The hum of the monitor beside her bounced against the empty walls of the room while the smell of ammonia and disrepair clung to her skin. It was here that she was glued, unable to move without fear of missing him. The doctors told her that his arrival was close, but how close they would not say. Guessing games had never been her forte, although neither was waiting around for the inevitable. Cancer had a way of doing that to people, forcing them to become something that they were not but for him she would change everything that she was if it meant a chance to save him.
The man in the bed seemed so small to her. His withered figure forced the sheets to hang loosely around his body creating a small of cocoon. Slowly his chest would rise and fell, with every passing second she wondered if that breath would be his last. With great misery she counted the days as they passed her. If you were to ask her, she would not know the date but she could tell you how many times the nurses upped his morphine. She could tell you what time of the night she choose to cry beside him while clutching his hand and whispering sweet nothings in his ear. She could tell you the story of every shadow that crossed his face as each of their friends stopped to say their farewells.
Yes, she could tell you all of this but the thing she could not tell you was when he would arrive.
Pictures sounded his bed; days that had come to pass watched him as his last moments raced by. The smiling faces of the Titans, annoyed faces of his lover, all things that he would have cherished if not for the sickness that ravaged his body. Her friends had told her that he would have wanted to have them, that he would have taken reprieve in the good times rather than all of the bad. However all they did was remind her of what could have been. They mocked her with all of his happy moments while she was forced to live through her worst days. More than anything, she wished she could have shown her love as he did. All of the things he did, she had wanted to do for him but was limited by her curse. He had understood more than anyone and in the end he had been the only person who had actually made her feel whole, and now he was ripping her apart.
"Garfield." She whispered as she pushed back a stray strand of hair from his face. The tips of her fingers lingered on his cheek while she memorized the strong jawline he bore. The years had been good to him and although the sickness had caused him to decline in health, he still wore signs of his age. He was young, far too young for what was happening to him. Too young for cancer to take him away from her, not with so much left unsaid.
That was why she waited. Waited for him.
Finally the shadow that she had craved washed over her like the darkness of the night. An exasperated breath left her lips as she stood from his bed side. Slowly turning, she was met with a well-dressed man; his all black suit fit him perfectly while his pale skin accented his dark features well. His hair was short and well maintained while his eyes were almost as black as his tie. The sly grin he wore caused a small shiver to crawl its way up her spine and into the pit of her heart. He was what she had expected, in each and every way, and that frightened her more than anything.
"I see you have been waiting for me Miss Roth." The man sneered as he walked past her. His dark and greedy aura filled her with devious thoughts, thoughts that would have only came from a man of his profession.
"Yes and I must say, it took you a very long time." Raven replied, never faltering once. The man lived for his job and most would say he was the most intimating figure known to the human race. All feared him, and those who did not had accepted their fate long ago.
The suited man nodded as he removed a packet of cigarettes from his breast pocket. Without permission or concern he light up one, placing it into his mouth with much care. A long drawn out drag followed as he inspected the green changeling in the bed. With a shake of his head he looked to the plum haired woman beside him and asked, "Would you care for one my dear?"
Raven shook her head, sneering "No, I quit when he was diagnosed."
The man chuckled lightly, nodding his head, waving away her rudeness and replied, "Right. Cancer. Where are my manners?" With one final drag he exhaled the smoke into the air between them before licking his fingers and putting out the ashes. His body made no attempt to flinch in pain as if he had done the act a million times. Slowly he removed the pack from where it perched and placed the half smoked cancer stick in its rightful place. "You know, not most people complain of my lateness. Usually they praise me for taking my time."
"That may be," Raven bit as she fidgeted with her sweatshirt, "but I am not most people am I?"
"No. We both know you are not." He replied calmly, taking a seat along the window across from the changelings’ bedside. His arms crossed themselves as he inspected the woman before him. An eerie silence engulfed them before he asked the question that hung in the room, "What do you want from me Miss Roth?"
