Chapter 1: The Crime
If Raven were to tell the story, she would preface the entire story with the fact that it was NOT her fault.
That was a lie, but Raven was very willing to cover that up if it meant that no one knew what really happened with the cat.
Only a few people knew, of course.
Less than ten, perhaps.
That was not the point.
So what if it was Raven's fault that she currently had a cat she did not own sitting on her chest, currently prodding her face and meowing with a dignified urgency?
" What." She said flatly as the cat continued meowing, furry face full of concern as it continued prodding her face with a paw, as though checking if the recently sleeping person was actually alive.
The woman groaned, reaching forward so that she could grab the cat currently cutting off her air circulation, and gently place it on the bed, so that the cat could bother her less from the pounding headache she was currently nursing. She then shut her eyes again, grateful to continue her quest of finding temporary rest.
The next minute she bolted straight up, turning back to stare at the black and white fluffy cat currently sitting on her bed, meowing balefully.
" What on earth?" She asked, eyes narrowed.
" Oh, friend Raven!" Her best friend and roommate cooed as she scratched behind the ears of the fluffy black and white cat that was the source of the disruption in Raven's life. "This kitty is the sweetest new companion that you are currently in ownership of!"
The cat purred. Raven rolled her eyes.
It really was not her intention to have someone as exuberant as Kori Anders as her friend, let alone a best one. It was especially hard when they lived together in the same small apartment, where trying to get respite from each other was impossible. However, the bond that they shared was impossible to break, and Raven had tried numerous times, in the beginning, to do so.
Now, it was an easy, comfortable sort of friendship, where both sides understood each other's boundaries and would do anything for each other. If Raven was asked under pain of death to confess, she would reluctantly admit that Kori Anders was the sweetest woman alive and that she would not have anyone else to have her back like she would in any circumstance.
Right now though, it would help her a hell load if she would stop fussing over their newest acquisition.
" Kori, please stop." She said drily, hoping that her tone of voice would get Kori to stop squealing so shrilly. It was hurting her head so badly. She was lucky it was Sunday, the bookstore could stand to open at a later time than usual.
Kori ignored her, taking the opportunity to tickle the cat under the chin. The cat purred. Kori's eyes shone brighter and Raven could practically see her friend's heart melting in the presence of the fluffy creature.
" Kori, this is serious." She said, hoping her friend understood how serious it was. "I wake up, there's a cat in my room. Let's examine the facts. You never go to my room. The windows were shut, and the door was closed. The cat has a collar. You didn't come home last night as you went to Dick's after you and I were at the bar, so it stands to reason that I must have been the one to bring this cat inside this house. Now think. Why would I have a strange cat in the apartment? "
Kori did not hear a single word that Raven said, as she was too busy trying to tickle the cat on its furry soft stomach.
The cat seemed to like that, strangely enough, it was very affectionate.
"You is such a kitty of goodness!" She crooned. " And you are wearing the edos of tux! Your fluffiness is one of softness! You are a cat of looking smart and fluffy softness! Just like fabric softener when applied to multiple types of fabrics!"
Raven winced. She knew Kori had a love for fluffy animals, but this much gushing over a cat of all things was getting a bit much.
" Kori." Raven said, very firmly now so that she knew her friend could not ignore her. "While I agree that the cat is very cute," The cat mewed, as if in agreement. "It also has a collar, so it clearly belongs to someone."
She was very proud that she was still able to think rationally despite the pounding headache. Drinking the night before had not been a good idea, especially since she was a known lightweight. Due to her lack of exposure to alcohol, two drinks would quickly change her personality from her normal, composed self to a very emotional, very exuberant mess.
She rarely let herself get that way but it had been two weeks after the Malchior incident, and her emotions were getting at her. She needed a release so she let Kori and Dick take her to a bar.
They had separated afterwards outside, Dick having taken Kori home to his apartment in the city. Raven, who had very firmly decided that she was not going to let her ex make her feel like that ever again, decided to take her newfound sense of independence to the next level: namely walking home by herself from the bar 5 blocks away.
She was not hurt, had not run into any muggers, and somehow got a cat. All in all, not the worst experience she'd ever had.
She winced again and sipped her tea. Kori was obviously of no help to help her figure out the mystery of the cat, so she had to think back to the evening before.
Her phone buzzed, and Raven frowned. She didn't recall taking her phone out with her. She looked around and it finally sank in that she was wearing last night's clothes, and that her phone was in her jacket pocket. She grumbled and took it out.
50 likes on her Instagram account?
She had never used her Instagram account, so this didn't make sense. Kori had made her make one rather recently as she was rather put out by the fact that she spent so much time with Raven, and yet couldn't tag her in any photos. Raven only acquiesced after Starfire agreed to stop taking her to the "mall of shopping" for a month It was generally understood that while Raven had an account, and let Kori tag her in photos, she never used it, letting it stay on her phone menu for ages gathering virtual dust. She was also unaware that she even had followers on her account, let alone received notifications on the app.
Now though, as she opened the app, she not only had notifications but 100 followers on her Instagram. Did she even know that many people?
" What is the matter, Friend Raven?" Kori called sweetly from her spot, still cuddling the cat.
Raven, who had no idea what was going on, showed her phone screen to Kori.
Kori's eyes sparkled, " Oh Friend! " she said with glee. " You are using the app gram of instants!"
" Instagram, Kore," Raven muttered.
"Yes, and you posted your first pictorial post!" Kori pointed at Raven's profile, which listed that she had one post. Raven, rather grumpily and now filled with trepidation over the fact that she had, most probably, posted something while drunk, was cursing her brain for letting her emotions run rampant and not rationally.
She sighed and opened the profile to see the picture in question.
Her eyes widened as the post was a blurred picture of Raven herself, holding the mystery cat in question. The text had said, " new life new beginnings new friend."
And someone, she wasn't sure who had added what seemed to be a hashtag (she was pretty sure Starfire had told her about it once), along with the word cat. This must have been the reason for the number of likes. She was mortified that the people who liked it were apparently strangers, she could not recognise anyone at all.
" Strangers know who I am and that I have a strange cat?" She growled.
Kori, who got up to look over Raven's shoulder to see what was happening, drew a sharp intake of breath. " Oh Raven!" She squealed again. "You must have made friends with the bunkopf that is the fluffy feline!"
" No," Raven said, more at herself than at the situation at hand.
" Oh, look, you have garnered what seems to be the compliments!"
She had. 5 comments commenting on how cute the cat was, and ten commenting on how cute Raven was, and honestly, she did not need this display of sleaziness and creepy right now.
She checked the photo folder in her phone.
There were a lot of photos from last night. It seemed that she had taken a lot of selfies with the cat, including one when the cat was inside an apartment, behind the window, and then a few where Raven and the cat were taking selfies outside an open window on someone's fire escape.
It pointed to a few conclusions.
1) Kori's insistence that she exercise with her had evidently paid off well if she had managed to make the jump up a fire escape to get that high.
2) She had, evidently, taken pictures with a cat that was in someone's apartment.
3) She might have just stolen someone's cat.
Raven wanted to scream but felt that the sound would make her headache worse, so she decided to do it internally instead.
After copious amounts of tea, feeding the cat some canned fish that they found in their cabinet, and Kori's boyfriend Dick arriving with breakfast and a bemused expression upon hearing that his beloved was now bestowing her love on another creature, the three of them sat down to figure out what to do.
" So it's clear that Raven found the cat yesterday-"
" Stole, Dick," Raven said wryly. " I stole someone's cat."
" We'll agree that you found the cat," Dick said, raising an eyebrow. "Now we have options. We can post it on your Instagram-"
" Unacceptable." Raven shot him down. " No way am I using that ever again. Strangers found me and put a heart next to my face. If I wanted a heart next to my face I would have rather it was more realistic and that I was taking a picture of my kill."
Dick tried to laugh until he realised Raven wasn't. So he hastily coughed and tried to move on.
" So, social media is a no go." He said. He looked a little uneasy now. Good, she hoped he stayed that way.
" Why can we not do the redrawing of the staircase?" Asked a still enamoured Kori, now cuddling the cat like a baby.
Raven and Dick turned to look at her, confused. Kori herself looked frustrated, trying to figure out the right words for the situation. " The tracing?" She inquired.
Dick sighed. " Retracing of steps?" He asked his girlfriend gently. Kori nodded.
Dick turned to Raven again. " Couldn't hurt." He said.
So it was because of this that Raven, Kori and Dick were walking back towards the bar, with Raven now holding the cat with trepidation as they walked across a busy intersection.
" Remind me why we are carrying it?" Raven asked. It wasn't that she disliked cats. On the contrary, she respected their need for space and their independence. However, the cat was heavy, and trying to make sure the cat didn't struggle out of her arms was hard, especially with the traffic and cars whizzing by.
It was also a very bright day, and her hangover really couldn't handle this amount of sunshine. The sunglasses she found before she left the apartment were helping, and so was wearing the hood up on her favourite black chunky knit cardigan.
The cat did seem uncomfortable at first but once Raven readjusted her grip, the cat was relatively content.
" It is possible that someone within these blocks has seen the cat before and they can give us more information on how we can locate the owner," Dick explained, with the authority of an investigative journalist with a focus on crime. Which he was.
"Oh yes!" Kori chimed in, " The smart looking feline would have had admirers from afar!"
" Let's rephrase: why am I carrying it?" Raven said, with an emphasis on the word I, raising her eyebrow behind her sunglasses.
"Because the cat seems to like you the most, Raven," was Dick's simplest answer.
It was true. The black and white cat, while it had loved Kori's shower of affection, had kept going towards Raven and winding itself around her ankles, headbutting her at times trying to get her to pet it. Raven, exasperated, gave in after 5 minutes trying to avoid the cat and petted it delicately on the head. The result was a very satisfied, very happy looking cat.
She couldn't help it, she had to smile at its face. But still.
"I mean, we could have gotten a carrying case or something." She grumbled to the cat. "You're not exactly light."
The cat's ear twitched.
" You're lucky you're a cat." She muttered, turning the cat around to face her, and lowering her shades to look the cat in the eye.
" Annnnnd I'm talking to a cat." She said.
The cat headbutted her in the shoulder.
" You're lucky, I've met worse conversationalists," she grumbled.
After some futile searching, they decided to stop by a bodega that was connected to a mechanic shop to get drinks, and maybe a can of cat food.
The only person available in the store at the moment was Vic Stone, the main mechanic and the store owner's grandson. Raven knew him, he often came down to the bookstore asking about the latest graphic novel and often ended up discussing politics with her.
It helped that Victor Stone was the most levelheaded, smartest man she had ever met. If it were not for his passion for cars, he would have gone into mechanical engineering, robotics, or even pure mathematics.
Right now though, he fixed cars and helped out around the store, and he built cars and engines in his spare time.
Raven cradled the cat in one hand while removing her shades. Victor always kept it dark and cool in the bodega.
The man grinned as he saw the three of them enter the store, " Kori and Raven !" His grin widened," And the mysterious Richard Grayson!" He teased. Raven shifted the cat in one hand to throw back her hood, Kori nodded happily, while Dick rubbed the back of his neck, careful not to disrupt the gel in his hair.
Then Vic's eyes fell to Raven's arms, and his grin dropped, " Isn't that Garfield 2?" He asked in disbelief.
" Garfield 2?" Dick asks.
" Friend Victor, you know of this cat? " Kori asked eagerly.
" You poor bastard." Raven whispers to the cat.
" Yeah, that's my roommate's cat!" Vic laughed. " Hey, little buddy!" He tried to reach a finger over to the cat but the cat jerks away, burrowing closer to Raven.
" Yeah, he doesn't like me." Victor smiles ruefully. " Thanks for taking him back, my roomie's been worried sick about him, 'He didn't come home, Vic! He's all lost and alone! What if he's been kitty-napped?' "
Victor laughed. The kittynapper kept a straight face and decided it was best not to tell him what had happened.
" So erm, do you know where I can find... Garfield 2's owner?" Raven said, forcing herself to say the name of the cat with no shortage of distaste.
" Oh that's not his actual name." Victor laughed. " I just call him that. You'll understand why I call him Garfield 2 when you meet his Cat-Daddy. He's just upstairs in the apartment, panicking."
Garfield Logan, known to his friends as Gar, BB, Grass Stain, Tofu Boy, and once Blue Steel (it was an old, old Halloween thing), was not, in fact panicking. He liked to think he was, at his age, a rational, calm adult.
" 'DEAR GOD!' " he recited out loud as he hastily typed, his keyboard rattling loudly, which showed honestly how rational and calm he was as an adult. " 'Please please please please PLEASE SAVE MY CAT FROM EVIL FORCES! He's only a year old, he can't help but be the adorable cat-son he is to me! I love him with all my dear heart and he's my first and only cat-son! If found please contact Garfield Logan at this number.'"
He finished the poster with his number, added a picture of the cat, and then added another exclamation mark at the end of the word, 'Forces'.
It just made sense.
He printed the poster and was pleased with the results, and was about to take the poster downstairs to the shop office to make copies when suddenly there was a knock on the door.
He fumbled to the door, wondering who it could be, and opened the door to meet the eyes of the most beautiful and scariest woman he had ever seen in his life.
While shorter than him by only an inch, she looked imposing and regal,and had a scowl on her face. Her eyes were rimmed with something soft and dark and it highlighted how beautiful and huge they were.
She was also carrying...
"MC NUGGET!" Gar yelled loudly, grabbing ahold of his beautiful cat Son and holding him in his arms. The cat showed his affection by headbutting his owner in the face.
" I can't tell what was worse, Garfield 2 or MC Nugget." The woman muttered.
Gar didn't mind it, the scary beautiful woman had his kitty cat back. "You found my baby boy! Oh ,thank you thank you thank you!"
In his overeagerness, and using one arm to hold on to MC Nugget, he threw his own body weight against the woman in an impromptu hug, and planted a kiss on her cheek.
The woman flinched. " Get away from me before I slap you." She said lowly.
Garfield laughed nervously before he moved away from her. " Hey hey, sorry mama." He looked over MC Nugget, making sure he didn't have any injuries or any scrapes. "I'm just... thank you for finding MC Nugget. He's my cat and I don't know what I would do without him."
The woman would only tilt her head and raise an eyebrow. " I get it." She said coolly.
Now Garfield was getting a little teed off . What was with this woman? He reached his hand out, " Garfield Logan." He said civilly.
The woman snorted, "Like the cat?" She said.
Yeah, Garfield was officially annoyed, " Yes I've heard all the jokes." He said shortly.
Was he really acting this short around a beautiful woman like this? Where was his usual charm and charisma? What on earth was up with this woman?
He was interrupted from his thoughts by MC Nugget, who had sprung from his arms to land neatly on the floor in front of the woman, twining his body against her ankles. If it weren't for the fact that he knew the woman was rude and evil, he could have sworn that she had a small smile on her lips.
He snorted. Scary, beautiful women didn't smile. Especially around beautiful cat-sons like MC Nugget.
He watched her bend down and hold out a hand against the cat, who paused, sniffed her hand, and bumped his head against her palm. She scratched his head once more before she stood up again. "Please lock your windows before your cat escapes again. You were lucky this time."
Gar bristled. Who was this woman to chide him like that? But before he could say another word, the woman had turned and left, going down the stairs back where the bodega was. With a huff, he slammed the door shut.
" Who does she think she is?" Gar muttered to MC Nugget as he picked him up. " Lecturing me like that? What is she, my teacher?"
MC Nugget made a sniffing noise.
" Yeah yeah yeah, you like her, we get it," He grumbled as he grabbed his traitorous baby cat son and brought him into the kitchen. "I raised a shameless cat boy who likes scary women."
MC Nugget made a small chirping noise.
" Keep that up and you'll be disowned." He grumbled as he grabbed MC Nugget's water bowl and filled it up with water.
Chapter 2: The Stalker Dad
Garfield Logan, age 26, liked to think of himself as a dedicated family man.
It happened sometimes when you were orphaned as a kid. The loss of parents sometimes convinced you that it was important to shower your loved ones with as much care or even more when you become a parent to your child.
Garfield may not have found the perfect wife, or a child to take care of, but he had MC Nugget. He had found him along with his littermates one day during his rounds as a vet at the nearby animal shelter. The shelter was a no-kill shelter, which he thanked his lucky stars for, but they also had no resources to take care of neo-natal kittens. Gar, who had in his youth taken care of a variety of animals, volunteered his fostering services and after months, when the kittens were old enough to get adopted, he realised that he had grown attached to one of the kittens, a black and white runt that no one believed would survive after the first few days.
The kittens were named after fast-food related terms (Cola, Argus, Curly Fry, Sundae, and Nugget), and Gar added MC as it was not only funny but added a little rep to his little cat son’s name. No one wanted to just be a Nugget.
With MC Nugget, the home was just a little friendlier and a little less lonely. Moving in with Vic Stone above the bodega made it better. While MC Nugget didn’t like the man who smelt like sweat, motor oil and chemicals, he tolerated his presence. Vic let him stay around and only made a stink about him when Gar forgot to clean out the litter box and the literal stink made his eyes water. It was a sweet arrangement.
All in all, Gar was a single father raising his baby son alongside his best friend.
He would call it a Full House moment. Vic would argue it was more like the Golden Girls. The cat was perfectly content to sleep on the couch and agree with neither.
In any case, he was just glad that his baby son was back. Though after the initial relief of getting him back, he had to ask...
“ WHYJA YOU LEAVE ME BRO?” He cried, sitting in front of the cat, prepping himself for the heart to heart talk he was dying to give. If someone were to walk in right now, they would comment on how it was a little weird that Gar had placed MC Nugget on the couch and himself on the wooden chair that he stole from the kitchen for this heart to heart talk.
That, someone, was Vic.
“ Seriously, little man. I like your cat, but you’re taking him a little more seriously than you should be.” Vic continued, leaning against the doorway, an eyebrow raised. With his shaved head, raised eyebrow and his size, Gar always felt that Vic would make a great Dwayne Johnson impersonator. “He’s just a fluff ball. And he can’t talk.”
