Whoever owns Ranma 1/2, The Teen Titans Animated, or Sailor Moon, it certainly isn't me.
Raven hovered several feet above the roof of Titan Tower, the pale, red-haired young adult sitting in the lotus position that she usually used for meditation. She wasn't meditating, though, simply watching as on the far side of Jump City across the bay the hills slowly faded into existence — first as mere hints of their presence as much from the absence of stars than anything else, then flat solid black silhouettes, then slowly taking shape as the morning light brightened. After she'd returned from her weeks with her mothers, she had gotten in the habit of being on top of the Tower to greet the sun as it rose whenever she had the opportunity. Partly, that was simple delight in the extra time she had, now that she no longer needed to spend hours in near-daily meditation to suppress her 'father's' taint. But also partly —
"I love sunrise — the promise of a new day, anything's possible."
Raven glanced at Robin out of the corner of her eye as he came up beside her and repeated what he'd said to her at the dawn of the day that Trigon tried to claim the Earth as his. She'd known Robin was coming, of course, his usual calm confidence a balm to her empathic sense, and now she refocused on the dawn spreading across the hills and gave her half of what over the past year had become their own personal ceremony: "You're right. It looks like it's going to be a beautiful day." The exchange was always the same, whether it was as beautiful a summer's day as this one promised to be, or the beginning of a sleet storm spitting into their numb faces. After they had managed to kill the demon that had given her half her soul and with her adopted grandparents' help restored the world he had transformed, every day was beautiful.
The two continued to watch until the sun was half up over the horizon, then Robin turned to her. "Are you up for a spar before breakfast?"
"You're on!" Raven replied with a fierce grin.
Raven dropped and kicked up as Robin sailed over her, her foot smacking into his leading leg that would have knocked the breath out of her if it had connected. But there was no chance of that, and she briefly wondered what he'd thought, using a move suitable to blind or immobilized targets. Very briefly, as the Boy Wonder used the upwards momentum of her kick to spin in the air. She barely managed to shift her head to one side of avoid a swinging fist, rolled away as both of his feet slammed down where she had been lying (grateful not to be wearing her cape), then caught his follow-up kick on her crossed arms over her face.
Slipping her crossed wrists under his ankle before he could yank it back, she pushed up, and her ankle-booted foot slammed into his midsection even as he began to drop rather than fight for balance.
But he again rode the force of her kick, flipping away for distance, and when she charged forward he caught her with a leg sweep that knocked her off her feet and his second foot caught the arm that was about to stop her fall. She slammed down on the mat, hard, and when she blinked her vision clear it was to the sight of a green glove-covered fist hovering right in front of her nose.
"Well, damn," she said with a sigh, "you win again. Almost a year, and I still can't beat you more than one time in five in a no-powers spar."
"Hey, one in five is doing really well," Robin replied as he rose from his knees and offered her a hand up. "I'm actually surprised how fast you're improving, I've been training most of my life."
So did I, the first time around, Raven thought as she and Robin walked over to where towels and water bottles were waiting. The first time around she remembered, anyway. What with the whole reincarnation thing she must have had any number of lives, the ones that had made Ranma constitutionally incapable of admitting defeat, but she only remembered two. She chuckled at the thought, then shook her head when Robin glanced at her. Right, only two. Most people have to settle for one. She grabbed up her towel and water bottle, wiped the sweat from her face, then rolled the bottle along her forehead — still cold from the fridge.
Robin did the same, then guzzled down half his bottle, then nonchalantly said, "I agree, Jinx is the best choice as your replacement — she's the right age, and while her relationship with Kid Flash will keep her honest the adrenaline addiction that pushed her into the mercenary business means she won't stay satisfied working in a jewelry store; best to get her on a team that can put her talents to use and give her the excitement she craves. So when are you leaving? You are leaving, right?"
Raven's water bottle dropped from suddenly loose fingers and bounced on the mat as she stared in shock at her leader. "You ... I ... you ... we ... How did you know?"
Robin shrugged. "With the number of shapeshifters out there no security is really perfect, so when the more sensitive files are accessed through the Tower's computer terminals I automatically get flagged while security scans the location of the terminal to verify the user's identity. Which means that I've been watching over the past week as you've searched through our personnel database, and saw how you kept going back to Jinx's file. Add in the way you've been a little more eager than usual to spend time just hanging out with the team ..." He shrugged again.
"And why am I only now hearing about those security features?" Raven asked as she stooped to pick up the water bottle, buying time as her mind raced, trying to figure out how to handle the sudden situation. Not that she'd have been able to put off telling everyone much longer...
Robin grinned. "There are all sorts of ways to get security details out of you — mind reading, hypnotism, others ... admittedly, many of them are less likely to work on you than the rest of the team. But you can't spill what you don't know. So, are you leaving?"
