Raven opened her door and set her bag down. She pushed it closed with one hand and lifted the other, tendrils of solid black forming claws.
“You picked the wrong apartment.”
The intruder lifted a hand over the back of her couch, waving bills around.
“Your mail says otherwise, Rachel. You’ll always be Raven to me though.”
Raven gestured. A shadowy hand reached down and wrapped around the man, picking him up off the couch. He remained remarkably calm for someone being held aloft by shadow claws. Her eyes widened.
“You remember me. I’m touched.”
“The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
“No. I saw.”
Not his body. The funeral had been closed casket. She’d seen the aftermath. She’d seen Bruce and Dick and the ever stoic Alfred grieve. There was no doubt.
“What, you want me to tell you something only the real Jason would know? Like how for three years, you had this huge crush on –“
She let the magic disperse and crossed her arms. He landed easily, brushing imaginary dust from his jacket. If she weren’t Raven, the silence would have been awkward.
“I’ll make tea,” she said and walked into her kitchen.
A generous word for the space. A table for two took up most of the room even set against a wall. She set the kettle that was never without water to boil, set two cups on the counter, and selected two bags of spiced black tea, placing them in the cups. She turned around and wasn’t surprised to see Jason standing as close as he was, without her having heard him. He probably thought his expression was unreadable. That didn’t matter because she could feel every emotion rolling off of him. She favored him with a neutral expression.
“You know what I love about you, Rae? Nothing is ever too weird for you.”
“I still don’t believe you’re Jason,” she replied, almost stubbornly.
“Ah, what a beautifully suspicious mind.” He grinned.
Raven realized that she had to look up to meet his eyes. Jason used to be the same height as her. Of course, he’d been all of sixteen then. He’d been attractive, with sharp clever green eyes and a wild smile. Still a boy with soft lines in his face. Not this man with hard eyes and sad smiles. Still handsome though.
“I mourned you,” she said, without any particular inflection. It was a statement of fact, but it made her stomach twirl a little to remember all of the emotion that had gone with it.
His mouth opened and closed several times. Raven almost smirked. Jason Todd, back from the dead and standing in her kitchen, speechless. Would wonders never cease?
“So…I’m wondering if I could get away with hugging you right now.” Of course it hadn’t lasted long.
Raven arched a slim eyebrow. “Do you feel lucky?” she drawled.
“I think I’m due some good luck for a change.”
Even so, he carefully wound his arms around her slim frame and pulled her close. After a moment, she wrapped her arms loosely around his back and laid her head on his chest. She could hear his heart beating, strong and fast. He felt warm and solid and real. He felt alive.
He felt familiar.
“I think you might be Jason,” she said, her hands gripping his shirt a little tighter. “But if you’re not, I’ll rip you apart.”
“That is the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, Rae.”
The kettle whistled, and using her powers, Raven turned it off, put the bags in the pot, and poured the water in the pot without leaving the circle of Jason’s arms. They stayed like that, holding each other for a while before Jason asked,
“Is this awkward yet?”
“You’re asking me?”
Sensing from his emotions that the answer was yes, Raven pulled back first. Jason was still slow to let go. Taking two steps back, she picked up the kettle and poured his then hers. He walked up behind her reached for his cup.
She retrieved a small jar of honey and a spoon for him. He blinked at it once, twice.
“You still like it with honey, don’t you?”
He modified the tea to his liking, using just his left hand. Raven noticed the way he held his other hand close to his side.
“What’s wrong with your hand?”
He shrugged. “Had a little accident a while back.”
She looked at him, feeling his unease. Well, at least she had an emotional baseline for lies now. He ignored her eyes, blew the steam off his tea, and drank it, no doubt burning his mouth.
Sighing, Raven held out her hand. Jason obligingly gave her his wrist. She pushed back the supple leather of his jacket and saw the end of a splint. She realized what she’d thought was a glove was only partial that. Jason had cut it at the knuckles so he could slip his bandaged fingers through. She let her magic spread through the injury and frowned.
“This isn’t healing right.”
“Is there anything you can do, doc?” he asked, tone light.
“I’ll have to break it again.”
“Do it quick.”
Raven placed her hands on top and beneath Jason’s. Her magic seeped through and wrapped around each bone in his hand. All at once, the bones broke, and Jason barely winced. When she shifted them, he laughed.
“Be still, you maniac.”
“Laugh or scream.”
Certain the bones were aligned correctly, Raven mended the breaks. As she pulled her magic back, the pain shot up her arm, and she curled forward, hissing.
“Sorry,” he said, truly sounding like it.
She flexed her hand. “Jason. Are you in trouble?”
“Aren’t I always?”
“It’s nothing I can’t handle. Don’t worry.”
“Don’t be stupid. Of course I’m going to worry. It’s you,” she snorted and picked up her own cup.
She walked into the living area and settled delicately onto the couch. Jason flopped gracefully, not spilling a drop of tea. Raven glared half-heartedly as he jostled her, but he just smiled. Rolling her eyes, she took a careful sip, toeing off her shoes and folding her legs into a lotus position.
Jason stared at her.
He seemed to be carefully considering his next words. Then, without saying anything, he just smiled. Very suddenly, Raven felt shy. It was an odd emotion for her, especially associated with Jason. Jason had always brought out a sort of boldness in her. He was simply that kind of person that could take a repressed introvert and make her speak in the presence of two or more people.
Maybe because she didn’t know this Jason? Death and years and life separated them from the children they’d once been. She knew that she’d changed since then, starting from the moment she’d known Jason had died. Was the boy who’d been her friend now this man? Or was he someone completely different now?
There was too much to say. There were too many questions, and Raven didn’t know what to start with.
She licked her lips and asked “Have you seen them?”
His smile faded. He didn’t answer for several minutes. Then he knocked back the rest of the tea as if it were something stronger.
“Yes,” he finally answered.
“What ha –“
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“No.” He emphasized it with a look.
Wrong thing to start with.
Raven flinched at the hot impression of anger from him. Jason had a temper that could rival her own. Beneath it though was a layer of sadness, pain, and a very small bit of shame, and she felt sorry. The Jason she’d known had hated apologies. She laid her head on his shoulder and hoped he’d understand. Raven felt him turn to look at her, curious but wary.
“Were you always this touchy-feely?”
“I’m trying to be really, really sure you’re actually real.”
“I thought you believed I was Jason.”
“I do. I want you to be. Doesn’t mean I’m not wrong. Could be my powers are going crazy and manifesting people out of my subconscious due to some repressed emotional reason. It happens.”
Jason huffed, probably offended that she’d labeled his existence as a figment of her imagination.
“What do I have to do to convince you I’m real?”
In the morning, Raven woke up stretched out on the couch with a jacket laid over her. A pair of gloves, one of them cut off at the knuckles, were on the small coffee table. Two cups, one half filled with cold tea, sat next to them. Slowly, she sat up and turned her head. And there was a dead man in her kitchen burning waffles