire's questioning gaze met hers. No. She couldn't be rude, not now.
Raven smiled in what she hoped was a reassuring way, then turned to face her ex-flame. Gorgeous as ever, white hair flowing down her shoulders when once it had been cut short, Hoarfrost's sapphire gaze still pierced Raven's soul. But didn't affect her the way it used to. Instead of swelling with love, Raven frowned. "Hoarfroast. Why are you back?"
No use beating around the bush so they say, or attempting to melt the cold hard look Hoarfrost now gave her. It seemed she expected a better welcome. Why, Raven couldn't understand. Not with the way they left things. Not with the way they treated each other. Hoarfrost folded her arms and tapped her fingers against them. White gloves against pale skin. She hadn't changed much. Of her outfit anyway, still wearing the same skin-tight blue shirt paired with even tighter blue jeans. That kind of thing used to attract Raven, but now she'd take Starfire in her pajamas any day.
Starfire, seeming to sense the tension, sprang in between them. She held out her hand. "Hello! I do not believe we have met before. My name is Starfire."
"Hello Starfire." Hoarfrost shook Starfire's hand. "Nice to meet you. Do you live alone in this mansion of yours?"
Starfire shook her head. "Oh no, we have many friends here. I am sure that they would like to meet you if you are able to stay for a while."
The question burned Raven, bubbling up her throat before she spat it out. "Are you staying long, Hoarfrost?"
Her old flame glanced her way. "As long as I'm welcomed." Hoarfrost lifted her hand, ice swirled in her palm, forming a shard. She hurled the shard away from them. It wedged itself beneath the door. "As long as it's not painful for any of us, of course."
Her voice lifted at the end. A question perhaps. No, a challenge.
Raven pressed a hand onto her thigh, thankful her cloak covered it. The scar still puckered under her palm. She couldn't let Hoarfrost know, couldn't let her see, couldn't give her the satisfaction. Raven wanted to punch that smirk right off the woman's face, but she didn't. Instead, she unleashed a small dart of power, slamming her darkness into the ice. The shard shattered.
She smiled. "Not for me."
She fidgeted. Too much. She ached to leave, to run from this person. Starfire could probably keep Horfrost occupied for days, but Raven wasn't sure how she felt leaving her new girlfriend with her old one. She needed more of a buffer if Hoarfrost planned to stay any longer than a few minutes. Then it hit her. The living room. The boys. They'd drool over Hoarfrost. Keep her busy until she decided what to do, at least until she told Starfire their… story.
Raven tilted her head toward the door. "Let's go inside."
Starfire linked her arm through Raven's and gently tugged her to the door. "Yes! Yes, inside. The boys may be back by now. I am sure they would want to meet someone new."
They drifted inside, Hoarfrost's footsteps echoing behind them. Raven stared at her girlfriend, willing her to walk past the hallway leading to their rooms. Hoarfrost could be inside the Tower… under supervision… but she'd never enter Raven's room. Starfire seemed to understand, nodding and leading them away from the personal quarters and into the living room.
The empty living room.
Silence ruled this space.
Crap. Raven blinked a few times, trying to clear the clouds that formed in her mind.
What was she going to do now?
Automatically, she meandered into the kitchen and started a kettle. Starfire lingered nearby, resting a hand on Raven's arm. She welcomed the pressure.
Hoarfrost leaned on the counter. "Still making tea, I see, Raven."
Raven's power lashed out. The water boiled, kettle whistling. Raven tried to concentrate on that sensation and grabbed her favorite type.
Starfire rubbed her arm. "Tea is very beneficial to the body. The herbs alone can–"
Hoarfrost interrupted Star. "White cranberry still your favorite?"
The white and red package fell from Raven's hands, berries face up. She elbowed it and reached higher into the cabinet, grabbing a chi spice instead. "No."
Hoarfrost chuckled, but Starfire – thank the gods for Starfire – swooped in and finished her statement. "The herbs alone can boost memory, fight off infection, and even settle the mind."
Raven poured the steaming water into a cup, dropping the spice package in and finally – finally – turned to face her former lover.
The nasty grin spreading on Hoarfrost's face could mean only trouble. "And we all know that Raven needs her mind settled quite often."
Enough pleasantries. On Starfire's part anyway. Raven sipped the clear water. "Why are you here, Hoarfrost?"
But the woman didn't seem to hear her. Instead, Hoarfrost pushed off of the counter and sauntered around the living space. She flopped onto the couch, kneading it with her elbows. A grimaced marred her features. Getting up, she threw a blanket – Raven's blanket – over her shoulders, then let it fall to the ground. Antsy, just like during their relationship. Starfire rushed over to pick the blanket up, folding then setting it on the cushioned armrest. Hoarfrost cocked an eyebrow at her. Her eyes flashed white for a moment and Raven would bet her life that the woman would do something rude. Just as Raven suspected, Hoarfrost grabbed an armful of the throw pillows and tossed them into the air. Starfire caught most of them, save one, and set them back in their original places. The last one – a deep blue in color - landed with a quiet thump on the floor.
Plucking this one up too, Starfire held it to her chest. "For being a guest, you are not being very considerate." Her gaze traveled to Raven's and held it. "Is this a normal custom on your planet?"
Raven shook her head. Damn it. She set her cup down and stalked over to the pair, knowing that ugliness that was about to spew from her former lover's mouth.
"Oh! So you're shacking up with an alien, Rae-Rae?" Hoarfrost leaned against the glass. Sunlight washed over her form. At one time, the sight would've been beautiful. Now, though, her presence dirtied the room.
"Shacking?" Starfire tilted her head, long locks drifting over one shoulder. "Raven and I are not shacking –"
Raven stepped in front of Starfire, interrupting her in the process. She wasn't going to let some old flame badmouth their relationship, much less insult her girlfriend. "Enough, Hoarfrost. Enough. Why are you here? What do you want?"
Hoarfrost smiled. She tapped a manicured fingernail on the glass. "I just wanted to see how you were doing, Raven." Her gaze drifted outside. "It's been such a long time since we've last hung out. Our circle of friends must be different by now. I wanted to meet other people, new people. And besides…"
In less than a heartbeat, Hoarfrost had crossed the room and grabbed Raven's hand. "Between you and me, our old crowd just isn't doing it for me anymore." Hoarfrost's eyes brightened to paper-white.
Raven tensed. Her energy pulsed, spiked, crashing through her in its haste to pool in between their palms. It nearly sang from the contact. Her darkness melded with Hoarfrost's light, connected to it, weaved through it, their energies circling one another like prey and predator. Like lovers.
Raven's eyes widened. Her breath caught. It would be so easy. Just to relax and let this happen. Let her energy leave her like this. Let her power surge through and into Hoarfrost. Let them meld. All of a sudden, like falling asleep, Raven knew what her power longed for. Love, yes. Acceptance, yes. But most of all, intimacy. It craved the physical connection. Yearned for it. And Hoarfrost knew it. Hoarfrost knew how the weave their energies together, dark and light, how to sift this energy off her, to pull it into herself and leave Raven with a manageable amount. It would be so easy. To pull Hoarfrost into the cover of darkness. To love and be loved by her. Get the lust surging through Raven out of her system. Out of her. With her. With Hoarfrost.
Something pushed down on Raven's shoulder, a hand. Hoarfrost's? No. Hoarfrost's hands were thin, demanding, nothing at all like the soft feather touches currently by her neck.
Her spiraling thoughts fell away like leaves quieted after a gust of wind.
She wrenched her grip from Hoarfrost's and backed away. But the mad gleam in those blue eyes haunted her, accepted her, promised her love long after their contact had been broken. Raven took another step back, pushing herself into Starfire.
What had they been talking about? Enemies? No, their old circle of friends. Back before Raven joined the Teen Titans. Before becoming a hero. Raven cleared her throat. "I don't hang out with them anymore."
Hoarfrost sidestepped them both. "I noticed. But here comes your new band of comrades. Maybe they can become my new crowd, too."
And sure enough, the door opened and Beastboy, Cyborg, and Robin came into the living room. Raven wished the space could be empty. She didn't want to explain Hoarfrost's sudden appearance. The boys would probably ask.
Starfire, with her gaze still trained on Hoarfrost and her hand still on Raven's shoulder, definitely would.
A full thirty seconds had gone by without anyone making a noise. The boys stared at Hoarfrost. Hoarfrost stared back. Starfire's hand tightened on Raven's shoulder. Finally Raven couldn't take it any longer. She cleared her throat. "So, this is Hoarfrost. She's here… visiting."
Robin seemed to recover the quickest, blinking a bit too much and a bit too hard before ambling over and offering his hand. "Nice to meet you, Hoarfrost. My name's –"
"Robin – the boy wonder, who's always impeccably dressed." Hoarfrost grabbed his hand for a second, then let go.
Robin arched an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I know about you." Hoarfrost turned to each of the boys in turn. "And you're Beastboy – the shapeshifter who's obsessed with tofu. And Cyborg – the half metal half man who works on cars."
"How?" Robin's query drew Hoarfrost's attention back to him.
"Raven, of course. She used to talk about you during our midnight sessions."
Beastboy gasped. "What mid—"
Robin silenced him with a slash of his hand. "When?"