"I want a trade." she replied just as she did a thousand times in her dreams. "I want you to take my soul instead of his."
The man raised his eyebrow suspiciously as he rubbed his jawline, "You of all people should know that that is not how this works. My job is to take his soul not yours. It is not your time Miss Roth, and shall not be for many-"
"Give him my years." she pleaded cutting off what she already knew. "Give him my years and I will take his."
Death shook his head, "You and I both know that you are not going where he is. Your soul is already called for and I must say what Trigon has in store for your eternity is nothing like his."
"I know." Raven whispered, breaking eye contact and looking over to her lover. His green skin had faded in color. She walked to him as she took a hold of his hand; slowly she traced his knuckles just as she had done a million times before. Taking in the intimacy one last time, she didn't bother to turn to Death as she spewed, "I also know that it is because of Trigon my soul is more valuable than his. You should get more out of taking me than him."
"I do not care what soul I take Miss Roth. World leaders, serial killers, heroes, they are all the same to me. It is my job to escort them to the beyond, not to take pleasure in doing so. It is a terrible, horrible job but someone must do it." Death stood from his chair and walked to where she stood. His gaze followed hers and his face twisted as he watched her thumb dance on his hand.
Tears filled her eyes and she made no attempt in stopping them from running down her cheeks. Water droplets fell onto their conjoined hands causing a cooling sensation to run along her arm. If time had been on her side then they would have lived out their days together, happy and alive. But time was a cruel, unforgiving mistress that took no consideration of who she hurt.
"If this is something that you are serious about Miss Roth, then I shall take your trade." The man’s unanticipated words were immediately followed by darkness as it began to wrap itself around her warmed skin. Its unbearable control soon found its way up her body and pulled at the corners of her soul. Raven could feel herself flinch slightly at the feeling, only to have the sensation take a hold of her even tighter. "Do not be afraid dear," Death soothed softly, placing a gentle hand atop of her shoulder, "it will not hurt. It's like falling asleep."
The empath's lungs drew in a large, deep intake of air as she stilled herself completely. She could feel her grip on her love’s hand failing only causing panic to build within her. With her last moments on earth she forced all emotions on him, on everything he was. Her love for him was unconditional; it was the only absolute thing she had known. "I love you Gar." Raven whispered as she felt herself fall, "Please forgive me."
The long dim hallway seemed as if it lead to nowhere, its grey walls bore nothing but faceless pictures of her past. To her left she saw everything dark within her soul; mistakes, failures, fears all portrayed in the same sick way. Each memory burned into the wall, encased with the same dull obscure tint. To her right she saw her light: her family, friends and most of all, him. His jade skin outstretched nearly every portrait, the infection that was his smile plastered onto the wall. These pictures were not like the others, warmth radiated off of each scene, happiness shined through the people within.
The white tile lead her to a large, nearly empty room where the pictures no longer reached, only a wooden door was in view. Its panels were held together by manacle like rods, each bolt driven deep in to the lumber to secure them together. In the center was the symbol, painted with dark red blood, it was a symbol that she was quite familiar with, one that meant only death and despair.
This was the door leading to her eternity, to the inevitable. Unthinkable horrors lay just behind its thin barrier and she knew that Trigon was waiting. Waiting for his disobedient daughter. Waiting to make her pay for sending him back to his rightful prison. Pain and misery await her but she could not muster the strength to care. Deep in the tethers of her soul she knew what she did was right; the empath knew that if given the chance again she would save him again and again, forever.
Her thin grey hand arose from her side, she could feel the pain and disperse as it radiated on the other side. With a deep breath she closed the space needed and touched the burning knob. As she began to turn, the sound of light footsteps behind her forced her to freeze.
"Hello Raven." a small voice spoke quietly. Raven turned only to be met with a near blinding light. From the illumination emerged a small girl, no older then what could be assumed as ten years of age. Her white dress hung loosely from her petite frame while her tanned skin accommodated her dirty blond hair. The child's bright blue eyes looked into the empath's as the light faded from behind.
