Hot and Cold
She was dreaming of Garfield's childhood home again. She sat upon the driftwood table, her bare feet swinging slightly so that the grass beneath her tickled over her soles. Evening was falling, the shadows of the nearby trees stretching seemingly on forever. Raven's head titled when a soft sound caught her attention. She turned around slowly, her eyes falling upon a little girl. She was more than a toddler . . . but not much more. Upon waking the empath would have no firm recollection of what the girl looked like, only that she was beautiful.
"It's dark," the girl said, her voice like music, Raven's lips curling upward at the sound.
"Not too dark, don't worry," she soothed but the girl shook her head, frowning slightly.
"We gotta go see Baba . . . you said we would."
"I know Bug . . . but . . . how about tomorrow?" Why did her lungs suddenly feel too heavy at the little girl's request?
"Today. You said today Mama." A tiny hand reach for Raven, fingers splayed wide. As if in slow motion her pale hand closed around it. Suddenly they were walking down a stone lined path, her little girl singing softly. She let go of Raven's hand and ran ahead, laughing loudly, the sound like tinkling silver bells. "Hello Baba!" She greeting in her angelic voice. The rustling of wind in the trees was her only response. The empath slowed nearly to a stop.
"Bug, come back."
"I brought Mama! Look, here's a flower." Tears were gathering and that heavy feeling upon her chest multiplied. Her feet carried her onward and soon she was watching her daughter laying bright yellow wildflowers upon a small slab of granite. "Blood is life. He bled for us didn't he Mama?" The girl asked, looking up from the grave. A sob escaped Raven's lips and she sank to her knees, shaking her head.
"No, please . . . I can't . . . I can't without you." She reach out as if to touch the stone but recoiled, wringing her hands instead.
"It was always us or him Mama . . . don't be a silly goose!" The girl laughed again, wrapping her arms around her mother's neck. "He would kill the world for us. He would die for us."
"Gar!" Raven exclaimed as she jolted awake, her hands blindly searching in the dark. She felt disoriented, her heart slamming into her chest as she struggled to recall where she was.
"I'm here, shhhh . . . I'm here Mpenzi. It's okay." His warm hand closed around her wrist and a moment later his arms wrapped around her protectively. She was shivering and she pressed closer to him, greedy for his body heat. "Did you have a nightmare?" He murmured quietly against her ear.
"Yeah," she admitted with a soft sigh, slowly recalling where she was. They were in Twisp, Washington. Dayton Incorporated had a small office building where they were hiding for the night. Rita had met them in the tiny, out of the way town after taking an unnecessary three flights to ensure she wasn't followed. The office was really just a front for a safe house. Doom Patrol had a couple in each state and scattered around the world. The office had only two employees, a "secretary" that sat in the front room for appearances and a janitor. The "offices" in the back of the small building served as a bunk room, weapon storage, and supply depot. The bunk room was heavily fortified but the small group had taken turns taking watch duty, acutely aware they couldn't be too careful. Starfire stood at the closed and tightly locked door at the moment, her eyes slightly luminescent as she turned to look back toward the row of bunks. Raven wriggled out of the green arms that held her, self-conscious once she became aware that they were not alone.
"After today I'd be surprised if you didn't have nightmares. I'm sure I would too . . . if I could sleep at all." The changeling yawned quietly, his back propped up against the chilly concrete of the wall. The room was entirely too cold for his tastes and he worried about Raven's health. She lacked the means to heal herself if she got sick. "Do you need another blanket?" He asked after a moment, knowing she would reject any attempt at holding her again.
"I’m fine," she muttered, pulling the two blankets that covered her closer to her chin. She had become so accustom to the fair California weather that she had nearly forgotten what winter felt like. The climate was only going to become more unforgiving as they were planning on traveling into Canada in just a handful of hours. It seemed ill advised to carry out their plan of laying low near Jump until the baby was born now. Beastboy was finally getting exactly what his instincts had been demanding for months. They were running. Running far from the cult, far from the city. Even America itself would be left thousands of miles behind. They would be meeting up with Steve in the Canadian wilderness and in his first act of support since the media turned on Raven and the Titans, he would be transporting them in the Doom Patrol's hoverpod. It was a secret and exceptionally expensive piece of equipment. Like a helicopter it could land and take off with only a small open area. Unlike a helicopter the hoverpod was nearly silent and had a cloaking device that made the small craft practically invisible. It would be next to impossible for anyone to follow them once they were in the air. Garfield hadn't told Steve, or anyone for that matter where they were going after the pick-up. He would tell his adoptive father in person, where there was no risk of unwanted ears somehow hearing.