"When we were younger…"
Shaking Starfire's hand off, Raven took a step forward. Hoarfrost glanced her way. A smile crawled over her lips. "Oh. You haven't told them, have you? They… don't know?"
Beastboy couldn't contain himself any longer. The words came out with a whoosh of air before he could clap his hands over his mouth to silence them. "Told us what?"
Before Raven could stop her, Hoarfrost sauntered – the woman sauntered – over to Beastboy. She ran a hand down his cheek. "About all the nights she'd make me stay up because she kept gushing about you three. Blabbering on and on about how wonderful you were, wondering how such an awesome team could be just so fabulously awesome and how you could dominate any of the obstacles in your way. She'd talk for hours on end about it. She really looked up to you guys. Worshiped you three, more like."
Raven couldn't help the darkness creeping over her cheeks. She'd forgotten how… obsessed she was back then. But then she sensed rather than felt Starfire move closer to her, closer to Hoarfrost. Don't ask. Don't ask. Don't ask.
Starfire rocked gently on her heels. "Did she say nothing about me?"
Shit. Starfire didn't need to know what Raven used to say about her. How Raven used to feel towards her. What Raven used to think back in those dark days in the tunnels under the city. Back with her old crowd. Starfire never needed to know. Raven had been stupid back then. Stupid and ignorant. And angry. Very, very angry. Her powers strained, wanting to be closer to Hoarfrost. Wanting to be near her. To be with her.
Hoarfrost ran a light hand over Cyborg's shoulder, then twirled to Starfire's side, clutching her close. Dragging her farther from Raven's side. Hoarfrost caught Raven's eye. "No."
Raven almost smiled. The woman hadn't given her away. But then Starfire tugged away from Hoarfrost, eyes case downward.
The sight made Raven's stomach twist. She had to explain. And quickly. "You weren't in the group back then, Starfire. I didn't know anything about you back then. That's the only reason why you weren't included."
Hoarfrost twisted a strand of hair through her fingers. "She probably just forgot about you. Until later on of course –"
Bitch. Raven interrupted, desperate to change the subject. "You wanted to meet my friends, well you've met them. Maybe you should leave now."
"No." Robin moved over to the couch and slumped down into it. His eyes watered. "I want to know more about her, Raven. At least let her stay for a few hours."
Cyborg finally spoke up. "Yeah, stay for a bit. I wanna know more about you, Hoarfrost."
Beastboy flopped onto the chair next to Robin. "What kind of powers do you have?"
Raven clenched her jaw. She knew what their body language meant. What that glazed, watery look in their eyes signified. Hoarfrost had already cast her spell on them. Used her powers. She could draw attention of anything and anyone she wanted. Lure them in, keep them captive. Use their emotions to hold them, then drain the victim dry. The exact opposite of Raven. Raven tried to keep others away to control her power. If she didn't care about many people, she could keep her emotions in check and keep her power stable. But Hoarfrost needed others. She couldn't use their powers, but then they couldn't either.
Something shook her shoulder but she ignored it. Why had she let Hoarfrost stay?
Hoarfrost's arm brushed Raven's as she moved past and sank into the chair facing the boys. That slight touch sent shivers down Raven's back. Her powers ached inside her, throbbed at the very core of her. The curve of Hoarfrost's back, the sliver of skin just below her shirt, her pale neck on display as her hair fell past her shoulders – Raven wanted every inch of her.
A voice cried in her ear but she didn't turn to see who it was. Why had she let the woman come into her house and wait for her friends?
Her powers surged and Raven stumbled forward. Closer to Hoarfrost. If she reached out, she could touch that ivory skin. Run her fingers through those long white strands. Relive all those nights spent with her.
Hoarfrost laughed. "What are my powers? Well, I'm pretty good at getting what I want. For example, I'd like you three boys to leave us alone for the evening. Go back to your rooms. In the morning, you'll wake up believing we had a lovely chat about my past – a happy childhood filled with friends, a loving family, all that sappy stuff. You'll beg me to stay longer here. That is what I want."
As one, the three boys muttered "Then that is what we shall deliver" then got up and marched away.
The door slid shut. A pressure fell on Raven's shoulders and forcing her to spin around.
Starfire's wide eyes stared at her. Starfire. Starfire wanted her attention. "Raven? Raven, what is going on? I do not understand."
But Raven did.
A cold finger touched Raven's neck and Hoarfrost's voice whispered in her ear. "And I want you to tie this alien up since my powers don't seem to work on her."
Raven understood. Darkness glowed in her palm. She weaved it into one long cord, wrapping it end over end around her elbow. Starfire backed away.
"Then that is what I shall deliver," Raven murmured. Hoarfrost had case a spell on her, too.
Raven hated herself for doing it. Hated herself for grabbing Starfire, shoving her into the chair, binding her arms and legs with dark magic. Hated how soft Starfire's skin felt under her palms, how wide Starfire's green eyes had become, how her lower lip trembled. Raven hated it. Her fingers slipped. She clenched her jaw, a hiss escaping between her teeth. And yet, she couldn't stop. Couldn't do anything different. Couldn't help herself. How could she have been so idiotic? So dumb! So… foolish to let that woman in… anger burned within her.
Hoarfrost started to laugh, low at first like the rumbling of a nearby car. Maybe Raven could ignore it. Maybe Starfire wouldn't hear it. Then Hoarfrost's laughter grew louder, bubbling over, spilling into the room. Raven straightened next to Starfire and since she finished her commanded task, turned toward the noise.
"After all this time, all the nights you kept me up gushing over these Teen Titans, I expected something more challenging. A hint of greatness, resistance, even." Hoarfrost's hands swept the room. "Nothing. They could do nothing! I had them under my thumb in less than a minute. And I have you to thank for that, Raven."
Of course the woman had to be true. This was Raven's fault. Raven pursued her lips, her jaw ached. She strained against the spell cast upon her. She couldn't move her legs, arms, or hands. Nothing that could allow Raven to attack her captor. No, Hoarfrost knew her better than that. Raven's anger flashed, boiling just beneath her skin. She couldn't undo this. Hoarfrost's statement rang true.
Starfire shifted in her bindings. "You do not have me."
A burst of pride shot through Raven, warming her. She shifted her gaze down to the gorgeous alien strapped down by her own darkness. Starfire kept her back straight, her arms straining against the bonds that held her, her eyes trained on Raven's ex flame. Of course Starfire would fight back. But… Raven looked toward Hoarfrost… how would Hoarfrost retaliate? The woman pursed her lips and flicked her hair off her shoulder. Raven knew Hoarfrost would do anything to get what she wanted. No one had ever resisted her sorcery before. She'd want to know why. And how. Suddenly, Raven wished Starfire hadn't spoken at all.
Hoarfrost smirked, tapping her arm with a gloved hand. "True. I don't have you. Where did you say you were from?"
"You have not asked of where I am from." Starfire lifted her chin. "And I will not tell you."
"We'll see about that, little alien." Hoarfrost sashayed over to Starfire and leaned down, now eye level with her. "Maybe I need to be a little bit closer for my magic to work." She grasped Starfire's chin. "I want you to tell me where you are from."
Raven's power swirled as she glared at Hoarfrost, wanting to lash out at her, wishing she could sock her in the jaw, slam her into the window and shove her out of it. Wishing she could do something. But she couldn't. She couldn't protect Starfire from this vile woman. She couldn't protect anyone. Not even herself. Her darkness pulsed, twisting through her core, slamming into her skin, straining to get out. Longing to touch Hoarfrost, not to caress, but to attack.
Starfire's voice remained clear. "I will never tell you."
Hoarfrost tightened her grip, fingernails scraping a red line across Starfire's cheek. "Wanna bet?"
The red lines on Starfire's cheeks burned into Raven's mind. Her power lashed out on its own accord. Darkness spiraled from her relaxed fingers. It slammed into Hoarfrost's chest, throwing her to the ground. But Hoarfrost reacted too quickly for Raven's power to continue. The woman threw herself at Raven, grabbing hold of Raven's arm with one hand and the side of her neck with the other. The scent of over-ripe bananas lingered on Hoarfrost's breath. Hoarfrost drew herself even closer to Raven, pulling their bodies together. But anger still coursed through Raven. Anger she couldn't, and didn't, want to contain. Hoarfrost's magic tamed Raven's darkness, pushing it to the floor.
Her lips brushed Raven's when she spoke. "My, my, my, Raven, you are still the angry one, aren't you?"
Raven couldn't answer. Her darkness pooled, drifting toward Raven's feet. Docile. Why wouldn't her power fight back?
"Maybe we should be a bit closer too, hmmm?" Hoarfrost wrapped her arms around Raven's neck, sapphire eyes capturing their prey. After a few moments, Hoarfrost shifted one arm and tossed her white gloves behind her. She placed both hands on Raven's neck, inching her thumbs up Raven's cheeks.
Raven tried to be brave. Failed. Her mouth dried.
"Let's change that, shall we?" Hoarfrost's eyes whitened briefly, intensifying her spell. Her palms grew colder, pulling Raven's heat, calling Raven's power to her. Raven's darkness dissipated into her body. Crashed through her system. Pooled now beneath Hoarfrost's palms. The anger had dissipated, too. Replaced by the same longing as before. The same need to be close to Hoarfrost. To be taken by her. Loved by her. Raven stepped closer to Hoarfrost, running her hands up Hoarfrost's back, intending to pull her in for a kiss.