Silence soon replaced the air around them as the demon inspected what was in front of her. As Raven eyebrow rose in suspicion she soon asked, "Do I know you?"
The little girl smiled as she took a few steps forward. "No, I suppose you do not but I know all about you."
Raven pursed her lips in a mixture of frustration and confusion; all she wanted to do was begin her eternity, to pay for all of her sins and misfortune. She always hated games. "What are you?"
The young child chuckled lightly, "I go by many names my dear. It seems as if each religion deems me different and justifies it with another term but I am the same."
"Hmm." the empath replied, not so easily swayed. "So you’re supposed to be God?"
"Yes, that is one of my names." The girl replied, sounding far older than she appeared. "Although I always loved the term almighty, it’s rather fun don’t you think?"
Even in purgatory Raven could feel a headache coming on. “If you’re supposed to be God, why do you look so young? I thought that you would be all powerful and you look like you need to be walked to school.”
Raven knew this was harsh, considering who she was talking to but it was hard not to let her sarcasm seep through her cracks. The child only smiled at the venom spewed at her, “Yes, I agree that this form is very young but I do not appear to too many people Raven and this is the gentlest body I could summon.”
The Titan felt as if she should bow, or kneel, or something. This being was nothing like her, her electrifying company was overwhelming in a way that was over stimulating her very being. The presence of a higher power was one that had ever fallen on deaf ears, the demon knew that it existed, if only to balance out her father but never in her lifetime did she expect to encounter her, especially not in this way. “I-why are you here?”
God merely smiled. “You are quite amazing, do you know that dear? You were created without my power, summoned to life by your father in the absolute worst way.”
“That doesn’t sound amazing” Raven mumbled softly.
The young girl shook her head softly “No it is, trust me. The simple fact that demon blood runs though you, mixing with human in a way that created an actual being is nothing short of astounding. You live your life as easily as you can and yet there is a never ending darkness that follows you every day. You are the definition of light and dark, yin and yang, good and evil. How easily would it be to fall in your father’s path, how simple would it be for you to let your burden consume you? Yet, here you are, giving up your life on Earth for a mere mortal.”
“He is not a mere mortal.” Raven found herself correcting almost instantly. “He is a good man, the purest soul that I had ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
The blonde bowed as if in defeat, ignoring the bite that followed the empaths protest. “Yes, my apologizes, I agree that Garfield was one of my best. I tested him countless times and he always pulled through.”
“Not recently.” The plum haired woman corrected, ignoring the frustration that grew within her.
“Cancer was not meant to be a test, it was meant to be a means to an end. He was to die tonight, to enter his eternity with open arms but you had other plans, did you not? Influencing Death is nothing that happens often, I have only seen it happen one other time, some years ago. He has always had a soft spot for star-crossed lovers, being one himself influences him in such a way.”
Raven wanted to retort but could not find the strength, she was tired. So very tired of the burdens she bore, of the life she had once loved and cherished. If Hell was her destination she was tired of waiting for the inevitable, all she wanted was release. She had lost the only person that had loved her whole heartily and now she was ready to move on. “Is there a reason for all of this?”
“There is a reason to everything.” Almighty answered softly, undoubtedly sensing the pain that her companion felt. “You changed everything by taking his place thus changing your eternity.”
“Wha-“Before the question could be finished she felt a shift in her surrounds. The heat that she once felt from the door behind her was gone, replaced by the calm that only followed a devastating storm. As she turned the door changed its image, the harsh and strong iron clasps fell apart, clanging to the floor loudly before disappearing completely. The wood began to splinter as if in pain, tearing her father’s symbol from its mantel. Soon the entire door had transformed, replacing the hell that once was before her for something completely different. “Is that-is that my room?”
God smiled gently, “Fate is a very fragile thing Raven. You were so young when yours was chosen for you and yet you had changed it many times. Saving your lover was an honorable thing, something that many people just are not able to do and you did it without a second glance. So here it is your new fate. Something you have deserved for so long.”
