Disclaimer: I do not own any of those things, characters, situations, or ideas trademarked by other respective parties. This is fan fiction written by me using ideas from other media. Should you recognize a pop culture reference that is because it is a pop culture reference. No copyright infringement or plagiarism is intended.
AN: This is a bit darker than my more usual fluff and angst, fair warning. Implied thoughts of character suicide but nothing graphic. This is hurt/comfort. Also, not beta-ed so sorry for any grammar issues.
P.S. I'm not in any way, shape, or form a musician or poet so bear with me when you get to Raven's lullaby. If it helps, the melody I had in mind while writing it was the River Lullaby from Disney's Prince of Egypt (which I obviously do not own), though softer and slower for this particular use. If you YouTube that it might help the poem flow easier.
He didn't know how long it had been since he'd locked himself in her room. He could guess of course, based on the number of meals the others left for him. If they left three meals a day then he'd probably been in here for about a week. The realization did nothing to make him feel better. In fact, his friends' silent acceptance and pity for him made him feel even worse. The guilt from them being so accommodating to him was just one little bit more eating away at him.
Of course, he was well acquainted with guilt; it had been his constant companion for most of his life. It haunted his dreams and ate at his soul whenever he let himself be contemplative. His friends often wondered why he was such a jokester, why he acted the way he did, why he didn't take anything seriously. They couldn't know that it was all a way to hide from the pain; from the guilt. As long as he was laughing on the outside, they'd never see the sorrow he buried on the inside. As long as he was carefree and joking around, as long as he could play at having no worries, he could almost convince himself that that was who he was. That the darkness in his mind, always there and waiting to envelope him in the despair he was constantly trying to outrun, was only a nightmare that would vanish upon waking. He could almost pretend the burden he always carried with him wasn't really his to bear. But it was.
And of course now that she was gone, his running was for naught. She was just one more person he'd failed to protect. One more person he wasn't strong enough to save. One more person who was destroyed by his inability to be good enough. Now that he'd slowed down—
he'd stood still too long—it all managed to catch up with him. He failed Terra. He couldn't save her. Couldn't protect her. Couldn't keep her from losing her life. He wasn't strong enough to fight for her. He was helpless. He hated being helpless. Helpless like he was when they…
Garfield curled tighter into a ball, burying his head further into the twisted blankets. There was no comfort here to seek. He hated being weak. He hated the tears that he hadn't yet managed to purge completely. How could there be any left? Hadn't he cried them all yet? He felt his claws rip into the fabric, shredding it into further tatters. His claws. Much like his fangs, his ears, and his skin, they marked him for the freakish monstrosity he was. It was no wonder everyone he'd ever come to care for ended up leaving him; such an abomination, such a thing as he, was meant to be alone. Why else would he prove so helpless to save any of them?
Garfield choked back the anguished howl that was trying to claw its way from his chest. He could feel his own mind trying to rebel. His instincts were shrieking for release. Morph. His mind was fighting to change into something, anything else to blunt the pain. But he refused. He deserved this pain. It was his burden to bear and he would do it because it was the only way to blunt the guilt. And the guilt would end him. As surely as he knew which way was north, that deep seated instinct in his very bones, he knew the guilt would be his undoing. The inescapable, unavoidable, all-consuming guilt that wrenched his heart, knotted his gut, and slashed at his mind would drive him, as it always had, to the one inevitable end. He was really only delaying the inevitable.
But just as the guilt he already carried drove him to that end, the guilt at what that end would do to those left behind stayed his hand. It haunted him, knowing that he would never escape it. It haunted him now, and if he acted it would always haunt him. No matter what he did, where he went, the guilt was there. It was all consuming and inescapable. He just wanted it to end. He just wanted it to go away. He was so tired. So tired. Was it too much to ask? Just a moment's reprieve? Just enough for him to pick himself up; put himself back together? Just enough for him to close his eyes and be swallowed by the dark? Was he really so horrible that that was too much to ask for? Garfield curled tighter on his side, knowing it was futile; knowing his wish was a silly thing beyond his reach. He did not deserve any reprieve and thus he was doomed to suffer. He'd pay for his weakness. He was alone; always alone and nothing would change that.