Hoarfrost snuck a hand between them and stopped the kiss within a hairs width of Raven's lips. She tilted her head and whispered into Raven's ear. "Much better."
The woman backed away, sapphire eyes smoldering. "But I can't have that happen again. I want you to shift some of your darkness into me."
Raven lifted her hand, palm up. "Then that is what I shall deliver."
Hoarfrost touched Raven's palm with four of her fingers, her pinky lifted away. A ball of light spiraled together between Hoarfrost's fingers and hung just above Raven's skin. Raven's darkness rushed to the spot, melding with the light, caressing the sphere, pulsing outward then submerging again. A dance of two magics. A dance of lovers. It pierced Hoarfrost's palm the same moment Hoarfrost's light dove into Raven's.
Raven's hand tensed. Her body tensed. Her entire soul tensed from the contact. Her magic drained through that touch, quicker than ever before. But she wanted more. She needed more. Wanted physical contact. Yearned for it. Hoarfrost stepped back, lifting her hand from Raven's. The ball of light remained, and a tendril of darkness moved with Hoarfrost. Raven's magic still shifted to her ex flame even with their contact broken.
A nagging thought grew in the back of Raven's mind. Once their physical contact broke, their magic would sever, too. But the thought shifted away again, disappearing from her mind as if it was never there.
"What do you want, Raven?" Hoarfrost smiled. "I want you to tell me what you want."
The words flew past her lips before Raven could even think. "I want you."
Starfire gasped. But Raven didn't care. She wanted the whole world to know. If only she could've said those three words louder, shouted them from the rooftops.
Hoarfrost kissed her on the cheek. The spot on Raven's skin seem to freeze from that slight contact.
"Then you'll have me." Hoarfrost turned her gaze on Starfire. "But not quite yet. I'm still not done with this little alien. In the meantime, I want you to remember my gift, remember me. I want you to remember us."
Raven's eyes unfocused, the room shifted, blurred as Hoarfrost's spell drew her down into her memories. Before the room completely darkened, though, Raven saw Hoarfrost turn back to Starfire and slap her across the cheek.
But the memories had already claimed Raven enough to stop her from doing anything about it.
Raven opened her eyes. When had she closed them? Why had she closed them? She couldn't miss anything about this night. She didn't want to. Not the feel of the cool silk sheets as they shifted over her naked skin. Not the soft mattress bending under her weight. Not the taste of over-ripe bananas lingering on her lips.
She didn't want to miss any of it.
Movement by the bathroom door claimed her attention. Her love would be ready soon. Her gaze skipped from her dresser where a heap of trinkets cluttered the top to the end-table where books lay open. She wished she had tidied up a little bit more before Hoarfrost came over. But then she noticed the dark clothes on the floor, leaving a path from the door to her bed.
Or maybe they could make a bit more of a mess.
The bathroom door whined. Opened. Light spilled from it, washing onto the floor, falling on Raven. She lifted the sheets over her chest. Stupid, silly move. A habit hard to break.
A curved silhouette appeared in the light. "I never knew you to be shy, Raven." The figure turned, exposing the curve of a covered breast.
Raven swallowed the lump forming in her throat. She dropped the sheets. The silk flowed down her skin, tickling it. "And I've never known you to stand in one place for so long, Hoarfrost."
Hoarfrost laughed and moved to the base of Raven's bed. "True." She gathered the silk in one hand and with one swift motion, tugged it off and threw it to the floor.
Raven's skin prickled with cold. Or was it anticipation?
Raven watched as Hoarfrost's gaze swept up and down her body, lingering on her exposed breasts and the curve of her thighs. She flexed her legs a little, self-conscious her large leg muscles. Surely such things weren't attractive. But Hoarfrost, saying nothing, lowered herself to the bed and placed her hands on Raven's ankles. She ran her hands up Raven's shins, knees, thighs, all the way up to her hips. Hoarfrost's touch left a freezing sensation in their wake. Raven had never felt anything like it before. And she wanted more. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears. She reached down to pull Hoarfrost up for a kiss, twisting her hands into Hoarfrost's soft hair. The kiss deepened as Raven slipped her tongue past her lover's lips, wanting, needing to taste her. The sweetness of her banana smoothie still lingered.
Hoarfrost pulled away, lips cherry red. A slow smile spread on them. "Not so fast." She straddled Raven, one knee on either side of Raven's hips.
"That isn't fast?" Raven said, nodding to her lover's position. Light washed around Hoarfrost, accentuating the thin blue fabric on her shoulders and hips. Raven became acutely aware of how naked she actually was, and how two very important thin pieces of clothe still separated her from her lover. She reached for Hoarfrost's bra, but Hoarfrost slipped a hand between her fingers and the fabric and pushed that hand down onto the mattress. She did the same with Raven's other. Her feet hooked around Raven's knees.
All at once, Raven had become captive.
Hoarfrost bent down, her hair spilling over her shoulder, and kissed Raven's neck, tracing a path from her collar bone to her lips. "I'd like to try something out first, if you don't mind."
Raven wanted to say 'I'll try anything for you' but even in her head that sounded too cheesy, too needy. Instead she murmured, "Like what?"
Hoarfrost's eyes glowed white. An odd white. It should have unsettled Raven. But it didn't. It captivated her. Hoarfrost lowered herself, brushing her lips against Raven's while saying, "I want you to fill me with your magic, your lovely darkness."
"Then that is what I shall deliver." Raven didn't know why her words came out so formal, didn't know why she even said them, didn't care. Over the past few months, she had learned to love Hoarfrost, and wanted, needed, longed for Hoarfrost to love her back.
Raven called up her powers, letting them rush over her, flow over her skin, crash through her soul. She pooled the energy between their fingers, hesitant to give it at first. Not knowing what would happen. She caressed Hoarfrost's pinky with her magic, dusting feather light touches across the back of her hand, swirling around her fingertips. Then, all at once, her power dove into Hoarfrost's palm. Her power ripped off the thin fabric covering Hoarfrost's, exposing her skin.
Hoarfrost's back arched, her breasts jiggling from the sudden movement, the sudden release, her mouth parted. In joy? No, the warmth spreading over Raven's stomach told her the emotions running through Hoarfrost was not joy, it was ecstasy. Hoarfrost moaned. Her hands clutched Raven's tighter. Her thighs squeezed Raven's hips. Definitely not something as quiet as joy. But Raven's power drained too fast, she wouldn't be able to keep this up, wouldn't be able to hold this flow much longer.
But she had to keep Hoarfrost satiated. She had to fill her somehow. Raven could be dark in different ways. Tensing her arms, Raven threw herself sideways, tumbling on top of Hoarfrost in the process. The captive becoming the captor. She tore her hands away, called the last of her power up, and lashed Hoarfrost's wrists to the bedposts. The dark bonds wouldn't hurt, never hurt, just keep her still for a little bit.
She searched Hoarfrost's sapphire eyes. "Is this okay?"
Hoarfrost, bathed in the warm light, nodded. Her pale skin seemed to glimmer. But not for long.
Raven ran her hands down Hoarfrost's skin, unable to resist nipping Hoarfrost's neck, drawing a pink line down and over the curve of her pale breast. Raven sucked a small tight nipple between her lips, swirling it with her tongue. Hoarfrost gasped, bucking under Raven's form.
Raven pushed a knee between Hoarfrost's legs, grinding down, feeling the hot wetness waiting for her. She let the nipple go with one last lick and focused on the other one. She had one new technique, a darker one. Would Hoarfrost like it? Raven gently pushed the nipple against her upper teeth with her tongue. Hoarfrost moaned her name, arching her back and spreading her legs. Raven couldn't contain her smile. She let the hard nipple go, grinding her leg faster between Hoarfrost's. Her hands wandered to Hoarfrost's sides and her lips claimed her lover's.
"Please, Raven," Hoarfrost panted, eyes darkening, her wild woman scent filling the air.
Lifting her leg, Raven slipped a hand between Hoarfrost instead. Raven's fingers found what they searched for - Hoarfrost's clitoris. She tweaked it, like she had done a dozen times before. Slipping her fingers between the wet folds, Raven found the rhythm of her lover's rocking hips. Her lover moaned.
Raven needed to do this for her. Needed to make her come. Her magic snapped away and Hoarfrost wrapped her arms around Raven's shoulders, clawing at her back, leaving an icy trail in their wake. Raven's heart pounded, her own need surging to the surface as Hoarfrost writhed beneath her, clenching around Raven. Hoarfrost threw her head back and a flood of warmth ran down Raven's hand.
When Hoarfrost's shivers had finally subsided, she narrowed her eyes at Raven, who smiled in return. Raven kissed the curve where her shoulder met her neck. "You asked for it, love."
Hoarfrost laughed, rolling so that Raven lay on her back. Her eyes raked over Raven's form. She pinched each of Raven's nipples once. Raven gasped, pleasure spearing down between her legs, aching for contact, aching for release. She stared at her lover, unable to tear her eyes away, as the light haloed bright red around her lover's head. Hoarfrost scraped her hands down Raven's sides, but the pain only intensified Raven's bliss.