“Vic you don’t get it!” Gar whined, reaching over to scoop the cat into his loving arms. MC Nugget let him, cause his son was the best son. “He’s never left home before! He’s a homebody, a shy boy, the sweetest cat boy I’ve ever raised! He was going to be the best cat man and I was going to teach him how to be strong and brave and be a good cat father except not a literal cat that’s a father cause I don’t like the idea of more kittens on the street but he would be the best cat father that would adopt should he choose to be one and I would be the best Pop-pop but not when my cat son runs away from home like that! “
He ended the tirade sobbing into his cat’s fur coat.
The cat decided he was not comfortable with the bodily fluids touching his fur like that, and twisted his body to get away from Gar, landing neatly on the ground with a sniff.
This made Gar cry even louder.
“ He’s already disrespecting his Father!” He sobbed. “One day on the streets and he thinks he can make it on his own! I’m not old enough to be an empty-nester! He’s only a baby and his mind isn’t formed enough to know his own decisions yet!”
“I know someone else whose mind isn’t formed enough too,” Vic said. “He’s short, skinny, and is currently crying over his non-existent son leaving him for the tough streets of LA.”
“ My furbaby won’t be going to LA!” Garfield retorted, twisting his head to glare at his former Best Friend and sometimes landlord.
“So you agree that you’re short and skinny?” Vic asked with a grin.
That was true but only relatively speaking. Vic was tall as a six-foot-five black man, and Garfield, in contrast, was five foot nine. He was lean, but he was wiry and strong. However, in comparison to Vic, he might as well be a string bean.
“Hurtful, Cy.” Gar warned as he used an old nickname of Vic’s, one that referenced their shared past as university roommates. “Hurtful.”
“Ain’t my fault you have a teensy-weensy body.” Vic teased, walking towards the kitchen to wash his hands. “What we eating for dinner tonight? I was thinking maybe Chinese food.”
“That’s good,” Gar said absently, looking towards the direction where MC Nugget was currently cleaning his paw near the bathroom.
“Seriously though, you gotta be careful, man,” Vic said, his voice taking on a more serious tone. “Leaving the window open at night to get fresh air is a dangerous way for criminals to get in. “
“ I’m sorry, I know!” Garfield cried again. Late last night when he finally came back from the shelter after a very long day at the operation theatre and he didn’t see MC Nugget, he had found the window to his room open.
His first conclusion was that someone had kidnapped his beloved cat before Victor came in and suggested that it was also possible that Gar might have left the window open, letting the cat escape. He did enjoy fresh air and often left the window open, only closing it when he was out, and since moving to a new place he had forgotten some habits.
It had filled him with so much guilt that he was planning to go down to the DIY store to get some mesh for most of the windows except for the one in his room that led out to the fire escape. Which he had to leave unmeshed in case of an emergency. He’d have to think about what to do about that.
“Just be careful, little dude.” Vic shook his head. “I don’t want my grandparents getting their bodega ruined, and all our stuff is pretty valuable. Not to mention that I finally fixed the car, and I want her in tip-top shape.” He chuckled. “At least it was a good thing Raven found him huh?”
“Who?” Garfield asked, now standing up to make his way towards the fridge. All that crying had made him feel a little dehydrated, and he needed a soda.
“Raven,” Victor repeated. That just drew a blank look. Victor sighed. “She came upstairs, you met her, she told you she found Garfield 2...”
“ Not his name.” He said absently, rummaging through the packed fridge before his head finally realised who Victor was talking about. “That scary one?” He asked in disbelief.
“Were there any other girls knocking up your door? I wasn’t aware of that.” Victor smirked.
“Her name is Raven? And she thinks it’s okay to laugh at my name?” Garfield asked incredulously, absent-mindedly picking out a can of celery-soda. “What kind of name is Raven anyway? Is she a goth? Were her parents witches?”
“ Man, how are you treating women these days?” Victor demanded, walking past him to grab a soda for himself. “Are you so worried about animals that the green vegetables finally melt that shrimpy brain? Did you even introduce yourself? “
“ I did!” Gar protested. “I swear I did! I just didn’t get her name, she didn’t give me one!”
Victor opened his mouth, shut it, and then chuckled. “That’s so Raven.” He said as he opened the tab of his soda.
“Nice pun,” Gar nodded approvingly as he opened his own. “Who is she?”
“Raven Roth? She runs that bookstore I go to sometimes, over on Fifth Street. Has the best graphic novels.” Vic took a swig of the drink he had before he continued, “She’s really quiet but she’s tough, she doesn’t let anyone mess around with her.” He chuckled, “You know the first time I saw her she was threatening some punk who kept asking her why she didn’t stock any copies of Mein Kampf? She could have murdered the guy with her eyes alone, just saying.”
“If you like her so much why don’t you marry her?” Garfield muttered under his breath. Vic frowned, furrowing his brow.
“Okay, what is wrong with you?” Vic demanded. “First you didn’t ask for a woman’s name, which is usually a huge sign there’s something wrong with you, and then you diss Raven, call her family witches, and try to make her and me get married?”
Yes, he was aware he was a full-grown man, thank you very much.
“ Well, she was rude yesterday! She made me feel like I wasn’t a good papa to MC Nugget!” he grumbled. He sipped his own drink, now feeling resentful.
“You’re not a papa, dude. You’re his owner.” Vic said firmly. “He’s a cat.”
“On the outside!” Gar yelled. “If it were up to me I would shapeshift into a cat and raise him like my own!”
“ ... Ignoring that thought cause that sounds creepy, Raven’s really cool.” Vic said slowly. “She does tend to run a bit cold but she’s someone you want on your side in a fight. “He raised his eyebrow again, smirking. “Also, she’s pretty smart, she could probably teach you a few things-“
“ Hey, I’m smart!” Garfield whined. “I graduated top of my class in vet school! TOP!”
“Yeah yeah you know stuff like the heartbeat of a horse per minute but you can’t name the mayor of our city, I get it.” Vic chuckled, walking over to ruffle the shorter man’s hair. “In any case, she’s really cool, and I think she really liked Garfield 2. “
“ That’s not his name, and you lie,” Garfield muttered, but he had to admit, she was nice to the cat, and that accounted for something.
At the bookstore, Raven, who was still coping with the shenanigans of the morning, decided to drown things out with copious amounts of the tea she had in the pantry, hoping that it would wake her up.
All it did was make her feel restless in addition to being tired. She was so tempted to sleep face down on the counter.
She sighed. It was 3 pm, and while she had another kid working at the store, she still liked knowing she was sharp and active. She opened up on weekends because she knew more patrons were around then, and they always seemed grateful to her, especially the ones who were shy.
The door to the store opened, and Raven looked up to see Kori come in, entering with two giant paper cups from the nearby coffee shop.
“I believe Dick says this is your favourite of the teas.” She said with a smile.
“The man knows me well.” Raven drily intoned, taking the cup of tea proffered to her. “ If not for the fact that you and he were clearly in love I would have stolen him from you ages ago.”
Kori laughed. The both of them knew that Raven’s personality was too similar to Richard’s to garner any sort of romance between them. In fact, she was the one to introduce Richard to Kori in the first place, because Richard was an old acquaintance from a work thing and when he came down to Jump City, he wanted to stop by and say hi. She and Kori had been living together by then.
The resulting meeting, the clasp of hands, and romantic music that swelled above their heads as they met for the first time was honestly pretty sickening, but ultimately Raven never regretted having ever introduced them to each other.
“ It is of no worry that you and he are such good friends,” Kori said, leaning against the counter.
Raven took a sip from her cup, enjoying the way the hot liquid felt on her tongue. And it was stronger than anything she had in the cupboard. “Thank you.” She said, feeling way more awake than she did in hours. “I absolutely needed that.”
The redhead beamed, “You are the most welcome!” She took her own sip of her own beverage, and asked, “And how is the Garfield 2 kitty?”
“It’s not Garfield 2 apparently,“ Raven said, then she told her what happened with the cat’s owner. Kori laughed at the end, albeit with a wince.
“Friend Raven, I believe you should not have been so short with the owner that way.” She chided. “ The man was clearly happy to be reunited with his pet.”
“He was over-enthusiastic, and he hugged me, and I don’t like people in my personal space, Kori.” She replied. “I also don’t respect anyone who names a cat MC Nugget. That is not a dignified name to give a cat, and cats are dignified animals.”
“Perhaps.” Kori said, “But that does not mean you should have been horrible to the man.”
“I wasn’t horrible.” Raven protested, calmly setting her tea down. “I told him to step away from me when he invaded my personal space, I tried to make small talk, and I even gave him friendly advice when I left. I am the epitome of personable.”
Well, admittedly, that wasn’t true. Raven did understand that not many people understood her mannerisms, and she may have come off as a little rude to the man in question, especially when combined with the fact that she was still nursing a headache and she had been a little thrown off by how personable and thankful the owner was for finding the cat.
It didn’t help that the man was rather cute if you were into the whole “wiry dirty blonde with mussed up hair, green eyes and a crooked smile.” aesthetic he had been cultivating.
All in all, she really didn’t like people threw themselves at her.
Even if they did smell like sunshine and trees.
“Raven, I must disagree, and I know you know as well that you can be very …the best word that fits this is, ‘Testy’.” Kori said.
“Sure, Kore, insult me with the truth, why don’t you?” Raven muttered.
“It stands to the best reason that you were, unintentionally though it might be, ‘the rude’ “ Kori said, gently but firmly.
Raven groaned, letting her head hit the desk. “Fine, I was rude. I’ll confess now, Sister Mary Margaret. Tell me how many Hail Marys I’ll have to say so I can repent.”
“Raven, I am not, as you put it, ‘Sister Mary Margaret’, and Hail Marys do not seem like the appropriate way to apologize to this man.” Kori said, and fuck, it never seemed right to make Kori Anders feel disappointed. Even she, with her demon-like heart, could not resolve herself against the thought that she made Kori feel sad because of her behaviour. It made her feel dirty.
Raven sighed. “Fine. If I ever meet the man again, I will apologize to him. Fully. With bells on.”
And there was the Kori Anders Patented Beam of Smiling Happiness. It affected everyone in her presence, even Raven, who resigned to pulling a small grin at her friend’s own cheery disposition. It was hard to be so happy when you were surrounded by cheery, happy friends, but it was harder to live with yourself surrounded by friends you clearly hurt by being rude.
“Wonderful! I shall make the Apology Hat that will have the bells!”
Garfield Logan was NOT a stalker.
“Dude, are you stalking her?” Vic asked incredulously, peering over his shoulder.
Garfield Logan was not a stalker, and he did not scream like a little girl when manfully surprised by another man that he knew was totally there and he totally knew was behind him.
“Aw man,” Vic said in a strangled voice, trying to choke back his laughs. “You scream like a little girl!” The man was almost bent double by how hilarious the situation was.
Belatedly, Garfield tried to hide his phone screen from the taller man, but it was too late, Vic had already seen the words, ‘Is there a creepy bookstore with a creepy girl called Raven Roth please help,’ on his Google Search, and had snatched the phone away to flick through his past searches. “Raven Roth Bookstore,” He recited, “Raven Roth girl that might have been the girl from The Ring, Is Raven Roth a Possible Ringwraith, Roth The Goth-“
“I wasn’t sure what her bookstore’s name was!” Garfield tried to say lamely. “I’m like…totally in the mood for a graphic novel and you said she has the best-“
“Sure, sure, little man,” Vic said absently, shifting his arm higher so that Garfield had no chance of being able to get his phone back from such a high position. “You could have asked me, but nope, you went ahead with the vaguely insulting Google search prompts. I get ya.“
Garfield flushed. Yeah, that was …not uncalled for. Raven, though intimidating, was probably not as creepy as he made her out to be. Google must have thought that he was an ass.
“Look, the store is this- “Vic typed quickly on the screen, pressing enter and letting the search bar pop up with results. “See? ‘Nevermore Book Nook’ –“
“What kind of name is that?” Gar blurted out. It baffled him. Who on earth would name a bookstore like that? It sounded vaguely death-sounding
“If you ever read a poem or cracked open a literary book in high school, Tofu Boy, you would know that Nevermore is part of a famous poem!” Vic said. That elicited a blank look from the other man, so Vic sighed. “Poe?”
“The Lost Lenore?”
“Quote the raven…?”
“ ‘Get away from me or I will slap you’? “ Garfield replied slowly, a clear question at the end of the sentence. He knew Raven had said it, it was one of the few times he was genuinely afraid for his life. But it was just a bit weird. Why was Vic asking him quotes from Raven Roth anyway?
“You’re impossible, little man.” Vic sighed.
After a more detailed Google search later at home later, (Gar finally understood what Vic was trying to get at with all the lines, but really he should have just said it outright.), Gar found the online site of the Nevermore Book Nook.
It was…interesting, lest it be said.
He had expected it to be gloomy and dark, with cheesy gothic graphics all over, crows all over as a design, and four-eyed shadows in the background, with a selection of witchy books and books on ghosts.
Instead, the website had a clean, orderly design. White and grey, with easy to read print. The online store also boosted a variety of books, though Gar assumed that he probably wouldn’t be able to find a John Grisham novel in the place.
He was right though: the store also did host a variety of occult books as well as other eclectic items.
He went to the About page, hoping to see something related to the owner, Raven Roth.
Nothing. The page had a very brief description about the store itself, the opening hours, and how the owner wanted to bring a little, ‘literary magic’ into the world. Nothing else.
He closed the tab and looked at the other search results.
Raven Roth didn’t have much of an internet presence. The only thing that stood out was her Instagram profile.
Someone like her had an account? Eyebrows raised, he went to click on @ravennevermore’s profile.
The account was, unfortunately, on private.
Undaunted, he opened up his phone and fired up his Instagram app, typed the handle in the Search bar, and, ignoring the locked profile, went to search for photos that @ravennevermore was tagged in.
He struck gold there: The woman was tagged in many photos, mostly from an account that had the handle @starfireKori. In the photos, Raven was often seen being hugged by a tall, tanned redhead with huge, lovely green eyes. In most of the pictures, Raven didn’t smile. In a few photos, she was clearly copying the poses of the other people who were clearly having the time of their lives, her lack of enthusiasm showing. Gar liked to think her eyes were telling the camera or the person looking at the photos that she understood the ludicrousness of the cutesy poses and was doing it merely to be ironic.
There were two posts that evidently stood out: One was a video, taken by @starfireKori, where Raven was absently reading, flipping the page of her heavy hardcover book. She looked she was oblivious to the fact that Starfire had added a filter over her face that made her cheeks huge and rosy, along with a pair of bunny ears attached to her head. The caption that came along with it was a simple emoticon of a rabbit.
It made her look sweet and, dare he say it, adorable.
The other, though, was a picture of Raven with a tall, thin blonde man that looked a lot like a cross between David Bowie’s Goblin King and Draco Malfoy. It was dated Halloween of last year and was not taken by @starfireKori.In it, Raven was dressed like a sorceress. The hooded cloak she wore matched the one of the blonde, who was shirtless, showing off his lean figure. Gar snorted. The man looked like a pretentious douchebag, and the look in his eyes when he faced the camera confirmed it.
Raven, however, was smiling. Raven looked like she was happy in the presence of the man.
He wondered why she didn’t smile like that for anyone else.
MC Nugget jumped on his lap, making a curious mew-ope sound as he kneaded his paws on Gar’s thighs.
“ Hey MC,” Gar said tiredly. “ You wanna see the pretty lady who brought you home today?” He showed the cat the Instagram photos. The cat looked like he was looking at the photos intently before he showed his disinterest by opening his mouth and chewing on the plastic casing of the phone.
“ Typical,” Gar said fondly. “I show you pictures of pretty women, all you want is food. You’re my son, alright.”
The cat purred.
Chapter 3: The Somewhat Lonely Catnapper
I did get asked this: MC Nugget is pronounced and read as Emcee Nugget. Like DJ Khaled. But MC.
Raven had, in all honesty, put the matter of the Cat Stealing Incident behind her, and for the next few weeks enjoyed a rather peaceful, shenanigan-free lifestyle.
Until she woke up again with a splitting headache, a very dry mouth and a black and white fluffy tail hitting her in the face.
She sat up to look at the culprit and sure enough, there was the same black and white cat from a few weeks ago lying on her bedspread.
“You again?” She growled out in frustration.
“While I am excited to see the little bumgorf, Raven, does this mean you have emancipated him from his owner once again?” Kori asked, hugging the fluffy cat in her arms.
“I don’t understand it, and I don’t want to understand it,” Raven grumbled. She raised a glass of water and drank it down, hard. “I’ll take him back to the owner after breakfast, and I don’t ever want to have to do this again.”
Kori smiled, “Wonderful!” she said. “This will give you the opportunity to do the apologies!”
Raven groaned. She didn’t want to do that. When she had made that promise to Kori, she wasn’t expecting to go forth and actually tell the blonde guy that she had been rude the last time. “Can’t I just drop him off at the bodega and let Vic handle it?”
“No, Friend Raven.” Kori daintily wiped her mouth with a napkin and stood up. “Now if you will do the excusing of me, I will have to pack. I have a few shoots I need to do for the next few weeks and the cameras as needed will have to be done separately from the rest of my wardrobe.”
Raven stood up, ignoring her protesting body, and cleared the breakfast dishes. Kori was a Youtuber, and rather famous, but her job meant that she went on trips all around doing shoots and videos, and she was not just amazing in front of the camera but behind it, capturing stunning landscapes and beautiful photos that she sometimes also sold to nature magazines. It also meant that this time, she would be away for two months or so, which meant that Raven would have the apartment to herself.
It was both amazing and also a little lonely. She didn’t begrudge her roommate, Kori loved what she did and never badgered Raven to be in front of the camera beyond Instagram posts but after years of having to fend for herself, it was nice to be able to share that sort of comfort with someone, especially one who tried to push her out of her comfort zone when Raven had been stuck in a rut for too long. Raven liked that about Kori, that she was not a pushover and stuck her ground when needed. She didn’t have that many friends, and she was very grateful for the ones she had.
MC Nugget chose to interrupt her brooding with a baleful meow.
“Look I don’t know what to feed you with.” Raven intoned. “After the last time we really weren’t expecting kitty guests-“
The cat yawned.