Raven sighed and nodded. "Yes, I'm afraid so. I'll let everyone know — and why — after the morning training."
"No! You cannot leave!" Starfire shouted, the orange-skinned alien floating up off of Robin's lap in her agitation, before he pulled her back down. "You are my first female friend! My best female friend! With whom will I practice the calm of meditation if you are not here?"
"What she said," Terra said from the couch where she sat next to Beast Boy, his arm across her shoulders. "Not the meditation or best friend part, but we'd really miss you when it comes to the magic mojo."
Raven, again hovering off the ground in the lotus position in front of the huge flat screen TV in the common room, looked over at Cyborg where he sat in the chair specially reinforced to handle his weight. The Black half-man/half-machine shrugged. "What they said. Why the sudden exit?"
"It isn't sudden," Raven replied, "I just didn't want to spoil the fun when there's nothing anyone can do about it. I just ... have some unfinished business in Japan. Now that Trigon's dead and my mind's no longer fractured, it's time to deal with it." She reached up to run her fingers through her fiery, shoulder-length hair. (She'd been right, that there wasn't any genetic reason for the red highlights in her hair after Trigon's defeat, and as her fractured mind had healed that red had spread until it was the same bright, fiery red as Ranma's female form.)
"So how can we help and how long will you be gone?" Beast Boy asked. "I need someone besides Tara to tell me my jokes are funny."
"Like that will ever happen," Raven scoffed, "Tara's just biased." She smiled briefly as the blonde girl giggled and snuggled up closer to her green boyfriend, then sobered. "And I don't know if I'll ever come back, except to visit."
Silence slammed down, and the rest of the team stared at her in shock until Robin gently shifted Starfire off his lap to sit beside him with his arm around her waist. "Why don't you tell us what's going on?" he quietly suggested.
"Right." Raven had been thinking about (and fearing) this conversation for months, and now she said, "Robin, you spent time training in the Orient, did any of your senseis ever mention a Japanese martial artist named Saotome Ranma?"
"The name sounds familiar." He frowned thoughtfully as he combed through his memories of the training trip years earlier, then nodded. "Yes, one of them did. He thought I was too obsessed with my training, and used Ranma and his fiancées and his eventual death as an example of what can happen if you don't have proper balance in your life."
"Not exactly what I'd intended but it's nice to be remembered for something," Raven said with a wry smile. Her smile turned into a grin at all the dumbfounded expressions. "Yes, that was me."
"Dude, you were a guy!?" Beast Boy demanded.
"Raven shrugged. "I imagine I've been a 'guy' any number of times." Smiling slyly, she added, "Probably as many times as you've been a girl."
"Oooh, yuck!" Beast Boy exclaimed, and suddenly found himself the angry focus of the other two girls in the room.
Terra carefully removed her boyfriend's arm from around her shoulders. "Do you have a problem with girls?" she demanded.
Raven was hard put to keep from laughing at her prankster friend's desperate denials accompanied by much handwaving. Mischief managed, she thought, remembering one of the book series she'd read over the past year. Later I'll have to let him know that he really shouldn't play with a girl's shower head.
"You can teach Gar the error of his ways later," Robin called out. A still-glaring Starfire and Terra took their seats (Starfire's green eyes were actually smoldering, though Raven's suppression of her laughter became even harder at the self-satisfaction both girls were radiating), and the Boy Wonder continued, "So that's why your hand-to-hand has improved so quickly — Sensei said that Ranma was probably the best of his generation, you're practicing what you remember."
"More or less," Raven agreed, "though there are issues. As Ranma my ki reserves were huge, and the style I was creating depended on that. Now my ki is essentially at civilian level, and I'm not going through the decade plus of abuse it took to build up my reserves that fast again. You know how I've been incorporating my powers into what I can salvage but I'm simply not fast or durable enough."
"Still, you're on the right track," Robin mused. "Since you're headed for Japan anyway, I'll give you Ono-sensei's contact information. He did have some good things to say about you — about Ranma — in spite of using ... you as a negative example."
Raven stiffened. She asked, "Ono? Tofu Ono?"
"Yes." Robin's gaze sharpened. "You knew him?"
"Oh, yes, Doc operated a clinic most of my time in Nerima," a stunned Raven agreed absentmindedly, as her mind flashed through some of the more ... intimate (and as brief as she could manage) scenes she'd accidentally caught Kasumi and Nabiki in with the mirror her grandfather had gifted her. Yes, she'd accept Doc Tofu's contact information with a grateful smile, memorize it, then torch the paper and never mention to anyone in Tokyo that she knew where to find him. Not as dangerous as the good doctor had been around Kasumi.