She twisted her hands into the mattress, letting out a low groan. Hoarfrost's hands on pushed her thighs, forcing them apart. Raven let them open, the cool air shocking her warmth. Hoarfrost buried her head between them. She gave Raven one long lingering lick, then pressed her tongue inside her only to withdraw.
Raven's lower stomach ached, she pushed her hands into Hoarfrost's hair. She couldn't take much longer. Couldn't stand much longer. Her body twisted beneath Hoarfrost, skirting away then pressing harder into Hoarfrost's waiting lips.
Hoarfrost grasped her hips, holding her in place, and drew Raven's clit into her mouth, swirling it with her tongue. The pressure, the lovely agony ached in Raven, threw her head side to side, her hands shoving Hoarfrost deeper. She opened her legs wider, giving her lover more space, wanting more, wanting more, wanting more.
Hoarfrost acquiesced, slipping her fingers deep into Raven's folds. Raven gasped, pleasure coursing through her body, sheer bliss rocking her into Hoarfrost, her breathing ragged. Light poured around Hoarfrost's body, tinting her skin orange. But Raven didn't care. Her muscles contracted around Hoarfrost. She came. A warm release. A yell escaped her, too. Raven relaxed, staring at her lover, but Hoarfrost kept thrusting in and out, in and out.
The ache built once more. "Wait, Hoarfrost, wai-" She couldn't finish the sentence. Hoarfrost had pulled Raven's nipple into her mouth, grazing her teeth against it. Waves of ecstasy rushed through Raven. She pulled Hoarfrost's chin up to meet her gaze. She wanted to see her, needed to see her lover, when she came again.
Hoarfrost's eyes, once white, then blue, flashed green. Raven couldn't piece it together. Her mind couldn't form a string of thoughts long enough to care. She rocked against Hoarfrost, grasping her neck, her shoulders, anything to keep them connected. Her deep ache unwound in shivers this time. Finally Hoarfrost withdrew. Raven relaxed fully. So fully a few disconnected thoughts skittered through her foggy pleasure-ridden mind.
Orange skin. Green eyes. Red hair. Starfire.
Raven sat up.
And Hoarfrost's spell broke.
The bedroom shattered around her, the silky sheets melted away, Hoarfrost's naked form disappeared. The light spilling from the bathroom brightened. Then dimmed.
The Tower's living room pieced back into view.
Hoarfrost, still leaning over Starfire, smirked. "Have fun, Raven? We can do the real thing in a minute, you know. Once I'm done with this little alien, of course."
Raven's gaze skipped past Hoarfrost and landed on Starfire. A cut had opened up on her lip. The scratches on her cheek had turned a deeper crimson. And her eyes, those beautiful green eyes, stared at Raven, not in love, but in horror.
Chapter 7: Sealed Away
Raven struggled, pushed, shoved out with her mind, wanted to scream, shout, curse to the heavens and send Hoarfrost to hell. But she couldn't. So she stood, rock still, and glared.
Hoarfrost titled Starfire's chin up. "You are very pretty, you know."
"I do not wish to speak to you any longer." Starfire lips tightened.
Hoarfrost grinned. "Fine, you don't need to speak if you don't want to. I'll just let you in a few little secrets. You heard Raven's moans, right?"
My moans? Heat seared Raven's cheeks. Had she been talking aloud? Shouting, even? Starfire glanced in her direction but Raven couldn't hold her gaze, skipping to Hoarfrost's form instead.
The woman scraped a fingernail across Starfire's cheek. "Yes, those lovely cries as my spell pulsed through her… it wasn't just a dream. It was a memory of distant past. A very strong memory at that, if it allowed her to speak while inside it."
Starfire tensed. "I will not pretend that I was Raven's only love. She has had others before me. You, being one."
A fierce pride surged in Raven. Yes, Starfire looked at her in horror, but she understood. She had to know it meant nothing, that night, that time, with Hoarfrost. Nothing at all. But even so, fury boiled in Raven, searing away the pride. Fury at Hoarfrost gloating. Fury at the spells cast. Fury at herself for allowing this woman to walk right into her life once more.
"Now, lets amp up the fun, shall we." Hoarfrost turned to Raven. "Raven, I want you to put Starfire in her room, seal her inside, and then come back to me."
"Then that is what I shall deliver."
Raven walked over to Starfire, and waved her hand. The dark magic hummed around her love. The magic responded to her fury, thrumming, aching to be free of the twisted shape and crash into the target of Raven's anger. Starfire noticed, eyeing the dark strands. Raven slipped the magic above Starfire's hips and allowed her to rise. Starfire could walk beside her now.
Raven then took Starfire by the arm and dragged her into the kitchen, into the hallway, into Starfire's room. She struggled against the spell holding her in place, rock solid next to Starfire. The bright walls seemed to crowd her, but Starfire's presence calmed her. She motioned for Starfire to sit on her bed. The mattress creaked under her thin frame. But Raven did not slip her magic back down to Starfire's feet. Instead she glanced down at her love.
Starfire's green eyes met hers. Her lips no longer trembled. Her gaze seemed strong, determined. Powerful. "What would you like me to do, Raven?"
But Raven couldn't answer. It wasn't in the parameters set down by Hoarfrost. She couldn't say anything.
Starfire glared at the door. She balled her hands into fists, bright green energy glowing between her fingers. Raven twitched. Not that. Not yet. Not now! Hoarfrost was too much for Starfire. Star would only get hurt… or worse. And it would be Raven's fault! Her heart raced, thudding against her chest. Sweat traced a path down her back. How could she tell Starfire to stop? Raven couldn't bear it if something happened to Star. Not because of her… she couldn't bear it.
Hoarfrost's spell halted Raven's actions, but Hoarfrost hadn't anticipated the sheer force of Raven's current power. How even before Hoarfrost's containment spell, Raven's darkness ached to be free. Thrashed against a cage. Spun out of control more than once. Because of Starfire. Her powers could be controlled, but not for very long. And not while something threatened Starfire's life. Nothing would stop Raven then. So her darkness lashed out, twisting against the spell. A thin line darkness leaked from Starfire's ropes and webbed out in front of her.
Starfire glanced back at Raven. "Not yet?"
The web pulsed. Starfire eyed it. "Why?
Raven's power spun outward from the web, spearing the bed, the end table, the ceiling, the mirror with darkness. It glowed a deep purple in the center, formed a hulking mass and loomed over Starfire.
Yet, she didn't back down. "She is too big? No." Starfire narrowed her eyes at Raven. "Too powerful?"
Relief, glorious relief swept through Raven. Yes, Hoarfrost would be more powerful than Starfire, more powerful then the whole team. Hoarfrost leeched Raven's magic and added it to her own, after all. She would be, until their connection broke. But how would she tell Starfire that?
Again her darkness answered. It sucked itself into a single thread in front of Starfire and sliced apart. Starfire's gaze skipped to Raven's hand.
"I must figure out how to sever the connection she has formed with you."
Yes! Her darkness seeped back into the ropes binding her love.
The emerald energy between Starfire's fingers dimmed. "Then I will."
Raven couldn't stay much longer, shouldn't stay much longer, and yet… A whisper of magic seeped out of the rope by Starfire's left shoulder and slid across Starfire's cheek. It was the best Raven could do, for now, to comfort her love. And to thank her.
Starfire titled her head into the magic's caress. "I know. Go. Or that woman will begin to wonder why you took so long."
And so Raven, unable to resist any longer, turned and marched out the door. She closed it and flexed her hands. Darkness twisted around her fingers and crisscrossed over the door, sealing Starfire inside.
Raven hated walking away from the door to Starfire's room. Hated to leave her behind. Hated sealing her inside.
But Starfire would figure out what to do. She would escape the room, slap some sense into the stupid boys, and rescue Raven. If Raven could smile, she would. Rescuing. She needed rescuing. Funny, she always thought of herself being the rescuer.
Hoarfrost stood by the window, staring out into the darkened abyss beyond. As if sensing Raven's presence in the room, she turned. Her lips widened into a smile. "Come into your room with me."
Hoarfrost led them down the hallway once more, past the Starfire's quiet room, the edges of her door still pulsing with Raven's dark magic. They moved past Beastboy then Robin then Cyborg's rooms too, just as quiet as before. If only the boys would snap out of Hoarfrost's spell… If only she could slip some of her magic underneath and force them out of it. Hoarfrost lifted her hand, the dark strand connecting them together weaving in and out of her fingers. She pulled. Raven moved faster.
Finally they reached Raven's door. Hoarfrost practically leaped over the doorframe and into Raven's room, twirling on the balls of her feet while surveying the room. "Shut the door."
Raven did that, too. The lock clicked into place, a soft noise but seeming to be a resounding thud in Raven's mind. A white glow drifted from behind her and sealed the door shut. Hoarfrost's magic.
Then all at once, the spell lifted.
Raven could move on her own. She called energy to her limbs, intending to lash out. But no energy came. Her power did not respond, did not listen. Where had it all gone? She spun around.