The sudden sound of an automatic door made Garfield freeze; he dare not even breathe. His friends normally knocked and left him food when he didn't respond. They didn't open the door. They didn't come in. And they most certainly didn't climb up on the bed and sit next to him. He was nearly shocked from his stupor when he felt a leg slide up against his back, the knee bent at the base of his skull. He could feel soft flesh pressing against his spine; a hip shifting into the small of his back. He could feel warmth spreading into him from the contact. He clutched at the tattered bedspread and squeezed his eyes tight, his face pressing further into the mattress. Tea leaves, old paper, and something distinctly other enveloped his sense of smell and brought with it memories that were more than just dark. Small, delicate fingers threaded their way into his hair, and as much as he wanted to deny it, it felt good. He felt soothed at the soft touch and the soft scent. They stayed that way in silence for quite some time. He didn't know how long that was, but it was long enough for the soothing of her touch to start to wear off. It was when his pain started creeping back in did she shift against him.
If he'd thought her presence was shocking, it was nothing to what she did next. He heard her inhale, felt her thigh press into his back with the slight pressure of her body reacting to her lungs expanding. He braced himself for her words of solace and condolence. He steeled himself for the expected lecture of 'letting go' and 'getting over it'. He'd expected Robin, but perhaps his friends thought she'd be a softer touch, even if 'soft' and 'touching' weren't things she 'did'. But while her gravelly voice was expected, it was not words of wisdom and logic he heard. It was a soft, melodic rasp with the sound of a lullaby. She started out quiet, unsure, but when he felt his curiosity push back the pain a little, her voice grew until he could feel it caressing his shattered soul.
Do you remember, that last dark November; it was not that long ago.
Such early twilight, that last cold and long night; it was so hard to let you go.
Do you remember, that last burning ember; it shined out just for you.
Bright in the dark night, lonely, only light; and it burnt out far too soon.
Do you remember, my steadfast defender; how our love used to be?
Always in my heart, never far apart; it is not gone, can't you see?
Will you remember, my loved one, so tender; this, my last words for you?
Sleep and dream of me, thoughts oh so lovely; I have not gone so far from you.
Not a goodbye, I'll see you soon.
Garfield wasn't sure how to react once Raven's voice quieted and they were left in the dark silence once more. He'd never heard her sing before. Granted she'd never win any competitions; but she sounded nice, here in the darkened bedroom of a former teammate who'd betrayed and abandoned them before sacrificing herself to save all of their lives. The whole situation seemed too surreal to actually be happening. Maybe the guilt really had finally gotten to him and his sanity was now gone. He wasn't sure how else to interpret Raven, half demon, perpetually angry and emotionally closed off, Raven, sitting with him while he wallowed in misery and singing to him. Of course, the song sounded sad and morbid enough to suit her tastes, so maybe it really was happening. Only one way to find out.
"What was that?" he asked into the quiet, his enhanced eyes finding nothing in the darkness of the bedroom. His voice was a rasp barely above a whisper, hoarse from such prolonged disuse.
"It's titled A Dark Goodbye." Raven's own voice was just as soft as his, her fingers continued to thread through his hair as she spoke. "Funnily enough, the author has the same initials as you BB." she told him, attempting a lighter tone. "It's a story about lost love. It…seemed appropriate." Garfield felt her shrug but her fingers stayed in his hair.
"What happened in the story?" he asked. He hoped his tone didn't sound as dead to her as it did to him. Honestly though, he was too perplexed to really understand what exactly was going on at the moment; but his curiosity was blunting the guilt at the moment, if only just, and that was worth pursuing no matter how temporary it might prove.
He felt Raven sigh, "It's a story about a warrior and his lover. Their love was deep and true but it was taken from them. The warrior and his lover were trapped and rather than be used to break the warrior, the lover killed herself to free him. She loved him and wanted him safe, but her death had unintended consequences on the warrior. Driven to madness he pursued vengeance until there was no one left to smite but himself. The poem is his lover coaxing him to sleep so that she can bid him farewell in his dreams and truly set him free before he could kill himself in his pursuit of her. She did not want her sacrifice to be in vain, no matter how futile she felt it might be to try. She wanted her love to live."