“And you’re already bored. Fantastic. Thank you for attending my TEDtalk.” Raven muttered. “Please give me 2 minutes to nurse this hangover, and figure out some sort of food meal thing to feed you with.”
She leaned against the back of her chair, thinking.
It had to have been the drinking. The last time, she had two drinks and it had led to the first kidnapping stance. This new one must have been due to the schnapps at the bar her employee Melvin had wheedled her into going the night before, when she needed someone to rant about her family troubles. Raven was close enough to the 21-year-old girl and her brothers than she went to the bar with no reservations, and she drank, though she was pretty sure Melvin had insisted on making sure she got home safe. Taking out her phone, she opened her message app and texted Melvin.
What did I do, Melvin? I was pretty sure you took me home last night.
It didn’t take long before Melvin messaged back.
I did, but you disappeared at one point.
That was very disturbing.
I did what, Raven typed, dreading the answer.
Yeah, lol, you asked me to wait, and then after 10 minutes I got worried, but you arrived with a cat
She knew she was repeating herself, but she had to ask.
I did what now
And then I asked you about the cat and you kept saying you had to keep him, he was your cat friend, and it matched your aesthetic as a creepy cat lady. You wouldn’t even let me touch him hahaha
That…did not sound like something she would do on a normal, day to day basis. Exactly how was she like as a drunk person?
You then proceeded to take a bunch of selfies with the cat. It was kinda cool. You should drink more often, you’re fun when you drink
Yeah, she was going to be sober from now on.
Never again. she typed back. Never again.
Dressed in her comfiest sweater and a skirt with boots, Raven walked up to the mechanic shop, dreading every step.
Vic, who had stood up from where he looking down at his computer, was about to smile at Raven until he saw what she was holding, yet again.
“He got out?” Vic said, in disbelief. “Honestly, we didn’t even catch him leaving, all the doors and windows were closed this time!”
Raven, who was feeling very uncomfortable and guilty, was about to open her mouth and tell him the full, sordid truth when suddenly Vic stopped, his eyes widening and a dark flush showing up on his face.
“Oh shit!” he said slowly. “I left the apartment door open last night to get the trash out, and he probably ran out then!”
Okay, so it shouldn’t feel so good to escape from having to tell the truth, but damnit Raven wasn’t a saint. “Oh wow,” She said, hoping her voice was level enough that she could get away with it.
Victor was panicking now, and it would have seemed a little more hilarious if it were not for the fact that Raven felt guilty about making Victor feel guilty. “ It’s really nothing-“ she began.
“You saved my skin there, Raven!” Victor blurted out, taking the cat off Raven’s hands. “Holy shit, thank god Gar didn’t see you, and he didn’t realise Garfield 2 was missing-“
That was a sort of relief, but not really. “Where is he?” Raven asked, hoping her voice did not betray her emotion on the subject. God, she really didn’t want to have to make nice with that man.
“Upstairs.” Victor said, tilting upwards, trying to hold on to MC Nugget. “Oh god, I hope he didn’t see-“
“CYYYYYYYYYY! MY BABY IS GONE AGAIN!” Thunderous footsteps could be heard from above the shop, and down the staircase, and the faint yell that started from upstairs got louder as the voice made his way down to the bodega and out to the mechanic shop. “MY POOR BA-“
The door slammed open as the source of the scream came barging out the doorway and his voice trailed off as he took in the sight of Victor and Raven, as well as MC Nugget, trying his best to wriggle out of the arms of the taller man. What was funnier was the fact that the man was wearing a shirt that declared himself a MasterBeaster, and a pair of colourful boxers. He had evidently not realised that they had company this early in the morning.
“Oh. Huh,” said the smaller man. “He’s here. Oh thank god.”
Victor was the first to recover, “Hey BB!” Vic burst out jocularly, his huge boisterous smile not meeting his eyes. “I just saw Raven come in and she wanted to know how the little fluffball was so I…brought him down to say hi!” He looked at her from the side begging her to play along, and to indulge him, she went with it.
“Yeah, I hope you don’t mind,” Raven said, panicked herself but trying to keep calm so she could seem convincingly stoic. “I like cats, and your cat was very …fluffy.”
That didn’t sound right, even to her.
The man looked accusatorily at the both of them, and then his shoulders relaxed, holding on to MC Nugget with less clenched hands than before. “Just warn me, dude!” he yelled out in his bluster. “I’ve just been so paranoid about him leaving!”
Damn, now Raven was feeling REALLY guilty, firstly for stealing the cat and secondly for letting Vic think it was his fault the cat went missing.
“I want to apologize.” she blurted out. The two men looked at her. Victor with pleading in his eyes, Gar with a look of curiosity and suspicion.
Her conscience, which funnily enough had the voice of Kori, was tugging hard at her brain, so she sighed. “I came down here because…I was rude the last time I came. I should not have made you feel bad about your life choices and even your choice of name for your cat. Or your own name, because Garfield as a name was not of your own doing.”
She stretched her hand out, looking contrite. “Garfield Logan?” she said. “I’m Raven Roth. Nice to meet you.”
Stunned silence. The other two men didn’t react, merely stared down at her outstretched hand like she was handing them a slug.
Raven was starting to get irritated and very very self-conscious. “If we’re all done with this lovely three-way staring contest-“ she began, very testily, and started to withdraw her arm.
Garfield was the first to break. “No no, I-“He fumbled, making sure his cat was secure in one hand before be stretched his own out to grasp her own. “Garfield Logan.” He said, a smile gracing his face.
He should smile more, a voice in her head said. He looks really good with one.
Raven decided to ignore that voice. That voice, and the emotion that was said with it, was irrelevant.
“Well, there’s that then!” Vic said happily, and Raven could sense the relief and joy in his voice. “We’re all good friends now, yadayadayada, Gar, put Garfield 2 upstairs, and then come back down wearing actual clothes, what you’re wearing could make grandma blush.”
Garfield looked down, realised what he was wearing, and screamed. “I’llcomebacki'msosorryRaven!” he yelled back, his words jumbled up as he carried MC Nugget into the bodega and up the stairs back to their apartment.
Victor waited until the sounds of his roommate running up the stairs grew quieter, and his confident composure broke. “Oh god, thank you so much for going along with this,” Vic said, “If he ever found out about that I let him out-“
“It’s alright.” Raven said.
“No, it isn’t!” Vic said, eyes wide. “He’s been so worried and trying to be responsible for that floofy excuse of a cat that he’s meshed up the windows of the entire apartment except for his room window, cause building regs says that we can’t do that with the fire escape right outside, so all he can do is close the window when he’s out.” He fanned himself, as though he was trying to cool off from the extreme fire that he nearly brought down on himself.
“If I had lost Garfield 2, he would have been so heartbroken, and he would never forgive me.” He fretted.
Raven didn’t know exactly what to say at that point.
He looked back at her with a smile. “I owe you big, Raven,” he said, walking towards the door that led to the bodega, “You’re getting a soda and maybe free bodega chicken. My treat.”
The woman, feeling extremely guilty, was about to open her mouth to tell him the whole truth when Vic looked her in the eye, and said, “Also, you did good. Apologizing. Gar was a little afraid of you after the first time we met, but it was very nice, what you did. “
And there it was, another sign that Raven Roth was a creepy person to everyone else. She sighed. Okay, now she wanted some chicken, if only to distract herself.
Raven and Victor were sitting around the cashier drinking soda and talking quietly about the bookstore when Gar came back down, this time looking less riled up, wearing proper pants, and a less suggestive t-shirt. His hair looked ruffled, as though Gar had tried to run his fingers through in order to tame it.
“Ooh, sweet, soda!” Gar brightened up, reaching a hand out to grab an ice cold can on the counter, only for his hand to be slapped away by the taller man.
“Hey, no stealing!” Vic snapped. “Raven’s a guest here, so she gets a free can. You live upstairs, where we still have soda, so nope.”
“But CYYYYYYYY.” Gar whined. “It’s soda!”
Vic made a noise, slapping his hands away.”Nuh-uh! Pay for your own!”
Grumbling, Gar stuck his hands down his pocket and got some cash, which he grudgingly put on the counter top.
“Now can I have a soda?” he growled.
“Be my guest!” Vic smiled, letting the annoyed man take a can.
“Your cat doing okay?” Raven asked, sipping on her soda through a straw.
Gar’s head perked up. “Yeah! He’s doing amazing! We came back upstairs, and he went straight for the food bowl. He was really hungry, though he hadn’t touched his food when I went to check earlier-“
Vic and Raven shared a quick glance before they replied, mingling their answers .
“That’s a mystery-“
“Yeah, so strange-“
“Ah well, at least he’s upstairs now.” Gar sighed, taking a small swig of his soda. “What were you talking about before I came down?”
“Raven here was telling me about the new comics coming in.” Vic grinned, and Raven could see he was glad he changed the subject. “I’ll be camped out when they get released, watch me there on publication day!”
“Let me know how you feel about them.” Raven said. “You’re one of the best graphic novel readers I know, and you’ve got discerning taste-“
“You flatter me, woman.” Vic raised his soda can. “Just for that, I’m giving you extra sauce for your bodega chicken!”
Gar whipped his head around, “Wait, what?” he demanded. “How come she gets bodega chicken?”
“Cause she’s cool, B. Also, you’re on a diet, so you won’t appreciate it.” Vic smirked. “I’ll make some-“
He got off his chair and made his way to the backroom, where the chiller was, leaving Gar and Raven alone.
“I’m sorry about me getting bodega chicken?” Raven asked drily. Should she apologise for that? The bodega chicken that Vic’s grandparents sold in the store was amazing, and Kori often came down to buy some to take away for dinner. She often bought more than the two of them could eat in one meal, so leftovers were often paired with it. Raven didn’t mind. She liked the bodega chicken alongside cold pasta.
Gar burst out laughing. “Don’t be, I’m vegan,” he explained,“ I just like to whine when Vic gives free food away, especially to women. ” He looked at her, smirking, “If anyone’s giving free food away to the ladies, it has to be me!” He punctuated the last bit of the sentence with a thumbs up and gesturing at himself.
Raven rolled her eyes. “ You must be a hit at parties.” She snarked. She had him pegged, alright. Worried, overdramatic cat-lover who liked to think he was a Casanova and a hit with women, but was also into cheesy jokes. Clearly, someone who thought highly of himself.
He was also apparently vegan and was entirely sincere to people who did something he respected. That seemed…rather sweet. But people contained multitudes.
“Hey, hey!” Garfield said, looking affronted. “ I’m amazing at parties! I come it, I devastate the ladies with my great looks, the men with my hilarious jokes, and animals love me cause I’m just so peppy!”
She raised an eyebrow. “ Really.” She said flatly. “ Try me then.”
Gar smirked, “You asked for one!” He said. “ I’m gonna hit you with my best pick up lines. Cause you deserve to have the best!”
“ Mhm.” Raven took another sip of her coke, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The man smirked, and Raven assumed he was revving himself up for the challenge. He raised him arm and, dramatically, pointed at her face. “ Well, Raven!” He began. “You’re pretty.”
That threw Raven off for a few seconds. Did this guy call her pretty? Luckily, years of practice had given Raven the best poker face, and all she did was raise an eyebrow.
“And I’m cute. So I think…if we started dating, we’ll be Pretty Cute!” Gar finished, looking as though he had just offered her a rose from the Bachelor.
Raven paused, “ Was that your best joke?”
“ Cause it really wasn’t that good.”
“ A kindergartener could do better.”
“ Wait wait!” Garfield protested. “ I have another!” He looked like he was racking his brain before his eyes lit up and he said, just as dramatically as before. “I can’t spell the word Beautiful without U!”
Raven waited for a few minutes before she realised that he had already said the punchline. The number of seconds that ticked by while she stared at him was making him nervous, if the twitch in his face was, in any way, accurate.
She raised the other eyebrow. “ Uh…huh.” She said sceptically. “ Do girls actually date you when you say those lines?”
She knew she hit a nerve when Garfield gasped. “I’ll have you know they did!” he protested, puffing his chest out in pride. The woman rolled her eyes.
“Here’s the thing…I can’t spell the word Ugly without U in it either.” Raven said, going back to her drink.
There was a short, sharp laugh from the backroom, and the both of them turned to look in the direction of the doorway, where Vic was standing, holding back his laughter.
“ GURL, YOU CAN STAY!” Vic yelled across the bodega. Raven couldn’t help it, she had to smirk. Gar, still in shock, had to keep his balance by leaning against the counter.
“ Thank you, Vic.” Raven said. “ Can I pay you for my next soda?”
“ What are you talking about!” Vic yelled back. “ You shut down Gar! You are getting free sodas for LIFE!”
Gar was still speechless when she finished her first drink and went to the fridge for another. When she sat down again, Gar looked at her in the eye, and went, “ It’s on!”
Raven looked at him, unimpressed. “ What is?” she asked drolly. “ The lights? The air-conditioning? Your brain?” She hoped it was all three.
Gar didn’t seem deterred by Raven’s snark. In fact, he smirked. “ Me outsmarting you and making you laugh!”
Raven opened the tab of the new can of soda. “That a challenge, huh?” Raven asked. “ It’s going to be really hard for you. I’ve been in close contact with your face and you still didn’t make me laugh.”
There was another burst of laughter from the backroom where Vic was still prepping the chicken.
Gar looked a bit upset and for a few moments, Raven thought that she might have gone a little too far. Then, “ Oh it’s definitely on!” Gar declared. “ Raven Roth, I am going to make you laugh one day!”
“ I believe you will be sorely disappointed.” Raven replied.
The fun time had to end when Raven looked down at her phone and realised that she had to go back home, she had to open the bookstore in an hour.
“Well, it was very lovely to hang out with you two, “ Raven intoned. “ But I have to leave. Duty calls.”
“ Well, just in time, little lady.” Vic said, coming out of the kitchen and passing Raven a container that held a full bodega roast chicken. “ It was good of you to come and join us. Next time, you should come over for dinner, bring Kori with you! I’ll make you something nice!”
“ I’ll let her know., Raven said,a small smile gracing her lips.
“ And next time, I will defeat you, and your stoicism, Rae-rae!” Gar yelled, where he was happily chewing on a straw. “ You will love me and my jokes, mama!”
“ Yeah, never going to happen.” Raven said after a pause. “ Also, it’s Raven.” She added. Best not to give anyone ideas on what to call her beyond her given name. she thought.
Gar only laughed, “ I can do it, mama!” he said, posturing in such a way that she could only describe as “silly”. “You will fall for one of my romantic lines, Raven Roth!”
Raven looked at him, at the way his eyes brimmed with determination, his dirty-blonde hair glinting off the sunshine coming in from the windows, and the way his mouth curved into an exuberant grin. He really did think he could do it. Raven thought. He was that confident that he, a man Raven had only just met for the second time in her life, could make her smile.
Well, then. She would have to prove him wrong, of course. While she did like him for his goofiness, avoiding him would be best. If she actually stole MC Nugget again, they would inevitably catch on that she was the one who was responsible.
Then who on earth could she talk to?
“I’ll fall the moment you make a joke so bad someone cries and their tears make the floor slippery, maybe.” She said. Vic gruffawed at the newest line.
She walked off, feeling a little proud of herself as she did. She could hear the cheers of Vic as he taunted Gar and the protests of the other man trying to fend himself from the teasing as she walked down the road. The warmth of the freshly cooked chicken felt good in the cold, nippy air.
She reached him, and was met by a Kori who was in a rush, she still had her camera to pack as she raced all around the apartment, gathering things. Raven helped her pack quickly, called her an Uber to get to the airport, and Kori kissed her on the cheek as thanks before she raced out the door in a panic.
Now, all that was left was Raven, a box of chicken, an empty apartment and the beginnings of silence.
Unbidden, her thoughts went back to the bodega, where Vic and Gar were, teasing and making fun of each other.
They did seem like a fun bunch. Vic was as funny as he was well-spoken, and spending time with him made her like him even more. Garfield, while a bit more annoying, and very over-confident, was rather sweet, in a very round-about way that was belied by his cocky attitude.
But no. She had had enough. She was not going to drink ever again, and she’d only keep her visits to the bodega only when she needed things.
No more cat-stealing.
Chapter 4: The Unfortunately Maligned Dickhead
I don't pretend to know anything about veterinary school, or shelter practices. I tried research but I decided ultimately the best thing to do was to be vaguely truthful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“ Should I ... ask if you’re alright? “ Dick said, as he surveyed the room, looking confused. The last time he had been in the apartment, he didn’t recall seeing this much of a change happening.
No answer, as the other person in the room was furiously writing down something hurried on a makeshift whiteboard while pinning something else with her other hand. She had the marker pen cap in the mouth, and she growled a little as she wrote something wrong, rubbing out what she wrote with the butt of her part, and the pen cap crackled as it groaned under the weight of her teeth.
Dick sighed, feeling guilty.
It was possible he may have been ignorant about what was happening with regards to Raven. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but when he was in the apartment he only had eyes for his girlfriend, the sparkly, fiery queen of his heart. While he did pay attention to the roommate that was also his friend, how could you concentrate when your girlfriend orbited around your universe and also happily smelt like strawberries and wine?
It was inevitable that he would miss something.
However, that was not the answer to what was going on right now. He knew Raven could be as obsessed as he was when faced with a problem but he really wasn’t expecting ... whatever this was.
“ Raven, “ he began. “Be real with me.” He gestured around the whole room, which was covered with papers, red string that connected itself to photos and then somehow spread itself to every surface of the room, lists with pictures of drinks on them that had rankings all over the photos, and pictures of their friends. “ Are you... okay?”
Raven’s face turned towards him, and the flustered look she had on her face reminded Dick a hell load of the popular meme where a man was explaining his conspiracy theory to his friends. As it was, Raven looked exactly like the meme in question, except way grumpier.
“Mmmbinnnne.” She said before she spat the pen cap out with so much aggression, the cap zipped its way towards the kitchen and landed in the sink. She growled, and repeated herself, “ I’m fine” in a clipped tone before she started going back to writing something.
Everything she was doing felt ominous and threatening.
Which reminded him.