Hoarfrost sat on her bed, lazily tossing the dark strand back and forth between her hands. Of course. How could she be so stupid? Every second she stayed connected to Hoarfrost, the woman stole some of her power. Drained her of it. It was why she felt weak in Starfire's room. Why Hoarfrost had even commanded Raven to do it in the first place, tie Starfire up and barricade her inside her room. Hoarfrost could've done it with her own white magic. But she'd commanded it of Raven, forcing Raven to drain her power even further, eventually depleting the energy so caged within her. It had been Hoarfrost's plan all along.
"I knew you'd warn her, too, Raven." Hoarfrost smiled. "Use up your power even more by trying to communicate with your love. You're so predictable."
Raven stepped back, the mad desire to run boiled in her stomach. Normal. I'm… normal now. An average teenage girl. Even when her magic thrashed, pulsed, forced away from her, she liked it. Even though she couldn't control it the past few months, at least she had something to try to control. Now she had nothing. Normal. The word burned in her mind. And weak.
She pushed her instinct to run away and calmed herself. Her powers would return, she knew, once their connection severed. Once that damn strand connecting them together snapped. But until that happened, Raven would be trapped in more way than one.
Hoarfrost leaned back, resting on her hands. "Now sit. Let's talk, unhindered, for a while."
Raven tensed. Even without her magic, she could fight. She trained in hand-to-hand combat. Raven could take Hoarfrost… maybe. But then Hoarfrost's eyes whitened and a ball of white energy shot from her hand and shattered the mirror beside Raven's head. Raven ducked, shards of glass falling onto her. A better opportunity would come and Raven would take it. But for now, it bode well for her to do what Hoarfrost asked.
She sat in an armrest farthest away from her ex-lover. "What do you want to talk about?"
Hoarfrost moved her ankle in a small circle. "How it's better this way. How I know your powers have been increasing. How you know we'd work well together. You're power will expand again. You won't be able to control it. Again. You'll hurt someone like that poor defenseless woman in the street. Again."
Raven's hand tightened on her armrest. Her heart pounded in her chest. How long had Hoarfrost been watching?
Hoarfrost smiled. "Or that snake in the grass beside this tower. When you cracked your window that morning."
Raven frowned. Since the beginning. Since the first day her power acted up, her power writhed within her. Since she knew something was wrong. That's how long this woman scoped her out. For months. How had Raven not seen? Not felt Hoarfrost's presence, at least? How had the Teen Titans missed her?
"You'd never expect a prissy woman to infiltrate your Tower. No, you Teen Titans always thought one of the HIVE would do it, glean all your secrets through force and strength and acts of dominance. You were wrong. Well, not so wrong." Hoarfrost's grin widened. She uncrossed her legs. "I do intend to dominate, but in very different ways. I knew as soon as you and Starfire had that date, you longed for her, or your powers longed for her, I should say."
Raven leaned forward, unable to hold back. "It's not like that. I love her."
Hoarfrost laughed. "No, your powers latched onto the first being it could and made you long for her, made you want her, made you love her."
"If you do truly love her then why did you touch my palm in the first place? I didn't command you this morning. You did it yourself." Hoarfrost arched an eyebrow. "You knew what would happen. You knew I'd suck that magic out of you, that I could provide the release Starfire hadn't."
Raven shook her head. That couldn't be it. She loved Starfire. That her magic acted up so forcefully before and during that time was just a coincidence. Wasn't it? It had to be. She glared at Hoarfrost. "It wasn't time yet."
"Don't kid yourself, Raven. Even if you did make love with her, forge that connection, have that release, you'd forget about her soon after. You didn't even love me when we made love. Your magic loved me." Raven tried to interject, but Hoarfrost pushed on. "But I knew, I knew as soon as you went on the date that it was happening again. HIVE couldn't get near you. But I could. And if I controlled you, I could control the rest of the group. I infiltrated your Tower when no one else could."
"Why?" The word burst from Raven's lips. "Why do you need to be here so much, Hoarfrost?"
"Because we want this Tower."
Hoarfrost nodded to the window. Shadows spilled into the room. "Some of the others wanted to rekindle their friendships, too."
Raven gasped, she couldn't help it. Her old gang stepped into view.
Raven couldn't believe it. Meji, Bal, and Orion slipped into the room.
Meji went straight for the bed, sprawling his lanky form across Raven's mattress. His white outfit with red trim clashed with her dark bedspread.
Bal sauntered over to the mirror, placing one of his giant hands on the glass. He pressed it until it cracked, splintering around his fingers but not breaking. The sleeve of his shirt fell past his elbow, revealing a black tattoo of the letter M.
Orion, on the other hand, walked over to Raven. Her flowing white dress sparkled even in the fluorescent lights. She wrapped her thin arms around Raven and placed a quick kiss on her cheek.
Raven stood frozen. Even when in control of her body she couldn't step back. Not from Orion. Not when she was so powerless to defend herself. Why did her gang want to take over Titan's Tower?
Orion let go, her multi-colored eyes shimmering. "Hello there, old friend, it is wonderful to see you again."
This time Raven really did move back a step. Her breath hitched. She hated being fearful of this group, hated that she couldn't defend herself and her friends from them, hated that this was Hoarfrost's plan all along. But instead of getting angry and shutting the door on any sort of counterattack, Raven played with her old lover's idea. Maybe if she treated them nicely… like any "old friend" would.
She nodded. "Yes, it has been too long. Would you like your usual?"
Orion arched a brown eyebrow. "Do you remember after so long?"
Raven smiled. "You take coffee, black with three marshmallows." She looked at Meji still sprawled on the mattress. "And you'll have green tea with mint." Meji inclined his head, so Raven shifted to Bal. "And you'll have a tall glass of water without ice." He nodded.
Raven glanced at Hoarfrost. "Can I get the drinks?"
At Hoarfrost's nod, Raven went into the kitchen to gather up the orders. She put on a pot of water and started the coffee maker. How could she defeat these people? Four powers against a normal? Bal's gaze alone could stop her in this state. The kettle whistled. But maybe Starfire could get out of her room soon. Yes, of course Starfire would. Raven would just have to stall them until that happened. The pale string of light connecting her to Hoarfrost tugged. Time to go back. Why did her room have to be so damn close to the kitchen and so damn far away from her friends?
Carrying two mugs and a lukewarm water, Raven went back to the group and handed them out. Bal took his with a nod, black eyes burning into Raven. Meji bowed his head, dark hair falling over his crimson stare, but Orion kissed Raven again on the cheek. She seemed more forward than Raven remembered.
Raven cleared her throat and slipped into the chair opposite Meji. She glanced around. "So… how has everyone been?"
Again Orion took the lead. The orange in her eyes practically glowed. "We've been great, really, really great. After you left, we couldn't hold our own and so had to slum it, living on rats and yellow water—"
"Picking up jobs when we could." Meji added, his accent still elongating the s.
"We battled rain." Orion folded her arms.
Hoarfrost frowned. "Which didn't sit very well with Meji. He complained nonstop."
Meji winced. "It may have been childish, but I am fond of warmth, not rain."
Raven rolled her eyes. If she remembered correctly, his sun-driven powers didn't do well with precipitation.
"I didn't mind the freeze," Bal rumbled, his voice thick and deep.
Raven laughed, forced and tight, but a laugh all the same. "Of course you didn't, Bal, being a living volcano and all. You could heat yourself up in thirty-two below zero weather!"
Bal nodded. A wisp of smoke curled over his upturned lips.
"We were nothing without you, Raven." Orion sipped her coffee.
Good. Raven almost said the word aloud, but she tightened her lips, sealing it inside. This group deserved to be nothing. Deserved nothing. Not with the way they acted, not with the magic they practiced. Not with the terrible things they almost caused. A bead of sweat trickled down her back.
Hoarfrost, who had been curiously silent this whole time, finally spoke up. "Were nothing, Orion, were. Not until I pushed us to become something, to become stronger, to thrive in our new world."
"True." Orion bowed her head.
Thrive? Raven wanted to laugh. The only way her old gang would thrive was to do something despicable. It was why she left in the first place. Well, that and Hoarfrost.
Hoarfrost smiled, her foot tapping against the floor. "With the Titan's Tower we can once again reassemble our gang, restart our old lives. Become powerful. Capturing the Titan's Tower has proven our loyalty, has shown the powers that be our strength. They will be watching us now."
Meji held up a hand, a tiny glowing dragon glowed into existence in his palm. The sun dragon, the manifestation of Meji's powers. A threat, perhaps. His eyes never left Raven's. "It is a worthy cause, you see."
Worthy cause my ass. Raven leaned back into her chair. "And who are these 'powers that be'?"
"Ones higher than your little Slade, then the HIVE organization, then even the Teen Titans." Orion meandered over to Raven, placing a soft hand on Raven's knee. "Ones who want to rule Earth and everyone walking on it. And when we do our final act, the powers that be will want us to join them in their ruling."
Raven narrowed her eyes. She dared not pull away from Orion's gentle touch. But how did all of this connect back to her. "And you want me to help you get their attention?"
Meji laughed quietly. "You misunderstand us. We do not need want you to be physically part of us, Raven. We have all the help we need to get their attention."
A tug yanked her forward. Hoarfrost captured Raven's gaze once more. A smile twisted on Hoarfrost's lips. "From every single living soul here in your little city."