When Raven made no move to continue, Garfield asked, "And what happened? In the end, did he kill himself or not?" He couldn't help it, he felt morbidly curious.
Raven hesitated, too long in Garfield's opinion before she sighed, "I don't know. The author never actually tells you what happens. The story ends with the lover's words to the warrior. You're supposed to interpret it for yourself."
Garfield digested this before he glanced backwards, Raven's form hidden from him in the too dim light. "So, what do you think? Do you think her words changed his mind?"
"Why don't you tell me what you think first." she evaded.
"I think his guilt would be too much. She sacrificed her life for his." he answered softly. Raven's fingers stilled in his hair, her body tensing behind him.
"His guilt would be too much for him to bear so he'd take his life, or his guilt at taking his life and squandering her sacrifice would be too much for him to go through with it?" she asked him quietly.
"Why can't it be both?" he rasped into the darkness.
"And what? He'd be left forever in a perpetual limbo of guilt? Unable to move on and equally unable to look back without shame?" Her words were low; the dark quiet of the bedroom seemed to smooth out the gravelly rasp that usually characterized her voice.
Garfield's brow furrowed, "You make it sound impossible to live that way."
"Because it is." she told him, her tone making it sound like a simple matter of fact.
Irritation made Garfield snippy, "So which is it? Do you think he offed himself? That'd be morbid enough for your tastes right?" he asked darkly. He wanted to pull away from her touch but he couldn't quite bring himself to move, which made him even more irritated with himself.
He felt Raven's fingers flutter in his hair before stilling again. "To be honest, my interpretation of the ending changes every time I read the story. On the one hand, he loved her very much and his guilt at her death could prove to be overwhelming. On the other, he could realize just how selfish his self-indulgence would be. His lover sacrificed herself so that he could live. There are other people that care about the warrior that he'd be abandoning. The least he could do for his lover would be to live a long and happy life; make the most of the gift she died to give him."
He waited for her words to soothe his frustration and that he be able to keep a civil tongue, before replying, "What, are you a closet romantic Raven?" he asked, trying to insert his usual humor into his voice. He wasn't sure if he succeeded or not.
"A closet romantic would root for the reuniting death would give them. A pragmatic reader would see the wisdom of his choosing life. But it isn't my decision to make. It wasn't my life that was torn in two. I can see where the lover stands, but I've never been in the warrior's shoes. I can preach taking the high road all day long, that doesn't mean that that's the easiest road to take." Her 'pragmatic' tone softened, saddened, "I'm not the one that has to live with that kind of pain."
Gar's face scrunched at that. "Was this story supposed to make me feel better?" he finally asked once the silence became too much.
"It's supposed to make you think." she replied, her fingers moving in the soothing motion once more.
"About what?" he demanded. "Honestly Raven, this story really only made me feel worse." He could hear the hoarseness of his voice growing. Great. He really didn't want to start crying again with Raven sitting right there. She'd feel every sob wracking his body through her leg. God he wished it would just go away!
"I know. I'm sorry." she whispered, her voice cracking slightly. Were his ears deceiving him, or was her own voice getting just as hoarse as his?
"Raven?" he asked, turning his head towards her just a little. The fingers of her right hand curled into his hair and he could feel slight tremors traveling through her as if her other hand was making jerky movements.
"I don't know what to do Beast Boy." It wasn't his imagination, Raven's voice was cracking…with emotion. Her fingers tightened in his hair, "I just can't sit outside the door anymore! I can't just wait for you to pull yourself out of this funk because I don't think you can do it on your own at this point! I can't—there's just so much that you're feeling. You—you're hurting, so much…too much. I can't…it hurts, it hurts too much." Raven's hand left his hair and he could feel her rocking back and forth behind him. Realization was starting to dawn on Garfield; Raven was an empath, which meant she was subject to everything he was feeling. The guilt started gnawing on him anew.