“ Could you consider... turning down the creepy monk chanting ?” He asked, feeling a little more creeped out. And people said that he was way too intense when he had a lead in a headline for the newspaper. They had clearly never met Raven Roth. She apparently concentrated best with monks and Latin choirs spelling out people’s doom. Or something. He really wasn’t proficient in the dead languages.
She nodded and pointed vaguely towards the living room, where her phone was. He switched it on, opened up Spotify, which was playing the “Good concentration music fantastic for work” playlist, and paused it.
He pointed to the words, “ DRINKING?!?!” that was written at the centre of the board. “Do you think you’re an alcoholic?”
“It may seem so-“ Raven growled out. “It happened again, Richard.”
“What?” He said, a little taken aback. Then a light switched itself on as he remembered the cat pictures. “You stole another cat?” He asked incredulously.
“ Nope.” She replied. The relief Dick felt was, however, short-lived as Raven continued, grimly. “I stole the same cat. Again.”
Dick took a step towards the couch, hesitating when he found it filled with papers and books. Raven sighed and went to join him, clearing a space by removing books and placing them on the floor, gathering the loose sheaves of paper in her hands and putting them safely on the coffee table.
Once settled, she told him everything, from the drunken sojourn the night before the incident, the return of the cat, and the resolution to stop drinking.
“ This ... does not explain the whole CSI thing you’ve got going on, Raven.” He said slowly. “You’re kinda going conspiracy theory right here.”
“ It only looks that way because you don’t know where it starts and where it needs,” Raven said archly.
“Also, did you eat?” He asked. A hungry person was not a functional person and judging by how twitchy Raven looked, she probably had very low blood sugar.
“Tea.” She said, waving a hand at the dining table, piled high with mugs. Dick didn’t even know the apartment had that many mugs.
“ What about food?” He asked gently.
Raven opened her mouth and then realised she could not actually remember the last time she sat down to have a meal.
Dick sighed again.
“Come on,” he said, leading her to her room. “Go get yourself dressed and wash up. I’m buying you lunch.”
After a shower, getting dressed, and taken to a café, Raven felt better, and, in Dick’s words, ‘less conspiracy-theorist’.
“Believe me, I’ve been there,” Dick said, munching on a croissant. “Remember?”
“We were all there,” Raven muttered as she sawed at a steak. At one point a few years ago, Dick, who liked to stick his nose into other people’s business, found a lead in Japan, and followed Kori when she had a trip to Osaka, claiming to be on holiday and relaxing, but instead spending all his time chasing criminals and infiltrating certain segments of the Japanese underworld. Of course, that led Kori and Dick to have one of their biggest arguments, with Kori charging that Dick never liked to let things go, while Dick countered back with the fact that Kori was too light, too lenient, and too frivolous. It was a very tense vacation for most of it, and Raven was, unfortunately, caught in between most of it.
Dick laughed, guilt creeping into his chuckles as it faded. “Did we ever apologize to you for ruining your vacation as well?” he asked sheepishly.
“Mm. I told you, I had fun.” She said as she took a bite out of her steak.
She wasn’t lying. The two of them arguing meant that she was allowed to figure out her own vacation plans, including visiting shrines to pay respects, learning more about spiritualism in Japan, and hitting Harajuku without being forced to buy anything too cutesy, just happily soaking in the atmosphere. She was free to do what she wanted, eat what she wanted, and buy a few gothic-esque clothes.
Also, she got to hit the onsen whenever she wanted.
It was a great vacation.
“ I’m just glad you guys made up.”Raven continued. “And Kori didn’t spend time crying on my shoulder any more. I had to buy more clothes cause she soaked all my good clothes with her tears.”
Dick smirked. “You’re a liar. “He challenged. “Kore told me that you were nice to her, was there when she needed to chat, and then you hugged her and stroked her hair when she needed company-“
“And if you ever repeat that to anyone, I’d deny everything,” Raven said, deadpan.
Dick laughed, an open, clean sound. “In any case,” he leaned forward, “You’re a good person, Raven. Which is why it’s weird you’re on this hermit compulsive writing thing. “He tented his fingers, “Explain to me what’s happening.”
Raven sighed and put down her knife and fork. Might as well explain everything to someone rational, calm and willing to understand leads. “So, you know how I’ve been stealing the same cat?”
“Well, it stood to reason that the only thing connecting both incidents was the fact that I was ingesting alcohol,” Raven said. “Alcohol at the same bar both times.”
Dick nodded again.
“It also stood to reason that one of the reasons why I hit the same place twice was due to the fact that the house in question is situated between our apartment and the bar.” Raven continued.
Dick nodded again. All seemed logical. Raven would have been amazing as a philosopher.
“So.”Raven continued. “Originally I wanted to cut out alcohol forever. However I also wanted to see if I was missing anything else, so I’ve decided to attack this in a 3-pronged approach.”
“3-pronged, huh?”Dick chuckled. “Seems serious.”
“ The first-“Raven started, removing a notepad that seemed to contain extensive notes. “Deducing and narrowing the type of alcohol that affects me the most.”
“Logical, “Dick said. “Though it would make sense if you just cut out alcohol altogether, right?”
Raven nodded, “True, however, there will be situations…” she hesitated. “People around our age will be drinking, and I refuse to believe I am an alcoholic. Besides, I want to find out what kind of person I am when I drink.” She sighed. “And I need trustworthy friends who would do so without any sort of blackmail…”
Well, that explained the picture board with pictures of himself and other friends. “The second?” he asked.
“ Geographical locations. “Raven said, as she flipped the page. “The results might vary from place to place, and I want to know if it’s just the one place that’s the source of my …situation.” She clasped her hands, looking thoughtful. “I need to go to another bar to figure out if I would do the same thing…again.”
Dick raised an eyebrow. “Raven, is this an excuse to go bar hopping?” he asked.
The look he received from the woman in question was a terrible, terrible one, and he was not wont to go repeating the experience again. “R-right, okay, okay, my mistake.” He laughed, hesitantly.
Raven calmed down immediately, and Dick wiped his brow. To change the subject, he asked, “What’s prong 3?”
Raven sighed, resigned. “I think the reason why I keep stealing cats is because I want a cat. So…I’ve been doing research.”
Dick frowned. “You…want a cat? “he asked.
“I’ve talked to Kori. “she replied. “She’s been very receptive to the suggestion of us getting a pet, and I’ve been doing research on the cats in the various shelters that might need a home. It might be good to have some company when Kori’s away.”
“What, I’m not good company?” Dick said, jokingly.
“Please, we both know you only hang out with me when Kori asks you to, especially in the most recent years.” Raven said flatly.
Dick winced. “That’s …”
“We don’t hang out, Dick. When you visit, you’re mostly spending your time with Kori. I’m mostly there because I’m there. “ She couldn’t help but let a tinge of bitterness enter her voice. “Search your feelings.” Raven said. “You’ll know it to be true.”
Dick sighed, but he grudgingly agreed. Raven was perceptive, just like he was. “You may have a point.”
There was an awkward pause before Raven’s eyes softened and she broke the silence, “Look, you’re not a horrible friend, just really busy, and very …driven.”
Dick rolled his eyes. “You’re being too kind to me, I get it.” He stretched both arms above his head. “Okay, how about this. You start on your …3-pronged approach situation, and I’ll be there, to observe the experiment. “
That was honestly more than what Raven had actually expected. “I don’t-“
“Look, you were right.” Dick interrupted. “We’ve known each other for way longer than Kori and I, but it always seems like you and are near strangers in comparison. Partly, it’s due to my rather…dogged nature. And also…you tend to push people away so you don’t get too close.”
“You and Kori, always using the truth against me.” She muttered, but she smirked.
“So how about this?” Dick asked, with a smirk of his own. “You and I work on this…experiment of yours, and we’ll spend more time in the process, be better friends again. We’ll eat lunch, we’ll drink, and I’ll help do your bidding, make sure you don’t get too out of control, or steal another cat again. Also,” Here his smirk widened, “I’ve been known to be very secretive, and very stubborn to get down to the truth, just like you. Between the both of us, we’ll be able to get this sorted out.”
The only sign that Raven was touched by Dick’s words was in her eyes, which were shiny with tears. She had coughed, rolled her eyes to get rid of the pesky tears, and replied, with all the dryness she could muster. “That sounds workable.”
Dick grinned. “So…where should we start?"
When Dr. Garfield Logan was on the job, he was focused, he was professional. He treated pets with equal fervor, he fistbumped with small children and pet owners, he sometimes flirted back with women who were grateful for the youthful vet that saved their own, and he discussed animal clinic matters with volunteers and staff members that respected his views.
Sure, he was goofier than the normal veterinarian worker in the animal clinic that adjoined the shelter. He made bad jokes, like the time the animal shelter organized a trip for the city kids to a farm that had llamas and alpacas. He’d looked down at the schedule, and then asked, “Will vegan food be provided? Cause if not, alpaca lunch.”
After the 100th pun, he was subjected to the consequences that was the Pun Jar. He then joked that the pun jar was an appropriate pun-ishment for his sins. He was then made to put two dollars into the jar. He then asked if he was even allowed to put his two cents into the matter at hand.
Garfield was out 10 dollars by the end of that day.
In any case, he was a working professional, and he exuded confidence, decisiveness, and charm…
All of that was immediately dropped when a dark-haired woman and her companion stepped into the lobby of the animal shelter, where Garfield was surrendering another dollar to the Pun Jar at the request of the no-nonsense receptionist.
“Raven?” the man blurted out as he did a double-take. “What are…what?”
Sue him, he really wasn’t expecting the woman to appear at his workplace. Raven was a blip in his personal life, not his work life, and right now it was like he was watching a crossover episode. Or a ship crushing a small rowboat. Something really.
Raven, to her credit, only raised an eyebrow. “Garfield.” She addressed him in a matter of fact way. “So, this is your workplace.”
“How did you know?!” Garfield near-yelled in a panic. Holy shit, she was totally a psychic or a ringwraith if what Lord of the Rings showed was right, she could totally sniff him out, holy holy shit-
“You’re wearing a labcoat.” Raven pointed out, and she accentuated that point by pointing at Garfield, who was wearing a labcoat that had his name sewn on the pocket as well as a nametag that denoted him as Dr Garfield Logan, along with his picture.
The dark-haired man behind her was shaking with silent laughter at Raven’s deadpan deduction. He had a head full of gel, wore a pair of sunglasses, and was wearing a pretentious trenchcoat. To Garfield, he looked like a pretentious fucker who fucked around pretentiously.
Maybe he needed to remember more SAT words…
“My friend and I,” Raven said, and he had to drag himself from obsessively thinking about Raven’s pretentious looking friend, “want to know more about the adoption procedures here. I’ve been told this was a no-kill shelter…”
“Yeah, this is the place. “Garfield said, well-aware once again that he was interrupting her, but decided that it didn’t matter, as he beamed from ear to ear. “This is where the magic happens!” He was aware he was speaking rather loudly, but that was okay.
“…right. “Raven said slowly as though the man had not interrupted her. “So I’ve done some research and I’m considering adopting an older cat, and I want to come down to fill out the forms and maybe have a look at the facilities they have here-“
The receptionist was about to open her mouth and give a form to the woman when Garfield cut her off. “I can take you!” Garfield said, feeling a little giddy. He wasn’t expecting to see the woman again, and this unexpected meeting meant that he had yet another opportunity to make the woman smile for him. Fuck the weird fucker that she was apparently in the company of. That didn’t matter.
Bonus if he was able to find an animal a forever home.
“You want the grand tour, lady, you can have it!” With a flourish of his hands, he opened the doors of the shelter’s internal space that was open to tourists.
“Gertrude, these people are with me, can I keep them with me for the tour? Pleaseeeeeeeeee?” He widened his eyes, pouted his lips, and when the stern-faced receptionist did not budge, started making whimpering noises. He was rather proud of that, his whimpering noises were known to be very realistic.
“Fine, Dr Logan.” the receptionist relented. Garfield grinned, and he took his guests for the shelter tour only Dr Garfield Logan would ever be able to do.
“…and that concludes the tour!” Garfield chirped, turning around to meet his tour group. “Whaddya think?”
Raven was quiet, but Garfield had expected that. In fact, it didn’t matter that she didn’t say a word, he knew she was paying attention from the keen look she had in her eyes and the lingering glance she had at the cats when they walked past the cat area.
The problem, though, was her companion Dick.
He had asked questions throughout the tour, ranging from the benign such as how long he had been working in the shelter, what kind of animals the shelter housed and how it was funded, to more personal questions such as the number of years Garfield had taken to get his degree, what his animal care specialty was, how much experience he’d had being a medical professional to animals, and when he had moved to Jump City.
Garfield had politely answered every question, albeit a little guardedly once he started to the more personal questions. It was like the other man was interrogating him, and he really didn’t care for the other man’s tone.
“I think we’ve seen enough.”Raven intoned. Garfield and Dick turned to look at the woman in question. “Gar, your workplace is really nice.” Raven said, and Garfield was relieved to see that her eyes had softened from earlier. “And I think if we need any veterinary services, this place would work just fine.”
That made Garfield grin from ear to ear. Raven liked his work place? He took a look at the man next to her, who had a more inscrutable look, and he couldn’t help but smirk. Raven made that decision without any input from the dickhead! Sucks to be him!
“Sw…sweet!” he went. “Look, if you’re really interested in adopting a cat here-“
Raven nodded. “I think I’ve narrowed my options down.” She said, taking out her notebook. “I saw some cats on the shelter website that I’m interested in, but I have a few more questions and if possible, can I meet them? You’ve met the cats here, so you’d know them... can I get your input on the cats and their personality? You’ve obviously treated them before.”
It was unintentional, but she was looking at him from beneath her lashes while she was still holding on to her notes, and damn, that was kinda cute. “Sure!” He smiled. It was possible he was smiling a bit more goofily than he normally would, but that was probably alternative facts. “Though I only treat them, I don’t actually spend time with all the cats-“
“You work here.” she said. “You’ll know. Your cat seems well taken care of, and I’ll trust your judgement.”
That was…honestly the nicest thing anyone had ever said about him. “Just for that, I’m telling Victor you’re getting a free drink from the bodega whenever you want!”he laughed. Then he realised something.
“Oh, damnit, if you want to adopt a cat here, you gotta fill up the form… that Gertrude wanted to give you at the front desk…” He laughed hesitantly at his silliness, and turned around, “Stay here! “he called back, “I’ll be right back!”
It didn’t take him long for him to get the forms, Gertrude had helpfully stretched her hand out to pass them to him as he went by.
“THANKYOUGERTIEILOVEYOUBYEEEEEEEEEE.” He yelled as he walked back briskly towards where the two were. He could hear strains of their conversation as he did, and with their backs towards him, they obviously didn’t realise he was behind them.
“What do you think of this one? “Raven asked, as she passed something to Dickhead Mcpretentiousdick. It was probably a phone.
“Mm…Raven, why would I have any input?” the man said. “It’s your cat you’re picking out.”
“Yes, but you stay in the apartment sometimes, you’ll get a say in us getting a cat that likes you,” Raven said drily.
It suddenly made sense to Garfield.
Dickhead was Raven’s boyfriend/partner/husband/significant other!
At that moment, Garfield knew 2 things:
1) He was not someone that had affairs with people in relationships. Flirting with Raven, therefore, was not a good idea.
2) He’d try his best to be friendly towards Raven as well as Dick. Because if he thought the woman was remarkable, any way to keep her in his life in one way or another would be great. Even if he had to be nice to the gel head.
He walked over, making his steps louder and more careless so the couple would know he was here.
“I’ve checked it.” Garfield grinned. “The forms are all here, you just gotta fill them out, and then you’ll be subjected to a home visit and interview, and then you’ll be able to get the cat you want to adopt.”
Raven took the forms, a slight frown on her face. “Thank you, this all seems a bit…overwhelming,” she admitted.
“Well, you’ll do okay.” Garfield didn’t stop grinning. “You seem to have done some research and I’ll answer any questions if needed. In fact-“He reached into his pocket, took out a pen and wrote down a series of digits. “If you need anything, just text me here! Any cat-related question, I’ll answer it. If not, you know where I live-“
Holy shit, what happened to NOT FLIRTING with Raven Roth? He’d made the promise to himself a FEW SECONDS AGO, and he was breaking it already? The man in the trenchcoat was already raising an eyebrow at him questioningly. Ah fuck, he’s mad at me for trying to steal his girl-
“Thank you, Garfield,” Raven said, interrupting his thoughts. “Your help is …not unappreciated.” The smallest of smiles was playing on her lips.
Hell, he’d take it. “No problem, Raven, no problem at all.”
“So,” Dick said as they left the shelter, Raven with a bunch of pamphlets in hand. “Was that guy flirting with you?”
“You know him, “Raven said. “He’s the owner of the cat I stole. “
Dick’s eyes widened. “The one you said was trying to tell you all the dating puns?”
Dick laughed. “He seems… nice.” He teased, lowering his sunglasses to give Raven a knowing look.
The woman glared at him. “Don’t push it.”
PLEASE REVIEW OR LIKE IF YOU WANT TO AND ONLY IF YOU WANNA.
Raven took the carrier that was currently set up in the private corner of the living room, peering at the creature currently residing in the case.
In the darkness of the cage, two eyes stared back, bewildered and fierce all at once.
There was a famous saying once, to avoid staring too hard into the Void, for fear it would look back on you and Raven was reminded of it as she opened the cage door. She knew it would possibly have consequences, but there were a few websites that had recommended this next step and Garfield Logan himself had supported that advice. Since he was an actual veterinarian, he would be correct, right?
She quietly opened the door to the case, and then, without looking to see how the cat would react, left the cat alone, choosing to go into the kitchen to prep the food bowl and water dish.
In the kitchen, she could look over and pretend not to see a small black nose poking it’s way out of the carrier, sniffing.
She had to allow herself a smile at that point.
Azar was kind of cute.
Garfield looked over to see his phone buzzing, with a now familiar name appearing on the screen. He chuckled, and slid a finger across the screen to accept the call.
“So did what I suggest work?” he said, allowing himself a small smirk. It was lunchtime and he was right in the middle of a soy Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich, but he could always take some time for questions.