Raven's eyes widened. They couldn't possibly mean… they were planning to do a soul snatch offering? Impossible. "You won't be able to do it at that scale."
The others had been small, dogs, cats, once even a bear. But a person? A whole city soul snatch? No, Raven remembered the bear. How their magic had almost broken. How they almost turned the bear into a soul-less creature instead of killing it. How her thigh had gotten injured. Cold seared up her leg. She pressed a palm to it. Now more than ever she longed for her magic. If only to fly her friends away from this madness.
"We can." Hoarfrost rose from the bed, lifting her hand, palm up. Darkness swirled into a ball and hovered over her fingers. "Thanks to you."
Of course, they had Raven under their control. Hoarfrost had stolen her magic and with the way it had been acting, the magic could do plenty of damage when channeled by her ex lover. Pain jabbed Raven's stomach. Hoarfrost had planned this perfectly. Raven swallowed around the lump forming in her throat. She had stopped her old gang, breaking their power by running away. But how could she stop this?
Chapter 8: The Play
Meji, Bal, and Hoarfrost sat in the far corner of Raven's room, the one tucked under her window. They mumbled in quiet voices, too quiet for Raven to hear. But what else did she really need to know? She shook her head. She already knew of their plans. And she could do nothing to stop it. Not now. Not in her current state. What she needed was Starfire. And Robin. And Cyborg. Hell, even Beastboy would be useful. She looked to the door. She needed her friends. A sparkling dress suddenly flooded her vision.
Orion stepped closer, kneeling next to Raven. "Would you like to take a walk with me?"
A walk? Raven arched an eyebrow. Could anything be more perfect? "Sure."
Her eyes flashed green, then orange, then blue. A smile drifted across her lips. "Good."
Orion turned and walked to the door, clicking the lock open. She motioned Raven to follow. The moment Raven got up the conversation by the window ceased. Hoarfrost cleared her throat. "And where do you think you're going?"
Raven tilted her head to Orion, who answered for them. "We are going to look at the stars. There's no harm in that. The others are contained. We will be back long before the ceremony begins."
Hoarfrost frowned, but said nothing.
Raven scowled. Her old team balanced well. Orion and Meji, moon and sun. Bal and Hoarfrost, red magic and white magic. No one really rose above the other. It had been Raven who'd clashed with the group. Raven's powers who amplified them. It had been natural that she should lead. And that she should leave.
Orion must've really secured her spot in the team to have Hoarfrost trust her so easily. The door closed behind them, Orion leading the way down the hallway to the stairs. But how did she do it? Raven stared hard at the shoulder-length white hair of her old friend. Her ex friend. Bal seemed the most obvious choice, strength-wise. His lava-like power could flatten anything, even steel. And Meji could harness any form of sunlight to do his bidding. The gentlest ray could become a burning laser in his hands.
They passed by both Robin and Beastboy's room. Raven strained her hearing. Nothing. Not even a bump. She tightened her lips. Couldn't they fight against Hoarfrost's powers by now? Surely they had tried. Still, the rooms were quiet.
Orion trailed her fingers across the wall. Over Starfire's door. Raven narrowed her eyes. Orion's powers were limited to the night. Raven swallowed. But then again, once the moon rose there was no stopping Orion. Nothing could get in her way.
And Orion now stood a notch above the other two, or seemed to at least. How did she manage it?
They reached the stairs. Here, Orion paused. "I slept with Hoarfrost."
Did that matter? Not really. But it explained the subtle shift in power. "And you think I care because…?"
"You don't." Orion climbed the stairs and pushed open the door leading to the roof. The stars provided a blinking background for Orion's silhouette. "But you should."
Raven's hand froze on the rail. What was she playing at? She forced herself to keep moving, keep climbing. "Why?"
Orion stepped out of her way, gaze now trained to the black. "Because it's the fact that will save you and your friends. Now kiss me."
"Ho–what?" Raven reached the top of the stairs, stepping out into the crisp night air.
Orion pulled Raven into her arms, so close Raven felt Orion's heartbeat, the warmth of her skin, the softness of her breasts. Orion kissed her, lips capturing Raven's words and sealing them away. One of Orion's hands slipped behind Raven's neck, the other around Raven's waist. Raven struggled but couldn't break free. Finally Orion pulled back.
Raven tried to pull back, but Orion tightened her hold. "What the hell are you doing?"
Orion leaned close, whispering in Raven's ear. Her breathe tickled Raven's neck. "Hoarfrost trusts me, but not enough to leave me alone with you for long. She will send Meji up to investigate. He will not disturb us if he sees this. And we can't let him disturb us. He must be fooled and leave. Why do you think I was so forward with you before? I had to fool them into this moment, so I can tell you of my plan."
Raven tried to gather her thoughts. It could be a trick. But Orion had been forward earlier that evening, too obvious, especially for her. And what other choice did she have, really? Raven took a deep breath. "What plan?"
Orion lifted her hands to the cloak around Raven's neck. With deft fingers, Orion untangled the knot. The cape slipped off Raven's shoulders and pooled on the rooftop. Then, resting her hand on Raven's chest, Orion whispered, "Do you know what love is?"
Goosebumps rose on Raven's exposed skin. Her thoughts drifted back to Starfire. A movement in the corner caught her eye, a flash of – what – red? Meji? She didn't want to be any nearer to Orion, but if the woman was telling the truth and did want to help, it might be the only way. Awkward, though, so very awkward. How far did Orion expect to take it?
But Orion must've noticed the crimson light, too, because she muttered "Meji" then pulled Raven to the ground, forcing Raven's hands down, straddling her waist, and leaning in for another kiss. Raven tensed. Orion filled her senses, the wind scent of her, the pressure of her hands, the lemon-drop flavor of her lips. Stop freaking out, it's just a kiss. The rooftop was cold and hard against Raven's back, uncomfortable just like this ruse, but this time, Raven returned the gesture.
Orion shifted, grabbing both of Raven's hands with just one of her own and exploring Raven's curves with the other. Her leg slipped between Raven's. As if it was the most natural thing in the world. But when her palm ran over Raven's breast, Raven shuddered. Not with passion, but fear. How far would Orion go? Hopefully Meji couldn't tell the difference.
Orion leaned close, hair falling over her shoulder and tickling Raven's cheek. "That alien girl. You love her?"
The door slammed shut, from the wind or Meji, Raven couldn't tell. "Yes."
"Then you know why I want to help you."
Raven didn't respond. She couldn't. It was too good to be true. Does this really all boil down to love? Orion stilled her movements, a hand settling on Raven's side. Raven wanted that hand off her. Wanted Orion off her. Silence stretched. Finally, Raven replied. "Because you want Starfire and I to be with each other?"
"No, I don't care about you. Or her." Orion smiled. "I am motivated by more selfish means."
The heat from Orion's body became uncomfortable, but Raven dared not move. "Because you love Hoarfrost?"
Orion nodded, lifting herself off of Raven and looking towards the closed door. "Meji has left. We should be fine for a few moments. If Hoarfrost uses your power, everyone in this city will die. And you will grow to loath her."
Raven, too, levered up into a seated position, feeling infinitely better having some space between them. "She's not that high up on my popularity scale as it is."
Orion gaze wandered up to the starry sky. "No. You will hate her for killing your friends, for destroying your city, for using your power for such vile purposes. But you will loathe her for killing your love." She met Raven's stare. "Hoarfrost knows this. So when she is finished with the soul snatch, she will make you to love her. Use her power and force you to believe it is true. You will not be able to break it. And I would not be able to stand it."
"So…" Raven shrugged, hugging her arms against her stomach. "What's the play?"
Raven swiveled around. Starfire?
Raven gawked. She couldn't help it. Starfire stood close to the edge of the roof. How long had she been there? Long enough to see the awkward encounter with Orion? Raven shuddered. She hoped not.
But Starfire had never looked better, backlit by the moon and stars, clothed in her usual Teen Titan's outfit. Her hands and eyes glowed. Ready for battle.
Raven stood, meant to run to her, but Orion grabbed her hand. Pulled her back down. Raven landed with a thump and looked at Orion.
"You will not touch her," Orion said. "You cannot. Or Hoarfrost will know."
Raven arched an eyebrow. How would that woman know? She and the others were downstairs, behind two doors. And Meiji had left. So how would she find out?
Orion tilted her head to their clasped hands. The pale thread twined between Raven's fingers, connecting her to Hoarfrost. Orion said, "She would feel it. The difference in your powers because of her."
Raven swallowed. She couldn't deny it. Her powers, so dark and uncontrolled before, would settle around Starfire. "Of course she would," Raven whispered. "How did you free Starfire?"
Orion chuckled. "Your darkness locking the door couldn't withstand me."
The image of Orion running her hand over Starfire's door came back to Raven. That was when it happened. With a simple touch, Orion had broken Raven's powers. The threat tugged. Raven ignored it.
A muscle in her jaw twitched. Why did Hoarfrost go through all this trouble and mess with Raven's life if they didn't really need her? The idiots in her room could just use Orion.
A smile spread on Orion's lips. "They tried. But mine works differently than yours. Your darkness runs on emotions, something easily swayed. Mine does not."