"Stop! Stop it!" Her fingers reappeared as her hand gripped his shoulder. "I didn't come in here to make it worse! I came in here to try to help you! Just, I-I don't understand! You and Terra dated sure, but the depth of your relationship shouldn't warrant such a deep depression! You knew her for less than a year and most of the time you spent with her was in the last couple of months. I don't understand, and I can't help if I don't understand. I just…you're hurting so much Garfield. I just want to help you stop hurting. Please." she begged him. The hand on his shoulder moved to the bed in front of him as she leaned over his side, trying to peer into his face, "Please tell me how to help you." she whispered, her voice ragged.
Now he felt really bad. Raven was in so much empathetic pain she was reduced to begging him to make it stop? Dear God, he couldn't stop hurting people even when he was purposefully trying not to! He locked himself away so the others wouldn't have to witness his wallowing! Fat lot of good that did. He could feel his self-loathing rising up to consume him and felt guilty all over again. Raven made a strangled gurgling sound and Garfield suddenly felt himself being yanked up off the bed by the front of his uniform and found himself staring into desperate violet eyes, visible despite the low light by virtue of being only inches away from his own emerald ones.
"STOP IT!" she shrieked at him, giving him a good shake. "Just stop! This isn't your fault! None of it has ever been your fault! I don't care what the circumstances were! You were never responsible for Terra's actions! You were never at fault for her choices! And whatever else it is that you're feeling guilty about, whatever else you're taking responsibility for, I cannot believe that to truly be your fault either. Please, Garfield, you have to snap out of this, it isn't healthy!" she growled at him, her worry and concern giving her an almost feral air.
Garfield looked away, "It's none of your business." he told her harshly. Raven's hands left his shirtfront and clutched at his face, forcing him to look at her. The wild look in her eyes scared him more than he cared to admit.
"Let me help you. Please, let me help you!" she begged though her voice was more of a growl at this point.
"You can't." he deadpanned. He didn't understand it, if it was hurting her so badly, why wasn't she putting as much distance as possible between the two of them?
There were definitely tears in her eyes, "I can." she told him forcefully. "I can, but I know you won't let me." Garfield was surprised at this but his suspicions were aroused at her words. "I can lift the burden; just long enough for you to get some rest. So you can sleep, so you can recharge. I wouldn't take it away, just quiet it; just for a little while. Please, I can't let you keep hurting like this; I don't know what it will do to you." her voice was reduced to a raspy whisper by now, almost beyond understanding.
"What do you mean you can lift it? That you won't take it away forever?" He was confused, and he was suspicious. This sounded a little too good to be true; after all, wasn't he just begging for a reprieve and now suddenly Raven seems able to just magic one up for him? His suck-ass karma didn't work that way.
"Just a little while." she reiterated. "I could take it from you, just long enough for you to regroup, recover; just long enough for you to re-strengthen yourself to bear it anew."
"You could take my pain away?" he asked, surprised. He already knew Raven could sense emotions, and he'd always suspected she could manipulate them too. He had a sneaking suspicion that she would empathically nudge his fear a little when she was pissed and wanted him to cower. But take the pain away, even temporarily? While he was more than willing to believe it within her power, he was surprised at the offer. Raven was usually one of those, 'you have to work through the pain in order to grow' types of people. Just how much was he making her suffer that she was willing to forego her principles for a little peace?
"Yes." she told him, her voice full of relief, finally removing her hands from his face. "I know you wouldn't want me to make it completely go away, you're not that kind of person and it would be detrimental to you in the long run anyway." Now that sounded like Raven. "But let me lift it, just for a little while. Let me ease your burden until you're ready to take it up again. It'll still be there but you won't be bearing the brunt of it. It'll only be until you've had time to recover." she explained and reassured him.
"And yet, you think I won't let you." he prompted her, his suspicions far from sated. There was something she wasn't telling him, he could feel it. Just like magnetic north, he could feel her lie of omission.
She hesitated before something flickered in her expression and she brazened on, "In case you haven't realized, you're a bit of a masochist and I suspect enduring this emotional torment is your way of punishing yourself for your perceived wrongs. I've never encountered somebody else so consumed in guilt and self-loathing." Something in her words caught his attention, his worry peaking once more. Somebody else? He really didn't like the sound of that.