An audible sigh, and then, “Yes, the upside-down cardboard box with two exit holes was surprisingly effective,” came the calm, reluctantly respectful voice of Raven Roth. “Azar’s currently hiding in it and she really spends a lot of time in there. You’ve more or less saved me money for buying a cat bed.”
“I did tell you!” Garfield crowed. “She likes it better when she has a hidey-hole to stay in, and this way she won’t hide under the couch cushions or behind shelves all the time. You put her blanket in?”
He could almost hear the eye-roll she must have been giving him, “Yes.”
“Excellent. “ He said, very reminiscent of Mr Burns from The Simpsons. “The plan is coming together.”
“Clearly. “Raven said. “So, appointment in…”
“10 more days.” Garfield said. Don’t sound too eager, Gar. She’s someone’s girl. Tread carefully here. “She’s got her shots already, and she shouldn’t have any trouble with the litter box…”
“Good, if you have any more problems, let me know-“
“Thank you.” Said the calm voice. “I’ll see you when I see you then.”
“So, when are we going to execute the plan?” Dick said, sitting at the counter of Raven’s bookstore, eating a burger.
“After this week,” Raven said, as she studied the computer. “I want her to feel settled in first, I don’t want her nervous about you when you get into the apartment.”
Operation Dionysius (“Raven, must this have a name that we cannot pronounce?” “I want this to seem like a dignified situation, do not question me, Richard.”) was currently being planned to the T, thanks to Raven’s thorough research and Dick’s obsession with the details. In fact, Dick had spent his lunchtime the past few days at Raven’s bookstore, bringing his food in while discussing the latest plans. Raven hadn’t realised he was adamant about keeping his promise to help Raven out and renew their friendship, but the man was taking the plan seriously.
The man was even using one of his many red notebooks, the ones he used to write down leads in, despite the fact that he had a perfectly good working phone that could help him take notes.
“I keep the pdfs of the notes scanned and uploaded into a cloud I have online, with top-most security.” He explained. “Phones are distracting, they keep uploading notifications from messages-“
“How is Kori, anyway?” Raven asked without looking at him, taking a sip of her tea. She knew what he meant when he said, “Distracting.”
“She’s doing good,” Dick said, a hint of a blush on his face. Raven didn’t need to look at him to confirm, the man was easy to read. “I’m actually thinking about popping the question.”
That was a pleasant surprise. “Finally,” Raven drawled, setting her cup down, the tiniest of smirks gracing her lips. “What took you so long?”
Dick looked embarrassed. “I was thinking about it since… Japan, actually. But well, I kept planning for the right time- “
“You’re an idiot, Richard Grayson.” Raven chided. “There is never such a thing as the right time. You could have done it ages ago.”
Richard flushed, rubbing the back of his head. “I didn’t realise you wanted Kori off your hands that badly.” He countered.
“Kori is my best friend, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world, but you should have proposed 3 years ago,” Raven replied. “You two are a good couple.”
And she’d meant it. Despite the fact that she grew up in a broken home and thus always had a cynical view towards the idea of a happy, healthy family, Kori and Dick were two of the most hopeful people she knew, and they were both strong, determined, and worked well together.
Dick smiled, and though he did not say anything else, Raven knew he was grateful for his encouragement.
“What about…” and here Dick went silent, but Raven knew what he was about to say.
“I threw his things out in a box yesterday,” Raven said grimly. “I didn’t need them anymore.”
She was telling the truth, though it was partially true. She had collected some of Malchior’s belongings, found a fire-proof box, then set the entire thing on fire. The rest of them she gave away to the local Thrift Store.
Dick reached over to pat her on the shoulder. “He really didn’t deserve you.”
“And I don’t want to ever see his face again,” Raven said. “He’s moved to another town, so he won’t be popping by at the store anymore.”
The fact of the matter was, she had met Malcolm “Malchior” Jones at the bookstore when he had first moved, and he was charming. He came over frequently because he was in search for a very rare grimoire that he wanted for his collection, but he and she started chatting about other books, both of them bonding over their love for high-fantasy and poetry. Raven had been infatuated with the man for a whole year, despite the red flags that Kori and Melvin had pointed out, like how he was really into making disparaging comments about women and made Raven feel horrible about herself.
Ultimately, she broke up with him for a number of reasons: she had found out that the man was also “discussing his love” with another woman. Both of them had suspicions that Malchior was cheating, and ultimately when they confronted each other, they found out that the man had been stringing them along at the same time. With help from the other woman’s friend, they also found out that the man had been responsible for making creepy, rather perverted comments to other women in the Goth/Occult scene around the area. So, they turned the tables by exposing him.
“I’m glad you’re getting better, and I’m glad you actually did expose him by stripping him naked, confronting him, and them locking him out of the apartment,” Dick said casually. “How did you manage to get him outside?”
“I sent the word around to the neighbourhood association,” Raven said, just as casual. “I explained the situation, and they were happy to help, so they refused to open their doors when he knocked. And we had his phone, so he couldn’t call for an Uber to pick him up. “
Dick nodded. “And Kori got the photos, right?”
“And video.” Raven sipped her tea. “The views for that vlog skyrocketed.”
It had been exhilarating, at first, and the women had congratulated themselves for a job well-done. But then after a while, Raven’s doubts and brain kicked in, and she was plagued with guilt over having not seen the signs and blaming herself for being so gullible and in love with a man she barely knew. She hated herself for doing it, but she had cried. It was so absolutely silly, and after what had happened with her parents she had sworn never to be like her mom in that aspect. But that night, full of doubt and self-pity, she sobbed.
Kori had come into her room at one point, and with Raven on her lap, she had stroked her hair, talked to her and even sang a few songs from her homeland until Raven had drifted off to sleep.
It had felt nice.
“Your girlfriend has wonderful fingers, by the way.” She added absently.
“I’m not going to ask how you know that,” Dick replied after a pause. “Think she’d like Azar?”
“I sent her a video of Azar sleeping the other day, “she said, taking out her phone. “Judging by this-“
she held out her phone to show Kori’s message, which had a series of exclamation marks, emojis, and gifs. “She already loves her.”
“And you?” Dick said. “Do you love her?”
“More than life itself,” Raven said, deadpan.
That was true. Azar was proving to be a very effective roommate and the sweetest cat Raven had ever met. Forget MC Nugget, Azar was a sleek black cloud of quiet elegance that was disguised as a cat. She had been very shy around Raven at first, but luckily, due to Raven understanding the need for space, and letting Azar explore the apartment on her own, she was getting used to Raven as well as her new home. When Raven fed her that morning the black cat had practically nuzzled up her ankles and the woman could feel the purrs vibrating from the cat. It was the nicest feeling she’d ever felt.
“I’m glad she’s settling in well,” Dick said. “Any chance you’d bring her down to the bookstore?”
“Maybe.” Raven said, “If she’s doing okay and if Kori’s not in the apartment… I’ll check with Garfield…”
“Oh yeah, the vet we met that gave us the tour!” Dick said, eyes brightening. The bastard. “Have you talked to him yet?”
She rolled her eyes. “He’s a shameless flirt. When I got to the shelter to pick Azar up two days ago, he was there, and he asked me if I was quiet when I was looking at Azar cause, ’the cat got my tongue.’ Then he proceeded to try 5 pick up lines in a row, and only stopped when the receptionist told him to surrender $60 to their pun jar. He then started crying about how unfair it was to make a junior doctor give up so much money, the receptionist told him to get an I.O.U. and Azar and I got away unscathed.”
Dick stared and then started laughing.
“What?” Raven demanded.
“That’s the most you’ve ever said about any guy!” he chortled. “You must like him!”
Raven rolled her eyes. She was surrounded by idiots who really didn’t know better.
She wondered if she had time to run upstairs to check on Azar. At least she’d listen and not judge.
“So what happened after you gave up $60?” Vic asked over the dinner table later that night. “Should I worry about you not being able to pay rent?”
Garfield rolled his eyes. “Dude, I’m good for it, you know that.”
He wasn’t wrong. Technically Garfield could buy a house by himself and live comfortably on his salary, along with his inheritance that he had barely touched when his parents died that only kicked in when he was 18. However, he liked Victor’s place, and his grandparents were kind to him when he was rooming with Victor in college, always inviting him over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gar had a very tense relationship with his own foster parents, and the invites were a godsend to him.
When Gar mentioned that he was starting work at the animal clinic and had trouble looking for a place to live with a good roommate, Victor offered the spare bedroom in the apartment. Gar jumped at the chance. It was a 15-minute bus ride to the shelter, and he got to stay with his best friend.
“Then Raven got her cat, thanked me for helping, and went home,” Garfield said, matter of factly. “I gave her a few tips on how to make the home better for her cat, passed her some supplies and a bag full of food, she seemed pretty cool about it.”
“Man,” Victor said, laughing. “I can’t believe you hated Raven one day and you’re now helping her get a new cat in another-“
“She’s still weird though!” Garfield cut him off.
“Weird enough that you’d still tried 5 flirty lines on her?” Victor raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you say she was with her boyfriend or something the other day? Little man, you’re bold but you have to be careful about that.”
“I know, I know,” Garfield grumbled.
He had more or less confirmed that Dickprat Prattishslap was Raven’s significant other when he had, during his lunch break a few days ago, accidentally on purpose found Nevermore Book Nook, walked in, and spied the two of them in the back corner of the store, talking quietly. He didn’t want to spy on them, they were having a hushed conversation that seemed intimate and secretive, so he promptly walked back out again.
NOT that he was spying on her. No.
“Anyway, I didn’t know she had a boyfriend, “Victor continued. “Though, if he was that guy I saw that one time a month and a half ago…”He shuddered. “That man is bad news -“
Garfield’s ears perked up. “Really?” he said, as casually as he could.
“Yeah, “ Victor said, picking out a chunk of meat from his takeaway box. “I didn’t like him. Looked like a dick.”
“That’s probably him!” Garfield nodded resolutely. “The man gave me the same vibes, man. Dickshit Slapfuck.”
“Dang, she’s still with him, huh?” Victor said, shaking his head. “Raven is lovely, but I hope she knows she’s worth more than that…” He then looked at Garfield with suspicion. “You’re not planning anything…shitty, are you?”
That was an affront on so many levels, and Garfield felt like he was being accused of sordid affairs, murdering innocent babies, and eating veal, all at the same time. “No!” He gasped. “I’m a gentleman, as you very well know!”
Victor rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah man, but well…”
“I’ll have you know I have never done anything that would be seen as shitty towards my fellow dudes, especially if they treat their women right, even if they are douchebuckets!” Garfield said. “I am amazing!”
“Yeah yeah yeah, you’re actually a good dude.” Victor chuckled, reaching over to ruffle his roommate’s hair. “I’m just saying, be careful. Though I think Raven can take care of herself-“
“Sides, she and I are now in a business thing!” Garfield went on. “She’s gonna be my patient’s owner, and I’m gonna be her cat doctor! Nothing will ever go on there!”
“And sides to the sides, we’ve only seen each other 4 times in total!” Garfield ranted.
Though that was a total lie. Garfield had, besides that one time he saw Pratfacé McVonDich having lunch with Raven, went down to the bookstore a day before, mostly to satiate his curiosity over the woman in question, as well as to check out the graphic novels that Victor had been raving about.
When he’d walked into the store, the woman he was NOT spying on had been manning the counter, but she was then occupied with a rather boorish customer, so he did manage to walk in unnoticed and hide in the corner looking at the graphic novels. All the while, he’d spent some time looking around the corners of the shelf so he could watch the situation unobserved.
The man, who had red greasy hair tied up in a man bun, bushy eyebrows and bad acne was yelling at her, and all she did was stare him down with a look of disdain.
“You can’t possibly tell me that an establishment such as this does not carry The Liberty of Binds!” He had screeched, waving a phone with his gloved hand. Garfield had looked at him properly and realised that the man was wearing robes from Space Trek: The Wrath of Tan and was both repulsed and excited at the fact that there was a fellow fan in the area. “We are talking about one of the biggest movie franchises in the history of time and space!”
“And, as I’ve already mentioned, this shop does not carry mainstream Sci-Fi that you can readily get anywhere else.” Raven then replied drily. “We carry indie fantasy and sci-fi titles, poetry, graphic novels that are not focused on superheroes-“
“And thus, fair proprietor of the store, you are now on the Blacklist of Doom!” The man had flourished a pudgy finger at her, his tone indicating that Raven should feel more afraid of his words. All that earned him was a raised eyebrow and what looked like a vein throbbing on her forehead.
“If you continue to ask for titles you can clearly get anywhere else, and then yell at me about it, you have the energy to open your laptop or go to your local Barnes and Noble.” Raven had snapped. “Do not come back here anymore, Thaddeus-“
“I would prefer you refer me by my edgelord name on League of Legends, Control Freak!”
“Goodbye, Thaddeus. “Raven had replied after a beat. “Please never come back here again.”
As the bigger man shuffled his way out, grumbling, a voice could be heard from the back of the store. “Is he gone yet?”
“Yes.” The dark-haired woman then sighed, pinching the skin near the bridge of her brows. “Melvin, take over the counter, I’m going back upstairs to meditate, eat lunch, and feed Azar-“
“Omigod, can I visit your cat please please please-“
“After a week, Melvin. The vet recommended it, and I intend to follow that.”
So he had felt a little gratified that someone was following his advice. Sue him. He’d never heard someone say out loud that they trusted his judgement before.
So he had bought 5 graphic novels from Nevermore Book Nook, even though he was attended to by the cheery, blue-eyed blonde in pigtails and overalls. Sue him, he liked supporting local businesses.
So he was actually spying on the woman he most definitely did not have a thing for.
It wasn’t his fault! She happened to be funnier than expected, and he wanted to show that he could match up to those cray-cray skills of wit! And she had a soft spot for cats! And she took his advice and took him seriously! It was only a matter of friends being friends, and a matter of him wanting to show off how cool he was!
That was what he would write on his deathbed confession.
Sue him, no one else would know.
Raven trudged up the stairs back to the apartment and opened the door.
She was greeted by a pair of bright coloured eyes that stared at her from the couch.
She sighed, went to sit next to the cat, and offered her palm to sniff as a way of greeting. The cat did the requisite going over and then nuzzled the hand.
“You’re surprisingly cuter than I expected at the shelter.” She’d told the cat.
The cat didn’t reply, choosing to climb on her lap.
Raven took the opportunity to start her meditation pose, drained by work and anxiety over the plan that would be executed soon. Dick had wanted to start the plan right away, but Raven was feeling drained beyond belief and all she wanted was to read, meditate, and play with her new cat.
The cat was intuitive enough to stay still when Raven sat there, breathing slowly through the ritual. That was another great thing about Azar. She somehow understood the importance of silence and peace. When Raven started chanting her meditation words, Azar barely blinked, choosing instead to take a nap.
Raven opened her eyes 30 minutes later to see a sleeping cat on her legs, and she’d stopped moving, not sure what to do. She was pretty sure she needed to eat, and feed the cat currently slumbering, but at the point in time, she was content just sitting there. She took a hand and started stroking the cat’s sleek black fur, careful not to wake her up.
Azar started purring.
Raven leaned back, figuring she could do with a good 15 more minutes of peace.
The chaos would start soon anyway, and any respite was good for her soul.
This originally had a scene where Dick got mauled by kittens when he was playing with them, and more BBRae interactions.
It'll happen next chapter, sorry about that.
Chapter 6: The Disassociation Of The States
It was a dark and stormy night.
"Dick Grayson, you are NOT starting off your notes as though you're writing a sordid crime novel!" Raven hissed next to him as the both of them were on their way to the destination in a cab.
"I like a good, memorable opening-" Dick tried to defend himself.
" It's dark because it's night-time. Also, it's barely drizzling!" She gestured out the window where sure enough, a small shower of rain was falling down, but not strong enough to be considered,'stormy' .
" I'm taking artistic license!" Dick said. "I'm allowed to do so!"
"I asked you because you wanted to help, Dick, and what I need from your is your keen, intellectual mind, your accurate note taking and sound logic." Raven replies tersely. She was already feeling very nervous about what they were about to do, and all the meditation in the world, tea, and even petting Azar did not help one bit. "I do not need your artistic whimsical side to come out-"
Dick only laughed. She was pretty sure she was close enough to reach over and wring his neck. Screw the fact that he was a friend of hers and her best friend's boyfriend, she could dispose of the evidence very easily. She'd even conduct prayers over his grave site so he would have a peaceful death. Anything to get rid of that smirk.
"You'll be fine." Dick said. "We've gone through all the possibilities. And it's all about recon right? We're gonna ease you in, start off slow..."
"Why start at this bar again?" Raven asked grumpily as the cab rolled up to the front door. She had her hood up, ready to make a break for it when she ran out of the car into the dry interior of the bar. Dick was lucky, his trench coat was resistant to water, as was his gelled-up hair, while Raven's favourite comfortable slouchy wool sweater was going to get a little bit wet. On the plus side, her black shirt meant that if she was going to spill anything tonight or get caught in the rain, it wouldn't show. Same with if blood got on her shirt.
Not that she was expecting blood to get splashed on it.
Strangling your friend definitely didn't cause any external blood loss.
"Geographically it makes sense," said Dick. He had picked her up from a cab that he'd took from the city, as his car was in the shop that day. The cab fare would be a bit pricey but Dick barely blinked, he was a trust fund kid that just happened to have a job as a crime reporter in the newspaper.
"We start further away from the original bar, so that we can figure out how much you can walk, and the route you will take. It's only going to be two to three drinks, so you'll still be able to walk but enough that you might not be able to remember. You've been to this area before, which was a requirement because you needed areas that you can walk to and fro from your place, so that you'd know the route. If you deviated from the route to go anywhere else, we'd know. Lastly, I know the owner. She's nice, and owes me a favour, so she'll let us have a private corner all night with no one to disturb us."
Raven sighed. She had known all of this of course, Dick was very thorough in his investigation plan, and had gone through all of this during the lunch time meetings they had. She was just nervous and annoyed that they even had to do something like this in the first place.
Dick ruffled her hair in a gesture she knew it meant he understood. She slapped his hand away half-heartedly and opened the door to the cab as he went to pay.