Raven shook her head. "You can still read me like a novel, Orion."
"I prefer poetry, actually," Orion said.
Of course she would.
Starfire cleared her throat and Orion dropped Raven's hand. The thread pooled in Raven's palm. She wanted to break the thread. Wanted to slash this magic to shreds. But she couldn't. So she looked to Starfire instead.
"Once I realized the door had been unlocked, I followed you as quietly as I could," Starfire said. "I tried to go down the hallway but a man stepped out, not one of our friends, so I evaded him and opened my window, flying up instead. We have a plan." Starfire lifted her chin. The glow in her eyes faded. "You and Orion will go back to the others. I will free the boys and come to your aid."
"As quietly and quickly as possible, Starfire," Orion said. "Once we initiate the soul snatch there will be only a few minutes before it's done."
Nodding, Starfire replied, "I assumed as much."
This time Raven did stand. "How though? It's almost impossible to break Hoarfrost's trance."
Starfire raised her hand, a green sphere glowing between her fingers. "I will punch them and they will awaken. Friend Robin and Beastboy and Cyborg will have no other option."
Laughing, Raven went over to her, careful to stop a few paces away. "I love you, Star."
"And I, you, my arhaie." Starfire smiled. "We will get through this. Hoarfrost will not succeed." She paused, then said, "Is it true you no longer have powers?"
"Yes, but only until I break my connection." Raven lifted her hand, the threat drifting upward with it. It tightened again. A wave of nausea crashed over Raven, twisting her stomach, pounding inside her head. She ignored that, too.
Starfire bit her lip. "Then we will get through that, as well."
Starfire was so sure, so determined, that Raven stepped closer. Less than a foot separated them now. It took everything Raven had not to draw Starfire in for a hug. Not to pull her in for a kiss.
Raven wanted Starfire more than anything else. Her entire being longed for this woman standing in front of her. She reached out her hand. Starfire responded by reaching out as well. They had almost touched…
"Don't," Orion said, her voice low.
Raven stilled. Starfire stopped, too. Their hands still raised between them, Raven's fingers trembled.
She just wanted to hold Starfire. Just wanted to feel her. The curve of Starfire's cheek. The soft hair resting in tendrils on her neck. Starfire's eyes burned into her. Through her. The air between them seemed to dissipate.
Breathless, Raven stepped back. If she hadn't, she would breach the space between them.
Starfire dropped her gaze. Rubbed her arm and turned away.
Orion barked a laugh. "And now that that is over and done with. We need to move on."
Raven nodded. "Yes, we do." The thread pulled at her hand. She rubbed her palm.
She walked to the door, her knees wobbly. Like she experienced a kiss when she hadn't. That was Starfire's power over her. Heat spread over her cheeks. And she really, really liked it.
Orion opened the door and guided Raven down the stairs. The door swung shut behind them, the resounding clang following Raven all the way back to her room.
Raven stumbled, she felt weak. Was that from the kiss, too? The feeling left, disappeared instantly, when she lurched into her room.
Sitting in a circle, her old gang held hands. Chanting, they murmured old words, rocking in time.
They had already started the soul snatch.
Chapter 9: The Snatched Bear
Hoarfrost lifted her gaze. "Orion, perfect timing. Sit," she whispered.
The gang shifted to make room for Orion. Orion nodded, then shoved Raven onto the chair beside her bed. Raven landed with a thump, twisting her arm underneath her. She cried out. The others laughed. Even Orion joined in. But of course she would.
"Did you have your fun?" Hoarfrost asked, tilting her head towards Raven. Raven frowned.
Orion smiled and slipped in between Meji and Hoarfrost, sitting cross-legged. "Enough," she replied.
Orion held out her hands, palms up, and the others did the same. They twined their fingers together. Formed a linked circle.
Raven narrowed her eyes. She pushed herself higher in the seat. Their knees also touched, two forms of contact, creating two separate circles one atop the other. The linked circle. The one to begin and end the soul snatch.
The Soul Snatched bear roared into Raven's memory. The great brown bear Bal had grappled with, forcing it down. The testament of his true strength. He locked the bear in a fire cage.
They had been in the woods that day, preparing for the ritual. Their first try, jitters where high. Antsy. But they were far away from civilization, far enough away to think nothing bad would happen. That nothing bad could happen. Great spruce trees towered over them, their scent filled the air. Raven distinctly remembered the needles poking her legs when she sat down.
They formed the linked circle. Chanted. Meji's sun dragon hovered in the center. Orion's moon magic, dim but included. Bal's red and Hoarfrost's white magic combining in the center, forming a pool underneath the dragon. Raven's darkness convalescing into a claw. It seemed perfect, their magic combined, a perfect balance. They tried to snatch the bear's soul. Raven's darkness clawing at the beast, rushing through it and grabbing its being.
The bear roared. The fire cage flickered, whispered smoke. Whispered weakness.
Raven wanted to stop. She even started to disconnect, to will her magic back to her. But Hoarfrost pushed past that failure and tried again, going against Raven's cries. Hoarfrost forced them to try again. This time they succeeded, if only partially. A large part of its soul came to them. Hovered over them, pure power flowing into them. The bear's great strength and sheer power.
But a small portion remained with the bear.
The creature couldn't survive with that little soul left. Raven didn't know how but the beast seemed to take new energy from the attempt. Seemed to turn into a deadlier force, a wicked force. Bal's fire cage couldn't hold it. The beast charged at them.
Raven could still feel the spittle from the creature's foaming blackened mouth splash onto her cheek. She could still see the great clumps of fur falling from the bear. The burned skin underneath. The blood-red agony in the bear's eyes.
The others had frozen, they didn't know what to do. So Raven tried to stop the creature, but the bear acquired magic of its own from the failed ritual. Raven's darkness didn't even slow it down.
Hoarfrost attacked, sliced with her powers without looking. Raven couldn't believe that her old lover fired her powers with her eyes closed, screaming the entire time. The white magic speared toward the battle. Missed. Hit Raven instead. Cut her thigh open in once icy blast. Blood poured out from injury.
Raven's tortured yell must've awaked the others. If Orion hadn't been there to staunch the wound, Raven would have died that day. She almost bled out.
In the end, Bal forced the bear down and Meji finished burning the creature to death with his sun-power. Luckily it worked. But the bear managed to get one last bite into Bal's arm. Orion fixed it. Days later Meji created a tattoo over it, but Raven could still see the four distinct puckering areas beneath the black ink. A scar of their failed attempt.
Raven's thigh ached. She carried her own scar. One that reminded her too much of the ritual, and too much of her old lover's almost fatal mistake. Raven had fallen out of love with Hoarfrost. Fallen out of love with her old gang and their rituals. Fallen out of love with her old life, even, and had come to Titan's Tower.
She blinked away her memories and rubbed her hand over her leg. The wound still hurt her, years after the fact.
And these idiots were trying it again. And not with one soul, but with thousands. With her friends, too. With Starfire. The group chanted, murmuring their spells, combining their power. Even now, Meji's dragon flickered in and out of life. Glaring at the group, Raven stood. Swayed. The white thread connecting her to Hoarfrost glowed. Pulsed even. It sucked power from her. But Raven didn't care anymore.
Yes, Starfire and Orion had formed a plan. Yes, they seemed to have everything under control. Yes, Raven probably should listen to them. To Starfire. But they had already started the soul snatch ritual. Starfire and the others were nowhere to be seen. And anger burned in Raven's chest, spreading down her shoulders, all the way to her fingertips. She seethed with it.
Raven couldn't want to wait any longer.
She was powerless, maybe. But Raven didn't need her power for what she wanted to do. Lifting the lamp from her bedside table, Raven threw it at the circle. Threw it at the magic growing there. Threw the damn lamp straight at Hoarfrost.
Raven's hands shook, her fingernails digging into the skin on her palms. The lamp flew through the air. And Hoarfrost did nothing. Nothing. The horrible woman did nothing as the lamp sailed straight toward her. The red dragon in the middle of the circle darted forward, flipping upside-down and smashing the lamp to the floor with its tail. The lamp crashed inches from Hoarfrost's back.
No! Anger burned on Raven's cheeks. The white thread throbbed on her palm but she ignored it. The sun dragon still guarded the circle, but she ignored it. Orion shook her head, the most imperceptible movement, but Raven ignored that, too.
Yelling, Raven picked up the next heaviest thing – her bag of books – and hurled that. The dragon breathed fire and reduced the books to ashes. Stupid, useless books! She picked up her bedside table – where she got that kind of strength she never knew – and chucked it towards the group. The dragon headbutted it. The bedside table splintered. Not even a shard of wood made it to the group.
And Hoarfrost still hadn't looked Raven's way. Hoarfrost still hadn't stopped her chanting. Still hadn't stopped holding hands with the others. Still hadn't stopped her magic.
So Raven did the next best thing she could think of. She might not have powers, but she still was a Teen Titan. She ran at the group. Her fists would suffice just fine.
The dragon burst into flames and soared in front of her, but she ducked underneath it, dropping into a roll. Pain speared her side. Why did rolling hurt? It shouldn't, even without her powers. She landed in a crouched position, directly next to the group. Directly next to Hoarfrost.