"Trust me," she continued, unaware of his distraction, "I know how detrimental to your mental well-being that can be." Raven's tone went from scolding to a more persuasive caress, "Just let me ease it for you, just for a little while. You're exhausted Garfield." Her eyes scanned his face; even lacking a mirror Garfield suspected he was quite the sight. He could feel how swollen his eyes were, they were more than likely red and puffy; he was sure there were dark circles from lack of sleep beneath them, and he was willing to bet that his face looked gaunt considering most of those meals the others left had been sent back untouched.
"Raven, what aren't you telling me?" he demanded softly, knowing there was something. Raven met his eyes fiercely but kept her mouth shut. He sighed, "I'll refuse no matter what if you don't tell me." Garfield could feel it all starting to gather again. His concern for Raven had chased the pain to the back of his mind, but he could feel it creeping back to the forefront of his thoughts. His guilt over hurting her wasn't enough to keep pushing back his guilt over everything else. Rather than continue as conflicting forces, his guilt over Raven and the well of guilt he carried with him were starting to meld and reinforce each other.
Garfield watched as her resolved cracked and she looked away, "In order to lighten your load…I'd be taking it upon myself." she mumbled reluctantly.
"Absolutely not!" he snarled, recoiling from her violently.
"Garfield, be reasonable! There is no point in you shouldering this burden alone when I'm right here and willing to help you!" she barked at him, resolve firm.
"I will not inflict this on anybody else!" he snarled right back.
"You already are!" The desperation was back in her voice and eyes, "I can already feel everything you feel Garfield! All I'm asking is that you let me lift it from you for a short while until you've rested enough to—"
"No." he growled. He didn't get it. Raven was already feeling his pain which is why she was trying to help him. How would she be lessening the pain for herself by taking it from him? If anything that ought to make it worse for her!
Raven gripped his upper arms and shook him, snapping at him in aggravation, "You stupid idiot! Let me help you! You're in so much pain! If your body was hurt you'd let me heal it, why not your mind!?" she argued, ever logical even when she was apparently at her emotional breaking point. "I can't understand it! You're hurting so much and I have the power to ease it!"
"This is not your burden to bear." he maintained his refusal, insisting on martyring himself.
"If you'd let me it would be!" she retorted.
"I deserve—" He didn't get anything else out because Raven reached back and smacked the bajeezus out of him.
"Shut up!" She'd grabbed his face again, not minding his now stinging cheek and forced him to look her in the eye. "You do not deserve to punish yourself in this way!" Raven was beyond hysterical at this point and his worry about her own mental well-being was again starting to push back the depressed funk he'd been in. "You are a good person Garfield! You are one of the most loving, kind, caring, wonderful people I have ever met! Ever since I've known you you've done nothing but put others before yourself. You're willing to endure untold pain so that others won't have to. You carry the world on your shoulders because you think it's the right thing to do. You bear unbelievable burdens so that others will be free of them.
"What's more, you put up with all of my shit," she swore, making his eyes widen in surprise, "all my anger, irritation, retaliation, my insults, my outright bitchiness and then come back for more. All because you just want to make me smile." Raven's eyes welled with tears and a small smile actually graced her lips as she continued, "You endure and endure and endure trying to make life better for everybody else, and yet you balk when someone tries to reciprocate." Raven threw her arms around him and pulled him close. Despite everything, Garfield could feel his face heat up as he was tugged into Raven's chest as she hugged his head. "You idiot! Just let me help you!" she demanded, holding him closer than he'd ever been to her before.
"You are helping me." he replied, unsure if she could actually understand him considering his face was…well, muffled. Being extremely careful of where he put his hands, Garfield extricated himself from Raven's death grip of an embrace. Honestly, he expected something like this from Starfire, but certainly not the aloof empath. Something was definitely not right with Raven. "Just being here, being here and willing to take my pain on yourself is helping Raven." He held up a hand to stop her interruption, "No I'm not going to let you do that, but I do appreciate the offer." He ignored her huff of indignation, "Rae, I really do appreciate you coming in here, worrying about me, caring about me, but I can't ask you do that for me."
"Why not? You're not even asking, I'm offering." she retorted, crossing her arms in defiance.