She walked up to the shelter under the bar, letting the slight rain fall on her while waiting for Dick to reach. Her nerves were getting to her but she rationalised her feelings. As it was it made sense that it was a conventional thing, going out to bars with friends. She was 28 for crying out loud. It wasn't as though she was an old fogey, who preferred to stay at home and drink tea and read.
That was a lie, she did feel older than her years. And she really wanted to stay home. And she really wanted some tea. And she really wanted to read that new novel that came into the store.
She wanted to do so many things, but here she was, in front of the bar, about to test some theory that now seemed half-assed and unthinkable.
She took a deep breath as Dick joined her at the door, and pushed the door open.
Garfield Logan had absolutely no idea what was going to happen.
Sure, he was currently in a fancy-ish bar that was a bit out of his usual range. He tried his best usually to abstain from alcohol, only drinking socially, but the shelter people were celebrating Gertrude's 65th birthday and he had to admit, he was very excited.
Workplace birthdays were usually pretty boring, and technically they did already have a song and cake in the shelter, but the other workers sent him a text telling him that he was invited to the after party and to tell no one else. He may have gotten a bit more excited when he reached the place and found out it was pretty exclusive. Not all the people who worked in the shelter were there, only a select few, and they thought he was worthy enough to be invited.
This was a huge achievement considering the fact that he'd only been at the shelter for 6 months. But it was really nice that they welcomed him as though he had been there for ages.
He didn't even think Gertrude even liked him that much.
"On the contrary, Dr Logan." Gertrude had said wryly while at the table, a jaunty birthday hat atop of her salt and pepper hair that was braided into cornrows. "You're a good man. And better than that snooty Dr A. I don't even understand why they even let him in sometimes, he only does the job for the paycheck. You actually interact with us and you actually like the animals. You just gotta stop playing the fool sometimes."
That was... actually the nicest thing the gruff receptionist had ever said to him. "Gertrude. My heart!"
"Don't push it, Dr Logan."
"That was a declaration of love, Gertie!"
"It's Gertrude, Dr Logan."
"You can call me Gar, Gertie, I think we're at the part of the relationship where we can call each other by our first names."
The receptionist chose to roll her eyes at him at that point. That was okay, what he and she had was true love.
He blew a kiss at her as he got up to go towards the bar and see if they had any bar snacks that were vegan-friendly.
As he gave a cursory glance at the menu and made his order, he looked up just in time to see a dark hooded figure and a man in a trench coat walk in, the man taking off the black material to reveal a dark blue shirt with an eagle spread across it. Next to him, the hooded figure threw back the hood to reveal blue-black hair, and a pale face with big eyes accentuated with dark liner.
His jaw dropped. Raven Roth was at the bar where he was.
He was convinced this was not because he was stalking her. He was there before she did, and for fuck's sake, his colleagues picked the place. If he had to swear under an oath he'd do it!
What to do then? Hide under the bar? Pretend to be Spanish? Join the group where Gertrude's party was being held and pretend not to see them for the rest of the evening? Maybe he could slip out the door-
" Dr G!" One of the volunteers yelled, "Can you get us more fries over here? And blue cheese buffalo wings!"
The yell had caused half the patrons of the bar to look over at his direction, including Raven and her male companion. He wasn't that surprised to find out that it was Dick who was with her.
He could still growl internally at his bad luck though. Especially since Raven had paused when she saw him, eyes widening by just a bit, but Dickfacé Vin Diesel had seen him and made his way across to him. Raven followed behind.
"Garfield, right?" The man said jovially as he grasped his hand in a firm handshake. "I'm Dick Grayson, remember? When I was with Raven at the shelter?"
Of course, he'd remembered. Was the other man implying that his memory was so bad that he'd forget someone he'd met about more than a week ago? That prat.
"Dick, of course!" He replied back with a cheerful smile, with emphasis on the name Dick. "You're Raven's friend!" The last bit was said with emphasis because fuck it, Garfield could be petty.
Dick laughed because that's what smarmy assholes did. The asshole. "Yeah,Raven and I were around the area, wanted to check out the bar-"
" What are you doing here?" Raven asked, and the two men turned their attention to her. Her voice did not dip in any way out of her monotone though Gar liked to imagine that he heard a slight change, like a little waver.
To prove that he was no, in fact,t being creepy and/or stalking her, he gestured to the birthday party behind him, grinning. "Gertie's birthday." He said. "You remember Gertie, the receptionist? They invited me, and I should be heading back-"
"I see," Raven said, cutting him off rather quickly. "Well, we shouldn't be interrupting-"
"Oh no, it was no trouble really-" Gar hastened to reassure her.
"Dick." She said, curtly, and the smirking man turned his attention to her. "Come on." She looked back at Gar and he thought he saw her eyes soften a little. "It was good seeing you, Garfield." She said, before she headed off to the back of the bar. Dick looked apologetic as he turned back but the man also looked like he was trying not to laugh. The jerk.
"Great seeing you." The other man said before turning back and following Raven to the booth she had secured.
"Well, you're a mean person when you're not drunk, we can establish that." Dick said as he took his seat in the booth seat opposite Raven. "What did your vet do to you anyway? The man looked like you made out with his cat in front of him."
"We have to forgo the plan," Raven said brusquely. "I am not going to embarrass myself in front of the man who will be examining my cat in two days if he's going to know what I look like drunk!"
Dick raised an eyebrow. "Hey, it's going to be okay-"
"Also, the cat stealing-" Raven said, her voice a little higher than normal before she cleared her throat and spoke again, "If we stick with the plan...what happens if he comes across us or follows us when we find his place and I try to steal the cat again-"
"It'll be okay!" Dick said and fuck if Kori had a Voice for Disappointment that made her feel guilty, Dick's Voice of Authority made her feel like she had to snap to attention and listen. "That's the reason why I went up to him to say hi in the first place. Diffuse any awkwardness, say hi, ask him how he was, the usual small talk questions. Now that that's done, he'll be less likely to bother us." His brow furrowed. "Besides, I don't think he likes me, so he's less likely to come over."
Raven scoffed. Dick Grayson, not being liked? That was a rarity. "Now I know you're lying."
"I can tell." Dick insisted, holding up his menu to check on the drinks list. "The guy's voice is always weird when he sees me, and when he shook my hand just now he called me Dick."
"That's your name though." Raven pointed out.
"I mean like he called me Dick like I was A dick, not Dick." Dick tried to explain, to no avail.
"A lot of your life problems might be resolved if you just called yourself Rick instead, you know that, right?" Raven said drily. This was a very well visited topic. Dick had, through his adult life, got into multiple misunderstandings solely because he sometimes introduced himself rather straightforwardly.
It made sense, anybody would be pissed off if someone came up to them, stretched their hand out, and happily introduced themselves, "Hi, Dick!" The consequent fighting, slapping, and tears should have been obvious.
Luckily Dick was great at MMA and then later went for a few classes on diplomacy and understanding nuance, under Kori's insistence. Raven approved.
"Anyway, we'll just take precautions," Dick reassured. "I'm here. If it seems as though we're following him to his place, we can just say that it's on the way, and I won't let you steal any more cats. It'll be okay, just take a deep breath and exhale."
Raven glared at him from across the table. "Fine, but just for that, we're getting snacks. Those blue-cheese buffalo wings sound good."
Dick laughed. "You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think the reason why you're acting rude is because you're flustered and you want to impress this guy." He teased.
"You're right," Raven said, taking the menu, and examining the food and prices. She quashed the little thought in her head that agreed with what Dick said. "You really don't know any better."
Garfield Logan was not happy, damnit.
Firstly, no one had told him that the supposedly vegan-friendly fries were cooked in duck fat and so now he had probably helped contribute to the death of a cute fluffy duck somewhere.
Secondly, Gertie, former ally, looked at him like he had strangled his own cat when he presented her the scented candle he bought from the nearest Bed, Bath and Beyond before arriving at the party.
"Oh, Dr Logan…" breathed the volunteer next to him in a hushed whisper. "Gertrude hates candles…"
"How can people hate candles?" Gar whispered back. "Especially this one! It's Vanilla! It smells like cookies and love! "
"Dude, didn't you know?" Another volunteer shook his head sadly. "Gertrude's first husband left her for a candle salesperson."
What terrible luck, honestly.
In the end, after many apologies to Gertrude, the receptionist had finally softened and told him not to worry, "You didn't know, and the gift was from your heart, Dr G. I can't get mad at that."
But that still weighed heavily on his mind.
And to top it off, the Raven situation.
Why the hell was she being so rude? It was as though she didn't want to see him just now. He thought they were buddies now, or at the very least cordial with each other! Sure, she did seem quite sorry about being mean to him before she left but that was irrelevant! Did she NOT want to see him? Was she mad at someone she knew for busting in on her date night with Schlong McDick?
Maybe DingDong Dickbell was the reason, and maybe his jerkiness was rubbing off on Raven? That could make sense! Couples generally tend to be alike each other after a while! Maybe too much exposure to that asshole was the reason why she was being mean!
He wondered if that would happen if he and Raven were a couple. Would they inevitably have each other's traits? Imagining Raven as a vegan, or telling goofy jokes, or even laughing and next to him playing video-games…
Okay, Logan, going too far ahead. You promised yourself not to hit on anyone's girl, and this fantasizing won't help.
He tried to think of him getting some of Raven's traits: him wearing dark clothes, or hoodies that hid beautiful blue-black hair, bangs framing large, dark eyes, and a mouth that curved itself into the smallest of smiles that lit up her face like a small candle glow…
DUDE, SNAP OUT OF IT.
What the hell was going on? This was supposed to be harmless flirting and a challenge to make his friend/acquaintance laugh with cheesy pickup lines. What the hell was he doing obsessing over someone he barely knew?
He scowled, taking a swig of beer that he'd bought to soothe his sorrows.
At least he'd made sure it was vegan beer. He'd given the fries to the other volunteers, and they had devoured it with some sort of bloodlust he'd never expected to see from people dedicated to help animals.
He did a quick, casual glance across the bar, where Dick and Raven were, sitting in the private corner of the bar. The two of them were at the moment ….quietly sitting apart, eating chicken and sipping their drinks?
If they were a couple, they were definitely the most private of ones. Gar had been in a few relationships in his life, and maybe it was more about him as a person but when he was in a relationship, he cuddled. He liked some sort of physical contact, nothing too sexual, just some handholding, nuzzling, hair petting maybe... But this couple? Nada. Beyond a few murmured conversations, they didn't touch or interact in any way that made it seem like they were a couple.
Then again, it wasn't as though he could see what they were doing.
Garfield got up from the booth he was sitting and casually went to the bar, where he could get a good vantage point while pretending to scour the menu like he wanted another beer.
Perfect. He could see the both of them now. He could see Raven eating a piece of chicken, while Dick said something that made Raven roll her eyes and Dick laugh.
And he realised that despite the fact that he had the advantage on view, it was still useless as he wanted to hear what they had to say.
Damn sight, it could do almost everything but hear, touch, smell and taste things!
He sighed, and waved the bartender over, asking for another beer.
The vantage point did allow him to see what was going on. Raven had what seemed to be a glass of a purple drink in front of her, and she'd taken a few sips all while talking to Dick. The man nodded but seemed more engrossed in writing in his notebook.
A small growl emitted from his throat. Jerkwad wasn't even listening to her? What kind of boyfriend was he? The man jotted down a few notes before he stood up, pausing to bend over and say something lowly to Raven. The woman looked flushed but she waved a hand and the other man chuckled, before sidling out of the booth to venture to the bathroom. The woman was left alone.
Right. He assumed he and her were friends. Maybe he could go over to talk to her, casual convo style? But did that broach on the code? Was Dickerson Schlongbottom the jealous type? He could claim he wanted to check up on how her cat was doing, cat lovers did that. But would that compromise on his standing as a vet? What kind of ethics did Vets cover anyway? Was this something he missed in school at one point?
The dilemma resolved itself when the woman in question looked up, locked eyes with Garfield and before he could do anything, she raised herself off the table and tried to sidle out, all while waving at his direction.
He looked behind him just to see if Raven was waving at someone else but when he found only the bewildered look of a woman who was just as confused as he was, he turned back just to come face to face with Raven.
" Hch," was the sound Garfield Logan made.
" Hey!" was the greeting Raven Roth made, a grin on her face. "How's it hanging?"
Garfield Logan had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next, and as he stared at the happy woman, he decided that it was time he found out.
When Raven opened her eyes, she couldn't tell what was happening at first.
Her room was dark. But then again, it was always dark. When she had moved into the two-room flat that was situated above the bookstore that she had bought with some of the money her father had left her, along with her own savings, Raven had made sure that she had first pick of the rooms, aka the room that was spacious enough to fit her bed, knickknacks, and two to three bookcases, from ceiling to floor (The rest of the books were relegated to the other bookcases all around the living room). Most importantly, she needed a room with no windows to let in the rotten thing known as sunlight.
She didn't get that, cause both bedrooms had windows. However, she did manage to get a room that showed the back alley behind the shop, which was also the room that the bright sunshine of the morning did not manage to hit. Raven didn't mind that the room had a view that peeked into the local hangouts for alternative youths looking for cigarettes. It didn't matter. Sunlight in the morning was a terrible, terrible thing and she would do anything to make sure she would never be in direct contact with the exuberant fierce daylight that they had in sunny Jump City.
She hated the sun. It was too bright, for one. Raven had nothing against mornings, if not for the dratted bright light that came along with the day. When Kori came along, with her tanned skin and her proclamation that she loved the mornings, the outdoors and sports,along with the heat that came with the bright sun, Raven had happily given her the room where the sunlight streamed in and overlooked the busy street, guilt-free. She'd installed blackout curtains in her room, so that she'd never have to be at the mercy of the morning sun.
So it wasn't out of the ordinary to wake up in a dark room.
However, a pitch-black room where she could see nothing and something was clearly covering her face?
She sat up in a hurry, disturbing the creature that had taken refuge on her head, and it hissed as it receded towards somewhere in the dark room. Azar then.
She'd switched on the table lamp on the bedside table next to her bed, finding herself in her room, still wearing yesterday's clothes. She shook her head, trying to get rid of the pounding headache and the taste of hair in her mouth.
Grimacing, she got up from her bed to open the door and venture to the bathroom. Maybe cleaning the fuzzy feeling out of her mouth would be a great idea.
A quick brushing and wash up later, she'd stumbled out of the bathroom to find Dick Grayson, dressed impeccably, reading the newspaper and brewing coffee, like a father in a cheesy 1950s movie.
"Well, someone's up." He greeted Raven.
Raven made a small growl and headed straight for the cupboard where her tea was stored.
The both of them sat in companionable silence while Raven made her tea, Dick occasionally flipping the page of the newspapers the only thing that could be heard. The woman held the mug around her fingers, finally taking a sip of the hot drink.
"Mm." she said. She sat down at the kitchen table, letting the hot drink seep in.
After another short pause, Robin said, "So." He was truly a man of eloquence in the morning.
"So."Raven said, taking another sip of her drink.
This continued for a good thirty minutes or so before they were finally able to carry out a full conversation that involved more than just single words.
"So. What happened." Raven asked, flatly.
Dick grinned, "The experiment went well." He said, opening up his notebook. "I think we've pretty much got a good idea of what happens when you're drunk."
"I only had one drink." Raven said, still in the same flat tone. She could probably use words of more than one syllable. Maybe.
"Well, yeah, but I took some time to calculate alcohol content and the drink we picked has been known to nearly put a bull to sleep if you take too much." Dick admitted. "We should have done our research properly, they recently changed up the recipe of the drink…"
Raven made a sound that either meant she was a horse that wanted to be led to water but not necessarily drink it, or that she was annoyed.
"In any case, we'll have to work through the process of testing again, and we'll make sure that we'll reduce any…extra variable." Dick said.
Raven looked at him again. "What. Happened. Richard." She growled each syllable out. She was pretty sure any memory of what happened the day before had stopped right around the time she'd finished her last chicken wing.
She was pretty sure she remembered a pair of green eyes.
Why did she remember green eyes?
Suddenly, she drew back a gasp.
"Garfield." She said, drawing every syllable out with a sense of forboding.
"So." Said Vic, as he'd spooned a plateful of bacon onto his plate. In a separate frying pan, he scooped up a serving of mushrooms on his plate and then another, making sure the already present spinach on that plate was still sitting right.
"So." Garfield said, sipping a cup of orange juice, absently petting a black and white fluffy cat sitting on the chair. MC Nugget nuzzled his hand.
"What happened man?" Vic asked, putting his plate in front of him. While he wasn't a huge fan of vegan meals himself, years of arguing with Gar on their dietary preferences meant that he and Gar tolerated each other's food choices, and also learnt how to cook breakfast for each other so that they could take turns on cooking. "I thought you went to a work birthday party of something."
Garfield shrugged. "Dude, I told you," He said, taking another sip of his orange juice and picking up the cat, settling him on his lap and scratching him behind his ears. "I bumped into Raven and her boyfriend at the bar, and then he left to do something douchey, leaving Raven all alone. She saw me, came over and then we started chatting."
Vic spooned a spoonful of eggs in his mouth. "Uhhuh, and bacon insects must exist, cause pigs are flying."
" I'm telling ya!" Gar protested, swinging his legs in frustration. "Raven and I talked!"
"Uhhuh." Victor laughed, using his fork to point at Garfield. "Fine, little pipsqueak. Let's say, on the off chance that I believe you-"
"You should!" The blonde argued. Seriously, why didn't anyone ever believe him when he said something that was vaguely unbelievable? "Raven and I talked! We had a full-length conversation!"
"Again, say on the off-chance I believe you-" Victor repeated. "What happened then?"
Garfield rolled his eyes. "If you don't believe what I'm gonna say, then what's the point?"
" I just wanna hear gossip, little dude." Vic chuckled. "Also, you're kinda like my little bro. I wanna know what's going on in your life."
Garfield growled, "Argh fine, I'll tell you but you can't just be all...Victor about it!"
An eyebrow was raised. "All Victor about it?"
"Yeah, you know." Garfield put down his utensils to wave his fingers in a faux-mysterious manner. "Cause you're Vic. And everything you do is so Victor."
" Are you actually running out of adjectives, little dude?" Victor laughed. "Okay tell me everything then. I don't want you to suddenly run low on all the other words too."