“But what-“the incomplete question fell from the air as she turned to find the empty space that the Almighty had once been. It was as if she had never been there, just like a shadow in the dark. Raven’s browed furrowed as she turned back to her new door. With a deep intake of breath she waved her hand and opened the door.
Her room was the same and yet so very different. The marriage bed that once took up the center of the room was replaced by a large dark, looming bed with purple silk sheets. His things that had cluttered their shared room were no more, substituted for books and aged artifacts. This was her room, only many years before.
As she turned heel to inspect her old room she caught a glimpse of her reflection. Her once pronounced features were now softened, looking more of a teen than an adult. She had also shrunk in many other places encasing her once awkward figure from her teens. The girl in the mirror couldn’t be more than fourteen even though she was now in her early thirty’s.
Then came a pounding at the door, it startled the empath causing her to jump back in surprise. “RAAAVVVEEENN.” Came a familiar voice, echoing itself in her head. “I’m not leaving till you come out!!”
“No.” She breathed in response, rushing to the door eagerly. The door opened painfully slow, taking its time as it went as if taunting her. Before her eyes could adjust the scent of fresh cut grass and cinnamon crashed in to her causing her eyes to water with anticipation. It had been years since he had carried his natural musk, all too often he bore the smell of ammonia and lingering sickness.
Finally he was reviled to her. He was much shorter than he had been, reverting back to his boyish stature that he had when she had first met him on the streets of Jump City. The tight black and purple uniform exposed his poorly formed muscles, bulking in awkward places while others lay flat as if a second skin. It was almost too much for her, it was as if she was floating with the only thing tying her to this reality was his emerald eyes. Raven had to fight not to embrace him that very moment; the one thing stopping her was the pure shock that punched through her heart.
“Well it’s about time don’t ya think!” Beast Boy nearly growled, shaking his head. “I’ve been out here for thirty minutes.” Raven tried to respond but the only thing auditable that passed her lips was a small squeak. His features changed from annoyance to confusion as he tilted his head, “What? It looks like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I-I don’t understand.” She murmured softly.
“What is there to understand?” he answered gently as if she was a frightened doe. “Are you okay? Do you need Robin? Cy? You’re scaring me Rae.”
With that her self-control broke as she pulled him into a strong embrace. He felt so warm under his arms, so safe and real that she was afraid if she let go he would disappear altogether. “I-I can’t believe it’s you.” She managed to choke through her pathetic sobs, “I-can’t-“
“Okay something is defiantly wrong.” The changeling answered, fidgeting under her grasp. “CYBORG! STAR! ROBIN!”
The sound of his frantic cries echoed around them forcing the empath to regain what little composure she could muster, allowing Beast Boy to pull away from her grasp. When space was allowed between them she could see the concern that covered every inch of his face, “Raven what is going on? Are you hurt-“
“No.” She answered quickly, whipping away her pitiful tears. “I think I just had a bad dream.” Lie. It was not a bad dream, it had been reality and deep down in the pit of her soul she knew this. She knew he had nearly died with her by his side, she knew what they once were and even now she could imagine the way he had felt against her skin. Now though, now it was all different, she had another chance, another life to live in her new eternity. She was now young and free to make all her decisions over again, to be with him again.
It was beyond a miracle.
It was an act of God.
“Oh, I’m sorry Rae. Do you want some tea? I can make it-I mean I know it won’t be as good as you-but-I can-“
“Yes.” She whispered allowing a small smile to cross her face, “I’d like that”
A nod was his only response, she could feel the uncertainty that he felt but knew he would never let it show. With a comical bow he extended his arm in an old fashion way, asking to escort her to her comfort. Undoubtedly to his surprise she accepted the gesture, drinking in the warmness he had offered her all those years ago.
Beast Boy only smiled as they made their way down the hall. Leaving her past behind and entering a new future.
She pushed towards her new eternity, into her new safe haven. With him, always.