His paranoia seemed to be shared by all of the group. The idea that the cult had manipulated their way into the Tower had put them all on edge. There were so many cult members and they seemed to have their fingers in far too many pies. It was the reason for Rita's plane jumping, going first to South Dakota, then back tracking to Utah before arriving in Washington State. It was also the reason that Starfire refused to tell Robin their location.
He had called on her Titan communicator a couple hours ago, his face still smudged with soot. When the cult had attacked he had had his hands full, fighting off the mob that had poured into their home. In the end most had managed to escape, losing interest when it became apparent that Raven had fled and was no longer there. A handful, unable to slip back out of the Tower had killed themselves. In the end there were only three cult members that left the Tower both alive and in handcuffs. Robin was originally hopeful that he and the local police could get some answers from the prisoners, but they quickly made it clear that the caped hero was not welcome to join them in their interrogation. Nor did they express any plans on sharing what they found with the young man. It had left him disheartened and frustrated. The damage to Titan Tower was repairable, but it would take some time.
"I'm going to the other city," he told the Tamaranian cryptically, perhaps concerned about the security of the comlink as well. "I took you to the house once, do you remember?"
"Yes, I do recall. I cannot join you there. I must remain with Sister Raven."
"I understand why you want to but . . ."
"Apologies, there is no the but Robin. I will remain until the child is born." Robin sighed loudly, his lips pulling into a sharp frown for a moment.
"Star, I know you mean well, but you . . . you're different. You draw attention and you don't have a holoring. It will be impossible for everyone else to pass unnoticed if you're with them."
"My sister will require my assistance when her birthing time arrives. I will wear the glasses of sun repellent. I will wear clothes to cover my skin and Friend Rita is skilled at the disguising. I will be careful."
"Alright," he sounded impossibly weary, his head shaking slightly. "I guess I'll rendezvous with . . ."
"I believe that is unwise. I do not wish to speak the place we are currently located."
"This is a secure line," Robin insisted with irritation.
"Friend Cyborg once advised me that no line of communication is completely safe from the tampering. Do you not recall the Brotherhood of Evil?"
"Of course I do." It was the reason he couldn't just trace her location using the homing beacon that was within her communicator. The beacon was only enabled if the "panic button" was initiated on a communicator. It was a failsafe to help protect the carrier from being tracked, like what had happened with the Brotherhood of Evil incident.
"Perhaps if you had learned Tamaranian as I requested some time ago . . ."
"Just tell me where you are."
"I will not. We will no longer be in this location very soon. I will not divulge our destination. It is unsafe. It is the stupid, reckless. These are things you taught me."
"You're right, I did." Again the black haired man sighed loudly. "I'll meet you then, at one of the safe locations . . . just tell me the number." There were three bunkers that had been hidden in secure locations, meeting places should the Titans become separated or their means of communication compromised. Beastboy had retreated to one during the attacks the Brotherhood of Evil had orchestrated on Titan and Honorary Titan alike.
"I cannot. Transportation has already been arranged. Friend Beastboy has already done the selecting of the location where we shall remain until the baby is born."
"Let me speak to him."
"I will not. He comforts Raven as she sleeps. I will not disturb them."
"Star . . . why are you being so difficult? I'm trying to help. We're all on the same side, right? All still a team and . . ."
"We are no longer a team, we are doing the banding of this."
"Disbanding. And that isn't until the first of the year."
"Robin . . . you have been removing yourself from the team for many weeks. You are far away in thought. You do not speak to us. More so, you do not speak to me. You do not come to the room with my bed at night any longer. You have left me. Does it surprise you so very much that I am the one doing the leaving now?"
"I . . . Kori . . ," he began softly, but Starfire cut him off sharply.
"Do not speak my name. You will not say the place you have retreated in fear of discovery and yet you speak my given name for our enemies to hear?"
"That wasn't my intention. I know I've been distant and I'm sorry. This has been hard on all of us and I . . . I'm doing the best I can. I've been focusing on solutions. I problem solve, it's what I'm best at . . . it's what I fall back on when I don't know what else to do. And sometimes I let it consume me . . . I know I do. I'm just trying to . . ."
"I do not wish for you to explain. I know much about you Robin. If you know me you will understand. I will return in time and we shall do the discussing of the future. Until that time I will focus upon my sister and her wellbeing." Starfire smiled sadly, blinking away tears. "Goodbye Robin." With a flick of her orange finger she cut the communicator off.