Garfield rolled his eyes, but began.
" Hey, how's it hanging?"
Garfield blinked. Then he blinked again.
Then he frowned.
" Are... are you asking me..."
"Cause you look crossed!" Raven chirpily replied.
" I ...I don't..." Garfield might have started stammering. He wasn't super sure if he was.
"Cause Jesus was hanging on a cross! And when you looked over at me you looked upset, so you were cross! That's why I asked how you were HANGING. Did you get it? " Raven happily replied. Also something Garfield wasn't sure if he was seeing correctly-Raven HAPPY? And what on earth was that joke? Was it even be considered a joke? Did people even tell jokes like that.
He tried talking again. Cause that was his default mode in times of nervousness and confusion. When in doubt, talk it out. That would make a great epitaph on his tombstone. "You okay there, Raven?" He asked tentatively. "Did you hit your head just now? Are you sick?"
Raven grinned, and wasn't that another very weird thing. "That's a very silly thing to ask!" She said. "I'm perfectly fine, as it were. I just thought I'll come over and say hi! Cause you're high up!"
Garfield blinked again before he looked down, realising that since he was currently sitting on a bar stool that made him sit higher up than usual, technically she was right. Still. "Raven." He said slowly. "You're making funny puns. And really bad jokes."
Raven nodded gleefully. "Uhhuh!"
"What on earth-" Garfield scratched his head, running through the number of possibilities that could be happening right now. Did Raven have a twin sister called Rhonda? Did the witch who cast an evil spell on Raven to make her all moody and stuff break the curse on her? Was Raven having a Norman Bates moment? What on earth was going on?
A waving hand in front of him did not snap him out of his stupor.
Neither did two snapping fingers in front of his nose.
A small slap on the face, on the other hand...
"Ow!" Garfield, did not in any sense of the word, squeal. Rather it was a guttural, manly emission of pain. "Why?" He clutched at his face, yelling at the woman who had dealt him the blow.
"You weren't paying attention to me!" Raven said, and god was she pouting? She wasn't supposed to be looking that cute when pouting! "Anyway, I like bad jokes, especially puns, cause they contain wordplay, and I like wordplay, cause they're a play on words, like in books!" She turned to him with a sudden, scrutinising look. "Have you read Terry Pratchett's books?"
Garfield was very confused at the sudden change of topics. "I'm sure Terry seems like a great author." He soothed. Maybe that was the best way to do it, to agree with what Raven said. " Did she write many romances?" He asked. It made sense right? If happy Raven was this happy, maybe she secretly liked romance novels.
The look of absolute outrage on Raven's face was enough to drain any colour he had on his face. " Erm..."
" A fie upon thee, sir!" Raven said, angrily. Did she somehow get a British accent? "For that insult on Sir Pratchett's name, I challenge thee to a duel!"
" A what!" Garfield absolutely did not squeak in terror.
"A duel... of the fists!" Raven said, throwing her arm down in an invite to arm wrestle. "We'll see what happens when someone dares to feign ignorance on one of the godfathers of fantasy, philosophy and wordplay ever again!"
Garfield did not really expect this to happen...
" Now see, I know you're lying!" Victor said, waggling his finger while shaking his head. "No way did Raven try to arm wrestle you, or act that cute to you, or even make bad jokes-"
"But you agree that she would slap me?" Garfield whined. "I don't like violence, bro!"
"Pshhhh." Victor waved a hand. "Only reason why I want to keep hearing is cause I know you don't know anything about Terry Pratchett, cause you don't read. So you're lucky you're throwing in a lifeline for yourself there."
The blonde man cried in frustration but he continued...
" ...and YAS!" Raven yelled, pumping her fist in the air after soundly defeating Garfield in two rounds of arm wrestling. " I am the champ! Take that, and see if you'll ever insult Pratchett to my face ever again! "
Garfield would mourn the loss of feeling in that hand. It was a good hand. It held on to things for him. " Ow."
Raven turned to look at him, and because Garfield was a mulish, stubborn child who liked to win and was so confused on what was happening, stared back.
He must have done something to jar her because suddenly Raven's triumphant demeanour broke and Garfield was presented with the view of something he'd not expected to see: Raven's lower lip trembling, her eyes suddenly huge, teary, and -
" A damnable lie!"
" OH MY GOD SHADDAP."
" I'm sorry!" Raven started crying. " I didn't mean to win!"
A few things went through Gar's mind. What was going on? Why the fuck was Raven crying? Holy holy fuck, was she okay?
Fuck, Garfield could handle cheerful Raven. He could handle crazy brave Raven. Hell, he could even handle normal, stoic Raven who could be a tad rude but still cute.
A crying Raven? Nope.
He quickly scanned around searching for the missing boyfriend who had clearly more or less abandoned his girlfriend in her emotional need. Fuck men like him. This was the reason why he was going to be a proper feminist and shit.
He still had no idea what to do and now it was obvious the crying Raven had caused a scene. She wasn't full out sobbing, but no one could ignore a crying girl who had tears staining the bar top. Patrons were looking over at his direction. His colleagues were staring at him, and Gertrude was shaking her head in disapproval. Fuck, even the bartender looked like she was disappointed.
Trying his best to placate the crying girl, his first thoughts were to wave at the bartender to get a glass of water.
Overpriced water, he may add. Water should not be that expensive especially if you consider that some places in America did not even have clean water.
But not the point.
The bartender was prompt in the order, and Gar took the glass from her, placing it in front of Raven with a quiet plonk on the bar top. She didn't notice at first, until Garfield placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked up, and Gar tried his best not to flinch hard. She looked like she had gone through terrible breakup, and no wonder these people were looking at him all angry and shit.
He tried to deflect, to distract her, and so he went for one of his default solutions…
"What did the fish say when he swam up against a wall?"
That caught her attention. "Wha?" she mumbled, and she hiccupped. It was kinda cute. But that was not the point.
He grinned, "Dam!" he said. And he knew he nailed the punchline.
There was silence as Raven stared at him inscrutably. Then she did something that Garfield still couldn't, and wouldn't be able to explain.
Dick was a very very confused man.
For the past few minutes, he'd went to relieve himself, and then made a quick call to Kori, who was waiting for a shoot to commence and wanted to see how he was doing. The two of them shared quick, heart-felt wishes, and then Dick, a little more relaxed and more happier, walked out of the men's bathroom …
Only to find the booth that he and Raven occupied empty.
Panicked, he turned his head around quickly to see if Raven had left the bar, and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the familiar blue-black hair next to a familiar dirty-blonde up at the bar. The relief quickly became tension, as he took stock of the situation and realised a few things.
1) Raven was talking to someone she barely knew.
2) Raven was VOLUNTARILY talking to someone she barely knew.
3) Raven was talking to someone she'd met only a scant few times, on her own accord, WHILE SMILING.
It bore repeating. SMILING.
Dick had, in the 7 years he'd known Raven, seen Raven smile at a few people. There was Kori, of course; Melvin, the employee who worked full-time at the bookstore; Melvin's siblings Timmy and Taylor; and, until nearly a month ago, Malcolm (he'd refused to call him Malchior even in his head, that man was a pompous shithead). She'd also smiled at them only after months of interaction. It was tough to be Raven Roth's friend, but when you were, she'd make sure you'd know it. Making conversation, especially from Raven, who didn't like talking to people she did not know, was like pulling teeth from a shark.
(And he'd done that once, it was a very long story, a crime syndicate wanted him to prove his worth as a new gang initiate when he was infiltrating it in a bid to get information and the police had refused to listen to him. So he did it. He'd also managed to get away with it too, his guardian had given him a rather eclectic home education. So it worked. But that was a whole other story.)
In any case, Raven was the toughest nut to crack when it came to social pleasantries. The woman bordered between grumpy politeness and curt silence. This however. This Raven was actually making conversation.
With Garfield Logan, no less.
Dick liked Garfield. Sort of. The man clearly didn't like him, though he had covered it up with nothing less than civility. He acted wary around Dick like a feral animal trying to figure if he was friend or foe. Which was understandable, Dick was a lot like him towards many people several years ago. However, Dick also understood men, and Garfield Logan seemed like he was a decent one. He was helpful and kind towards animals, he had never seemed to treat Raven with anything less than friendliness (though it was also kind of obvious he was trying to flirt with her, but that was another story). And if Victor Stone, a man whom the girls liked and trusted, was rooming with this man who was also his best friend, then it made sense that Garfield Logan was a good man.
If only he could figure out why Garfield didn't like him…
He shook his head.
Focus, Dick. Focus.
He quickly took out his notebook and started jotting down a few quick notes before he closed it and made his way slowly towards the two people.
"No." Raven stated, flatly.
"What?" Dick said, putting down his newspaper, a quizzical look on his face.
"Already you are putting out things that don't make sense." Raven continued, shifting a little. Her head was pounding, and honestly, nothing made sense. She was also feeling a little queasy, so no breakfast for her there. She took another sip of her tea and the pounding slowed down, melted into heat. A little better.
"Anyway,"she continued. "You're a liar, Dick Grayson. A lying liar who lies."
Dick raised his hands, "Hey, you know me, I'm telling you as it is. I'm a reporter at heart, and everything I said was completely truthful."
Raven narrowed her eyes. "How can I…"
"Trust me?" Dick said, removing his phone from his pocket. He opened up an app and showed Raven the screen. "I promise you, I recorded everything before I met you two, and we both agreed, with your consent, by the way, that I was allowed to record everything through any means necessary."
Raven rolled her eyes, but she knew it was probably true. Dick rarely lied about things like work, and the file shown on the screen was taking up a large amount of memory, which meant he probably got a good 15 minutes of conversation in there.
"Fine." She relented. "What happened next?"
Dick grinned. And Raven decided that she might regret everything.
“Dickerson!” Raven had yelled as Dick had walked up casually to the both of them, trying not to look like he had switched on the recording app on his phone.“I missed ya!”
He tried not to look too surprised at Raven’s behaviour. The whole point of the study was to make it seem like it was as natural as possible, and if Dick was surprised by any of what Raven was doing, it would alert suspicion, especially to the already hyperalert and wary Dr Logan next to her.
“Hey you!” Dick smiled, throwing a small grin at Garfield over Raven’s head. The girl was already swinging her legs over the bar stool and Dick took the stool next to her, which meant that the girl was now situated between Garfield and Dick. “You doing okay?” He asked quietly in her ear. “Do you want to leave?”
Raven looked at Dick and he was struck by how…cheery Raven was. Raven had never smiled like that without restraint much before, in fact, he could count the number of times she had done so. (The number was under 10, but considering the number of years they had been friends, it was a very small number.) She shook her head no and he decided to go along with what she wanted.
“Cool, okay.” He said softly. “Let me know when you want to go, okay?”
Raven smiled and nodded.
Dick’s smile grew bigger and he decided to change the subject so that Garfield would not feel uncomfortable being around the two of them. “So, what have you guys been talking about?” he asked.
Raven took the opportunity to fill him in, and as she talked Dick took note of not just Raven’s behaviour, but also how Garfield was acting. The man was sitting back, looking for all the world like he was listening to a good friend, the lazy grin and the way he filled in on some areas when Raven started rambling. And, if Dick wasn’t wrong, he looked, for all the world, like he was listening intently to Raven.
The way someone would be if they were potentially…interested…in someone.
Dick tilted his head. “Huh.” He said, musingly.
“What?” Raven asked, tilting her head.
Dick shook his head. “Nothing!” he protested. He had been thinking about it all morning while Raven had been asleep, and it made sense, but his theories had been wrong before, and he needed more evidence to support his hypothesis. “So as I was saying, you told me about you and Garfield were talking about…”
"Halloween!" Raven yelled. “Candy is delicious, I love pumpkin spice lattes…”
Garfield was too busy smiling and laughing. “Well, I figured it was your favourite holiday…”
“Darn straight!” Raven yelled. “You should see what I do for the bookstore every Halloween, we do a holiday event, spooky music, seances, tarot readings-“
Dick chuckled, careful not to say anything. He didn’t want to interfere too much with the study at this point. Watching Raven interact with someone other than him when high on alcohol was a revelation. Perhaps this was useful information, watching this entire thing happen with him in the sidelines was a good thing…
“So, I suppose you join her for these events?” Garfield asked.
It had taken Dick a second long to realise that he was actually talking to him for a change. “Oh, I don’t do Halloween.” Dick said, quickly going with what was easiest: the truth. “I’m usually pretty busy most days, and Halloween’s really a holiday for kids and adults who want an excuse to dress up and drink really…”
For some reason Dick couldn’t understand, Garfield’s body language seemed to tense up. “That sucks, dude.” The blonde man said casually, but Dick could almost SEE the distinctive air of disdain towards him. Dick nearly frowned in response but he managed to catch himself.
“Yeah, it totally sucks.” He smiled, gesturing at Raven. “Halloween has always been Raven’s holiday, anyway, she hates all the others, so usually she just does what she wants to do. Me, I tend to stay away…”
Garfield took a gulp of his drink. “Yeah. I get that.”
His face told him otherwise.
“You should join us!” Raven said, totally unaware of the entire chaos that had erupted between the two men. “This year. Both of you! Kori won’t be back this time, but I can still organize things on my own!”
Garfield’s attention was given entirely to Raven, so much so that he had not noticed Dick’s face when Kori’s name was mentioned. “Who’s Kori?”
“She’s my roommate!”Raven said. “And…”
“Raven!” Dick blurted out, quickly. His head had come across an intriguing theory and he wanted to test it out. “It’s getting late, do you want to check up on Azar now?”
Raven turned to look at him in surprise and thankfully, she nodded. He was counting his lucky stars that apparently Raven still had some sense to trust him in times like these when she turned back to look at Garfield. “We were having such a great conversation though.” She said mournfully.
Before Dick could figure out a way to placate her, Garfield got up from his bar stool. “Well, I could do with going home right now, anyway. “The man said. “MC might miss me, and this is one of the first time in a few days that I got my nights free.” He went to the counter to pay up his bill, turning to the two of them."Do you mind if I walk back with you guys?"
Dick was about to make up some sort of excuse when Raven, who had been looking sad, lit up. She turned to Dick, with huge pleading eyes.
How was Dick supposed to react to that kind of plea? "Fine," he muttered. Raven looked gleeful, and Garfield, still a little apprehensive, nodded, muttering something about having to say goodbye to his colleagues first.
“Raven,” Dick whispered to her as the man was walking away. “You sure about this?”
Raven looked at him, and despite the fact that she was clearly a little drunk (from one glass of alcohol, no less, Dick had to check with the bartender exactly what she’d mixed up), she’d looked at him with the most impervious stares. “Of course.” She’d said, looking for all the world like she was normal, everyday Raven. A bit unsteady on her feet, but he could tell that Raven was still in control. “Plans are plans, we will stick with this to see what happens next. ” Dick was about to question how drunk Raven was when she’d piped up again, saying, “The Witch Supreme needs this information.”
Right. She was technically still somewhat in control but her head was wandering off, just a little.
“Huh.” Raven said. “I vaguely remembered that. So you’re telling me I still have a few mental faculties in control when I am under the influence?”
Dick nodded. “Looks like it.” He’d said.
The woman groaned, letting her head collapse against the table in shame. “God, I hate myself.” She muttered.
“You talked his ear off the whole time when you were walking home, by the way. He asked you for your opinions on good graphic novels, and the both of you talked about it the whole way home.”Dick tapped his temple as though trying to remember. “In fact, you told him to consider reading the graphic novel version of an Octavia Butler book, and he seemed intrigued.”
“I did what.” Raven said, voice still muffled against the wooden table.
“You told him it had elements of sci-fi in it as well as important questions of life. He seemed intrigued.”
Raven groaned again. "Oh fuck. You are telling the truth."she said, croakily. " We just had a new shipment of the novels on Thursday, and I've been recommending the novel on the shop front and on the web-store..."
"Yeap."Dick said. "So, it turns out then when you're drunk, you're happy, very defensive of books and authors, and laugh at bad jokes."
"I laughed."Raven said. "At his bad jokes. Oh gods, I think I remembered one about a dam. It was SO BAD."
Dick had to smile.
"So what happened in the end?"
"Well, we walked him home, and you made us watch him going into the apartment before we left." Dick said. " Also, when we left, you saw MC Nugget at the window, and waved at him really happily. You were about to make a jump up the fire escape to say hi...."
"You stopped me right?" Raven asked, desperately.
"Yeap." Dick said. "We managed to get away from the fire escape just as the light came on in the bedroom. Then we came back, you took your cat and then went to your room, and I crashed on the couch. No movement through the night, from what I could tell."
Raven sighed. "You're a lifesaver, Richard."
Dick raised his cup of coffee at her. "Nothing to it. So... when are we doing the next location?"
"Hmmmmmmm." Victor Stone murmured, staring down his roommate. The man gulped and tried not to look too uncomfortable at his scruntinizing.
"I won't lie, little squirt. This entire story sounds like an episode on Broad City." Victor said. "However, you have just namedropped two authors that I know you didn't come up with."
"I TOLD YOU!" Garfield yelled, triumphantly. "Now do you believe me?"
Victor waved a hand, but Garfield knew that he'd won.
It's not the best ending. And Raven may seem like she's a little OOC, but I was working with combining the Emoticlones in the canon, and then making it modern AU level. Then again, not every bit of fanfic is realistic. Just roll with this?
Raven wasn’t sure exactly what was going on.
She had taken time off from the shop so that she could bring Azar over to the vet. Not that she was leaving the shop unattended, she had left the store in the hands or Melvin and her siblings.
It helped that they were good employees. Melvin at 21 was the oldest, currently in her third year of university. Her youngest Brother, Taylor, was taking a gap year so that he could work before going to college, working at the shop during the day and freelancing design at night. The middle sibling, Timmy didn’t often work at the store, but popped by every month like clockwork to help Raven with bookkeeping and accounting, as it was his major. All in all, the three of them were like family to Raven.
Well technically, it was cause they were family. Raven’s great grand-aunt’s grandkids. So they were cousins of some sort. But Raven digressed.
It was early afternoon when she had finally reached the animal shelter. Stepping on to the parking lot, she’d frowned.