He sighed, rubbing his aching head, "Because it's bad enough you can feel my pain at all, I'm not about to have you take it upon yourself."
"No buts." Garfield felt his exhaustion rear up and envelop him again. Raven made a noise of protest but was silenced when Garfield laid back down and shimmied over until her leg was once more pressing into his back. "Raven?"
"Yeah?" she asked quietly, the fight leaving her all at once.
He felt his own emotions quiet somewhat in response to the calm that overcame her, "Do you know any non-sad lullabies?" he murmured.
He felt her shake her head, "Not in English."
"Swahili? French?" he asked with a small though futile amusement, already knowing she wouldn't.
"Um, no." she answered, clearly confused.
He sighed, "Could you sing me something else anyway?"
"Does it help?" she asked him, her fingers weaving into his hair again; her voice once more softened by the dark and quiet of the room. He paused in thought. It did help, he wasn't sure why, but it was soothing; her being there. Her being there just for him. He nodded, feeling her fingers combing through his hair slightly at the movement. "Then of course I will." she assured him.
"Raven?" he spoke up once more, his voice growing quiet again.
He felt her lean closer, pressing into him slightly probably to better hear him, "Yes?"
"Are you going to be okay?" He needed to make sure she was going to be okay. He'd survive. That's what he did, survived. But he needed to make sure that she'd be alright because it wasn't fair that she had to suffer alongside him.
Her voice was soft, but her typical dry tone was still clear, "You've been locked in this dark room for days, grieving the loss of the girl you loved and something even bigger and more painful. You've experience more dark emotion in that time than most people experience in a year, unbelievable agony; and you want to know if I'm going to be okay?" she questioned him, her tone oddly amused.
He shrugged, "Yeah." He wasn't sure why she seemed so entertained by that.
"I'll be fine when you are Garfield." she reassured him quietly.
He sighed again, "I'm sorry you have to suffer with me Rae." He really wished there was something he could do to shield her from it all. She didn't deserve that; Raven especially didn't deserve it.
"I'm not." she argued, voice soft. Her fingers gently combed through his hair, "Now, are you going to shut up and listen or not?" she demanded, her tone almost teasing.
His lips quirked, twitching at the corners in brief humor, "Yeah, I was just worried about you, that's all."
"I know, I could feel it." she explained quietly. "I'm sorry, about how I…I just…" she stumbled over her words, clearly embarrassed about her earlier reaction. She sighed, "Your desperation for relief was fueling my own and it was overwhelming me…and Starfire just happened to drop off your lunch a few moments ago so…" She cleared her throat meaningfully, "I'm in full control of myself once more; you don't need to worry." Raven's tone had a lot more of her usual starch to it and Gar almost felt his lips curve again…especially since he hadn't heard, smelled, or sensed Starfire walk by at all today…
"I'm still sorry." he reiterated.
He could almost feel her roll her eyes at him, "Even when you don't need to be."
"Doesn't make a bit of difference." he retorted with a shrug.
"To me either." she told him quietly before she started singing to him again. Garfield closed his eyes. He'd survive, that's what he did. He might not be okay, but he'd survive. He felt his muscles slowly relax and his weight shifting back into Raven's leg. Her presence was doing more to help him than he'd ever have the words to tell her. He took in a deep breath of air, feeling further soothed by the scent of tea leaves and old paper with just a hint of other. The darkness that he'd been wishing for so emphatically earlier stretched out over him, his eyelids feeling weighted down by exhaustion. As fatigued sleep settled about him in an almost warm embrace, Raven's voice echoed through the corridors of his mind. Her rasping words might be beyond his comprehension, but the meaning of them was unmistakable.
AN2: This was actually meant to be part of another fic, Stolen Hearts, Stolen Minds, but because of the timeline, I could only make this fit in as a flashback and it didn't really work for the pacing I'm trying to set…thus a perfectly good oneshot! I hope you experienced as many feels reading this as I did writing it. Go ahead and let me know with a review! I love me some fuzzies! And for those of you looking for Chapter 13 of Shades, check for an update tomorrow or the day after! I'm almost done!