There was nothing nicer than a hot bath and expensive chocolate. Well, perhaps having them in an upscale hotel room made both just a little nicer. Laying sprawled in the steaming water, her dark brown hair pooled around her in floating tendrils, smiled Priestess. She inhaled deeply the scent of lilac and vanilla, her eyes slowly opening. It was cold tonight and she thought of her devotees. The huddled mass of mindless followers were camping outside, a few miles away in the forest. In tents and sleeping bags they waited for her to return and lead them to their next act of dedication. She laughed lightly at the idea, sitting up and reaching for another piece of chocolate. Was it cold enough for a few to freeze to death? She doubted it and sighed in disappointment. She relished the image of her mindless sheep, so loyal that they would remain where she had commanded them stay, even when it meant their own death. Again Priestess settled her back against the porcelain rim of the tub, her mind musing over the happenings of the day. The group she had sent to Titan Tower had not come back with Raven. She hadn't expected them too or even actually wanted them to . . . but they didn't know that. She'd had a select few flogged for their failure, even though they had done exactly as she had wished. They had driven the heavily pregnant woman from her home. They had forced her to flee.
"Just like the story," she murmured to herself, chuckling softly.
"What story?" A male voice asked from the far side of the room. She had forgotten that Lucas was there, waiting for her to call to him, her large towel slung over his arm.
"The birth story in the Bible. Mary and Joseph had to leave their home and travel far away, to the place of Joseph's birth." And thanks to the felt covered box one of her devotees had brought back with him, Priestess knew exactly where the couple had most likely fled.
"My mother read some kid version of the scripture to me when I was little. Before she ran off with her best friend's husband anyway." His lip curled in disgust, both for his mother and the fairy tale she had told him.
"Before she decided it was better if you didn't exist," she nodded in understanding. "When Trigon comes she'll pay. Everyone will . . . just like they should."
"She tried to call last year about this time. Maybe I should have spoken to her." Lucas shook his head, his dark brown eyes closing for a moment. "Judasa, what we're doing, is it . . ."
"Are you really having second thoughts? After everything we've both been through?" The woman, who had renamed herself Judasa years ago stood, motioning for her companion to bring her the towel he held. "This world is a horrible place. People are heartless, cruel, and too ignorant and lazy to even want to change. Nothing is going to fix this. Nothing but a fresh start. You know it's true."
"I just . . ."
"Who has been kind to you Lucas? Your mother abandoned you. Your father cares more about his books than he ever did your wellbeing. There were bullies at school. Women that broke your heart . . . who's been kind to you?"
"You . . . you've been kind to me," he told her and she pulled the towel away from his outstretched hands, shaking her head.
"Lucas . . . Darling . . . I would slit your throat right here and now to get what I want. I'm using you. Just like I'm using my followers. Just like everyone in the world uses everyone else. It's tolerable to you right now because we want the same things. That's all."
"I love you Judasa and it hurts when . . ."
"Love isn't real," she told him, stepping past him to look into the large oval mirror over the sink. "Love is a trick. A lie people use to make you do what they want. To make you weak." Her head tilted slightly as she studied her foggy reflection. "My mother said she loved me . . . just not more than she loved crack. My grandparents said they loved me . . . but not enough to deal with my issues. And my adoptive parents . . . oh how they loved me Lucas. They loved me so much that they tried to beat the devil out of me. They beat me and starved me and locked me away . . . because they loved me so much."
"I know your childhood was . . ."
"I'm thankful to all of them . . . but especially my new mom and dad. I never would have known Trigon without them. They taught me how evil the world is. Of course they thought praying to Jesus fixed evil, because Jesus loves us. I prayed to Him, just like they told me I should. I prayed to not be evil anymore. I just wanted to be a good girl, so Mommy and Daddy would love me. So they wouldn't hit me. So they wouldn't make me stay on my knees for hours on end, clutching my rosary, reciting until my voice cracked. I prayed and prayed and do you know what happened?"
"Nothing. Nothing changed. I was still bad . . . evil. They still punished me in the name of love and divinity. And eventually I knew they were right. The world is evil. The only thing they had wrong was that you could pray that away. That's when I started reading in secret. I started looking. Satan was an obvious choice of course. But if Jesus wasn't real, how could he exist? They were both characters in the same work of fiction. It took a long while and a lot of reading . . . but then I found him . . . I found Trigon." She smiled brightly, using her hand to wipe away the steam on the mirror so she could see herself more clearly.
"He hates us all equally," Lucas said softly and Priestess nodded enthusiastically.
"Exactly. There are no favorites in his eyes. We are all lacking. We are all evil and every last one of us will be treated justly. We'll all be punished." Using her index finger she drew in the remaining steam on the glass, drawing horns on either side of her reflection. "My new parents taught me something else . . . that I could be someone's daughter without a drop of their blood in my veins. Trigon may only have one begotten daughter . . . but she failed him. But I . . . I'll be everything he could want and more."