Raven grabbed Hoarfrost's arm. But the magic kept flowing. Now Raven's whole body ached, but especially under her hand. The hand that gripped Hoarfrost.
Hoarfrost's pure white gaze flicked in her direction, her lips turning up in a small smile. "You never could keep your hands off me, could you?"
Hoarfrost's gaze drifted down, Raven's followed. Raven's whole hand had turned white. Her fingers practically glowed. Her breath came out fast, hard, harder than it should.
"Thanks for the extra boost." Hoarfrost leaned in and kissed Raven on the lips.
And Raven relaxed, her energy evaporating. The heat ebbed from her cheeks. Keeling over, her head banged onto the floor. Thankfully, too, as the pain kept her from fainting. Her eyelids fluttered closed, but she forced them open again. She couldn't black out. Not now. Not when the Snatch was almost done.
Damn. Raven couldn't believe her stupidity. Her rash actions helped them! That was how Hoarfrost's powers worked. Of all the stupid things Raven could've done, touching Hoarfrost had to be the worst. But even her anger ebbed away, now. Even her blazing fury.
Raven could just see past Hoarfrost and Orion and into the center of the circle. There the magic glowed into a hot sphere. Hoarfrost pressed her hands forward, the thread snaking around her body pulsed even brighter than before. Brighter than Raven had ever seen. She weakened still. The sun dragon flew back over the sphere and the sphere changed into a claw. Raven's claw. The Snatch would be complete in a few seconds.
And Raven could do nothing about it.
Raven could do nothing to stop them.
She could do nothing at all.
Her eyelids closed.
A crash echoed into her room. Raven winced. A loud noise. Too loud. She didn't want loud noises. She didn't want anything to disturb her from this darkness. She wanted to stay here. It reminded her of her powers too much to leave.
But she couldn't stay.
Raven opened her eyes to chaos.
The circle remained, all four holding tightly to one another, knees still touching. The double circled remained. The chanting grew louder, loud enough to drown out other noise. The magic glowed. But the claw had disappeared, the white hot ebbed and push forward again. The dragon had flown to the ceiling and threw fireballs downward.
One headed straight toward her.
A burst of blue light extinguished the flame. Cyborg's yell filtered through the chanting. But a wave of heat still washed over Raven's form, searing her eyelashes. She blinked the heat away. Cyborg? Raven tilted her head up, that slight movement shoved pain up her neck and the back of her head. Yes, Cyborg stood by her shattered window, crunching over shards of broken glass. He frowned and lifted his gun-arm, powering up once more. Beastboy swooped inside too, twisting as he dropped. A great green cat snarled at her. No, at them. Arms grabbed under her shoulders and dragged her away. The scent of coffee surrounded her. Robin.
"It's okay, Raven, we've got you," he muttered into her ear.
"It's… almost…" Raven couldn't finish her sentence, and Robin's face swam.
"We know. We'll take care of it."
Raven closed her eyes. They would take care of it. They had to. A woman cried out. Raven would recognize that sound anywhere. Starfire. She opened her eyes once more.
Starfire flew down, green eyes glowing, hands balled into fists. It looked like she aimed for the circle, but the sun dragon rose to greet her. It grew as it ascended, its wing tips spanning the room. Raven's eyes widened. Her heart pounded against her chest. She had never seen it so big before. Yet the combined forces of Robin's bomb and Cyborg's laser beam smashed the dragon away. The dragon tumbled to the side and disappeared in a puff of ash and smoke.
Starfire dipped lower. She sent a beam of her green alien powers into the circle. But that wouldn't work. It wouldn't stop them. It would help.
"No." Raven's voice came out as a whisper, too quiet and too late for anyone to hear.
The green surged into the sphere of white, but didn't break it. Instead, the sphere grew. The claw appeared. The Snatching claw. But it shifted, solidifying then turning to smoke. They didn't have enough power anymore.
Raven lifted her hand, the thread connecting her and Hoarfrost still glowed, still drew her powers, still drained her of energy. They had to break it. It would make her claw disappear for good. "Starfire." Her love still attacked the white magic. She cleared her throat and tried again, a little louder this time. "Starfire!"
Starfire ceased her attack and turned. Raven pulled on the thread. Starfire nodded. She threw her powers downward now, straight to the white thread. Starfire's eyes glowed like a green fire blazed behind them.
The thread pulsed, throbbed, yanked Raven sideways. It hurt, like a spike into her palm. The thread writhed now, like a living thing, but it unwound.
Starfire still attacked. Cyborg added his laser, Robin threw another bomb, and when their powers ended, Beastboy sliced it with his claws. The thread snapped.
Raven's energy came back in a rush. She stood, calling the darkness to her, calling her powers back. Her darkness returned, slowly at first then quicker, filling her entire being. It hurt, her powers hurt. It longed to be free, longed to be used, pushed against her very skin it seemed. Tingled. Shifted. It wanted to be used by her. And she certainly would meet its demands.
She lifted herself from the ground. Floated up to meet Starfire in the air. They linked hands.
But Raven's anger had returned, too.
She turned to Hoarfrost, expecting to see the circle broken, the magic vanished.
Hoarfrost screamed, her yell filling the air. The claw had returned. At first Raven thought it was hers, but it wasn't black. A pure white claw extended from the sphere.
Hoarfrost glared at Raven and pushed her hands forward. The claw moved fast. Faster than the Teen Titans on the ground. Faster than Raven, even. Too fast for her to react.
But she didn't have to react.
Starfire did first.
Raven only noticed a rush of red hair, brilliant against the stark grayness of her room, before the claw engulfed her. Engulfed them.
No! Raven meant to scream this word, meant to shout it into the oblivion, but no sound came from her mouth. Words were useless in here. Useless against Hoarfrost's power.
The bright light pulsed.
In the dominating white one figure stood out – Starfire. Arms outstretched, hair waving around her like some ethereal being, mouth open. Her body faced the claw, but her eyes focused on something entirely different. Her eyes were on Raven.
Love. Lust. Power. Pain. Loss. All these emotions flickered in Starfire's eyes. Emotions that mirrored Raven's own.
But Starfire didn't move. It seemed she couldn't. Had the claw paralyzed her? No, not just her, it seemed all of time stopped. Even Raven couldn't move.
This wasn't part of Hoarfrost's magic. Something else pulsed in the air. Something else hindered their motions. Something more powerful. And finally it clicked in Raven's mind. The only one stronger than Hoarfrost, resilient enough to fight this and win. Orion.
A figure dropped. Starfire had blocked the body. And Raven did notice that it was a body, not a person. Not a woman. Not a beautiful lady dressed in a long white flowing gown. It was Orion. But not Orion. Orion's form yes, but not her soul.
The body thudded on the floor.
Her soul was someplace very different. Caught in a claw. Caught in an evil magic.
The claw drew back, holding something. Something. It glowed a vibrant yellow, the whips of air caught in Hoarfrost's claw. A yellow so bright it would drown out the sun if it needed to.
The claw drew back into Hoarfrost – had she not seen, had she not noticed what she had done, who's soul she just grabbed? – but no, it seemed Hoarfrost had not. Raven tried to look away from the madness that Hoarfrost had become - the figure cloaked in blue-white, eyes glowing red, ancient words spitting from her lips. Raven tried. Tried and failed.
She could not look away.
Hoarfrost sucked the claw back into the sphere. The sphere glowed white, then yellow. It solidified. Cracked, spider-webbed across the surface, then finally shattered.
Raven did not want to look away any more. She had to know. Did Orion save them? Or did she doom them all?
The shattered pieces drifted to the ground. Before hitting the surface, though, they changed direction and zoomed towards the circle instead. Outward. Hitting flesh. Diving through it only to come out bloody on the other side. Meji crumpled to the side – a hole in his neck. Bal fell backwards – a gaping wound in his abdomen. And Hoarfrost, she leaned forward – a clean cut straight through her forehead.
Floated to the ground and touched down with trembling hands.
That answered the question, then.
Raven unleashed her powers one more time and evaporated the three bodies, unable to look at them any longer.
Orion had saved them all. But at what price?
Raven looked away. She inclined her head toward Orion's form and murmured a quiet thanks. But that wasn't enough. Tears sprung unbidden in Raven's eyes.
Beastboy, Robin, and Cyborg gathered around her. They stood close by, but seemed at a loss for words. And of course they would be. They had been under Hoarfrost's spell since the beginning. They didn't know the whole story. Starfire couldn't have possibly let them in on everything. All they must've known was that Raven needed help. Someday Raven would have to thank them for it. For coming to her aid without knowing why. But today was not that day.
Starfire landed beside her and rested a hand on Raven's shoulder. Raven leaned into the touch and sighed. Wrapping her arms around Raven's waist, Starfire pulled her close.
"We shall give her a proper ceremony." Starfire kissed Raven's head. "She deserves the best. For saving us."
Raven nodded. She spun 'round, grasping hold of her love. Her Starfire. Raven sobbed. Not only for Orion, for the grief clutching at her heart. Raven's tears would not stop for just her old friend. They fell, too, for the love she felt at that moment. So much love. Orion's sacrifice. The boys coming to rescue her without knowing why.
Raven cried in Starfire's arms for a very long time.