At this point she... really had no idea how to proceed. The last time she’d entered the shelter, she technically didn’t step into the vet’s clinic, as most of the paperwork and admin had happened on the shelter lobby itself.
Where was she supposed to go exactly? There weren’t any discernible signs.
She sighed and reached into her pocket to grab her phone, hesitant but ultimately resigned. It was practical after all, and if she had a resource from someone she was acquainted with, why not？
She tapped on the name and waited for him to pick up. She told herself that any residual awkwardness would have to wait...
Residual awkwardness apparently didn’t wait. Residual awkwardness stormed to the front of the line demanding to see the supervisor. She could practically feel her face turn red.
“ Dr Logan.” She said, as drily as possible, shifting the weight of the cat carrier in her hand. At least her vocal chords could be relied on, thank GOD for years of indifference. “ It’s Raven here. I’m just wondering how to get to the vet’s office.”
There was a couple of seconds of silence, so long that Raven had to hold her phone out to check if they were still connected. Then, “Raven!” said the voice, as though the owner was disbelieving and in shock. “I didn’t... I mean...”
Well, confusion she could deal with. She could at least feign confidence over a confused man. “We have a vet’s appointment, Garfield?” She said.
“I know that, it’s just... I could have sworn-you’re early!” The man protested. “I have you scheduled at 1.30 pm, after lunch... I’m not even on shift yet!”
Raven frowned, and looked down on her phone.
She must have gotten the time wrong.
Fuck, she KNEW it was at 1.30, she’d even wrote it down in her reminder app. What possessed her to take Azar in two whole hours of before the appointment?
“I ...must have read the time wrongly.” Raven said slowly. “I am sorry-“
There was a shuffling, a sound of chairs scraping, a cat’s yowl, then, “ No no!” The man protested. “I swear, you’re fine, just... I’ll finish up and I’ll meet you at the clinic -“
“No, no, you don’t have to-“ Raven protested.
The sound of the phone clicking meant that Garfield had disconnected the call.
She had been feeling... a lot out of sorts since the bar, and she didn’t want Garfield to think that she was an irresponsible floozy who couldn’t keep a proper schedule. If what Dick said was true, she was basically a bit of a flirt when drunk, and she was embarrassed to let someone else see her this messy. It was like watching Dick try and hit the keys to every sappy Backstreet Boys ballad.
Kori had video of that somewhere. She was pretty sure.
Nevertheless, Raven shook her head, deciding that it would be good to spend two hours at a nearby cafe or something. There was simply no point sitting in the shelter looking and being awkward for two hours.
Though what kind of cafe would let her carry Azar into the establishment? And she really didn’t feel comfortable opening the cage to let the black cat out, the cat was currently making very unhappy yowling noises.
She lifted the carrier to look into the dark void currently situated inside. The void stared back, frightened, and let out a long, throaty unhappy sound.
“ I know, I know.” She soothed. Or tried to. She really wasn’t sure if her voice was even something likable. It was a bit gravelly and raspy for a female, something her Father never hesitated to bring up when he was alive and wanted to supposedly take her down a few pegs. Or something.
She’d handle the gaslighting and old verbal abuse for later, this was not the time.
She looked around and decided to try her luck at the cafe opposite the shelter, figuring she could at least kill some time there.
She’d struck gold: the cafe apparently was pet-friendly, and a waitress with the name tag Karen B. was kind enough to seat the nervous cat and her very grumpy owner at the small corner of the cafe, outside and away from the small children screaming around the place while their moms were talking and ignoring their screams. It helped settle Azar a little and Karen B suggested getting a cloth to cover up the carrier so Azar could get some privacy.
“I have two of my own, back east.” Said Karen B wistfully. “They’re with my parents now, they’re looking after them while I go to grad school here. Is this your first cat?”
“She’s a beaut, she is.” Karen bent over, cooing as Azar crouched in her cage, staring suspiciously at the new strange face. “I’ll make sure to get you a saucer of water for her while I get your order out-“
Raven let the waitress chatter as she undid her cardigan, leaving her in a black lace blouse. She draped the material over the exposed part of the cage, making sure that Azar had limited viewing of the outside world.
Karen looked over and grinned, “Aw, see? Little T’challa is all quieter now!”
Raven herself was stunned. She didn’t realise how well it had worked. Azar had stopped yowling. “Thank you.” She said, quietly.
“De nada,” Karen B smirked as she left.
Garfield, who had rushed through his routine despite the fact that he had absolutely no reason to, had jumped off the bus that stopped opposite the shelter when he realized that Raven had left two text messages, telling him that she was currently at a cafe and maybe they could have lunch first since they still had some time left.
He recognised the name of the cafe, they offered one of the best vegan mac and cheese, and one of the waitresses Karen B always added a little hot sauce for him, giving it that kick he never knew he needed in the dish. He could eat, the man had skipped his breakfast so that he could rush down to meet Raven, but instead, he was meeting her for what was turning into an impromptu lunch date.
Er. That is. Not a date. An impromptu lunch outing? A Winging It Lunch? A Friendly Breakfast Lunch? Friend Brunch? Frunch?
He was interrupted from sounding out alternative names for Frunch by an annoying sound, the sound of a frat boy that for some reason made it through college and somehow became a vet just like Garfield, only less interested in the animals and more in it for the money.
The voice of Dr. A. Phillipedes, shitty veterinarian and all around asshole.
God Garfield hated him. What was it with men who had black hair and thought they were better than everyone else? Like Garth Doris, the marine-biologist who competed with Garfield in every subject all through high school, currently sailing the world on a boat trying to find a way to mate with a dolphin or something? Or Dickbell Trousersnake aka gel-head and Raven’s shitty assed boyfriend who was always too busy for Raven? Why were all the black-haired people around him all assholes?
Wait that wasn’t right. Not everyone who had black hair was an asshole. Like Victor…wait he was an asshole, scratch that.
Like Raven for example... who was currently the audience for Dr. A Phillipedes.
As he bent over a chair trying to flirt hard with Raven.
Who looked like she wanted to snap his head off with a spoon.
Whoops, maybe he should break that up.
“Rae-rae!” He yelled loudly, causing both Dr A and Raven to look up from their intense conversation, Raven still keeping her very deeply burrowed frown on her face. He moved quickly, hoping against hope that he did not misread the signals and that she would go along with the plan.
“ I missed you, baby girl!” He started cooing, making his voice sound as sappy as possible. “You didn’t tell me you were gonna bring your hot ass over here.” He pouted, his eyes urgently boring holes into hers, trying to get her to play along.
Raven, whose default reaction to everything seemed to be dry, faintly ludicrous stares, did try her best to play along. “ Oh...honey bear.” She drawled. “Of course, I wanted to surprise you. So very very much.” She then tried to top that performance with a look that Garfield supposed was trying to be sexy, but gave her eyes a twitchy, mad sort of look instead.
Garfield had to smile, it was the only way to conceal laughter that was threatening to bellow out of his chest.
“ Woah, this your girl, Dr G?” said Dr A, who was thankfully backing off the chair, hands upright to show that he had meant no harm. “ Sorry, little G, didn’t mean to run in on a guy’s squeeze-“
The lascivious wink he gave Raven at the last bit betrayed the lie. Garfield chose to ignore that in favour of hamming it up more.
“Oh my dear butternut squash!” He said, pushing Dr A away like he was nothing but air, and seating himself on the chair that Dr A had been monopolizing earlier. “Tell me all about your day, hot tamale, cause every second away from you is such sweet sorrow!” He took the opportunity to grab at her hands, staring her down looking for all the world like a love-lorn fool.
Raven, to her credit, did try her best to play along. “ Oh, sugar cookie.” She said, as drily as she could, staring daggers at Garfield’s dancing eyes. “The days are long and arduous, and winding and dark without your presence to be around-“
“Okay he’s gone now.” whispered Garfield. Sure enough, Dr A had left the cafe, making vomiting noises as he’d crossed the road back to the shelter, throwing them glances of near-contempt. Garfield though only let go of her hands when the man had crossed the carpark and entered the shelter.
Shame though. They were nice hands. They fitted around his quite nicely.
Not that he was noticing, of course.
Raven snatched her hands back brusquely. “ I ...I could have handled that myself there!” The woman spluttered. “ I did not want to be rescued-“
“So, you were okay with Dr A trying to hit on you?” Garfield retorted, lightly but feeling incredulous. He did her a favour there and once again she was spitting on his gift of not getting hit on by creepy men.
Maybe he was wrong, her boyfriend’s rudeness didn’t rub off on her. She was clearly a horrid bitch all by herself. He grabbed a menu, using it to cover his face, grumpily deciding that perhaps today he would indulge in a burrito bigger than his head.
There was a pause, and Raven sighed. “Right, I shouldn’t have...” she stopped. Then ,” Thank you.” She muttered quietly. “I needed that.”
Garfield grudgingly nodded, realised that because he had a menu in front of his face Raven couldn’t see him, lowered the menu, grudgingly nodded once again, then lifted the menu so that it covered his face once again.
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Raven tried to sullenly make conversation. “Thank you for coming in so quickly.” She said. It came out grumpy, but that was expected.
“It’s okay, I didn’t really have anything going on anyway.” Garfield replied in a similar tone.
It was just then that Karen B buzzed by, looking contrite. “I am so so sorry for leaving you there with that asshole-“ she’d began before looking at the new member of the frunch party. “Garfield!” She said enthusiastically. “I didn’t realise you and Raven here were friends!”
Garfield was about to open his mouth to correct Karen B on her assumption when Raven chimed in. “We are.” She said, turning her head back to look at Garfield. “Friends.” While her voice did not dip outside her usual monotone, her eyes told a different story, and it told Garfield that she meant what she said, about them being friends. He relaxed at this point, and he felt his shoulders loosen and hackles lower.
Karen B obviously did not realise how significant the remark was. “Well, howdy doodily to you two then!” She said cheerfully. “G, your usual?”
Garfield smirked,”You know it, B!”
Karen turned to Raven and said,” I got your tea ready, do you want me to serve it to you now or wait till Dr G gets his order?”
Raven replied the former, and when Karen B left, she had left two more relaxed, friendlier people.
“What was all that fawning over me when that man came by? “ Raven asked. “Thank you for that, by the way. Your methods were unorthodox, but they had results.”
Garfield grinned. “Dr A, unfortunately, works with me at the shelter.” He said. “The man is the biggest a-hole and he’s mean to the kids, but I have to work with him, and he hates anything gushiness related.” The man suddenly lit up. “Speaking of work... where’s -“
Raven indicates the chair next to her, where a cardigan was covering up something big and bulky. “She didn’t like the carrier much.” She said simply. “I didn’t want to let her out...”
“Good choice.” Garfield nodded. “Cats can be skittish and annoyingly fast.” He settled back into the chair.
They spent the next few seconds awkwardly looking down at the table, Raven studying her hands very very thoroughly while Garfield studiously pretended he was memorising the menu that he had seen a thousand times before.
“So... you got back home okay.” Garfield began. He mentally slapped himself in the forehead and tried to make up for it. “From the bar.” He said again, wincing at how awkward the entire thing sounded. “From two days ago!” He finished lamely.
Raven’s very unimpressed look suggested that he might as well go into Detective work since he was clearly so observant.
Even in his imagination Raven was snarky.
Luckily Karen B dropped by again with Raven’s tea, which came in a teapot and two small teacups. Evidentially Karen B thought that there would be two people partaking in the tea. Raven looked at the tea and then at Garfield.
“Would you...” She began, neutrally, gesturing at the tea in question.
Garfield, confused, looked at the two tea cups and back at Raven before he realised what she was getting at.
“Oh, no, please! “ Garfield said, gesturing back at her. “Tea ain’t my thing, go ahead!”
Raven looked at him suspiciously but poured a cup of tea for herself, taking a small sip afterwards.
“To answer your question, yes,” She replied. “I did get back safely, thanks to Dick. It’s nice to have him around sometimes.”
Dickhead, went the small, petty voice in Gar’s head. He ignored it.
“Good.” Garfield nodded. “Thank you for insisting on making sure I got back safely.”
Raven nodded back.
“ I should have asked you two upstairs but well, it was getting a bit late...”
If Garfield didn’t know any better, he could have sworn a small look passed Raven’s face.
“Right.” Raven muttered.
The two of them sat in silence until Garfield decided to break it.
“ It was fun, you know.” He said quietly. “Like honestly I thought you were kinda cool before but then you’re really smart as well and you’re nice.”
Raven raised an eyebrow. “Nice.”
Garfield nodded. “ Yeah.”
They sat there in bashful silence for a bit.
“That’s... really nice of you to say that.” Raven replied, just as quietly as Garfield had earlier.
The man frowned. “I didn’t do it to be nice, mama.” He clarified. The familiarity of the pet name he usually gave to women he was trying to flirt with slipped out but he had to make sure she knew that. It would be really kinda shitty for her to assume he was just being polite and flattering her just to be nice. “You know you’re pretty cool right?”
The woman didn’t answer, because Karen B had chosen that moment to come back with their orders and the food looked so good that they had quickly started tucking in.
“This is good.” Said Raven in a surprised voice. “I didn’t realise this cafe had such good food.”
Garfield grinned. Okay, there was a topic he could handle! “And they make great vegan dishes!” He punctuated that sentence with a bite of his mac and cheese. “ I come here for lunch here sometimes.” He scooped up some more mac and cheese and waved it in front of Raven. “Here, try some.”
“ No I don’t-“
“ Go on, taste!” He insisted. Raven looked at the forkful with suspicion and reluctantly took a bite.
Her eyes widened. “Huh.” Raven mused. “That’s unexpected.”
“ Told ya, mama!” Garfield cheered happily, setting the fork down. Then the full implications of his actions hit him.
Did he just offer Raven food from his plate? From his fork? Did Raven just eat off his plate? What did this mean? Was she flirting with him? Was HE flirting with her? What was this? Did anything make sense? Who was he?
“It really is actually pretty good,” Raven marveled, completely unaware of the breakdown Garfield was currently having. “I never thought that they would be able to come up with a cheese that would taste similar to actual cheese and they didn’t, but this cheese seems lighter somehow...”
“Ngk,” Garfield replied eloquently, deciding to stuff himself with a huge helping of mac and cheese so that he wouldn’t say anything embarrassing.
Raven, luckily, did not notice anything.
“It really is delicious, thank you.” She replied. Then, “ I would offer you some of this stew, but-“
“It’s cool.” Garfield managed to say. “Karen B told me about it, it’s got so much meat and real butter in it-“
“I haven’t had food like this in awhile,” Raven confesses, scooping a spoonful of stew into her mouth. She swallowed, looking pensive. “Does this place deliver?”
“Unfortunately nope.” Garfield said, mournfully. “ I asked KB about it-“
“ -but she said that they didn’t have the resources to get food delivered out and besides, my office was just across the street, I should be able to walk over just to get my food fix-“
“Huh.” Raven said. “That’s a shame.” She looked a little disappointed. “I could use this when I’m sick or something-“
“ Don’t you cook at home?” Garfield asked, frowning a little.
“My roommate and I are horrible cooks.” She admitted. “ Dick cooks when he’s around, but he’s always busy…”
“ Of course he is.” Muttered Garfield.
“ So usually we get take-out and food-delivery.” Raven finished.
The fact was, Raven looked so dejected, and Garfield couldn’t fathom the idea of someone not being able to cook for themselves, and so before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “ Eat with us.”
Raven raised an eyebrow. “ Isn’t that what I am doing right now?” she said drily.
“ No I mean, with me.”
Eyebrow still raised.
“ And Victor!” he amended again. “ Eat with me and Victor!”
“ But Victor isn’t here right now-“
Was she stubbornly being obtuse right now?
“ Oh my god, mama, you’re killing me!” he grumbled. “ Come over to our place for dinner when you’re free. We’ll make you a home-cooked meal.”
Raven finally seemed to get the message, her eyes widening in shock before narrowing down into slits. “ No.” She said flatly.
“ Why not!” Garfield demanded.
“ I can’t just…barge into your house willy-nilly whenever I get a little lonely and looking for food.” She snapped. “ What am I, Goldilocks?”
“ Wouldn’t that make us the bears?” Garfield said teasingly. “ I mean, I can’t be a bear. I don’t have the physique for it. Victor maybe but I think he’s strictly straight.”
Raven was now flushed, and Garfield had to admit it was a cute look on her. “ Firstly I don’t have the hair to be Goldilocks and- wait why am I arguing with you on this?”
“Well, Goth-ilocks-“ He ignored Raven’s subtle, burning glare across the table. “ I’m just saying. You have to come over to our place for dinner! Victor sometimes makes way too much food for himself and it’ll be nice to have company-“
“ You’re doing this to be nice, and I won’t take your pity cause you think I can’t fend for myself-“
“ Come on, Rae-rae!” Garfield whined. “ You’ll like the food, and you can even add stuff you want if you don’t want to, and you said it yourself, Dickcheese McFrootloops is busy, so he can’t cook-“
“ Don’t call me Rae-rae -what did you say about Dick?” Raven said, confused.
“ The point is,” Garfield tried to cover up his faux pas, cause insulting a girl’s boyfriend was definitely not on form, right? “You should come over to our place for dinner. I have some nights off, and if you liked that vegan mac and cheese thing, I know a ton more vegan recipes you need to try!”
“ I am NOT helping you forward your agenda on veganism on the unaware public,” Raven said drily.
“ Well, fineeeeee.” Garfield huffed. “ Be that way, but look, Victor and I can teach you how to cook, and it’ll really be beneficial-“
Raven opened her mouth to retort but then closed it. Then she sighed. “Fine.” She said ruefully.
“ Really?” Garfield said, a bit surprised that he won the argument so easily.
“I’ve realised that I should be a little more gracious when people offer things to me.” Raven grumbled. “ Besides, I have to thank you for what you did for me today-“
“ I would do the same for anyone.” Garfield said automatically. Except not really.
“ You’re really too kind, honestly.” Raven replied, sighing into her stew. “ Think Victor can teach me how to make pancakes?”
Karen B is of course our lovely Bumblebee, and Dr A is Adonis, if you didn't get it. If you did, hurrahhhhhh!