Then another thought occurred to her, and she added grimly, "But he left Nerima months before the end so I doubt he mentioned the sequel, or even knew about it: where I came back a year later as a revenant — an angry ghost," she added at several confused looks, "— and hunted down most of those I held responsible for my murder and damnation."
"Noooo, no, he didn't," Robin said quietly.
"I didn't think so." Raven quickly sketched out how she had slaughtered all those she'd held responsible but one; how she had fought a duel with that one — one of her fiancées — each girl trying to save the other, and almost been tricked into killing Akane before one of her future mothers had stepped in to save the day; and of the offer she and Akane had been given: Ranma's soul to bond with Trigon's soul shard in Akane's body reduced to an infant, slowly remembering her past life as she grew up again; Akane's soul to move on to her next life. And of Raven's promise that once Trigon had been dealt with, she would seek out Akane in her new life and offer to awaken her memories of her previous one and see where they went from there.
Starfire floated up again, hands clasped in front of her bountiful chest, and Raven could almost see the hearts in her eyes to go with the sentimental dreck she was emoting. "Oh, friend Raven, that is so —"
"If you say 'romantic', I am going to hurt you," Raven snarled. "It was terrifying, and ugly, and painful beyond belief, and left Akane's sisters and my mother mourning their dead and trying to rebuild their ruined lives while raising two little girls. There was nothing 'romantic' about it!" The world was suddenly tinted red. The rest of the Titans had tensed, leaning back in their seats away from her, and she realized she was shaking.
She closed her eyes, fighting to control her shuddering breath, and felt arms circling her from behind in a gentle hug. Starfire, of course, radiating fearless concern. Raven patted one of her friend's hands and whispered, "Sorry about that, bad memories." She had hoped that with her father dead, her flashes of anger would vanish as well. They'd decreased, but it seemed some at least had been inheritance rather than influence.
"No, friend Raven, it is I who should be sorry," Starfire murmured in her ear. She strengthened her hug for a moment, then released Raven to fly back and settle down again to snuggle against her boyfriend.
Raven swallowed to clear the sudden lump in her throat. "Sorry about that," she repeated to the rest of the Titans.
"Hey, no problem," Beast Boy replied, "what's a day without needing to change your shorts? Dude, you are really scary when you go all red-eye like that!"
Laughter filled the room for a few moments, and as it died down a now smiling Raven said, "Anyway, that's the deal. I need to head over to Japan to rebuild some bridges with my mother and Akane's sisters, and see if the girl that used to be Akane will accept her memories. Beyond that, I don't know what'll happen — she could say no and I'll be back in a few days, she could say yes and I'll be there for weeks or months."
Robin added, "Or permanently."
"Or permanently," Raven agreed.
Starfire quietly said, "You will always be welcome here, do not forget, not ever."
"No chance of that," Raven replied just as quietly, "this is one of only two true homes I've had in two lifetimes. I will miss it ... miss you."
Then she pushed away the melancholy threatening to wash over her — that was washing over her friends — and forced a smile. "Enough of the gloom, or I'll turn back into the Goth girl I was a year ago!" she announced. "So, who's up for pizza and a game of tag at the park?"
Fourteen-year-old Kuno Hotaru's eyes flew open to stare at the clock sitting on her desk against her bedroom wall, its numbers glowing red in the pre-morning dark: 4:58. It was almost time to find out if her father would be visiting her that morning.
Staying curled up on her side with her favorite doll — a stuffed life-sized Pikachu — clutched against her chest, she watched the clock's numbers change.
A bar of light fell across her bed then vanished again as her door slid open then closed, and her father's weight settled on the mattress. A hand found her hip and stoked across the covering blanket. "Good morning, little one."
Without bothering to respond, Hotaru set her Pikachu on the floor by her bed and rolled onto her back as her blanket and top sheet were pulled off of her.
When her father was finished and her door slid closed behind him, she didn't bother to pull the blankets back over her or even pull her panties back on. Instead, she rolled onto her side and reached down to grab her Pkiachu to clutch him tight to her chest, curling up into a ball with her eyes squeezed shut as she tried to ignore the oozing wetness between her thighs.
So she didn't notice when her Pikachu's eyes glowed red for several long seconds.
The chapter title comes from the song by Dougie Maclean:
Oh they tell their tales to the wide young eyes
Of the fertile plains and the cloudless skies
But honesty must take the strain
Where lies move fast like a roaring train
And the shy ones bleed while the sure ones fail
On the trail of the survivor
And the trade winds blow through burning sails
On the trail of the survivor
And they make their moves around the virgin light
Leave their filthy stains on the clear and bright
But hope can never be restrained
Where freedom's hand has been nailed and chained
And sleep will come, it comes to us all
And some will fade and some will fall
But the distance gained is never gained at all
And Atholl's children we rise and fall